Most people fit into a few different categories when it comes to bullet journaling. Some absolutely LOVE it. Others haven’t even heard of it. Some think of bullet journaling as the most time-consuming waste of energy there is. And then there are those who want to love it but end up hating it. I think most people (who already love planner/paper type stuff) fit into the last category. At least, I know I was in that last category up until a few weeks ago.
It only took me a couple weeks after starting my first bullet journal to absolutely hate that blasted thing! I put so much pressure on myself to make my bullet journal look “perfect” and “cute” that it ended up being more stressful than functional. It was the same old story every time I pulled it out. Look at Pinterest for inspiration, fail at whatever page I was trying to recreate, rip the page out or keep it in (but absolutely hate it), repeat.
So, why did I start bullet journaling again? After all that hatin’? Well, here’s the thing. When I went back to a regular planner, I had the same problem as I’ve always had with them. They don’t allow me to customize things the way I like or in the ways that will boost my productivity, so I don’t keep up with them. It doesn’t matter beautiful or seemingly wonderful a planner is that I buy. I always stop using them.
I realized that bullet journaling was the thing I NEEDED in my life. And I wasn’t going to let my OCD/stress about things looking “perfect” stop me from using a method that would be beneficial for me. Nope, not anymore! So, I decided to change the way I approached bullet journaling so that it could benefit me instead of stress me out!
Here are a few ways I changed the way that I bullet journal, so that it improves my life (instead of making it harder):
- I keep things simple. No pressure to draw cutesy doodles, stick to a cute theme for the month, etc. I can if I want to, but I don’t have to.
- I don’t make myself feel bad for messing up, ripping out pages, using white out, starting a page over, etc. I allow myself to do whatever I want with my bullet journal.
- I know when I’m going to plan (once a week on Sundays, each morning for a few minutes, and at the start of each month)
- I stick to a few main pages that I continue to update throughout the month. I realized that too many different pages with varying goals and activities tends to stress me out more than help.
- I look for bullet journaling inspiration occasionally. But most of the time I ask myself, “What will help me be more productive in my everyday life?” Then I create customized pages to fit MY lifestyle.
- I try to remember that I can always create new pages/tweak things the next week or month if I don’t like the way things are. That’s what’s great about a bullet journal. It’s meant to be tweaked and adjusted as you go in order to find what works best for you!
The supplies I use:
All you need to bullet journal is a journal, pen, and a ruler (ruler is actually technically optional). But in my opinion, it’s a good idea to get some supplies that will enhance your bullet journaling experience. When I started bullet journaling again, I did a TON of research on which supplies I should get. I wanted to start off strong, with supplies that would help instead of hinder. I love keeping all of these together in a pencil pouch (separate from my other writing tools) and knowing I have everything I need to plan effectively!
- $5 Dot Grid Bullet Journal from Michaels (Yes, Michaels has $5 bullet journals that are almost as great, if not equally as great, as the $20 ones! Watch this video for a comparison between the Leuchtturm 1917 and the Artist’s Loft from Michaels.) (Using this less expensive one also helps me feel less pressure for everything to be “perfect.”) (There’s also this inexpensive, highly rated one from Amazon.)
- Staedtler Triplus Fineliner (I like using 0.3 mm for bullet journaling & find these to be just as great as the more expensive fine liners other bullet journalers promote.)
- Crayola Supertips (These are great for highlighting because they bleed less than a normal highlighter and come in a wide variety of colors.)
- Flexible Ruler (Any flexible rubber ruler will work great. Having one that’s flexible makes it a lot easier to manage and keep it flat on the page.) (I didn’t find many great flexible ones on Amazon- I would check Walmart/Michaels for this one.)
- Pentel Block Eraser (It’s important to have a good, non-abrasive, hi-polymer eraser to erase cleanly or you’ll be left with pencil marks on your pages.)
- White Gel Pen (I don’t even know how I handled bullet journaling before I got these! You can cover any small mistakes with these. They work like white-out but are less obvious looking and easier to use.)
- Avery Multi-Use Labels (I use these to cover up small & big mistakes. Using these is a lot easier and less obvious than covering mistakes w/ glued or taped down paper.)
* I don’t currently do calligraphy in my bullet journals (in order to keep things simple) but I’ve heard that Tombow Calligraphy Pens are the best for bullet journaling.
7 Productivity Pages You Should Include in Your Bullet Journal
When I first started bullet journaling, I included any and every page I saw on Pinterest that looked cute. I’ve since realized that I like keeping things simple and only including the pages that are really going to help me. I may have ripped out a few pages along the way, but I’ve figured out that these 10 pages are my staples.
If I want to add an extra page just for fun (like “My Favorite Netlix Shows) than that’s completely fine! But knowing which pages are my staples has helped decrease the stress and pressure to update a million and one pages throughout the month!
* And remember, these are just my ideas! You can bullet journal ANY way you want to! But feel free to try out some my ideas if you’re feeling a bit lost on where to start.
1. Front Cover Key Page
A key is an overview of how you organize the information you include on each page. I keep my key on a sticky note that I stick onto the inside cover. I keep it on a sticky note (at least for now) because it makes me feel less stressed about the prospect of changing my key if I find a better method. You can write your key directly onto the inside cover if you feel like you’ve got a key worth sticking with!
