So, I’ve been promising to write a blog about bullet journaling for months now and since I made that promise, my bullet journaling style has changed like three times—which is really the point of bullet journaling. I feel like there are so many resources out there that my limited writing time seems silly to spend on it, so instead of an overview of bullet journaling, I want to share my method for organizing my bullet journal.
The thing I love about bullet journaling is the flexibility. If I need a whole page one day and only a few lines the next, that’s okay. If I want to combine journaling, note taking, planning, and calendars all together, that’s possible. Basically, for a PhD candidate who is running one small business and hoping to start another all while researching, writing, going to conferences, and teaching two classes—yeah, the bullet journal style is right for me. And it can be right for other people too! My bullet journal looks different from my friends’ journals. It’s very specific to the person.
So, in this post I’m going to explain how I use mine and give you resources in case you’re interested.
First, if you really want to know about bullet journaling, you should check out the original creator of the bullet journal, Ryder Carroll, and his website. Note: He technically owns the term "bullet journal," so if you see things that are being sold that use that term and don't have his logo, chances are they're breaking copyright law.
If you’re interested in design-oriented bullet journaling, check out Kara over at Boho Berry. I love her videos and her style, although it could be argued that she might need a review of the issues around cultural appropriation.
Now, before I continue, let me give you an intro to some of this lingo.
- BuJo: Shorthand for “Bullet Journal”
- TN/Traveler’s Notebook: a cover/case that holds multiple small notebooks/inserts.
- A5/B6/personal/pocket/etc.: Indicates the size of the insert used. My current favorite is the A5, which is about the size of a normal sheet of paper folded in half. I used to use the pocket size with my Field Notes notebooks, which I found best for taking notes in class, but less useful for planning as a grad student. I think that someone with less going on would love planning in a pocket size, but it’s just not for me.
- Insert—A small notebook, usually staple bound, generally around 48 pages.
- Spread—The section of the planner for a certain time frame (weekly spread, monthly spread, etc.)
- Collection—Anything in your bullet journal that’s not strictly “planning” like to-do lists and calendars.
You can find more terms on the websites above.
My set up:
Now, I do my bullet journaling in a thing called a traveler’s notebook, which was defined briefly above. I’m not sure, but I think that this term originated with the Midori Traveler’s Notebook (now rebranded as the Traveler's Company; note: they don’t own the term). A traveler’s notebook (TN) is basically a notebook cover that holds a bunch of “inserts” or mini-notebooks (usually staple-bound notebooks). I use a brand called Speckled Fawns, partially because I adore their products and partially because they make the chunkiest TNs I know (meaning the deepest—can hold the most notebooks). Another popular TN designer is Foxy Fix (formerly Foxy Dory). They aren’t on etsy anymore because they have enough of a following to have their own website, but I bought my first one from them on etsy back when they were still Foxy Dory. It was a TN for Field Note sized notebooks back in 2014. That was my first TN ever (I now own four). Another popular brand is Chic Sparrow, but because the owner of that brand apparently has very outspoken racist friends (according to many stories heard on Planners Gone Wild), I have stayed away from them. I do hear their products are of an equal quality to the other two.
So, my chunky kodiak A5 TN from Speckled Fawns holds 8 inserts, although I currently only keep 7 in it because of the fact that I’m keeping a normal-sized (in terms of pages) notebook along with 6 inserts. There are two different brands of inserts that I use and I chose them specifically for their design in terms of what I use them for.
I chose the Goulet notebooks because of the paper quality. They use Tomoe River paper, which is one of the best brands of paper for fountain pens. It ghosts a bit, but never bleeds through. And it’s beautiful. It’s perfect for more artistic spreads that I can leave open to dry.
I chose the Baron Fig Confidante because the paper quality is amazing AND the notebook lays flat from the beginning—no breaking in necessary. Note: The Confidante is not quite an A5, so it doesn’t fit perfectly in my TN, but I love it anyways. (If you want to buy from Baron Fig, use my referral page to save $10!)
I chose the Nock Co. Notebooks because they’re a good quality paper that works with fountain pens, but the ink dries much faster than it does on Tomoe River Paper. These are my workhorse notebooks and I go through them pretty quick.
Now, you may be curious about what I keep in my notebooks. So, here’s a basic overview:
1. Goals (in a Goulet insert): This is where I keep my bucket lists, long-term goals, 5-year plan, yearly goals, and semester plan. I don’t want to have to rewrite these every time I finish a notebook, so it’s handy to have them as an insert. I keep them first because I want my goals to be the first thing I see when I open my TN. It keeps me focused.
2. Movies, Book, and TV Trackers (in a Goulet insert): Here, I keep my lists of books to read, movies to watch, and I keep track of what I have been reading and watching. It’s kind of fun to look back and see what all I’ve read this year. I’m also doing an analysis of the kinds of books I’m reading, from the authors and their ethnicity to the genre.
3. Collections (in a Goulet insert): Here is where I keep information as diverse as my medical history (when I last saw doctors, med info, etc.) to my Christmas Shopping List. Basically, anything that doesn’t include goals or media but that I want to keep longer than the main bullet journal goes in here.
4. Mental Health Notebook: I’m still working this one out. It’s in a Goulet right now, but will probably be a Nock Co notebook in the future. I use it to journal as well as taking notes when I see my counselor. I’m not quite sure about this set up yet, but I’m working on it.
5. Bullet Journal (Baron Fig Confidante): This is my main notebook where I keep my calendars, schedule, to do lists, and any collections that aren’t necessary to keep long term. Probably when I move out of this current notebook in October, a few of the collections will relocate into the collections notebook. If you want to see my monthly set up for October, check it out here.
6. Notes (Nock Co): This notebook is where I take notes during lectures or if I’m taking notes while reading. Sometimes I’m just scratching things down.
7. Teaching Bullet Journal (Nock Co): This is where I take notes during class discussion and keep track of participation.
So, that’s my current set up. Who knows what I’ll be doing in the future? It can change constantly.
One thing I really want to work on with my bujo is memory tracking. I see lots of journalers who include things like ticket stubs and photos in their journals. Given that I will probably not have time for scrapbooking or things like that for the next 40 or so years, I want to try keeping better track of those things in my bujo. I don’t want to have to rely on Facebook to remember my life. I prefer paper.
Another thing that I’ve just started is using a lot of stickers in my bujo, whereas before everything was my own personal hand-lettering and art. I’ve kind of gone off the deep end in terms of stickers thanks to the recent Planner Boss Collective sale. Lordy, it’s amazing what a 40% off code will make a person do. I’ll probably be posting more about that in the future.
Anyways, this is how I use bullet journaling. Let me know if you have any questions that you want to ask or suggestions! How do you keep track of your life?