Experiments in Bullet Journaling #BuJo

Because I recently posted about my current notebooks on Instagram…I thought I’d do a longer post about my adventures in Bullet Journaling in case anyone reading this is also a bullet journal fan.

I’ve always been the kind of person who keeps a journal. I’ve also always been the kind of person who prefers to have a paper calendar instead of a digital calendar (though that has changed a bit in the past few years and now I have a more hybrid approach).

Don’t believe me? Here’s a photo of my 2 boxes of archived notebooks. The box on the right are old planners and work notebooks. The box on the left are old journals. The ones balanced on top in the middle are some of my stash of blank notebooks.

With this as evidence, it should be absolutely no surprise to anyone that for the past several months I’ve been messing around with this whole “bullet journaling” craze. I haven’t gone so far as to get special markers or decorate with washi tape or try my hand at fancy lettering. I’m just trying to keep it simple. In general, I use my notebook to keep track of my personal life and “hobby projects” like writing, reading, and swimming. I don’t use it to keep track of stuff for my salaried work.

After trying a bunch of different styles, I think I’ve landed somewhere between the original, utilitarian concept and the super crafty and creative BuJo spreads you can find on Instagram and YouTube.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, here are the basic components to bullet journaling:

  • Index
  • Future Planner
  • Month at a Glance
  • Daily (or Weekly) Tracking
  • “Collections”

I’ll talk a little about how I am (or am not) using each of these components, and what I’ve found works for me.

Index (needs help)

I have completely botched this up with this first journal. I think I wrote down every page and what’s on it. I ran out of room in my allotted space and had to continue it in the last pages of my journal. Whatever I did is absolutely not working. I need to go watch some videos on how to index properly. If you have pointers, please share them with me!

Future Planner (needs help)

I made one in my journal, but it’s pretty empty, and I’m constantly forgetting to use it. Clearly, I need to figure out how to use this space. I thought about abandoning this entirely when I start a new BuJo, but I think I’ll still need a place where I can park things that aren’t due or scheduled for months, and this does seem to be the easiest way. If you have suggestions for alternative Future Planner layouts, let me know in the comments, please!

Month at a Glance (love it!)

I use a pretty basic one like they show in the “how to” video on the bullet journal website. On the page facing my month-at-a-glance, I list out my goals and the titles on my TBR for that month. I’d show you a picture, but I don’t have a blank one right now.

I am big on goals, and I really like having a place to write out all the things I want to accomplish each month. Recently, though, I’ve been struggling to accomplish very many of my monthly goals.. I think this is because, even though I wrote them down, I sort of forget about them part way through the month.

This month, I plan to use my monthly goals in combination with that section of my newly adopted weekly spread format where I write out my “top three things.” I’m hoping that will help me stay focused on what really needs to get done each week.

Daily vs. Weekly Tracking (still dialing this in…)

I started with daily tracking, switched to weekly tracking after a few months, then switched back to daily tracking for a month, and now I’m back to weekly tracking using a weekly layout that I saw on Boho Berry‘s YouTube channel. It seems to be everything I need to keep track of what needs to get done and when each week.

I took this photo before I filled in my “habit tracker legend.” These are the four things that I’d ideally do daily. What qualifies for coloring in the daily square changes from time to time. Right now “Swim” is basically my cardio, “Write” depends on what my writing goal is for that week, “Read” is almost always “at least 30 min/day,” and “Zen” depends a lot on what’s going on but meditation, or yoga, or a walk all usually count for coloring in that box.

One thing I liked about daily tracking (vs. weekly tracking) was that it helped to remind me to slow down and take one day at a time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and a little stressed between work commitments and personal goals. I feel like I’m not accomplishing everything I want to accomplish fast enough. When I have a space to note progress on a daily basis, it forces me to acknowledge my incremental accomplishments, which I almost never do.

I feel like this spread is a good compromise between daily and weekly tracking. I may eventually switch back to daily tracking, but for now, the daily boxes on my weekly spread seem to do the trick.

Collections (still dialing this in…)

I’m not sure this is a thing that they talk about in the original bullet journal concept, but it’s a big deal with BuJo enthusiasts. I have a few collections (basically a one or two page spread) that I use to track writing goals, swimming workouts, and my monthly reading TBRs.

I’ve moved all of my swim workout and TBR tracking to my BuJo, and it’s nice to have this as an analog system for when I’m offline, traveling.

Still a work in progress… 

One thing that I’ve not yet figured out how to deal with is actual journaling. I’ve basically ended up having a separate journal for that which seems counter productive. Again, if you have thoughts on this, let me know.

Even after almost a year messing around trying to find a way to adapt bullet journaling to meet my planning needs, I’m not sure I have it completely figured out yet. But, I’m finally ready to commit to a new journal… my first REAL BuJo!

I’ve busted it out of the wrapping and decorated it with a few stickers. Now I’m getting ready to start adding content. When I do I’ll take some photos and post them.

I expect that I have just enough pages left in my current journal to get through June. That means that I’ll get to start this one at the halfway point of 2017. I’m so excited! New journals always make me happy. 🙂

Do you use a bullet journal? Post your recommendations and favorite “how to” videos in the comments, if you have any suggestions!

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#NaNoWriMo reverse word count tracker, #BuJo style

In order to write 50k words in November, the standard practice is to divide 50,000 by 30 days and give yourself a daily word count goal of ~1667 words per day.

This year, I think I’m going to try something a little different… It’s called “Reverse NaNo,” and it looks like this:

The idea is to capitalize on initial early excitement and momentum and get ahead of your word count early. I really like this idea for a number of reasons. So, I created a word count tracker in my notebook, and I’m going to give it a try. If all goes well, I might even be done with my 50k words before the Thanksgiving holiday! Another added bonus is that, if I stick to this plan and meet these word count goals, I might have a real shot at ringing that bell at the Night of Writing Dangerously.

You see, if you finish your 50k words during the event, you get to go to the front of the ballroom and ring this very loud bell. Everyone cheers for you. It’s pretty awesome. I was nowhere near 50k last year during NoWD, and I had no idea about this particular tradition. This year, I’m going to be ready.

Oh, and yeah… That picture of my notebook is also revealing my weak attempt at trying out the whole Bullet Journal craze… I’m trying to decide if I like this free-form planner concept, or if I want to continue my tradition of buying (and only sort-of using) my usual weekly planner from Moleskine…

So far, I haven’t quite figured out a format that works quite right. Of course, my weekly planner isn’t perfect either, and I do like the flexibility that the “BuJo” method offers. I’ve got a couple months left to mess around with both options before I have to decide if I need to buy a 2017 planner. So, we’ll see.

Do you use a bullet journal? What resources did you find most helpful when you were very first getting started?