I use two separate keys (one for my “big 3” and one for my regular to-do list) simply because I prefer checking off squares to dots, but dots are easier to add a migrate arrow to. I use squares for my “big 3” because it includes tasks I feel I shouldn’t be migrating in the first place. But my “other tasks” section is full of tasks I feel are less of a priority and can be migrated to the next day. That’s the only reason I use two keys, but you can just stick to one! Remember, just do what’s going to be most beneficial for you.
2. Monthly Spread Page
I’ve found that bullet journaling has helped me set and stick to goals better than ANY other method. It allows me to think of the big picture (the month) and then start honing in on smaller goals (weekly and daily goals) in order to reach those larger goals.
At the end of each month (around the 30th or 31st), I begin planning out the next month. I print out this July Bullet Journal Calendar and paste it into my bullet journal. This is the only page in my journal that I print out. This is just personal preference! I feel like it saves me a lot of time to print this one out, but you can definitely draw a monthly layout in your bullet journal! (Also, you can print out ANY calendar and add it to your bullet journal, of course!)
I add birthdays, appointments, deadlines and events. I color code them so I can easily see which things are what. You can read more about how I plan my month (especially if you’re a blogger) over here!
3. Weekly Goals Page
This page has been the #1 thing that’s boosted my productivity! I absolutely love and swear by this page. Each Sunday I sit down at my desk and spend about a half hour to an hour planning out the next week. I used to write a giant to-do list for the week that wasn’t separated into sections and it was complete CHAOS. I’ve since made sure to separate work from non-work tasks and even separate those tasks further. This has been a total game-changer for me!
First, I write down all of the tasks I need to get done for the week. I check back in with my monthly calendar to make sure I write down all of my deadlines, events, etc. You can separate your weekly tasks however you want. If you’re currently in school, you could include a section titled “school” that’s separated into “homework” and “study” tasks. If you’re a mom, you could have a “mom” section that includes “pick-up times” or “spending time with kids.” (You can probably tell I’m not a mom because I have NO CLUE what tasks a mom would do, haha!)
Once all of your weekly tasks are written down intentionally, you can start planning out each individual day. Having these weekly goals makes planning individual days a lot easier and more effective.
5. Daily Pages
After setting my weekly goals, I delve straight into separating those tasks onto individual days. I devote an entire page for each day (Monday-Sunday) and then divvy up my weekly tasks onto the “big 3” sections of each page. I leave the “other tasks” sections blank. I ONLY fill in those in if I’ve completed my “big 3” for the day. I’ve found that I get a lot more done and actually STICK to my daily plans when I focus on getting 3 tasks per day done (3 work tasks, 3 non-work tasks).
When divvying up the weekly tasks, I only include ONE big task per day. I make sure the other 2 are smaller tasks (like cleaning out my inbox or posting a picture to Instagram). This echoes something I’m trying to implement, called “batch work.” (And yes, I realized later that I spelled that TOTALLY wrong in my bullet journal- oops! It’s okay, mistakes happen!) Batch work is focusing solely on
6. Level 10 Life Pages
The “Level 10 Life” concept was created by Hel Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning. He explains the “Level 10 Life” concept like this:
“If we’re measuring our levels of success/satisfaction in any area of our lives, we all want to be living our best lives at a ‘Level 10’ in each area. Creating your ‘Level 10 Life’ begins with creating an honest assessment of where you are.”
This was a really beneficial AND fun exercise to do! I was able to assess my life and think about ways I could improve it. I made sure my “Level 10 Life Monthly Goals” on the right side were actionable tasks that I could track, measure, and ultimately check off. I’ve seen quite a few of these “Level 10 Life” bullet journal pages without measurable goals floating around Pinterest and knew I wouldn’t stick to my goals if they weren’t realistic and measurable!
7. Habit Tracker Page
If you can’t fit all of your “Level 10 Life Monthly Goals” onto one page, your habit tracker pages are a great place to put them! You could also choose to just do one or the other (“Level 10 Life Monthly Goals” OR a habit tracker page) along with the initial “Level 10 Life” assessment. Whatever you choose to do, I find that keeping all of my habit trackers on one page is crucial for making sure I actually DO them!
I used to have separate pages for healthy eating, exercise, cleaning, etc. It’s safe to say that I rarely remembered to go through and check off all of the habit trackers throughout my bullet journal! Keep things effective by keeping things simple! There are several different ways to set this up and there’s no right way! In fact, you’ll probably end up switching up these kinds of layouts from month to month based on what worked and what didn’t work- which is totally fine, and pretty fun to do!
Have Fun With It!
There are a million trillion ways you can bullet journal and it can seem completely overwhelming! It’s important to remember to just have fun with it! You’re going to end up ripping pages out, hating a certain layout that you did, having to white out (or white gel pen) out an entire paragraph, etc. There are going to be slipups and frustrations… but that’s OKAY!
Eventually, you’ll get somewhat of an idea of what you like and don’t like. But to tell you the truth, you’ll ALWAYS be learning and adding new things/getting rid of old methods. That’s the FUN of bullet journaling! So, don’t take it too seriously. Remember it’s just paper and you can always start fresh on the next page. Don’t let your perfectionism stop you from using this very helpful method of planning/organizing your life!