I started my first bullet journal in October of 2016, making 2017 my first complete year with one. Being able to evolve the system to meet my needs is the primary reason I’ve actually stuck with it. I started with the original format, moved on something more elaborate and time-consuming, and now I’m using something in-between. Over this past year (and a few months) I discovered what does and does not work for me.
TL;DR: If it helps me visualize what I’ve done, and what I need to do, it’s incredibly helpful.
Color coding my bullet journal helps me keep my thoughts organized. I can quickly find things in my to-do list. I can scan my index quicker. And the visual interest is a nice touch. I do recommend keeping the colors you use fairly basic though. I wanted to do a more nature-inspired color scheme, so I picked up a set pens in nature inspired colors for my color coding. It meant I had to carry those pens with me if I wanted to add something that needed color coding. With basic colors, it’s easier to have a set at home and at work.
Tracking what you do in your free time sounds like it’d be a complete drag. But it is a great tool for me to manage all the things I want to make time for. I can see how much time I’ve spent pursuing my hobbies vs watching TV. Or how much I’m staying in touch with friends. It helps me prioritize what’s important.
I started logging my accomplishments in my work bullet journal to make writing my self evaluations easier. Seeing a list of all the things I got done in any given month at the office made me realize how important it is I recognize the things I do in my personal life as well.
Creating a monthly reflection helps me visualize my time and accomplishments. I create a pie graph of my time for the month, and keep a running year-to-date tracker. I also jot down general info about the month to give it some context. For example, if I wasn’t as active in a month I can see that might have been the average temperature really high or low.
What Doesn’t Work
TL;DR: Anything that takes up more than around an hour a week, or seems like another thing I need to check off my list, I abandoned quickly.
Time Consuming Weekly Layouts
I was never one to do a super detailed weekly layout. But even my minimalist pre-drawn weekly layout got to feel like a hassle after a while. And there were days with lots of wasted space, and days without near enough space. The format I use now is the basic daily log, with a time tracker next to the date. To keep a running total of my time, I’ve gone to drawing that out monthly. I’d post a picture of the layout, but I keep forgetting to do so before I have it full of stuff I need to do.
Too Simple Monthly Layouts
The only thing that has stayed consistent in my journal is drawing out an actual calendar every month instead of using the list. The list is too crowded and doesn’t help me visualize. Drawing out the month is a hassle, but it’s only once a month so it’s manageable.
These are the lists you see all over Pinterest and Instagram. They are just lists of whatever really interests you, or you think would be fun to track. I get the appeal for a lot of people. But for me, this quickly starts to feel like a chore and becomes abandoned.
This Will Change
If you’ve kept up since I started this, you know I’ve made a lot of changes over the past year. And I’m sure next year I’ll have another set of changes. But that’s the biggest part that works for me. I can keep changing. And that’s the reason this thing still works for me.
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