The Basics of Bullet Journaling


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It’s safe to say that never in our lifetimes have we collectively been more motivated for a new year. The most useless item purchased in 2020 was a planner. The time has come to dream and scheme with fresh goals and ideas, and a bullet journal may be just the answer.

What Is Bullet Journaling?

Bullet journaling is an alternative or accessory to a paper planner. Simply put, a bullet journal is a blank notebook of any kind used to track and organize information. The possibilities are endless, and templates of all sorts of page ideas can be found and replicated. Blank pages allow the user to create bullet pointed lists, charts, graphs, doodles, and other visual tools to organize information in one place. An inexpensive composition book can be used, or the more expensive journals made specifically for bullet journaling.

Why Try Bullet Journaling?

Bullet journals can help plan your schedule.In 2016, I embraced that a digital planner was not working, so I decided to try a bullet journal. I’ve doodled in margins since childhood, so I was drawn to the idea of blank pages where I could create calendar layouts of my choosing. As visual learner and list maker, I thought it might be the solution to organize my ideas, goals, and thoughts and prepare for the week. I nearly gave up before I started when Pinterest buried me in too many ideas to sort out.  

How Do You Use a Bullet Journal?

Article after article pointed to the Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 Notebook, so I bit the bullet (pun intended) and spent the $30 for this perfect tool that was waiting to be filled. It would allow me to declutter my thoughts with organized brain dumps. Since I’d already bought the notebook, I had to rethink my strategy since the online searches were confusing me.

What Information Should You Include?

Reverting to my proven habit of making lists, I sat with a blank piece of paper and made a list of the type of information I wanted to track. I looked at the notes section of my phone to browse information I kept there.

  • Calendar with a weekly layout, adding a task list, gratitude list, menu, and a habit tracker.
  • Annual “vision board”: The year listed in the middle and a doodle to represent each goal for the year.
  • Goal page per category for mothering, marriage, professional, spiritual, and health.
  • Goal and habit tracker page with squares to color in for blog posts, date nights, and more.
  • Year overview double layout with important events per month.
  • Books to read and movies to watch.
  • Task lists for my son’s senior year, soccer volunteer work, blogging, and adoption job.

Choose Layouts

Once you know the information you want to track, search for layouts that appeal to you, and begin to sketch them out in your blank notebook, creating the journal to your liking.

Organizing Content

A bullet journal is ideal for people who feel restricted by pre-made day planners.Trying to find my “brain dump” notes on my phone was one of the things I disliked the most about tracking things digitally. If a bullet journal was going to work, I needed to be able to find each section easily without thumbing through the whole notebook. Stick on tabs from an office supply or craft store solves this issue.

Perfect As You Go 

The novelty of creating each weekly layout quickly wore off, and this technique began to feel cumbersome. However, I loved taking time during the year to color in the sketched doodle for each goal on my vision board page. I found the habit trackers, where you color in the squares, did indeed help establish a workout routine and other habits I was trying to establish. At the end of the year, I found several pages were hardly used.

Moving forward, I decided that the most sustainable system for me would be a combination of a planner and a bullet journal for the pages I loved. I wanted the convenience of ready-to-use calendar layouts with the flexibility of inserting my favorite bullet journal layouts. Ever since, the Happy Planner has been my solution. It’s a paper planner with various styles and sizes, the ability to customize, and the ability to add and remove pages.

If you find that paper planners or digital applications are too restrictive, then bullet journaling may be the right fit. You may go all in with it, or find a combination like I have. The trick is finding a fit that is both sustainable and helpful.


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