An orange cat, Eustace, lies on a desktop over a Bullet Journal spread.

My Planning Process

I wanted to talk a little bit about my monthly planning process and share a few tips that might help someone else.

I always try to do my monthly planning a couple of days before the month ends. I don’t predate my pages more than a day in advance, because I never know just how much space I’m going to need for any given day. It can be difficult to estimate how many pages I’ll need for the rest of the month unless I wait until the last couple of days.

I can make a rough guess based on an average month, but even that fluctuates between 20 and 30 pages. For instance, in my current notebook, December 2017 took 22 pages, January 2018 took 21, February took 24, and March took 27. April begins on Page 133, and this notebook has 240 available planning pages, minus the two-page Tombow spread I always create at the end of the journal. That means I have 105 pages from the beginning of April to the end of the journal, which hopefully means I’ll be able to fit May and June in this notebook.

Oops. Squirrels!

Monthly Planning Process

Back to the point, generally do my planning in the last couple days of the month. For April, I did my planning on Thursday, March 29. A lot of times I do my planning with my mom because it’s kind of fun to lay out the coming month with a planning partner.

Planning process: A table spread with washi tape, stickers, and a Bullet Journal

The first thing I do is try to make sure I have everything I’ll need: my Bullet Journal, my tickler file for the coming month, my washi tape, my pens and Tombow brush pens, my stickers. It’s no fun to have to go hunting for something you need in the middle of your planning session!

I start with the basic Monthly Log and Task List. My Monthly Log looks like the one Ryder Carrell designed, except that I color-code everything in my Bullet Journal, using four colors that indicate whether a task is personal, writing-related, main-job-related, or side-job-and-Etsy-related. (I could really use five colors, except my multi-pen will only hold four colors. The five-color pen doesn’t fit in my pen loop!)

One of the little tricks I’ve learned over the months is to fill out some of my habit tracker before sticking it in place.

Planning process: filling out the habit tracker

I put my empty habit tracker next to the current month’s tracker so it’s easy to remember what habits I’m tracking and which Tombow colors I use to track them (that’s what the number is next to each habit). I’m just a little…um…details oriented. 🙂

Obviously, sometimes I change what I’m tracking–you can see that in March I was tracking Lent, which is over on April 1. I was also taking care of mom’s cat Edmund for a while in March, so I needed an easy reminder to give him his meds; I put it in my tracker for the 10 days I had him, and just exed out the other days.

Quarterly Planning Process

Since April begins Quarter Two of 2018, it was time for me to sit down and evaluate my quarterly goals and progress as well. I didn’t do that during my monthly planning session. I needed time to go back and review what I’d intended to do during Quarter One, what I’d actually done during Quarter One, what needed to be migrated to Quarter Two, and what new tasks I had during Quarter Two.

Quarterly Planning Process: A list of deadlines and action steps

As part of that, I made a list of the deadlines I had coming up in Quarter Two. There are several in April, and I was starting to feel stressed about them. Putting them down on paper helped me capture them and get a realistic view of them.

Once I had my list of deadlines, then I broke each project down into action steps that needed to happen in Quarter Two. From that list, I added a few items to my April Task List. Some of those steps won’t take place until May, but that’s fine–they’re recorded on the quarterly list so they’ll be easy to migrate.

Sometimes I have help. Eustace decided I was definitely in need of help with the quarterly planning!

An orange cat, Eustace, lies on a desktop over a Bullet Journal spread.

What about you? What’s your planning process? Do you have any tips or tricks that make it easier for you? I’d love to hear them!

March spread with monthly log and task list

Plan With Me: March!

Happy first day of March! I’m excited to share my March spreads with you.

First off my monthly log and task list.

March spread with monthly log and task list

This format works well for me, so I rarely change it up.

Then come my habit tracker and writing tracker.

