Monday, December 11, 2017

Bullet Journaling for Unartistic People

I had heard about the bullet journal awhile ago but was hesitant to give it a shot as it seemed like it was for artsy/artistic people. That is so not me. I can't draw and my handwriting is so far from pretty. But after seeing multiple posts on Instagram, I decided to give it a try. I've been meaning to do a post about bullet journaling and Monday seems like the perfect day of the week to talk about planners!

First things first, paper planners are not for everyone, but they are for me. I'm so analog when it comes to managing my schedule. I do use my Outlook calendar at work for daytime appointments and appointments that require me to leave early so that no one books meetings during those times. But in general, I prefer to write everything - from social plans to appointments to do lists - in a paper planner. Some people are more on board with going digital but that just doesn't work for me! I can see the benefit of going digital if you are married and your husband is on board with using a digital planner but Phil isn't. So I stick with what works best for me.

Previously, I bought an Erin Condren Life Planner every year but I found the free-form approach to bullet journal appealing. I started using my bullet journal in June and it definitely took me several months to get a feel for it and figure out what layouts worked best for me. But after bullet journaling for over 5 months, I have a system worked out!

Here is a summary of the layouts or spreads that I use to plan each month/week:

Monthly Layout #1

This layout is pretty straight-forward. I list out all of the days of the month with a letter next to each day indicating the day of the week. I then draw lines to mark off weeks. This layout has made it easy for me to tell when I am starting to over-plan my weeks. In general, I've gotten better at limiting myself to 3 social plans/week but that rule got thrown out the window in early December since it's such a busy time of year with holiday social events and such.

I used to create these monthly layouts as I approached the end of a month but in 2018, I have the monthly layouts in one section so that I have somewhere to write down plans I am making in the future. This alleviates the need to use something that is referred to as a 'future log'. A future log, pictured below, is a place to write down future commitments. Then when you created a monthly layout, you'd add those commitments to the monthly layout and check them out. This did not work for me as I needed a clearer way to see what I had planned in the future to avoid over-planning and double booking.

Monthly Layout #2 

In addition to the first monthly layout, I also have a 2nd monthly layout that summarizes birthdays/anniversaries/etc, appointments and social events, books I want to read that month and to dos. It's a little bit redundant to write out the appointments and social events since they are in the other monthly layout but I like having them in both layouts - at least for now. The nice thing about bullet journals is that you can always adjust your layouts as you figure out what works for you! I usually create this second monthly layout 1-2 weeks before the month begins, so it's a good way to refresh my memory about what the month to come holds. The birthday/anniversary list isn't always complete as I often rely on Facebook to remind me about birthdays!

Weekly Layout

I use my weekly layout to keep track of meal plans and to dos. When I was working out, I would also write out my workout plans on this page that is obviously not happening these days thanks to my RA. I start a weekly layout about 3 days before the week starts. The to do list is kind of a running list of things I need to do/places I need to be and then I transfer those to dos to specific days when I start my daily layouts.

 Daily To-Dos

Last, but not least, is my daily to dos. Sometimes I don't write out the week all at once so I have room for growing to do lists. I transfer to dos from the weekly layout to the appropriate day and then add other to dos that come up during the week. I check this every day so that I don't forget any to dos. Sometimes I will shift a to do to another day and will use an arrow to indicate that it got moved. I can be forgetful so it's so helpful to have one place to check to make sure I'm not missing anything that I should be doing.

Miscellaneous Pages

The pages above are the ones that recur every month or week. But I use my bullet journal for other things like keeping notes from doctor's appointments. My bullet journal is small and fits in my purse so I always have it on me. It was really helpful to have one place to keep all of my notes related to changes I needed to make to my RA drug protocol once I became pregnant. Yes, the doctor put those notes online in MyChart or I could have called if I had questions but it was nice to be able to reference notes from my doctor's appointment. I also used my bullet journal to make notes on all of the daycares we toured. That way I didn't have to trust myself to remember all the details and didn't have to reference the materials the daycare centers handed out.


I've been really happy with my Leuchtturm1917 Journal and the Pilot Juice 0.5mm Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens. I think it works best to use a fine-pointed pen in a journal like mine as you kind of need to write fairly small so a fine-tipped pen makes it more legible.   


So there you have it! That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about bullet journals! Let me know if you have any questions. Are you an analog or digital person when it comes to planning? Or do you not need any sort of planner (I can't wrap my mind around how that is possible, though!!) Have you tried or would you try bullet journaling?


