Posted in Bullet journal

Bullet Journal 2.0

Today I thought I should revisit the topic of bullet journals, as I haven’t shared any images of mine since 2016. I continue to use a bullet journal nearly every day, and it’s invaluable as a tool to keep my life organised, but how I use it has been fine-tuned over time.

My theme

Given that my artistic skills are minimal at best, I decided not to waste my energy trying to make my bullet journal look beautiful: to me, words are more important than images. Instead of rich illustrations, I chose to adorn my bullet journal with appropriate page headings lifted from Hamilton, which has been my obsession for the past year or so. It is the most quotable musical you could ever hope to find, and I had fun choosing lines and pairing them up with suitable pages. I still love all of my headings – they make me smile every time I open my journal.

And if you don’t know what Hamilton is (musical, all about one of America’s founding fathers), I’m jealous of you, as you can now discover it in all its wonderfulness.

The journal

In my original bullet journal post I wrote about how I intended to start using an A5 Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, with dotted pages. Here’s my current journal, which has lasted me all of 2017 so far:

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Although I have a Future Log (annual or six-monthly plan), I haven’t bothered photographing it, since I barely use it. We have a wall calendar in our kitchen that holds all of our long-term plans – holidays booked, etc – so I tend not to replicate them in my journal. However, I do have a list of annual goals:

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Let’s not talk about how limited my progress as been towards most of those goals…

I continue to maintain a Monthly Log:

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And it hasn’t really changed much so far this year:

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However, I have changed my Daily Logs (which I’ve always drawn up on a weekly basis – one day per page is total overkill as far as I’m concerned, and having a Weekly Log and a Daily Log seems like a real waste of time). Earlier in the year I maintained daily lists of tasks:

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But I realised that this approach doesn’t work for me: I have a lot of things that need to be done during the course of a week, but not on a particular day. Here’s my more recent version of a Daily Log:

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This gives me sufficient space to: list appointments; keep track of jobs; note any habits I’m trying to record; and note down any miscellaneous thoughts. And speaking of tracking habits, I did start the year with a dedicated page:

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Flipping back to another page each day to keep track of stuff is a hassle, as far as I’m concerned. Now – as per the Daily Log example above – I track things on my weekly page. I’ve fine-tuned the layout of my habit records:

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You can see what that ‘Forest’ thing is all about in this blog post.

And more recently still, I haven’t bothered tracking habits at all – I just can’t be bothered:

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I mean, seriously: look at the ridiculously long task list for this past week! Who has time to count glasses of water?!

(And as an aside, is it just me, or do you notice that those beautifully illustrated bullet journals on Instagram are often a little light on content? I’ve lost count of how many perfect-looking task lists I’ve seen, with no task more pressing than ‘fold the laundry’, or ‘defrost shrimp’. If the biggest thing I had to do each day was to defrost some seafood, I imagine I’d have more time to decorate my bullet journal as well. Instead, as these photos show, I’m heavily dependent on washi tape and stickers to make things slightly colourful, and I use my Crayola colouring pens when I have time. Having said that, I do – very occasionally – draw a little picture:

Two other daily habits that, regrettably, I haven’t been able to maintain (although I liked doing them), were a one-sentence journal:

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And a gratitude journal:

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But (as of two days ago) I have started a new five-year journal, and I am determined to stick to it!

Additional pages

I still find my bullet journal is a great place to keep track of random projects, university work, and other plans. I also found that there were so many great Hamilton-related quotes that I could use as headings, so I went a bit mad at the start and set up several pages to track various financial elements of my life:

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There are also a few pages that have been set up in my bullet journal, but not yet utilised. Here’s a prime example…

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Unfortunately the chances of me achieving that ‘Run a 10k’ goal on my 2017 list are looking slimmer by the day.

But other pages are proving to be far more useful. This one has enabled me to make sure I keep up with thank you cards that need to be sent:

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This page was great when I was planning the kids’ fourth birthday party:

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This page has enabled me to plan (to some extent) the playground project I’ve set up:

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And this page keeps track of the blog posts I’ve published for all three of my sites (and all of the blog posts I’m still intending to write, when time allows):

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Here’s my second semester plan of assignment due dates, in case I’m feeling too happy and light-hearted and want to bring my mood down a bit:

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And here’s my weekly schedule, so I know where the kids, my au pair, and I will be on any given day:

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When it comes to tracking pointless stuff for fun, I love my bullet journal. My favourite thing to track – the only thing I really do track – is my reading. Here’s my library list:

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Here’s the list of books I have and need to read (I have a bit of a charity shop book-buying addiction, which is probably a topic for another blog post:

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The lines are coloured as the books are read, and they, and the completed library books, are drawn into my virtual book shelves:

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And that’s my favourite page of this year’s bullet journal.


Posted in Bullet journal

Bullet Journal 101

Today I want to talk about my bullet journal:


If you’re unfamiliar with bullet journals, here’s a handy video from that shows exactly what this is all about.

Essentially, a bullet journal is an analog way of combining a planner, a journal, a notebook, and – if you’re artistically inclined – a sketch pad. It’s designed to be as straightforward or as elaborate as your time and personal taste allows: for some people, it’s a very basic collection of task lists and calendar entries; for others, it’s an outlet to blend together form and function by writing task lists and decorating the pages with beautiful lettering and illustrations. You can make the pages themselves as fancy or as plain as you like: the only ‘equipment’ you need is a notebook, a pen, and a ruler (and that isn’t really essential if you’re not as obsessive about ruled lines as me) – plus, some coloured pens or pencils if you want to embellish your pages. Some people also use washi tape to make things look pretty.