Spread with habit tracker and writing tracker

Thanks to an Instagram comment from my friend James, I’ve been doing a better job with my habit tracker in February–he suggested I keep it on my pillow, and I modified his suggestion a little. Now I keep my Standard Memorandum Book (by Word) on my nightstand until I’ve filled in the habit tracker. Then the notebook goes on my desk until morning. It helps remind me to spend time with the habit tracker.

Next is my prayer calendar by Kelly O’Dell Stanley and my prayer list, updated throughout the month.

March prayer calendar by Kelly O'Dell Stanley

The next spread is a new thing this month!

March Fitness Challenge calendar and planning challenge prompts

I’m going to try to do a small workout every day for the month of March, so I made up a little calendar to track that. On the page facing are printouts of prompts for the Boho Berry Challenge and the Plan With Me Challenge. I want to do a better job at posting consistently on Instagram, so hopefully these prompts will give me ideas!

Then I start my March daily stuff on the next page.

March 1 to-do list in a Bullet Journal

I’m really happy with how these came out. These spreads make me happy when I look at them–and that means I’m more likely to look at them often, right? 🙂

Why Aren’t You Bullet Journaling?

On the face of it, Bullet Journal is a simple system. Done the way Ryder Carroll devised, a Bullet Journal is just a rapid-logging system that involves making a monthly log and a daily log. But once you wander away from Ryder’s website into the far reaches of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram, you’ll see there are lots of ways to Bullet Journal. And sometimes you run into some obstacles.

Today I want to talk about a few of those obstacles to Bullet Journaling.

Intimidation

I don’t know about you, but when I look at some of the intricate and artistic spreads a lot of Bullet Journalists post on their Instagram or Pinterest accounts, I want to find something to hide my super-minimal Bullet Journal pages!

I’m not an artist. I like to doodle, but I’ve never had the discipline to really work at the craft of drawing. If I’m going to decorate my planner, I use stickers and washi tape…but there are times I just don’t have the time to do even that.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people in one of the Bullet Journal Facebook groups I belong to ask, “I’m not really artistic. Can I still Bullet Journal?” Or another version of that, “How do I get started Bullet Journaling?”

The answer, of course, is that you don’t have to be an artist to Bullet Journal and that you get started Bullet Journaling by writing a log in a notebook.

That’s it.

Your Bullet Journal is yours. It can be as fancy or as plain as you want. It can be artistic, functional, sloppy, scrapbooked, text-only, or a combination of all of those things.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the best thing about Bullet Journaling is how flexible and forgiving it is.

Don’t be intimidated by the elaborate spreads and gorgeous lettering you see on Instagram or Pinterest! You don’t have to post pictures of your BuJo if you don’t want to. You don’t have to let anyone see it.

Expense

Bullet Journaling can be expensive, no question. If you’re into fountain pens, fancy notebooks, Tombow dual brush pens, stickers, and the like, you can spend a small fortune on your Bullet Journal habit.

But I’ve also seen people Bullet Journal in a $1.50 composition notebook using a Big Stic pen.

This point kind of goes hand-in-hand with my point about intimidation. Your Bullet Journal is yours. If you can’t afford a Leuchtturm1917 notebook and a set of Tombows, you can still keep a Bullet Journal.

For me, the sole purpose of a Bullet Journal is to keep me productive and on-task–and to make sure I’m productive on the right things. What that means in practice is that anything which helps me stay productive is good, and anything that derails me is bad.

If I’m so hung up on purchasing just the right tools that I don’t actually sit down and work in my Bullet Journal, I’m missing the point.

I’m not saying fancy pens and notebooks and stickers are bad. I’m just saying that they’re only good until they become a hindrance to me actually working in my BuJo.

My first attempt was in a wire-bound notebook I had lying around because I’d never stuck with a planning system for a long time, and I wasn’t sure this system would even work for me.

Don’t let an empty wallet keep you from starting a Bullet Journal.

Fear of Doing it Wrong

Another question I used to see people ask on Facebook: “I’m afraid to start because I might do it wrong.”

