Hey friend! I use a bullet journal to capture my thoughts, record my life, plan my days, and scheme my dreams.
In one place I can create, be intentional about my actions, visualize my future, and hold myself accountable to live the life I love. This tool can help you live life more abundantly too.
I’ll show you how!
Also check out the BONUS video and FREE resources below to help you start bullet journaling.
The Problem with Other Journals and Planners
I just climbed into bed. The lamp spills light into the room and across the covers. I’m so grateful for the discussion my family had tonight during scripture study. We really connected and felt inspired. I want to write all about it to never forget and so my kids will remember.
I reach for the notebook on my nightstand, then hesitate. It’s my daily diary. Maybe this experience should go in our family journal. Where did I put that notebook? I think it’s out in the family room.
I peel off the blankets and set my feet on the cold floor ready to go get the family journal. Then I hesitate again. Maybe I should write about it in my spiritual journal instead? I think that one’s in my church bag from last Sunday. Where did I drop that when we got home?
By this time my toes are cold, I feel stumped and uncertain. My enthusiasm to write it all down is clouded in indecision. I lay back down and pull the covers up around me. I’m sure I’ll remember, I tell myself. The light is turned out and I fall asleep.
For years I felt stuck like this when it came to journal writing. I had a spiritual-inspiration journal, a day-to-day diary, a planner with calendar and to-do lists, a family journal, scrapbooks, and several study binders. I was swimming in notebooks! Yet I felt stymied because I couldn’t decide which book to put my thoughts in.
As life got complicated I tried compartmentalizing, but it wasn’t working for me. I felt paralyzed and things never got recorded.
Here’s what I needed but couldn’t find:
- Something for planning that didn’t require perfection or confine me to little boxes and prescribed spaces. My life didn’t unfold in neat, separate compartments. It was messy!
- A journal with space to grow graciously, with room to expand on ideas and inspiration as it came.
- A simple way to document my life because it was important to me to say “I lived!” To record my victories and memories. A reminder that my life had substance. But who has time to scrapbook?
- ONE place for all my daily data. Because I felt displaced in my journaling, I started jotting down important information on bits of paper or notes on the back of programs. Then I’d lose them!
- A way to organize all my info so I could find important things later.
- A comfortable, non-judgemental place I could dump my thoughts, plan my days, work out my goals, and record my life quickly. It had to be forgiving and not so precious I was afraid of diving into it.
- A versatile, easy, unpretentious, functional-yet-beautiful way to journal.
All this was a real problem for me for a long time. Friend, do you have this same problem?
Bullet Journalling Was The Answer
Then I learned about bullet journaling! This all-in-one system solved my problems. Here’s why it’s so great:
- It’s my planner with calendar and to-do lists.
- It’s my journal for thoughts and inspiration.
- It’s where I take notes on EVERYTHING.
- It’s where I record our memories and life events.
- It’s got an index for easy locating and referencing.
- It’s small and portable.
- It’s expandable with no space constraints.
- It’s easy and adaptable for whatever I want it to be.
It’s a tool for my messy, integrated WHOLE-LIFE, not a life in fragments.
How Bullet Journaling Helps Me Live Life More Abundantly
Bullet journaling keeps me focused on living principles of abundance and organized enough to follow through on living the life I want.
Bullet journaling has become not just a productivity system, but a practice in living my life intentionally.
I think if you give it a try it can do these things for you too.
What is Bullet Journaling?
Bullet journaling is a planning/ journal system created by Ryder Carroll, a New York author and writer who developed this system to keep better focused and organized. I suggest you watch his short video tutorial here to understand the basics of his system. Then come back here to see how I put it all together and expand his ideas to use this tool to live life more abundantly.
It all starts with a blank notebook or journal which holds an assortment of elements that you create (easily) to fit your needs:
- A KEY to define the signifiers you’ll use while planning.
- An INDEX, to easily record things as they happen and find later.
- A FUTURE LOG, where you long-term plan.
- A MONTHLY LOG, where you keep your calendar and list of things to do.
- A DAILY LOG, where you work through your life day-by-day.
- CUSTOM COLLECTIONS, where you turn your bullet journal into exactly what you need it to be.
That’s the basic idea and all you need to get started is a blank notebook and a pen. That’s it. Keep reading and I’ll show you how it all comes together.
Ryder Carroll presents a super simple system. You can keep it minimal like he does, or get as creative as you want. That’s the GREAT thing about the bullet journal system: you make the rules and you get to change them anytime. You create the journal to be precisely what you need it to be.
An Overview of How I Use My Bullet Journal
I’ve been bullet-journalling almost daily for over three years. I’ve tried lots of ideas and experimented with possibilities. I’ll show you what’s working for me right now. I’ve created a walk-through video of my current journal for you to get a big-picture idea of how bullet journaling works for me. Below I’ll go into even more detail so you can see how you could do it yourself.
But just a warning to begin with: keep it simple at first. The examples here from my current journal have a lot of color and embellishments because I LIKE it, not because it has to be all decorated for the system to work. Trying to do ALL THE THINGS to begin with can be overwhelming. Learn and practice the basic elements of the system and then you can go creative-crazy if that brings you joy. If not, you can skip embellishments all together.
Come walk through my journal with me!
