Getting My Sh*t Together with a Bullet Journal

I’m getting my sh*t together with the support of the Planner Community (#plannercommunity). I’m not new to using planners. My mom required that I use them all through my junior high school years because I constantly forgot what assignments were due and when. The planner didn’t work then – it helps if you actually carry your planner with you – and for a long time the planners I used as an adult didn’t work either. If I only knew then what I know now about my particular planner needs.

When I went back to school to study Graphic Design I knew I needed a better way of tracking my work deadlines and my school deadlines. I tried using the calendar app on my iPhone, but it wasn’t enough.

I need something to hold in my hand, something with substance, something that I have to really interact with. The calendar app didn’t provide enough interaction I guess. Neither did any of the free and paid for task management apps I tried using.

I started searching for something, some kind of life hack to help me get organized. That’s when I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal. The Bullet Journal, created by Ryder Carroll, is a minimalist way to track your tasks, appointments, and anything else that you need to remember. It’s note taking. It’s journaling. It’s the Marie Kondo way of keeping your non-material life organized.

“All you need is a notebook and a pen.”

I always suggest the Bullet Journal to anyone who needs something to help them keep track of life. I started with the Bullet Journal. I followed Ryder’s instructions but realized I needed something different. The blogosphere is filled with amazing women who are also using the Bullet Journal but they’ve adapted it to their specific needs.

These women helped me shed my insecurities and OCD tendencies (yes, I actually have OCD, I’m not using it here to be sarcastic) to form my own working #BuJo. My BuJo, planner, or whatever you want to call it, is working successfully for me. It morphs from time to time as things come up. It’s an organic work-in-progress that still allows me to keep my world on track.

One thing to keep in mind: I use my planner for work only. I put my doctors appointments and vacation times in my planner but only because those things directly affect my work hours.


Tools for success: My beautiful Circa Junior Silver Inside Out Pastels notebook and Jinhao X750 fountain pen.

I used a Circa notebook back in summer 2015. Lots of changes were going on at work, and I needed to stay as organized as possible. I’m not quite sure why I switched to the Rhodia other than I liked the paper better than the Levenger Circa paper refills. I like the grid paper and Levenger just doesn’t offer what I need. However, Tül has a line of ring notebook supplies that fit with Circa. Now I can get all the refill papers I want the way I want them.

This is how I have my planner notebook set up for July, and how I’m using it right now.


This week I had quite a few discussions about creativity. That led me to collect some quotes about creativity to decorate my front page for July. This is the only decorating I will do in my planner.

I start my month off with a front page. It’s the only page I will purposefully decorate. I tried to have a planner with a lot of ephemera but all it did was distract me. It works for some people, just not for me. Again, trial and error. I adore stickers and washi tape but it’s just too distracting for what I need.


My Monthly spread. July doesn’t appear busy. At least, not right now.

Next I use the original Bullet Journal monthly spread. I put in each day of the month and it’s day of the week. Then I add the information I find most important for those days. For July, important information includes my office being closed for Independence Day and two work related trainings I have to attend.

Successes section is one that I am really, really trying hard to get back into doing. I find myself breezing through projects and tasks without really stopping to pat myself on the back for a job well done. This section is where I can list the things that I am most proud of accomplishing for the month. Also, this can feed my yearly evaluations – what did I do well this year? Well, let me show you…

Monthlies is a little section just to remind myself of the stuff that happens without fail every single month. Staff meetings, weekly blog posts, etc.


The “Extremely Important Weekly” spread.

My Extremely Important Weekly spread is the single most important part of my planner. Hence the name. This is where I list everything that I have to get done that week. Below is what my weekly spread looks like on Fridays.


It scares me too!

My Focus Tasks section is where I put all the to-dos for the week. It helps me populate what I do daily. I usually add this information on Mondays at work.

When I put tasks into that section I do a brain dump. No prioritizing, just dump it all on the page. Then I’ll start adding the three most important tasks to Monday. If I finish the task I color in the block. If I don’t finish the task I put double arrows showing that I’m advancing the task on to the next day.


Sections for notes – this is where the Circa notebook helps me the most.

While I love my Rhodia notebook I found myself inserting my meeting notes between weekly spreads. I’m taking an HTML class, those notes are in multiple places between weeks in my Rhodia. Also, I have to flip through the Rhodia’s pages to find the notes. Now that I have sections I only have to flip through that particular section. My sections are 1-on-1 weekly meetings with my supervisor, staff meetings, graphic design projects, and marketing team meetings. The last section is for a specific on-going project.


I use all the spaces provided!

I like the Circa refill pages for meeting note taking because I can write really messy but then add the tasks I need to do in that section to the left. I move those tasks to my weekly spreads. Now when I meet with my supervisor again I flip right to these notes where I can tell him that yes, I did complete the things we talked about and share information I got while working on those tasks (the Follow Up under Tasks).

I know it seems like overkill but this works for me. Sometimes I need a paper trail. I need to be able to refer to something that I did or notes from a meeting to make sure my colleagues and I are all on the same page. This is why it’s so important for anyone working with a planner makes one that works for them.

My favorite “BuJo morph” blog posts are:

Boho Berry’s Top 12 Bullet Journal Hacks

Tiny Ray of Sunshine’s Layout Idea: Weekly Layouts

Pretty Prints and Paper’s Using A Bullet Journal at Work.

The best thing about these blogs is that all these women have cultivated incredibly supportive communities. It’s not only about using a planner or Bullet Journal. I found Boho Berry because she was talking about setting goals. From her I found other incredible people doing interesting things.

Just a note: Levenger, Goulet Pens, Boho Berry, Tiny Ray of Sunshine, and Pretty Prints and Paper did not pay me to write about the products they sell or about their blogs. Everything in this post is my personal, unpaid, “unrewarded” in any way opinion.


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