My thought is that it’s really hard to do it wrong when the system is designed to be as flexible as you need it to be. Bullet Journal is a system of logs and collections, organized by the index at the front. If you need to draw a calendar each month because you’re a visual thinker, do that. If you don’t, that’s fine. If you need to have a weekly spread, do that! If not, that’s fine.

What it boils down to is this: Your Bullet Journal is yours. There’s no wrong way to do it.

If it keeps you on-task and organized, it’s right. Even if your way wouldn’t be right for someone else.

Don’t let a fear of doing it wrong keep you from starting what could be the best organizational system for you.

Chronic Illness

I know a lot of people with various chronic conditions. Some of them have had trouble with traditional planning systems in the past, and they were worried that Bullet Journal wouldn’t work for them either.

As someone who suffers from chronic depression, I get it. One of the reasons I didn’t do as well with systems like Franklin Covey or monthly/weekly planners is that if I stopped using it for a while because I was going through a difficult time and couldn’t manage much more than getting out of bed and dragging myself to work, I’d have a huge blank space in my calendar.

Those blank squares glared at me accusingly, telling me I couldn’t even keep up with a calendar, so how could I expect to actually do anything that matters?

I think one of the reasons Bullet Journal works so well for me is that it doesn’t have those accusing blank spaces. If I have a bad spell and don’t get out of bed all weekend, guess what? I just pick up again on Monday without skipping a beat!

I would argue that for people with chronic depression or illnesses that require them to measure their energy in spoons, Bullet Journal is a much more forgiving and flexible system–exactly what we need!

Work Situation

I know there are people with complex work situations. Maybe you’re required to keep things confidential. Maybe you work two jobs. Maybe your work situation has so many moving parts that you can’t imagine how to make Bullet Journal work for you.

I think there are various solutions to these issues.

If you have to keep client information confidential, you could start a work Bullet Journal that never leaves your desk and gets locked up every evening when you go home.

If you work two jobs, you could color-code your tasks and collections and appointments. Personally, I work two part-time jobs, I write fiction, and I run an Etsy store. I definitely use the color-coding to keep things clear! I also have a separate project collection for each job. I take staff meeting notes in my Bullet Journal so I have those to refer to as well. I considered keeping my staff meetings in a notebook that I leave at work, but I always ended up transferring things from my staff meeting notes to my task and project lists, so I decided it just made sense to keep them in my Bullet Journal and, when I move into a new notebook, to migrate just what I need.

If that would be too much work for you, you could always keep a separate notebook at work and only transfer current stuff to your personal Bullet Journal.

Say it with me: Your Bullet Journal is yours. You can do whatever you need to in order to make it work for your unique situation.

Planner Peace

I use Google Calendar for my future planning. I have a calendex in my Bullet Journal because I like it, but if I need to know for sure when something is happening, I check my Google Calendar.

But for everything else, for dreams and goals and projects and plans and daily to-dos, I rely on my Bullet Journal. Someone on Instagram called her Bullet Journal her external brain, and I don’t think that’s overstating it.

I’ve finally found planner peace with my Bullet Journal. I’m so glad I didn’t let any obstacles stand in my way!

Have you had obstacles crop up in your Bullet Journal journey? If so, what were they? How did you handle them?

Observing Lent With Bullet Journal

Lent is coming up soon–Valentine’s Day is also Ash Wednesday this year, so it’s just a week away! I love the observance of liturgical seasons, including Advent and Lent, and I want to make it more intentional this year.

I spent some time over the weekend thinking about how I want to observe Lent this year. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but thinking about it gave me some ideas for stickers to create.

Last year I gave up alcohol, which was a big deal because I was drinking a lot (more than I should have) last year. In the time since I have pretty much stopped buying alcohol for home. When I visit Indiana wineries with my mom, I tend to buy a couple of bottles, and I’ll probably still do that. I might have a beer with my burger when I eat out, and this Friday I’m taking a friend out for margaritas to celebrate her leaving a toxic work situation.

