A Month . . . of Poetry
Keep Calm. Carry On.

Organizing . . . with a Bullet

Ever since my college days, I have kept myself organized with a day planner/calendar/to-do list/note-taking system . . . of one sort -- or another.

Really, it's the only way I've kept myself on top of things -- and sane.

At first (back in college and pre-computer, for example), analog systems were the ONLY way to keep life in order.  I developed a system for myself . . . color coding, stickers, post-it note lists.  It worked for me.

Over the years, I tried various systems, always looking for the one that would suit all my needs.  Perfectly.




Planner Pad

I tried them all.  Ultimately, I settled on the Planner Pad -- and I used it for a decade or more -- with a couple of breaks to try online systems -- Palm Pilot, Outlook (back when I worked in an office), Google Calendar, and the iPhone/iMac Apple calendar system. 

Turns out, I just prefer analog systems.  I like keeping my calendar in pencil.  I like writing lists -- and crossing things off.  I like being able save lists and reminders and notes in an actual calendar -- with an actual paper clip.  I like post-it notes.  I like highlighting.  I like being able to jot things down on the fly.

The biggest problem?  Finding an analog planner system that could work for me right out of the box!  (Because, really.  It didn't exist.)

I had my preferred calendar system, sure.  But it was a bastardized mess of paper-clipped sub-calendars for meal planning, project planning, blog posting, habit-tracking, lists of books-to-read/movies-to-watch/orders-I'd-placed, holiday plans, billable hours, travel plans, garden journal, goals and intentions.  Interesting, sure.  But not completely functional.

A couple of years ago, I heard about the Bullet Journal system -- and I knew right away it was for me.  You start with a blank notebook -- and make up your own system.  Completely flexible.  Never boxed in by a pre-existing calendar or format.  Plenty of room for notes and multiple lists and don't-forget-this-or-that.

I was sold!

I tried it last year.

I couldn't make it work.  

Turns out, I was trying too hard to make it "look nice." (Because there are blogs and Pinterest boards and Facebook groups and #hastags with these incredible, artful bullet journals out there.)  I gave up -- and returned to my bastardized Planner Pad system.

This year, though, I decided to give the Bullet Journal a try once again.  (Because, really.  Perfect for me!)


I got a plain, old Moleskine notebook, some monthly sticker tabs, and . . . just started with January.

I gave up on trying to make it artful. (I have art journals for that.)

I gave up on trying to make it perfect. (I can change things on the fly if it doesn't quite work.)

I gave up on trying to make it color-coordinated.  (And I bought some Wite-Out.)

And, y'know?  It's working for me!

I developed a monthly calendar that looks like no monthly calendar I've ever seen!


I came up with a daily/weekly "spread" that allows me to plan each day just the way I need to work.


I've developed a montly habit-tracker that works perfectly for me.


I can track my billable hours and my volunteer hours . . . in the same space I plan my blog posts and menu plans.  I can create lists -- or paste in post-it notes -- or tape in lists I cut out.


I track what's happening in my garden with simple, old-school monthly calendars taped right in to the pages.


It's ugly.

But amazing.

And it works!

If you've been thinking of giving the Bullet Journal system a try -- I'm here to encourage you.  (Because it really is pretty cool.)  If you want to make it "perfect" -- you'll be able to find plenty of resources to help you do that.  But I'm here to encourage you to . . . just let it fly!  

Now that I'm in Month 4 of my Bullet Journal experience . . . I can tell you it's the best organizing system I've ever tried!

(And, pretty much, I've tried them all!)


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Sue N

Hi Kym, I looked at this the last time you mentioned it and I am hooked! I use a Midori Travellers Notebook set up with 3 notebooks, a bujo, a journal and a collections book. I love it. It's totally private so I do what I fell like in it, little mood drawings Mandalas (big doodles) plus the occasional strip of Washi tape.

So thanks for the recommendation!


I've only used the Bullet Journal for two months and I love it! Like you, Kym, I've been using planners, organizers and making lists (love crossing things out when they're done!) for too many years to count (back to my college days), and I had post-it notes everywhere! I don't have the creative abilities to make it look like so many on Pinterest, so mine is plain with cut out calendars and lists glued in, just like yours. It's not beautiful but its beauty is in how it works...for me, it's the best ever!


