How I Use My Bullet Journal

BJ3I love to make lists and write things down to keep my thoughts (and life) organized, and over the years I’ve had many different systems for doing so. I had a brief love affair with the Filofax system, but it just wasn’t flexible enough for me. At one point I just wrote things down on a yellow pad of paper, but the lack of organization and potential for sheets to be ripped out or lost ended up stressing me out, so that was short lived. For a couple years now, my go-to has been a simple lined notebook. I’ve used notebooks made by Clairefontaine and Moleskine and I love both.  My favourite size is the Moleskine Large size, 8.25 x 5”.

Then recently I hit upon a new system for organizing things within the notebook itself: bullet journaling! It’s actually a very simple system, but something about the guidelines it sets out has helped me to feel much more organized and in control of all the information I want to keep track of on a daily basis.

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First of all, the system uses an index and numbered pages. I haven’t been too consistent about writing down what pages my lists are on and then looking them up, but the times that I remember to do so, I’ve saved lots of time not flipping around from one list to another trying to remember where I wrote what.

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It also has a monthly calendar and to-do list at the beginning of each month, followed by pages for daily lists. In the monthly calendar I usually just write down the biggest event that day (I have another agenda that I use for keeping track of appointments), more as a memory aid than anything else. I love the monthly to-do list and use it all the time. The items on the monthly to-do list end up getting transferred to my daily to-do lists and nothing is forgotten. Sometimes, when I’m stressed out, my daily to-do list is short and includes easy items like “shower” (see below) so that I feel better about my productivity. It works!

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The daily lists are great, because the bullet journal symbol system makes it easy to incorporate all different kinds of information. The black dot is for ideas & inspiration and might include a book title I heard about that day or a possible birthday gift for a friend. The circle is for events, so this can act as a dayplanner as well. And the square is for to-do list items, perfect for being checked off once they’re accomplished.

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And then, of course, are all the random lists. I constantly have a “catch-all” list on the go for writing down all kinds of “black dot” items (ideas & inspiration), some of which end up being turned into to-do list items. Every few days, as the list fills up, I’ll go back and highlight the ones that I haven’t yet taken action on (for example: looked up, researched, figured out, added to my GoodReads, etc) just so they don’t all blur together. Other examples of lists in my most recent bullet journal include: groceries, Korean bucket list, observations, blog post ideas.

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And it’s really as simple as that. It’s not necessarily ground-breaking, but for me, even just the idea of having different symbols for different types of information was tremendously helpful. I’m still tweaking the system to work for me and coming up with new symbols to indicate different things, but so far I love this simple method. Check out the bullet journal website & video to learn more. Any organization methods you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! I’m endlessly fascinated by office supplies and productivity tips.

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  • This seems so amazing and great! I’m going to try this for April. Thanks so much for sharing, you may have literally saved my “journal every day” resolution from being a complete fail. :D

    Hope all is well in Busan!

    • Stephanie Pellett

      Hi Starr!

      Yes! I love this method. Honestly when I first saw it I was like “I’ve got to do this immediately!!!” so I totally understand your enthusiasm. :) I hope it means your journaling resolution (awesome resolution, by the way) is successful. Very exciting.

      All is well in Busan! I love being so close to the beach, and the kids at my job are adorable, so I’m pretty happy. :)

    • stephaniepellett

      Hi Starr!

      Yes! I love this method. Honestly when I first saw it I was like “I’ve got to do this immediately!!!” so I totally understand your enthusiasm. :) I hope it means your journaling resolution (awesome resolution, by the way) is successful. Very exciting.

      All is well in Busan! I love being so close to the beach, and the kids at my job are adorable, so I’m pretty happy. :)

  • I really appreciate the idea of keeping a monthly calendar list of each day’s big event. I try to review and sum this up every month, but it makes so much more sense to keep it all on one page at the beginning of the month. I look forward to trying this out. Thanks for sharing your system.

    • stephaniepellett

      I can’t take credit for this system, but I agree – I love it too! I like seeing what happened during the month at a glance. Have fun trying it out! Thanks for reading :)

  • Canada Girl

    Oh my gosh I love you for this post. This is the answer to all of my problems. Goodbye multiple notebooks and sticky notes and pieces of paper, hello bullet journaling.

    • stephaniepellett

      It was the answer to all my problems too! I absolutely love this method. :)

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  • I’ve been a proponent of using Bullet Journal for a some time and I’m very glad to see you’re also using it the way Ryder Carroll suggested. On my site, which is dedicated to Bullet Journal use, I encourage others to use a single notebook and embrace the freedoms the basic system allows. Great post!

  • I love how you use only 3 categories for the bullet journal, instead of 10, like most people. And, I know this is irrelevant, but I love your handwriting! It’s so neat and bold and pretty, I wish I didn’t write so sloppy.

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  • Emily27

    This is just what I need! I’ve been forcing myself to make my current system work for me and it’s just that . . . work. Will definitely try this. I would also add that I’d incorporate a few categories with colored pens, not many, just a few to differentiate. Thank you.

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  • Larissa

    Is this the moleskine cahier large?
    I love your handwriting!

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