The concept was dreamt up by a digital product designer called Ryder Carroll. The system of journal-keeping that he devised includes the following main elements:

Rapid Logging: using topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets as key features to organise information. Topics are the headings on a page. Page numbers enable you to list pages in an index and find them easily in the future. Short sentences stop you from waffling on, increasing the chances that you’ll actually use your journal to organise yourself. Bullets are a specific way of writing information, in order to see at a glance what is a task, for example, and what is a reminder of an event. A task is a dot, an event is a circle, and a note is a dash. And then you put a big X through the bullet when you’ve completed the task or attended the event. This Daily Log of mine shows the bullets:


You can choose whatever information you need to track. On this Daily Log, I was tracking some habits by using a colour-coded system (the flowers each represented a habit, and I’d colour them in if I’d followed it that day). And I wrote my packing list for a trip I took at the end of this particular week, as you can see.

Modules: a framework for information. The main modules are the Index, the Future Log, the Monthly Log, and the Daily Log. The Future Log is like an annual plan or a six month plan – the place where you’d note planned holidays, for example. The Monthly Log organises your tasks on a monthly basis. And the Daily Log is a daily to-do list.

Here’s my current Index, which is very plain:


Here’s my Future Log:


I’ve used a different colour for each month, and then use that colour for the headings on the corresponding Monthly Logs and Weekly Logs. Here’s a Monthly Log:


I’ve chosen to also record the books I’ve read each month on the relevant Monthly Log page – and this is one of the reasons why I love my bullet journal: how much more fun to actually draw books, rather than just write a list!

Another great feature of making a bullet journal is the freedom to redesign features whenever you like. Here’s another version of a Monthly Log:


And here’s another Weekly Log, which differs slightly to the one at the start of this post:


I don’t do Daily Logs anymore because I got sick of migrating tasks: instead, I do a Weekly Log with a section for each day, so I can see the whole week’s worth of tasks on one two-page spread.

Migration: moving uncompleted tasks forward to new Monthly Logs or Daily Logs as required. On the Daily Log and Weekly Log pages I’ve shared above you can see migrated tasks – they’re the ones with the ‘>’ symbol.

Additional pages: for whatever you want to track, note, or remember. This is the beauty of a bullet journal, and where it beats a traditional diary when it comes to flexibility: if you need to include a page to plan your children’s birthday party, for example, you just add it in, and then note it in the Index so you can easily find it later:


I use pages like this a lot. Here’s a two-page spread to record the books I own and intend to read (on the left-hand page), and books that I don’t currently own, but want to buy or borrow (on the right-hand page):


Again, I could just write a list of books I’ve read, but drawing them on bookshelves makes the whole thing more fun. Occasionally I get really carried away, like when I did this page to keep track of the writing exercises I was tackling from a book I was reading:


My drawing skills are minimal, so that level of detail is unusual in my bullet journal, but I have found that making things look pretty enables me to derive some enjoyment from what would otherwise be very dull grown-up tasks – like sorting out a household budget:

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Or writing a task list for a huge and scary uni assignment:


Adding a decorative element makes me more likely to plan things, refer back to lists, and generally organise myself. And while I can appreciate that this looks like a lot of work, it really isn’t: I do most of it while watching TV in the evening. This is also the great benefit of a bullet journal: your pages are undated, so you can put stuff wherever it suits you, rather than being forced to fit it into a pre-ordained space – or being confronted with the sight of lots of depressingly blank pages if you decide not to use your journal for a couple of weeks. So, I drew up my NaNoWriMo tracking page when I signed up, in September, and then did other stuff around it:


(Each square represented 500 words written: 50,000 words in total, written during November.)

And sometimes I find that my bullet journal provides me with a great opportunity to really investigate what I’m doing – like when I read this great book I Know How She Does It (all about how busy women manage to fit in everything), and was encouraged to track how I used my time over a week-long period. I colour-coded it, and was given a stark reminder of how out of kilter my life was that week:


The golden rule of bullet journals is this: you do whatever you want – so, you can ignore as much of the preceding ‘rules’ as you like.

Here’s the first journal I’ve used:


I’ve learned not to over-invest in new hobbies and habits, so this A5 notebook was from Whitcoulls and cost less than NZ$20. It’s got lined, unnumbered pages (so I numbered them by hand, which was a tedious task). However, now that I’m a bullet journal devotee I’ve decided to up the ante a bit and buy what are regarded as the gold standard of bullet journal hardware: the Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks, which are also A5, have dotted pages that lend themselves well to writing and illustration, and feature very useful pre-numbered pages:


I’m also planning to go mad with a bit of washi tape, and maybe dabble with more drawings and attempts at fancier headings. Pinterest and Instagram are both full of brilliant bullet journal examples and inspiration, so if you’re keen to give this a go, I suggest browsing for ideas.

I love keeping a bullet journal because it gives me a chance to be somewhat creative, but in a productive context – plus, it’s as relaxing as adult colouring-in and similar activities, but you’re actually making your life easier through producing your pages! Win-win!