Saturday, 21 September 2013

Bullet journal tribute

It has now been two weeks and I still love using a notebook as my life organiser. In fact I love it more and more as time goes by. I even love that it has squared paper (before reading about the bullet journal I had never really thought I would like writing on it. I thought it was just for maths and in fact I had bought this when I started a maths course, then decided it was too good to use). It houses appointments, to do lists, actions, reminders and any thoughts I want to get out of my head or commit to a better memory than my own.

As much as I love the look of a Filofax, when using it as my organiser I spent more time trying to make it look a certain way than actually using it to organise. It was packed with post its, coloured paper and huge amounts of lists. I had worked out colour coding so that it would be easier to see at a glance what was going on. I thought it worked really well.

Little did I know that it actually only worked ok.

If someone needed information I could probably provide it. It would be somewhere under ‘information’. If I wanted to write notes I would turn to ‘notes’ and there would be some blank pages. If I wanted to write down an appointment I could write it in the diary.

See, I told you it worked ok.

However, since using a notebook I have spent much less time ‘planning’ and more time actually doing. If I need to write an appointment it goes in the monthly sections at the beginning. Everything else is just listed under the day I am on. It is simply listed. I don’t have to think which section it should go in or if I have to start a new list. I don’t spare a thought for the colour I am writing in (everything is in black). Once I have written it I don’t wonder if I should move it to a different section or rewrite it because it is a bit messy. There are no thoughts of ‘actually if I wrote that again on coloured paper it would be easier to find' (only if you remember that you wrote that bit of information on that particular colour).

I can’t say that the bullet journal ‘purists’ would approve of my method and I can’t say it would work for anyone else but it sure seems to be working for me.

A monthly spread is enough for me as I don’t have many appointments. I have 3 sticky tabs in this notebook and the monthly spread has one of them. I tried to do without any but found I wanted to use those 3 pages daily so I conceded. It is my system after all and I shall do with it what I wish!

Above is October’s layout which is the same as the one I used for September. I have drawn out November and December on the following pages but have left some lines in pencil in case I want to adapt things later. The yellow stickers are the only stickers I use. They are to show my daughter’s athletics as she sometimes has practice and/or competitions several times a week. I am taxi for her so have put them in my appointment spaces but the stickers leave room for any additional appointments I might have. The layout is quite simple and self-explanatory. The box on the right at the bottom I used for meal planning in September. It worked well so I will do this again.  

Following the monthly spreads I have one page for forward planning. I just list any appointment I have for 2014.

After that I have a page for my master to do list and a page for 'waiting for' (This has my second sticky tab).

Then it gets straight into the daily lists. I only use check boxes and bullet points. Check boxes for to dos and bullet points for everything else.


When I have completed a page I review it. I decide if any of the information needs to be transferred anywhere else (somewhere else such as my filing system or shopping list, not somewhere else in the notebook) or if it needs to be referenced in the index.

 I also make sure the to dos are marked in some way. A completed ‘to do’ will already have a tick.

If, on review, a ‘to do’ is no longer valid it gets crossed out.

If, on review, I decide I still want to do it but it isn’t something I need to do now, I ‘downgrade’ it to the monthly or master to do list. (Equally things on the monthly or master to do lists can be upgraded to the monthly or daily list with an up arrow).

If there is anything left I assess why it hasn’t been done. If it can be done quickly I do it then (somehow I find it more motivating to complete a small task if it is to ‘complete’ a page). If it is a bigger task it is probably something I just don’t want to do. This has only happened once so far and I briefly swayed between booking it as an appointment and rewriting it with a ! next to the check box. I decided on the latter and it worked as it nagged me every time I looked at the page.

This method of addressing to dos is much more successful than when I used a Filofax as I wrote a to do list on a post it and just transferred it from week to week.

At the back I have a chart for my weekly and seasonal tasks. My final sticky tab is here.

Finally, I have an index at the back so I can locate any information I may want to return to.  I assumed that some letters would be used more than others so had a guess at which ones and allocated space accordingly (quite a bit for S, not much for Q etc.).

Now I know that all this could be done in a Filofax. But I just wouldn't. For me I think, as far as planning goes,  'Filofax versus notebook' is like 'thinking versus doing'. 


  1. I'm intrigued by the idea of the Bullet Journal. Might give it a try. Did it take a while to adjust after having used a 3-ring system or did you love it immediately?

    1. I went into it thinking I would find it difficult but I actually liked it from the beginning and loved it after about a week. I find a great freedom in the process of 'think, write, sorted'! I always spent far too long trying to make my binder look a certain way. I love that it doesn't give me the opportunity to overthink it. However, I feel that it works well for me now as I have lots of tasks but few appointments. The way I use it would be problematic for people who have lots of time specific tasks. I also still use a filofax for my wallet so I haven't abandoned it entirely.

    2. I'm like you in that I have lots of tasks but not many appointments. I really do need to try this.

  2. I love this post! I'm still using my Plannerisms planner for all my plans, schedule, goals etc. but have switched to a notebook to map out and record each day, and to write my numerous lists. I have my daily pages starting from the front of the book and my lists starting from the back, which makes it easy for me to find what I'm looking for later. As you noted, I love that there is no decision-making. When I used a Filofax, I constantly had to decide where to put information. Then finding it later was a chore: did I put it behind my Lists tab, my Info tab or my Notes tab? When I used a day per page planner for this purpose, I had to decide what was worthy of being written on today's page, and I had no place for my lists. With my notebook, I don't have to think about how to use it. I just use it.

  3. PS and I meant to say, I love your monthly layout!! I've never seen a monthly layout like that (vertical with the days divided) and it is absolute genius!

    1. Thank you very much for your comments, they made me smile. I have hesitated to do this for the whole of 2014 though. I am hoping that I am not going to spend 2014 jobless and I don't know how that would affect appointments. However I have loved using this so much that I think I am likely to just go for it. I have reasoned that I can always add a planner and use a flex to keep them together if I really need to.

    2. Hi Sydney, exactly! That's what I love about using a notebook, it's flexible and I can change how I use it, day to day if I want to. I'm also looking for a job and when I used my day per page diary I worried how I would be able to adapt it to life with work + family, after-school activities etc. But with the notebook I don't worry, because it can be whatever I need it to be at the time.

      Best of luck with your job search! I hope you find a job you love. :)

  4. Very nice layout..definite tool for 'doing' ;-)

  5. Thanks. This year I am using a planner alongside the notebook. Basically because I was too lazy to write in a year of monthly spreads and sometimes wanted a weekly view. It is going well. I do miss using the filofax as my planner but know that this way is more practical for me.

  6. I am one week into using the Bullet Journal and am amazed at my increased productivity at work! It seems to spur creative thinking AND action! Love it!

  7. thanks for sharing your method of honing the bullet journal to your needs/specs....I learned some good stuff.....something that I've not consciously articulated (to myself) is how much freaking time it takes to set things up (someone once said the price of perfectionism is prohibitive) in my case it meant planning vs that I just retired...too broke to travel cause kids college bills rule the day..and I have the time to set up a planner anyway I want...I'm burned out...on elaborates...I'm going bullet journal (with sage seasoning from folks like you) ...thanks