Aside from that, I’m just not drinking much, so giving up alcohol wouldn’t be that much of a sacrifice. And Lent is supposed to be about giving up something that you’ll actually miss. I can’t give up caffeine because I want my coworkers to stay alive. So maybe chocolate. We’ll see. I’m still thinking. Maybe I’ll give up spending money for 40 days!A photo of Lent stickers designed for the Redhead Paper Etsy store

Anyway.

I designed some stickers for the collections I want to create: “What am I giving up and why?” and “Lenten Scriptures and Readings” I made some stickers for the specific holy days of the season: Shrove Tuesday, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. I also have a few decorative stickers with symbols from Lent, like palm branches, lilies, and crosses.

I’ve thought about making a Lent tracker, but I haven’t been able to come up with a design I like. Maybe I still will, but for now, I’m going to list the stickers without a tracker–and if someone buys the Lent stickers and I’ve made a tracker I like in the meantime, I’ll send them the tracker too!

Do you have Lent traditions you enjoy? Share them in the comments!

Redhead Paper’s Etsy Story

I’ve talked before about why I bullet journal. The system works for me–it’s flexible, it allows me to use the parts I like from other planning systems (like GTD), and it makes me mindful of what I need to be doing and when. I’ve been using the bullet journal system for almost three years, since March 2014. I’ve never used a single planning system that long!

Of course, once I started keeping a Bullet Journal, I realized one of the strengths, for me, was the way I can use it as a sort of scrapbook as well as a planner. I love scrapbooks, but I have a huge backlog of things to put in scrapbooks. With my Bullet Journal, I just use a little adhesive or washi tape to stick things like photos and ticket stubs right into my planner.

And stickers. Oh, my gosh, stickers!

Stickers with mailboxes and letters designed for InCoWriMo

My #InCoWriMo / letter-writing stickers with some of the notecards I’m going to use this year.

Why I started an Etsy Shop

I started out buying some planner stickers from other people. I loved the stickers I got from Mila Print Shop (sadly not open at the moment) and Boho Berry Paperie. But after a while that gets expensive, and sometimes there were stickers I wanted that people just didn’t make.

I started investigating. There had to be an easy way for these Etsy sellers to make the stickers I loved so much. I did some Google searching and discovered the Cricut.

Ladies, I fell in love.

I realized I had all these ideas for stickers I needed, and there were probably other people out there who needed those same stickers. I talked to my mom, whom I’d introduced to bullet journaling early on, and then some of my friends who were getting into bullet journaling. They all had stickers they wanted.

I ran some numbers and decided it was a chance worth taking. I talked to my dad, who agreed to invest in the business by actually buying me a Cricut, and I started experimenting.

Three months after I got my Cricut and started feeling comfortable with it, Redhead Paper came to life.

What I have in my Etsy Shop

I have about fifty listings in Redhead Paper right now. One of the first things I made was a set of daily date stickers. I know, it’s kind of basic, but having a sticker that tells me it’s Wednesday, January 24, 2018, makes my life a little bit easier on a daily basis.

Turns out, lots of people need daily date stickers for their bullet journals! These stickers are consistently high-selling items, so I know there’s a need!

I also started experimenting with habit tracking. All the habit trackers I’d seen on Etsy in the past were oriented horizontally, which meant I had to turn my bullet journal sideways to read them. I designed my habit tracker to be vertically oriented. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from people about that.

Habit Tracker created by Redhead Paper on Etsy

Part of the Habit Tracker I designed – you still have to turn it sideways to fill it in, but for tracking purposes on a daily basis, you don’t!

I had designed mini month calendars and month tabs for my mom even before I had the Cricut (and cut them out for her by hand). So it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to create stick-on month tabs. My friend Amanda wanted mini calendars, too, so I added those.

