(I get asked about my planner quite often and I’m writing this mostly to have it to point to later. It will be long and picture heavy and, if you don’t care how I bullet journal in a traveler’s notebook, probably rather boring.)
At some point last year, I realized I really need a paper planner. I used (and still use) my phone’s calendar and reminder apps, but my brain likes writing things down on paper. I started with the ARC system, but quickly realized I despise disc-bound systems. Then I decided on the A5 Filofax because patent fuschia! I was going to do my own printables, but I’m not very good with scissors or paper cutters and the slightly uneven pages drove me mad. And it wouldn’t lay flat. Then came the Erin Condren, which I loved, but I realized I needed hourly breakdowns. That, and lusting after Roni Loren’s, brought the Day Designer into my life. It’s gorgeous and I loved it—a lot—and I still recommend it to people. But I missed having a weekly view. And I didn’t need quite that many hours in the day. I was repeating a lot from day to day because I couldn’t see the other days in the week. And flipping the pages was a lot, so I was starting to ignore it.
So I went back to bullet journaling, just to try it for a week. I had one of the “official” bullet journals from a crowdsourcing campaign, but it’s basically a dot grid Leuchtturm1917, which you can get in many awesome colors. I didn’t even make it through the week before I knew I’d be sticking with it. The only problem I had was the need to carry multiple notebooks. I often write scenes from books or plotting notes and whatnot by hand, but I didn’t want to write that in my bullet journal. Then I ordered this pretty rose-gold traveler’s notebook just because I saw one and it’s pretty, with no idea what I’d do with it. Once I got it, I realized the mash-up of bullet journal and traveler’s notebook had the potential to finally achieve planner peace. And I was right.
The shiny traveler’s notebook! (It’s hard to capture the color.) Traditionally they’re made of leather which softens and wears like beloved jeans with use, but I couldn’t resist this finish. We’ll see how long it stands up. (If you click on the pictures, you should be able to see a larger version.)
Inside, there are card slots I don’t use. I keep a few sticker sheets in the front pocket, and a Filofax 2017 fold out planner in personal size folds up neatly in the back pocket for future planning. I have four inserts in it and the first is a lined Moleskine cahier for handwriting scenes and plot notes on the go, as well as miscellaneous things I want to write down, but not necessarily “archive” in my bullet journal proper.
Next up is a thin insert from the Etsy shop YellowPaperHouse. The future log and calendex systems used by many bullet journalists don’t work for me, so this is nothing but 13 months of blank monthly pages for all of my future planning needs.
Next up are the meat and potatoes of the bullet journal, and both are done in squared Moleskine cahier notebooks: a notebook of weekly pages and a notebook for my lists and collections. In the original bullet journal, they were all together, but I knew I’d be filling the cahiers quickly, since they have substantially fewer pages than the Leuchtturm or other hardcover journals. I didn’t want to lose or have to recopy my lists and collections that often, so now I can replace the weekly layout notebook as it fills, while preserving the separate collections.
It took me three or four tries to find a weekly layout that worked for me. If you punch “bullet journal” into google or search the hashtag on Instagram, you’ll find thousands of ideas. The best thing about bullet journaling is that you can not only customize it perfectly to your needs, but you can also change it from week to week. (Hint: Never work too far ahead when it comes to drawing in your layouts.)
I have Monday through Friday set up with the Top 3 Tasks for the day, a highlighted box for my word count goal, and then the hours from 8-6. I think I might drop that down to 9-5, because I rarely use the 8 and 6. I have boxes for Saturday and Sunday, but they’re unstructured. Then I have my tasks for the week: Important Shit, Shit To Do, Shit To Clean, Shit To Eat, and Miscellaneous Shit. I also have trackers for things like cleaning the cat box and remembering I have Pinterest boards, and water trackers.
I’m messy. I doodle. I like stickers. I don’t like water.
In the last insert are my lists and collections. I track a lot of things in this one (mostly private). I log my word count. I keep a food log. I track important dates and deadlines. I list the books I’ve read with a letter grade. And things like a list of fun things I want to do this summer. A list of things I need to do before we move (hopefully) later this year. A wish list of things to buy in an effort to curb impulse buying because if I wait a few days, I often realize I don’t want it anymore. (I’ll still want the football washi tape, though.) And I’m tracking my goal to watch more movies, which isn’t going well for May.
And that’s it. This particular combination of traveler’s notebook and Moleskine inserts lays flat next to my laptop, and I can slip an insert out of the elastic with no trouble if I want to. (When I’m drawing in the weekly layouts, for example.) And best of all, my entire life, as well as a notebook for jotting down story bits, can be easily carried around in one compact, pretty package.
Edited to add:
To illustrate the constant evolution of a bullet journal and how adaptable it is to its user, I’m already planning a few tweaks to the layout.