Nora said...

Definitely an analog person, even now! In fact, I spent some time last night with my planner and keeping track of things for 2018. I found a good planner on Amazon for like $12 that fits in my person and has both a monthly and weekly layout. I haven't considered trying a bullet journal/planner before!

At work I use Outlook for everything.

D and I don't really have a great system for our together plans or family plans... I should fix that!

Amber said...

This was super interesting! I like the way you do all your monthly layouts in one place so you can plan ahead. I think I like that better than the future log and might try that when I get back into bullet journaling. The last week I bullet journaled was the week of Olivia's due date, however now that Eric is going back to work and I would like us to get into more of a routine I am going to start again either this week or next. I use outlook for everything at work and I've been using the calendar on my phone for all of Olivia's appointments so my phone will remind me since I haven't been using the bullet journal like I said and man am I forgetful right now. We missed her hearing appointment the other day because I totally forgot to set the alert in my phone and my phone didn't remind me! It will be good to get back to using my bullet journal to keep me reminded of stuff like that. I am definitely a paper planner person but I only use my bullet journal for personal stuff - all my work stuff is digital.

Jenny said...

Love this! I started bullet journaling last month and I am not particularly artistic either so it was pretty intimidating when I was seeing all those fancy spreads on instagram. I use a digital calendar as well and the two work in great harmony for me. I'm using an old hardcover notebook just now but I've ordered a nice moleskine for next year and thanks to your tip about fine-tip pens, I'll add that to my Christmas wish list!

Gracie said...

I kept a planner all through undergrad and pharmacy school, for consistency, but as soon as I graduated I went digital. The main benefit is being able to share calendars with others, especially since David and I are so busy - we are able to avoid double booking our evenings! I use my outlook calendar at work, but it syncs with my google calendar, so that allows me to keep everything in one place.

Marlys said...

Color me impressed that you are so organized, but I do know that about you! I think it would have been great for me to do that when you kids were all at home and we had umpteen places to go & be those years. I did make lists, and still do, but they aren't as detailed as they used to be. Now that I am more forgetful it would be a good way to organize myself.

Stephany said...

I am soooo bad about keeping a planner. I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't really keep one! Ha. I can keep track in my head about upcoming events and I usually get a notification when I have an upcoming appointment either by text or phone call. I do try to update Google Calendar with upcoming appointments and social events, but I don't keep a very full calendar as a rule, so it's not too difficult to keep up with.

That said, I have wanted to get back to bullet journaling (I tried my hand at it earlier this year) and I think this post is the inspiration to buy a new journal and make it happen!

Jeanie said...

I never even heard of bullet journaling so I'm glad you shared all of this. It looks like it makes a lot of sense. I don't do much like that now but it would have been handy when working. And when I retired I had to keep lists just to keep me on track. I'm all for any system that works, but this seems to be a good one.

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

Loved reading about how you do bullet journaling! I'm still keeping up with mine, though I'm not sure if I love it or not. I think it's good for this stage of my life right now because it allows me to make a ton of lists (which is how my mind operates) and it even allows me to skip a week of planning if I rely more on my google calendar for a week sometimes. I could be wrong but I think when I go back to work I'll go back to using the "Get to Work Book" because I liked having the dates already written in and being able to make a daily to do list on there. We will see though, maybe bullet journaling will win me over once and for all before next September! I am definitely going to try your monthly layout in 2018.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

Christopher and I just have a regular calendar (like a wall calendar), and we write our social commitments and birthdays etc. in the squares. Then we can see the whole month, or flip ahead to see upcoming months.

We have a notebook or notepad that we keep on the coffee table, or under it, that we write our meals plan for the week, and our grocery list on, and then tear out the page with the grocery list on it and take it with us when we go. The weekly plan of meals stays in the notebook so we can refer back to it if we forget what we are having for dinner that evening.

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Ug, I just left a huge comment that got erased! Basically I feel like there would be a lot of empty pages or that sometimes things would not be chronological. Does that happen a lot or do you have a workaround/tips? I also really like flipping forward to months in advance to add things so am not sure I would like the simpleness of the bullet journal. I do like lists though and have one for each week/month, so that part appeals to me!

San said...

Thanks so much for sharing your bullet journal approach. As you know, I am venturing into th realm of bullet journaling myself this year and it's helpful to know how others approach theirs. I keep this post bookmarked for future reference ;)