Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Year, New Me, Part 1 ~ The Bullet Journal

I am a walking New Year's cliche. At the end of each year, I take stock of my accomplishments and then I start the next year with a long list of goals, dreams, and aspirations. This year is no exception, and, if anything, those goals have taken on a greater urgency than ever (time's a wasting'). However, unlike in past years, I think the goals I've set for myself are integrated in a way that they work together to build toward bigger, long-term goals, and I have more of an understanding of the small steps I have to take to meet those goals (which is not to say there's no pie in the sky on the list, just that I've got a fork and a knife ready to take a bite of that pie). One of the tools I've found helpful in managing the tracking of goals and the steps along the way, as well as the daily stuff that has nothing to do with where I want to go, but has to get done anyway, is the Bullet Journal.

I first read about Bullet Journals on Dawn's blog, and if you want to learn more about the Bullet Journal system, you can check out the official Bullet Journal website. There you can also see examples of really amazing journals. Some people turn theirs into works of art. That's not going to happen with mine anytime soon (or ever), but I do try to make it fun with colored pens and the occasional drawing.

Basically, my Bullet Journal is a daytimer or pocket calendar over which I have TOTAL CONTROL (and no, working on my control issues is not among my New Year's resolutions). I started mine back in July, with the purchase of a cute turquoise Moleskine notebook with tiny dots that outline a grid. This makes it easy for me to lay out my pages, without being too busy with lines. The way I set mine up is with a two-page calendar spread for the month, on which I write major events, like holidays or days I don't have to work. There's a little space left in the margins, where I list what I need to do for the month for Literary Mama, for my writing group, my writing goals, and any upcoming deadlines.

After the monthly spread, come the week-by-week spreads, with each getting two pages. This is where I get into more detail with my to-do lists. Each item is either preceded by a dot, for things I need to do, an open circle, for events, or an asterisk, for things I need to make. Things that get done get a checkmark, things that don't get a little arrow to migrate them to the next day. Not every week looks as chockablock full as the one above—that was crazy get-ready-for-Christmas week.

Most weeks are more like this one. In the bottom right corner of each day I write the topic I plan to cover on my blog that day (with an asterisk, because a blog post is a thing one makes). I've also started adding little clouds with "dreamy" things--things that don't need to get done but that I'd like to do, like take a bubble bath, knit in front of the TV, go to bed early. I've also added a line for whatever I'm grateful for that day, but you'll notice (if you can read the tiny words), that they're mostly silly things. I wanted to add a gratitude habit to my days this year, but it turns out I just can't do it. Say I read an article about a family that's fallen on hard times and is suffering in a lot of ways. I'll feel a rush of gratitude that we have a safe, warm home and that we're able to feed and educate our children, followed immediately by a strong urge to throw salt over my shoulder and knock on wood. There's no way I would write anything of the sort down, for fear some evil-minded lesser god or spirit will read it and destroy whatever it is I'm grateful for. So instead I write things like "Harrison Ford," because we just watched all the Indiana Jones movies, and who isn't grateful for that?

Finally, between each month, I have two-page spreads with various things I want to keep track of, like books I want to read, writing projects, places to publish, my writing and journaling workshops, my New Year's goals (of course). I just added a list of books I've read this year, because I'm kind of curious to see how many books I read in a year, and a page for daily habits (more on those in Part 3).

My Bullet Journal makes me happy. I'm a total list-maker, and I get great satisfaction from checking things off the list. Having my calendar, my to-do list, and my other running lists all in one place is a revelation—and a big improvement over the old "scraps of paper every which way" system I used to use.

Do you Bullet Journal? How do you stay organized? Is an analog system like this one hopelessly old-fashioned or refreshingly tactile?


  1. Love seeing how others organize their journals. My journal is a hodge podge of different journaling styles. I have taken what I like from a few and combined them. It works for me :)

    1. I love peeking inside other people's organizing systems, too. And finding what works is key--a journal's no good if you don't use it!

  2. I've just started using a bullet journal too, what a great system. I like how you do your monthly lay out.

  3. Cool. I live by my planner but rarely remember to put things like writing goals in it.

  4. I love seeing inside your journal! There is something wonderful and personal and small about that sort of thing that really delights me. I love my own journal/planner, and like you, I am particular about it's layout (though I never thought to make my own.) I am not a list-maker and organization comes and goes, except when it comes to groceries. They are the one true constant, and I really take pleasure in looking back to ones from years past to see just what on earth I was eating.

  5. Oh, I'm just about to start my Bullet Journal this Monday. I gave myself the month of January to set everything up (journaling 2 differet ways this year) and I'm very excited to try it.

  6. I'm starting my Bullet Journal this Monday (promised myself January to set everything up). I love when the first of a month falls on a Monday.


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