Bullet journaling: The best planner is the one you’ll use

I have a tendency to go gung-ho into a new project or organization style only to falter and give up on it a few months later. For instance, I bought a 90-day goal setting planner for $30. Were I to use it annually I would be committing $120 a year to planners. I gave up on this planner.

So then I decided to try bullet journaling. Not the basic utilitarian bullet journaling, but the adorable Pinterest-worthy kind. With beautiful layouts and calligraphy and doodles of cactuses. I used it to make goal lists, monthly calendars, weekly layouts, and workout schedules. But I promptly screeched to a halt when my divorce happened. For a good three months, I was floating, untethered to any to-do list or budget or plan. I ate a lot of cupcakes. I went to work but didn’t feel like I was bringing my A-game. My coworkers and boss were beyond patient and understanding as the weight of changing my entire life held me down for a while.

I went back to bullet journaling, but using the same notebook with my previous goals, about how I’d declutter the office and clean the basement and have a baby and write my book, was too much. I needed a fresh start, so I bought a new notebook and a cute set of pens and some stencils to make cute doodles. And I allow myself the time to just create in my journal. It calms me, it brings me peace, it gives me a sense of control. Honestly, I find it really helps my anxiety too.

Now when I open my planner, I see a five year plan that actually feels achievable and not like chasing one new happiness after another, hoping to find the thing that sticks and makes everything better. Everything is already better. Using pretty pens to outline how I’m going to kick major ass for the next three to five years gives me a solid platform of things to work toward, and now that I’m not overwhelmed in my daily life and trying to escape through TV and endless social media scrolling, I’m actually getting things accomplished.

I’m particularly proud of this spread. When you’re feeling negative it’s hard to think of something that will help you feel better. 

Bullet Journaling Tips

  • Size: Choose a journal that is a good size for you. Maybe you like a full 8 x 10 book, or maybe something smaller suits you. I use a 5 x 8 notebook with a dot grid matrix. I ordered it on Amazon but you can probably find them at any office supply store. A plain graph paper notebook would also work.
  • Pens: My all time favorite pens are Bic Cristals in a multi colored pack. They don’t bleed and they write smoothly. I’ve been trying out more inky pens and the color saturation is great but I do get some bleed.
  • Layout: I’ve found that a weekly grid of my most key to-dos is the best way for me to organize, but some people just like a month at a glance, weekly basics, or an in-depth daily spread.
  • Starting: I seriously just browse Pinterest or Google Images for bullet journal spreads and then alter them to fit my needs or preferences. There are untold numbers of guides and ideas out there. There are no rules!


2 thoughts on “Bullet journaling: The best planner is the one you’ll use

  1. I just started bullet journalling this year. I love it, so much better than little lists everywhere. I am very much in the utilitarian style. I do a double page each week and that is working well for me so far.

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