I’ve been using my bullet journal to keep myself organized for a few months now, and the ways in which I’m using it have DEFINITELY changed. “They” were wise when they said not to draw your layouts too far in advance. I’m definitely more digital than analog; I’ve found apps more helpful than paper for tracking certain aspects of life, especially those shared with another person, like our household’s schedule. But I’ve seen enough improvement in productivity and other areas that I’m willing to stick with it. I thought it might be helpful to others to revisit my BuJo process and see its evolution, in case you’ve been struggling and feeling like you’ve been “doing it wrong.”
WHAT I’VE KEPT
There were a few things from my initial foray into BuJo that really worked for me that I will be continuing with. The monthly task list helps me remember all the things that need to be done and the weekly spread helps me schedule doing of the things, which increases the likelihood that they get done. The menu planner helps me see what I’ve made and what I haven’t in recent times. This is one of those collections that only becomes useful once you’ve been using it for a while and acquired a backlog of data. My cross-stitch project list helps me remember which patterns I want to make next, which doesn’t always prevent me from getting a bunch more patterns I don’t have time to make, they just get added to the list.
WHAT I’VE DITCHED
This process is most helpful when you get rid of what isn’t working for you, so there are a few things I’ll be dropping going forward. I just wasn’t interacting with collections for occasional or long term projects often enough for them to be useful. Similarly, daily trackers felt too tedious to keep up with. It was just collecting data for collecting’s sake. Bye bye Mood, Hydration, and Cross Stitch activity trackers. I tried out a financial tracker, but it turns out the digital system I already had in place was working for me better than the on-paper system
WHAT I CHANGED
The biggest changes in my bullet journal use come from what I’ve learned along the way. For example, I’ve adapted a lot of my layouts, based on how much space I learned that I needed. For monthly layouts, I quickly scrapped the calendar layout in favor of a simple running to do list. Ditto for the weekly layout, each week gets a page for anything that’s happening in that week and if I need to assign a day of the week to accomplish the task, I can write that in. For my menus, we do a LOT of leftovers for dinner in our house so it really wasn’t necessary for me to devote space to what I would have for dinner every single day. Here I divided the page into 4 quadrants and list a few dinner ideas in each quarter for the week, based on what’s happening in our lives that week. Other things, like my fitness tracker, I’ve discovered actually need MORE room, so I’ll be expanding from one to two pages for those.
Adapting my fitness tracker is probably the biggest change I’ve made. The first few months, I wasn’t making any real fitness effort, so my tracker was a small calendar that I’d shade in with color coding if I did a workout that day. The problem was, I wasn’t doing much, so it just became sad to look at. Last month, I started doing HIIT workouts under the guide of a friend/coach. This involves keeping track of the number of reps of different sets of exercises, total number of reps for the workouts, and goals for each set and total. A color-coded calendar was no longer going to work. I’m still tinkering with the layout, but now I have more of a spreadsheet look, with the goals penciled in as the bottom half of a fraction in each box and I fill in what I actually accomplish as I go. So far, it’s working great, and I’ve lost 15 pounds!
One other silly thing I’ve changed is my pen storage. I was storing them in the plastic pouch they came in. Eventually, the adhesive on the stickers that kept the flap closed wore out and I started having pen avalanches in my bag. I moved them to a zippered pouch and honestly, sometimes I use them, and sometimes I grab whatever pen is on hand. The key is for a BuJo to be useful and if I have to go digging and find the specific pen I’m supposed to use for a specific thing, I’m not going to use it as much. Next time I get around to cleaning out by bag, the pens will probably get relegated to my craft room, where I can use them to make more artistic layouts if I so choose.
WHAT I’M TRYING
Another part of the evolution process is trying out new things, sort of a round two to follow up the initial trial run upon starting up a BuJo. I’m now messing with more traditional, project-based “to do” lists and idea lists. Breaking up a daunting project into smaller tasks helps get it accomplished. So the project gets a page and a bulleted list of tasks. Since these are generally longer term projects with no due date, I don’t feel like the tasks need to be scheduled. It’s more a list to help me remember what I could do to work towards a goal when I have time to do some. If I’m feeling super ambitious and planning ahead, I can always use this list to assign tasks to a weekly to do list.
I’m also using pages to help me keep track of things I just want to remember. I have a “Summer Fun” list of things I’d like to do with the family, so if we have an opportunity, I can remember what it is I wanted my kids to get the chance to do while the weather’s nice. Same goes for a list of topics to research. If I had a dollar for every time I thought “I should look that up,” I’d be a rich lady. I often find myself with the time to do this, but can never remember during those times, what it was I wanted to know about. So hopefully this helps with that.
You may be aware I’m a cohost of a TV podcast for this very website. There are various things (show topics, pick rotation, quotes, commercials, summary topics, etc.) it is helpful to keep track of and I am the most likely of the 3 of us to do that. This feels like the recurring project, like the workouts or meal plans, to keep track of in the BuJo. Plus I like the idea of being able to look back over the accumulated data and see what we’ve done in the year. This may even help us be able to plan topics a bit more in advance. We often think of timely topics for special episodes, but not enough ahead of time to do anything about them.
And finally, I’m hoping to create more artistic layouts. My BuJo is currently very Spartan. I wish I were more artsy than I am. Now that I’m not scrambling to keep up with layouts that aren’t working for me and refining my BuJo into a more useful tool, I feel like there might be more time to explore creativity and to learn how to draw banner headers or pretty fonts. It would be nice if what keeps me organized was also pretty and made me happy.
The more you do it, the more you figure out how to do it and what does and doesn’t work for you. It’s a hobby that takes practice to get better at, though it doesn’t seem like it should. There really is no wrong way to do it, but you have to explore and try changing things up to make it work for the way you use it. It’s a system, but it’s adaptable to whatever you need it to be. That’s the whole point, to make it work for you. So, how is your bullet journal journey going? I’d love to hear from readers what is or isn’t working for you. Make a task bullet to hit me up on Twitter and let me know!