You are a planner extraordinaire! Like you, I've tried plenty of planners, and always return to analog. My current one is a simple spiral-bound notebook where I mainly write my to-do lists (to ensure not forgetting and enjoy the pleasure of crossing out!) but I really admire and appreciate your customized calendar and that you've got everything in one place. In the past I've gotten too wrapped up in the "mechanics" and silly details of "systems" when the most important thing is whether it works or not. Thanks for the glimpse into your planner; now it's time to work on one that works for me!


Like you, I've always kept a calendar. I was a huge fan of the DayTimer. Then I went with the Palm Pilot and I used that for a long time and loved it. Eventually, though, I got the iPhone and I love it for planning and keeping lists and tracking habits and pretty much everything else. I use ToodleDo for my to do list and EverNote for saving recipes and ideas and menus and Habit List for tracking my daily habits. This year I did start keeping a journal but it's more of a stream of consciousness thing with some doodling and coloring added to make it pretty. I love seeing your calendar and knowing that you've found a system that works for you!


My original journal was a lot like that and I can't deny I miss it. Still time to start again right? It's only April 4th!


I'm a Bullet Journal convert myself. Mine also isn't pretty and looks nothing like anything you'd find on Instagram or Pinterest, etc but it works for me and I love it. Yay for finding a good "system"!


I am also a writer - I need to have it written down to remember. I have an iPhone, but I have not found the harmony that Carole has. My success came late last year (after trying dozens of planning systems) I use the Midori Traveler - I have 3 notebooks in it - one with a weekly page that I create (one side with the calendar and the other side a grid planner page) this allows me freedom to track my week, carry over projects to the next week that I need to, and a place to track my work time. I also have a journal in it - so no separate book to keep track of. One simple book - no art work, just writing. And, I love it.


I am a write-stuff-down person too. I'm gonna have to look into this ... :-)


I'm just starting to use a bullet journal and want so badly to make it pretty like the ones on Pinterest and Instagram. Like most hobbies and crafts, buying the supplies is so fun. Actually doing the journal work, not so much.


YAY for finding a system that works! because really...that's all that matters. funny how many of us are paper girls. I wonder if that's because we learned that way, or because it really is easier? I do keep a calendar on my phone and ill occasionally use reminders or notes there (more for lists I might want to access when my planner isn't with me), but I do all my todo lists and detailed work in a big paper planner. I also love having the record to look back at.

Kim in Oregon

KYM--that is the OPPOSITE of ugly! Wow that is really a work of art!

I can barely read the things I write in my filofax!

Gale Zucker (she shoots sheep shots)

It's not ugly at all. Far from it. I suspect those color-coded calligraphically presented bullet journals online have owners that spend all their time decorating their journals but no time actually doing anything that are on the lists.


"It's working for me," -- the most important thing you said in this post--at least in my opinion.


I made a note to investigate bullet journals when you first introduced the idea neat the beginning of the year. But I didn't actually DO anything about it. Lately I'm feeling out of sorts with a lack of productivity, missed opportunities, and just a feeling of discombobulation. I think it's time to investigate & invest. I'm definitely a "paper & list" person. This may be just what I need.


How about awesome, functional, orderly, fits like a glove? Ugly didn't even cross my mind, although envious did. I read about bullet journals at the beginning of the year and was baffled. Obviously I gave up too quickly. I'm a paper kind of girl and use the calendar on my phone for the reminder alarms. Thanks for the peek into your organizer. It gives me some ideas and motivation to dive in and investigate it further.


Since I started using my phone to for the calendar I've given up paper, for the most part. I keep a small notebook for lists (talk about ugly) and also (at your encouragement) I've been journalling, but everything is pretty much catch as catch can. You're about the most organized person I know! I'm a seat of the pants planner.


I looked briefly at the Bullet Journal last time you mentioned it. (I actually still have that tab open in my browser.) I just never took the time to really look at it. I use google calendar along with my husband so that we can both access each others calendars on a regular basis. I have notes and other things haphazardly recorded else where. I've done several other things to try and organize everything, but looking at what you have been doing this might just be what I need. A way to follow insulin use, blood sugars, diet, exercise/ activity level, foods eaten, meds, what I'm wanting to knit, what I actually bought that yarn for(I refuse to believe I'm the only person who forgets what the plan for the newly aquired yarn was on the drive home), what I'm actually knitting on, and other things in life. Thank you for showing us how you are using your journal. I love that you've listed what is blooming.

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