In addition to working at a museum and creating stickers, I’m also a fantasy author, and I wanted to have stickers that reflect my love for writing, help me track my writing progress, and more. So I designed those.

My dad also suggested I should get political–and to be honest, I’m pretty sure my #ShePersisted and “Not My President” stickers were what started getting my shop noticed. Those have been pretty popular, even to this day. (And now that it’s 2018, I’m going to have to make some stickers about the importance of 2018 midterms!)

I have stickers to help you decorate for holidays, plan for Christmas, and set goals. I’ve just recently started making hobby-themed sticker sheets. I have gardening, writing, letter-writing, art, and knitting already, and I’ll be adding more as the year goes on. (If you have a suggestion, let me know!)

And that leads me to my big question…

What should I ADD to my Etsy Shop?

I would love to know what kinds of stickers you need!

I have some things in the works–things like vacation planner sets, water tracking, and birthday planning–but I love taking Etsy commissions, and some of those have given me ideas for new listings.

If you have a need for a certain kind of sticker, comment here and let me know!

Goal-Setting in my Bullet Journal

I do a lot of goal-setting. In addition to running an Etsy shop, I have two part-time jobs and am also a published novelist. I have a lot of tasks and projects to keep track of, and there’s no way I can keep track of them all if I’m just relying on my own brain.

Brain dumps ftw

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with everything life is throwing at you? Stuff is coming at you from every direction and you can’t spin around fast enough to catch everything. I occasionally feel like life is a cosmic game of dodgeball!

When it gets overwhelming like that, I sit down, switch on the Focus mode of Brain.fm, and do a total brain dump. Just write down all the crap that floats through my head, all the things that are taking up space in my mental RAM, and quantify them.

I generally use a separate notebook to do my brain dumps because they can take up a lot of space! But as soon as I’ve finished, I start categorizing everything I wrote down (highlighters are good for this), and that’s where my Bullet Journal comes in.

Once I’ve quantified everything I need to do, I can start figuring out what the next concrete step is to take on every outstanding project.

Sometimes I go through the brain dump in the order I wrote things down and sometimes I skip around. Sometimes I realize that several items in the brain dump belong in a collection in my Bullet Journal. Sometimes an item just needs to go on my monthly or daily task list.

As soon as I’ve recorded a brain dump item somewhere in my Bullet Journal, I mark it out on the braindump list.

Not only does that help me see where I am in the planning process, but it also has an immediate psychological effect. I’ve written it down, I’ve put it where it needs to go, so I can release it from my immediate attention. (If you’re sensing echoes of GTD in this, you’re right!)

So What About Project Planning?

Projects with a lot of steps are different beasts from a simple to-do, that’s for sure. But they’re not really the gargantuan, out-of-control monsters they can feel like.

My rule of thumb is to write down every big step. Sometimes I realize the list I’ve been working with doesn’t have all the steps, so I add them in–even if I add them after completing the step.

I confess I don’t always write down every single tiny step because that would take a lot of paper! But if a project is starting to feel overwhelming, I sit down and do it, even if I have to set up a separate collection just for that project.

A picture of my Quarter 1 Action Steps - Track goal-setting and projects in Bullet JournalI currently have two major projects listed on my Quarter 1 Action Steps page in my Bullet Journal, and I have the components broken down on that page, as you see in the picture, though there are actually lots of little steps to each component.

For example, under “2018 Exhibit” the component “Title banner” actually involves several steps:

  1. Coming up with a title (in collaboration with other museum staff)
  2. Choosing banner images
  3. Choosing a font
  4. Choosing a color
  5. Choosing a vendor to print the banner (or consider printing in-house)
  6. Creating the graphic
  7. Proof-reading title banner
  8. Uploading the graphic to printer/printing graphic

I don’t have this goal broken down into all those steps because this is the sixth exhibit I’ve helped design, so a lot of those steps are internalized for me. On the other hand, I often end up breaking those components down on my Monthly Task List.

