In late 2017, I decided for the second time to attempt keeping a bullet journal. For those unfamiliar with the system, I would recommend Ryder Carroll’s website for some quick information on what exactly it is. In it’s simplest form, it’s an “analog system in the digital age” for keeping track of your life and thoughts. During my first attempt back in February 2017, I was trying too hard to make mine look like the really fancy ones you see on YouTube or other parts of the internet. That didn’t work so well, because I kept realizing how much mine sucked compared to every other. When I decided to try again, I decided to stick a little closer to Ryder’s original design: simplistic and functional, making modifications as I discovered what worked and didn’t work for me.
So, at the start of March, I figured now was as good a time as any to take a look at my bullet journal and what I’ve done with it. For those who are looking for a good way to journal or plan, you may want to consider giving bullet journalling a shot. Frankly, I believe it’s changed my life for the better. I’m not going to go through every page or even every section of my journal, rather highlight the system I’ve developed and why it works for me.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Here we have the outer skeleton of my bullet journal. I haven’t named it, which honestly is surprising knowing me, so let me know if you have any suggestions. It features a NaNoWriMo sticker, a sticker from Golden Gecko in Toronto, a somewhat sad looking MLB sticker and some holographic tape. I wish I could show you the beautiful rainbow shifts of the holo, but alas. You will simply have to imagine it in all of his holographic glory. For those who are unaware, I adore anything holo.
I believe there’s no need to personalize the cover of your journal, but these little additions all came to me one by one, and perhaps more will come to me over time. I enjoy the character it gives to something so inherently personal to me. And be assured, this is certainly personal. I believe there is only one person in this world who I would give free reign of this entire book. Maybe more will come with time and trust, but for now, only my best friend has that privilege. After all, I tell him everything.
For the sake of this post, I’ll obviously be omitting any juicy personal details. Keep dreaming, you curious fools.
Next, we have the Future Log. Ryder classifies this simply as an overview of the year ahead.
It’s simple enough, but I elected to add the mini calendars as an aesthetic detail. That, and it does help me determine what day of the week any certain date might be. Mine starts with December because I started this journal in November, but you could start yours whenever, like with January. Here and on the next three pages, I chronicle events that will be taking place months from now such as holidays, birthdays, or (marked with stars) events that came up after the fact. I tend to only use this section for things more than two months out, because for the current month and the one following, I use my monthly spreads.
Speaking of which, here’s mine for March:
Over the last few months I’ve determined that this is the setup that works best for me. In Ryder’s original model (yes, I’ll be comparing each of mine to his) the left page consists of merely the month’s name, the numbers, the days, and what needs to be done. The right page consists simply of a list of tasks. As you can see, I added a lot more than that. I have a column for school classes on the left there (it was formerly my work schedule) and a “Coming soon” section for events in the near future; it’s easier to access than the future log. On the right, I added a large calendar, which is mostly for visual aid like my tiny ones were in the future log, but I also do like to cross off the days as they go by. It’s fun and it’s pretty. Below it I have my general tasks, which can move to the next month if they’re not important or are more long-term, my resolutions, and my class schedule.
I do admit I think this is my prettiest monthly spread yet. My choice of color and decorative touches vary mainly only by season, and throughout December, January and February, I was using light and dark blue and drawing snowflakes. I find that with March comes the promise of Spring, and my little doodle flowers help solidify that in my mind. It’s simple enough to still be functional. The main purpose of this journal, after all, is to keep track of things and write down my thoughts or feelings. Making it look nice is an afterthought, but it’s still important to my enjoyment of the journalling experience.
As such, I get something cute, but not so cute it disrupts the flow of my tasks and thoughts. An ugly cute; a happy medium.
The main additions I decided to make this month were color coding my three classes as well as anything related to baseball. For my classes, I simply delegated the three colors I already had designated for the month (three now, as opposed to my former two), and for the Sox… well, red. Also notable, but not new, things relating to my boyfriend are green.
Following the monthly spread is the weekly spread, which is something Ryder didn’t have in his original model. To be honest, I neglected to do these throughout most of November and December. It wasn’t until I got serious about journalling again that I decided the weekly spread would be helpful.
This much is pretty simple and hasn’t changed since I started doing them. I write down things I’m doing or may be doing, people I may or may not be seeing. Edits can be made where appropriate. Last month I had a rather messy weekly spread which I think is still worth sharing:
Plans change. Life is messy. Pages like this are simply a testament to the beautiful unpredictability of the world. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Nonetheless, moving on. Next is the heart of the journal, the daily spreads. This is where the “bullet” aspect of bullet journalling actually becomes more relevant.
I decided I wouldn’t censor anything on this page. I’m baring my soul. Okay maybe not, but still.
Everybody has a key they use in terms of what their different bullets mean. Ryder has his own system, and I’ve used some of his basic indicators, but I have also developed a system of my own. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’ve determined works for me:
• = task
○ = event
– = note or recommendation
☆ = thought or introspection
♡ = boyfriend
! = important (not shown)
♪ = music (not shown)
And that’s the gist of it, honestly. I do this every day, or if I forget or am busy, I try and catch up. I personally believe bullet journalling has been a truly life-changing experience for me, and I hope to continue it for many years to come. To anyone who journals or wishes to, I hope you find as much meaning in your personal logs as I do. After all, we each create our own meaning in our day to day lives. For me, I like to chronicle my adventures. All times immortalized, good or bad. Someday, I hope to be able to look back on them and smile.