I’m convinced that an alternative name for “Mom” should be “Information Keeper.” So many of us are responsible for knowing the schedules of every family member, having a clear sense of what dinner on Thursday is going to be, mastering our budgets, & maintaining the endless to do lists. Keeping track of it all can feel overwhelming. One game-changing way that I’ve been able to stay on top of things has been by using my bullet journal. It’s allowed me to approach the chaos with a little organization and some creativity (NOTE: creativity is totally optional). In this article, I am going to show you simple & creative bullet journal ideas to help you get more organization in your life.
What is Bullet Journaling?
The Bullet Journal was originally created by Ryder Carroll in 2013. Ryder’s system is relatively simplistic & incredibly effective by using a coding method to list out your tasks.
The system has a few components to it (you can check out the full system at BulletJournal.com), but basically, you can make a list of your tasks and each symbol next to the task means something different. The dot (.) is a task to complete. An asterisk (*) means it is important. The circle is an appointment or agenda item. The X means the task was completed. The arrow (>) means it is migrated to a later date. Again, there are other components to it, but this is the primary structure of it.
People have transformed the Bullet Journal into something pretty different from that original structure. That’s the beauty of the Bullet Journal: it can be customized to fit your personality and needs. I love how Ryder puts it:
“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” ~ Ryder Carroll
If you search online for “bullet journal”, you will see everyone has a different take on it–whether it be in a journal or in digital form, simple or complex, creative or not creative, reflective or pragmatic. Everyone gets to make it their own. But the overall concept is simple: let this be a catch-all for your life.
The Bullet Journal is a Completely Customizable Planner
I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the search for the “perfect planner.” I linger a little in the planner aisle at Target, hoping to find that gem of a planner that solves all problems (can they please make one that just does the tasks on my to do list for me? Wouldn’t that be awesome). I’ll confess, in the span of one year, I’ve purchased over 5 planners. I couldn’t ever find one that did just what I wanted (and I’m not gonna lie, what I wanted had changed from week to week as my life changed).
My Bullet Journal helped solve this problem for me. One week I’m uber ambitious and am the Queen of To Do Lists. Such as this week shown here:
Another week it looks like this: (please note that my habit tracker is only finished for 1 day)
Hey, the struggle is real. The planner can work with me, in whatever stage of life I’m in. And that’s ok! In fact, that’s more than OK!
Also, if I see a method used in any type of planner, I can easily customize and use that format in my own journal. I don’t have to keep buying planners based on new planner features I want to try.
What You Can Track In Your Bullet Journal
Here are some of my favorite things to do in my Bullet Journal:
To Do List
My Bullet Journal houses my To-Do list. I love to use a method recommended by Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free. She has one page devoted to business tasks, and one page devoted to personal tasks.
The weekly overview allows me to have a glimpse at my week ahead. I include appointments, tasks, our meal plan for the week, cleaning checklists, weather overview, and even a habit tracker to track things I’d like to try to get in each day.
Let me be totally clear here: mine aren’t always elaborate and I almost always decrease using them towards the end of the week. I naturally sort of fizzle out as a week ends, and that’s OK! This at least gets me centered and focused for the first 75% of the week 🙂
The year overview is a method used by many to have a glimpse at the entire year. You can put in birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and more.
One of the primary ways I like to use my Bullet Journal is to set goals. I map out where I’d like to be heading and make sure I’m on course to reach those goals:
I won’t lie—these are some of my favorite pages because I can have some fun doodling
I love to use my journal to record memories. I will look back on entries and totally forgot all of these fantastic stories. It’s also wonderful to save these for my kids and their kids to read:
My sister in law is awesome at this–she always retells stories of her and my husband, and the stories are hilarious! I love how much personality she puts into her pages. She also draws everything out so you feel like you’re there.
You can keep track of many different types of schedules in your Bullet Journal, whether it be a family schedule, cleaning schedule, workout calendar, etc.
Not only do I like to track my schedules, but I also like to map out an ideal routine. Let’s be clear, my routine will look like this 10% of the time, but it’s something I shoot for.
Things You Want to Remember
When I’m sleep-deprived taking care of a sick kid, my bullet journal is my go-to tracker. I record everything and take this with me to the doctor. Moms of newborns: this is a great way to track all those diaper changes and feeding sessions you are asked to track!
I love, love, love taking notes with my Bullet Journal. Do you find yourself struggling to focus during a meeting or talk? That’s totally me! I actually focus more as I’m coloring. This gives me an opportunity to write down the words I hear and reflect on them.
When you think about “organizing your life,” I’m sure you might be thinking of coordinating activities such as the shuttle service you run for all of your kids’ activities or perhaps keeping on top of all of the meals you need to make. I’d love to encourage you to consider other ways the Bullet Journal can organize your life. For example, this is where I am able to reflect on what came out in my Scripture Study and journal about what is happening in my life.