If you need to break down the components into every step on your project page, do it! The best thing about Bullet Journal is how you can customize it to work best with your style of work.

Tracking Goal Progress

I tend to use two different methods for tracking my goal and project progress–I’ll call them passive tracking and active tracking.

For active tracking, I’ll actually design a tracker to fit that project. For instance, another project I’m working on for work involves going page-by-page through a book we’re publishing. It’s a huge task, so I drew a special tracker for it–just a set of boxes that are numbered with the chapters of each book. As I finish each chapter, I fill in the box and I’m able to see that I am actually making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Passive tracking, on the other hand, is basically just me paying attention to what tasks I’m migrating from day to day, week to week, or month to month.

One of my favorite things about Bullet Journal is the migration process. Ryder Carroll points out that migration is “a cornerstone of Bullet Journaling.” I know a lot of people dislike the migration component, either because they think it’s redundant and/or pointless or because they don’t like taking the time to do it. For me, the redundancy and time-consuming nature of migration is exactly the point.

Text from the official Bullet Journal website explaining how to migrate a goal

Repetition and redundancy actually make me aware of what goal-oriented tasks I’m not getting done and force me to be mindful of those tasks. I have to consider:

  • Why am I putting off this task?
  • Do I need help from someone else?
  • Am I waiting for something?
  • Is there a step I actually need to do first?
  • How long do I need to complete this?
  • Will it really take me longer to do this task than it will to migrate it to yet another page?

A lot of times, after considering these questions, I either buckle down and do the task or strike it off my to-do list entirely.

Whew! This is a longer blog post than I set out to write! I hope it’s helpful for you to see how I do goal planning and task/project management in my Bullet Journal. If you have any tips, let me know!

And if you’re looking for a sticker set to help you record your goals for 2018, check out my Goal-Setting and New Year’s Stickers set on Etsy! Until March 31, 2018, you can get 18% off your $5 order by using coupon code NY2018.

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal supplies

My Favorite Bullet Journal Resources

One of my favorite things about the Bullet Journal system is how adaptable it is. You don’t really need any special equipment–any notebook and pen will do. I belong to a few BuJo communities on Facebook, and it’s surprising how often people ask, “Can I–?” on those groups. Yes, you can! You can do anything you want with your Bullet Journal!

That said, I do have some things I love using for my Bullet Journal. In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite BuJo supplies and resources.

Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links. In plain language, that means I get a tiny amount of money from those items any time you buy–at no extra cost to you.

Notebooks

My favorite notebooks to use for Bullet Journaling are Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks. They have fountain-pen-friendly paper, the pages are pre-numbered, and there’s an index in the front. Leuchtturm 1917 is the notebook BuJo-creator Ryder Carroll chose to make the official Bullet Journal notebooks. At first available only in black, the official notebooks are now available in emerald green.

If you can’t afford a Leuchtturm 1917, though, there are plenty of other good options. I’ve used Moleskine VolantsMoleskine Cahiers, Picadilly notebooks, and even a cute spiral-bound notebook.

Bottom line, if you have a favorite notebook, use that for your Bullet Journal, because Bullet Journal is all about what works for you.

Pens

My favorite every-day-carry pen is a Pilot Hi Tec C Coleto Lumio Multipen. I use .5 refills in orange, turquoise, brown, and apple green because I color-code my tasks and events for context. Orange is one job, turquoise is another job, brown is writing, and apple green is home & personal.

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal suppliesI also have a Pentel EnerGel black ink pen that I carry every day. The multi-pen and the black ink pen are the basic essentials of my daily Bullet Journal use. I also have a 10-color set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners I use daily. They live on my desk, in a new five-drawer acrylic set I just got at the Container Store. I like seeing all the colorful pens!

I’ve recently branched out a little more. I bought a set of Papermate Flairs, because so many people seem to love them for Bullet Journaling. I’ve been using them a little, but I can’t pretend they’re my favorites. Still, they’re a good alternative.

