The creators of the Bullet Journal method describe it as “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” I can get on board with that — sitting down with my journal for 5 minutes at the start and end of the day is as much for my mental health as it is for getting things done. For me, the beauty of the system is that it requires nothing more than a notebook and pen, and you pick and choose the bits that work for you.
Before we go on, if you’re new to the whole Bullet Journal thing I’d recommend you familiarise yourself with the basics.
Over the years that I’ve been using this journaling method, I’ve continually refined my approach. It bears some resemblance to the original system with a few additional features. If you search for the phrase online you’ll see a whole range of resources from people who, quite frankly, go overboard with the look of their pages. Personally, I like to keep things simple and functional.
What I’m sharing with you today is how I’ve set things up for the coming year. This is based on my needs right now, but will likely evolve as the weeks progress.
Let’s look at the core elements of my setup. You can click any of the images to view a larger version.
- Year at a glance
At the front of my notebook I draw out a calendar for the year. It’s a reference point that allows me to quickly check how the days fall each month. On the facing page I write out the months again and list all the birthdays and anniversaries to remember.
- Things to do every day
Another reference page drawn up at the start of the year. This includes my morning routine, some things to help me keep on track throughout the day and activities to round out the day. Most of this is so routine I don’t need the reminder, but writing it out here means it’s ever present just in case I do.
- Quarterly goals
A single place to set and keep track of my goals for each quarter. I refer to this in my planning for each month.
- Monthly spread
Every month gets a double page spread like this. On the left page is a line for each day where I can add events and milestones. On the right page I add a one line journal entry at the end of each day.
- Monthly trackers
I use this double page spread to help keep me on an even keel. Each day I record my mood, completion of different activities, overall energy, water consumption and physical activity. These are things that I’ve observed affect my mental health if I don’t do them regularly. Keeping track of them in this way takes no more than a minute each day and helps me to identify patterns and spot warning signs. I’m also starting this year tracking my sleep, as I’ve had quite a few broken nights lately.
- Weekly spread
A double page spread with an overview of the week. Every day I set my focus and record any tasks, events and notes as they arise. I don’t use my Bullet Journal for all tasks, it suits me better to manage project tasks digitally, which makes it easier to set deadlines, see dependencies, link to outputs and track progress.
And finally, everything comes together in the index which gets added to as new sections are added.
The key to all this for me is that it doesn’t feel like a chore and the time commitment is minimal. I know why I’m recording the information each day and how it benefits me over time. It’s taken a few years to get to this point and as I’ve intimated before it’s entirely flexible – as soon as an aspect stops being useful I can chop it or change it.
The purpose of sharing this is not to encourage you all to start your own journal, it’s simply to show you some of the things you can do with it and how it works for me in practice.
As ever, if you have questions, observations or feedback there are many ways to get in touch.