One of my favorite resources for using a journal is Jim Rohn’s audio book How to Use a Journal. His perspective on using a journal as a reflective tool is incredibly inspiring. Some of my favorite tips of his include:
- When you are working through a problem, write it down and work through solutions. Then go back to that page later and update it on what was the outcome
- Keep your journal with you at all times (especially if it’s a Bullet Journal!)–that way you can write down thoughts & ideas as they come up
- Record inspiring thoughts & quotes that you come across that resonate with you
My journal allows me to write out my problems, and through that process, I find relief or sometimes even a solution. Don’t underestimate the power that organizing your thoughts can have on your life.
The Bullet Journal as a Creative Outlet (If You Want it To Be)
Your Bullet Journal could also serve as a creative outlet for you. I tried doing the “Adult Coloring Books” (why does putting “adult” in front of that make it sound dirty?), but I found it such a waste. When I put my time and energy into something, I want to get something out of it. What am I going to do, frame my coloring of a mandala? I’m 35 years old, it’s not like my Mom is going to hang my coloring on the fridge! I want my creative energy to be useful—enter my Bullet Journal! This doesn’t happen all the time, but every once in a while, I put a little TLC into my page.
The bullet journal is perfect for practicing doodles or decorating pages as I’m sitting and watching TV. I love to play with different formats and colorings–for me, it’s the perfect mesh of my creative self and that Type A part of me that likes things organized.
It Doesn’t Have to Take a Ton of Work to Keep up with Your Bullet Journal
I want to address a huge concern that you might be having: holy cow Tara, that seems like a ton of work!!!! I won’t lie, sometimes I’ve (wrongfully) not picked up my journal for the week because I didn’t have time for fancy headers or goal setting. But honestly, that’s when I need to embrace the adaptability and possible simplicity of the Bullet Journal. Even a brief list for the week is just fine. Don’t feel like you need to create some kind of artistic masterpiece. This journal is just about you organizing your life!
While you see some of my favorite Bullet Journal pages in this post–let’s be clear, many weeks it looks like this:
And guess what? You are going to screw up in your bullet journal. You’re going to make a typo or draw a line wrong. Embrace it. Go with it. Bullet Journaling has actually helped me tremendously with my perfectionist tendencies. It’s taught me many “go with the flow” lessons, accepting my mistakes and just moving on.
Recommended Supplies for Bullet Journaling
There are a few supplies that I highly recommend for Bullet Journaling. I’ll walk you through each of these:
I tried Moleskin and a few other journals, but the Leuchtturm1917 stood out above the rest (so much so that you will see that most people using a Bullet Journal use this one). Be sure to look for “Hardcover”–in my opinion it makes it incredibly sturdy. There is a softness to it, so it doesn’t feel like a hard-bound book, but yet it’s firm enough to not bend.
Also look for “dotted”—in my opinion, this is the ideal format because it includes small dots on each page, rather than harsh lines–it’s ideal for doodling & creating verticle lines.
One of my favorite features of the Leuchtturm is that it lays flat when opened. Most journals I’ve tried don’t do that. The pages are also sturdy and rarely (if ever) bleed.
I personally get the medium size. One time I got the large size thinking it would be similar to a notebook, but it was more of the size of a book for a coffee table! It was HUGE!
Papermate Flair Pens
The Papermate Flair pens are my FAVORITE for bullet journaling. I often get compliments on my handwriting, but seriously, it’s the PEN! You should see what my writing looks like in pencil, it’s not pretty! I also love that they come in a variety of colors and don’t ever bleed. I should note, however, that there is some “ghosting” that happens. Ghosting is when you can see a little bit of the ink from the back of the page. It’s incredibly faint (thus the term “ghosting”) so it doesn’t bother me at all. Here’s an example of “ghosting”–notice in the photo that you can see some of the text from the back of the page:
Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers
These were a game-changer for my bullet journaling! I love how the tip of the pen feels almost like a paint brush, without me having to make the mess of painting! The tip can go incredibly fine, but I’m also able to angle the brush tip when I want it to get thick, which is ideal for when I’m pseudo-calligraphying (yeah, that’s a word…).
HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer
The HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer is amazing if you want to use your journal to hold some of your photos. You can print photos from your phone and it will print on sticker sheets that you put in your Bullet Journal. Genius!!! The quality of the photos isn’t super-amazing, but I think it’s pretty good:
Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery® NoteTabs, 1″ x 1.5″
These tabs are perfect for helping me mark certain pages that I go back to regularly.
Final Thoughts on Using a Bullet Journal
Isn’t it pretty crazy how much you can do with your Bullet Journal? You truly can organize your whole life with it. But one word of caution: don’t get overwhelmed. When I first got started with Bullet Journaling, I was so inspired by all of the different ways people used it to organize their lives, but I still felt completely overwhelmed. I’m assuming that you might feel the same way. I encourage you to just pick a few aspects of the Bullet Journal that stood out to you and give it a try!
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