My recent treat to myself (thank you, tax refund time) is a couple of sets of Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I got the Secondary set and the Landscape” set, because I decided my Staedtler and Flair sets already had the primary colors covered.

Now I just need to learn how to do brush lettering! I’ve been watching videos on YouTube. Does anyone have a favorite tutorial?

Stickers & Washi Tape

Here’s a caveat: I make stickers and sell them at my Redhead Paper Etsy shop, so of course I love my own stickers!

But there are plenty of other sticker-makers out there I love, including Boho Berry Paperie and Mila Printshop. I also love finding stickers at Michael’s.

I love washi tape, but lately I haven’t been using it as often in my layouts. I couldn’t resist the roll I found at Michael’s on Monday, though: it has sayings on it like, “Dream,” “The time is now,” and “This is your life–seize it and make it amazing.”

 


So those are my favorites. What are yours?

 

Why Bullet Journal?

Sometimes when I’m in a meeting, people look at my bullet journal and ask why that system is better than others. So today I wanted to talk about my BuJo Journey.

I’ve loved organization since I read Julie Morganstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out about 15 years ago. First I started organizing all the stuff I had, and then I started realizing I had too much. And then Julie Morganstern wrote Time Management from the Inside Out, and I realized I had even more organizing to do. I struggled for years to figure out how to balance everything I like doing–hiking, reading, writing, scrapbooking, online gaming…

I tried everything. Paper planners. Online calendars. Scheduling and task management apps like Trello. Nothing really worked for me until 2010, when I tried David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. That made sense to me, having project lists and next action lists and context lists. But after a year or two and a job change, I realized the GTD system wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Photo of my tickler fileI kept my tickler file, which both Julie Morganstern and David Allen recommend, and I rely on it. I love it when someone can say, “Hey, do you have that file I gave you two months ago?” And I can say, “Yep, I filed it for this week when we were going to need it again.”

So the tickler file was working, but my planning system wasn’t.

Fast-forward to March 2014, when I discovered Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system.

I honestly didn’t expect it to take, but I thought, “Hey, I’ve seen this mentioned several times lately, so why not try it?” (I think Lifehacker was the first place I saw it, but I’m not sure.) So I set up a spiral-bound notebook I already had. I’d only used it for about two weeks before I realized that hey, this system really clicks with me!

I started out buying Moleskine Cahier notebooks. I could fit about two months in each notebook, and pretty soon my boss started saying, “Hey, did you write down in your little book when we…?” It felt awesome to be able to say yes every time.

Photo of my stack of Bullet Journal notebooksI experimented with notebooks for a while–Moleskine Cahiers, then a Picadilly (which sadly fell apart and had to be repaired), more Moleskines, and then the BulletJournal Kickstarter happened! I was a backer, and I’ve been in love with the Leuchtterm 1917 BulletJournal notebooks since then. I did use a lined Leuchtterm 1917 for part of 2016, but for Christmas my family got me two of the new Emerald Official BuJo notebooks, so I should be set for 2017!

Now I’m branching out into different pens. I color-code my tasks, because I have two part-time jobs and I also write fiction, so I use color to track the context of my tasks and projects (still implementing some of the GTD methods I loved). I use a Coleto Hi-Tec-C multipen to write down tasks, but for things like habit trackers and coloring pages, I’ve been using Tombow Dual Brush Pens for a few weeks now.

So that’s my Bullet Journal journey.

I love so much about Bullet Journal, but the main thing I love about this system is its flexibility. Some of my spreads are super-decorated and pretty and fun, and some of them are simple lists. Sometimes I doodle in my spread, and sometimes I don’t take the time to do a spread for the week. I can experiment with different signifiers to see what clicks. I can see how long it’s been since I did a financial review because of my habit trackers. I can make this planner what I need it to be.

I think that’s why it’s stuck so long–Bullet Journal is a system that adapts to my needs.