How I Plan My Life In My Bullet Journal

Maybe you’ve seen photos on Pinterest of bullet journals – from simple lists of check boxes, bullets, and arrows to elegant planner spreads drawn on dotted-grid notebook pages. A combo planner/diary/notebook/sketchbook/to-do list, the bullet journal is described by creator, Ryder Carroll, as, “the analog system for the digital age.” At its core, however, the bullet journal is a system of keeping collections of running lists about anything and everything in a single notebook. Like an organized brain dump!

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To learn more about Carroll and the original Bullet Journal® system, visit the official website.

I began keeping a bullet journal in June 2016, after reading an article about bullet journals on Buzzfeed. My mind has a tendency to run in anxious circles, especially at night when I’m trying to sleep, and I thought that having a system to write things down and keep track of my life would be super helpful. As a result, I use my bullet journal as more of a diary than I think Carroll intended, but that’s the beauty of the system – you can really adapt it to your needs and make it your own.

I use a Rhodia Black Webnotebook 5.5 inch x 8.3 inch Dot Grid.

Personally, I keep some resources (passwords, important phone numbers, time off tracker, etc.) in my bullet journal, but primarily use it as a planner, to-do list, and diary. Here I want to focus on the planner aspect, because I think that’s the best way to get an idea of how I use the bullet journal system.

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I use a time off tracker to keep track of my vacation and sick days for work.

I think of my bullet journal as a zoom function for my life. Each subsequent “closer look” pulls information from the previous. At the beginning of the journal, I have a full year calendar that very generally notes important dates, but doesn’t provide much detail. In that way, I’m able to plan for the future without getting too into the weeds and I can pull information from the full-year spread when I’m populating each of my monthly spreads.

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My full-year spread takes up the first six pages of my journal, with two months to each page.

In the last couple of days of a month, or the first couple of days of the next, I always take a little bit of time to draw up my monthly planner. For me, the monthly planner page serves as a physical divider between one month and the next, a month-at-a-glance calendar, a monthly to-do list, and a tracker for important dates in the coming months. I include tasks on my monthly to-do list that I don’t need to assign to a particular day, for example paying bills or scheduling appointments. This all helps me to focus more closely on the month ahead and to get an idea of what the next few weeks are going to look like.

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My monthly planner is a vertical layout that takes up two pages.

All of the items in my monthly spread then feed into my daily entries. Daily entries are where I really get down into the nitty-gritty of my life. It allows me to just jot things down, brain dump style, which helps me to clear my mind and keep track of my life. To do this, I use a simple system of symbols to differentiate entries:

  • Solid bullets (•) denote thoughts, feelings, and comments – anything from what I had for lunch to simply the word, “TIRED”
  • Open bullets (○) signify events, which can include anything from someone’s birthday to an appointment
  • Open check boxes (□) represent tasks I want to complete that day
  • When I complete a task, I color the check box in (■)
  • If I don’t complete the task on the day assigned, I “migrate” it to the next day with a right arrow (→) through the check box
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Here’s an example of my daily entries.

Have you ever tried the bullet journal system? How do you use it? Or do you use a different planner or journal? Let me know in the comments below!

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