(You can watch the video at a faster speed if you want by clicking on the gear icon.)
Six Basic Elements of Bullet Journaling
Here I’ll show you the six basic elements of bullet journaling and how I use them. These elements are the backbone of the bullet journal system:
The first page of all my journals is my Key that reminds me what signifiers I use in my planning. These signifiers act as a simple language of symbols for quick and efficient planning. Ryder Carroll offers suggestions for symbols, but I chose signifiers that made sense to my brain.
That’s one of the first steps you’ll want to do: what signifiers do you want to use?
For me, almost every entry begins with a simple dot that can be modified as I work through my day signifying at a quick glance what I need to do, what’s been done, and any notes from the day.
Here’s a picture of the Key page in my current journal. You can see the signifiers I’ve chosen; maybe they’ll work for you too. To see these signifiers in action scroll down to monthly and daily planning.
- A greater-than symbol is used for appointments, places to go, and scheduled events; when it’s done I turn it into an X.
- A dot is for tasks and things I need to do; when I do them I turn that dot into an X.
- A slash through the dot is for tasks in progress; if I’ve worked on a task but it’s not finished I put a quick slash through the dot.
- An X is for completed appointments and tasks.
- An arrow is for tasks or appointments that I’ve moved or migrated to another time; when a task or appointment needs to be moved to another time I simply turn the dot (task) or “>” (appointment) into a right-facing arrow.
- An arrow to a circled number indicates “threading”, where I continue information across several nonconsecutive pages. Here lies the joy in not having to save pages or worrying about running out of room. Just skip to the next empty page and continue. You can link pages with the same topic this way at the bottom of the page.
- A “~” is for anything I want to log that day; notes, a journal entry, a favorite quote, an idea, or a memory I don’t want to forget.
- A star in a circle is for ideas and inspiration for articles for this website.
- An asterisk * is for personal revelation or inspiration I need to act on.
- A heart is for a favorite memory.
Here’s where everything’s organized so you can find it. Don’t worry, it’s not some elaborate color-coded, numbered, or alphabetized system, although it could be if you wanted it to be. There’s one column for the page number, and another for a short description of what the thing on the page is.
As you go about your business filling up pages in your bullet journal, you take note of the page numbers of important entries in your index so you can find them later. For me documenting the contents in EVERY page is too tedious. I just worry about those that I know I’ll want to refer to later. Here’s a picture of my current Index. Notice page number 19.5? Yep, we all make mistakes 🙂 And it’s OK! Your bullet journal can roll with it.
Future Planning (Year-at-a-Glance)
I create a two-page spread where I write all twelve months of the year with space left below for writing important dates I’ll want to plan around. As new events and commitments enter my schedule I put them here under their respective month. I like seeing all 12 months at-a-glance. Then, when I get to a new month I can migrate those dates into my monthly calendar.
These lists will organically grow and change as I work through the months and life fills with vacations, commitments, celebrations, and adventures. I don’t worry about getting these down in chronological order, I just list them as they come. Here’s a picture of what my most recent Future Planning spread looks like.
Monthly Planning (Calendars)
In his original bullet journal system, Ryder Caroll suggests a very simple monthly calendar with a list of the days of the month running down the page with the initial of the days of the week next to it and each day gets a line. My brain doesn’t work like that, but yours might. You can give it a try. But I want to see the month visually divided by weeks bookended with Saturday and Sunday like you’ll find on a traditional calendar.
Some people hand draw each month’s calendar in their bullet journals. I don’t have the patience or inclination to do that. Way too tedious for me and when I tried I kept messing up. So I created my own printable calendars that I can print up and insert easy peasy.
Printable calendars are so much easier and I get the clean, bold look I want. Yes, I’ll share them with you! At the end of this article you can grab access to them.
I usually print and insert six months at a time because I’ve found I go through a bullet journal in about 6 months. You can certainly do one month at a time and insert a new month’s calendar mid-journal. I just prefer all my calendars in one place.
I put my calendar on the right side of a two-page spread leaving the left page to list my To-Do’s for the month. Sometimes this list fills the whole page on a busy month, other times I have space left to add notes, a favorite quote, or a picture of something significant from the month.
I use the signifiers found on the Key page for each bullet point on my monthly To-Do list to keep me organized and help me efficiently managed my tasks, goals, and appointments for the month. You can see how my monthly calendar pages look in this picture. Note: in this picture you’ll see another page peeking out at the bottom of my calendar page. This is one of my collections I like to keep behind my monthly calendar. I’ll cover collections next!
After my monthly calendars I keep custom collections I know I’ll use for the next six months. Then, later, I add a new collection whenever I want by just turning to the next blank page, setting up the collection, and noting its location in the index.
Custom collections are additional pages you create to help you move your goals forward, track your habits, keep vital information at your fingertips, and house your ideas, thoughts, and notes on any subject you need, such as:
- Schedules: class, home cleaning, maintenance, creative work, volunteer, homeschool, kid’s classes
- Study notes, class notes, conference notes, scripture study
- Projects: vacation and travel, a move, creative endeavor, party to plan, service and humanitarian work
- Logs & Trackers: activities, exercise, fertility, daily water intake, tech usage, periods, habits, tasks, gratitude, healthy eating
- Lists: shopping, reading, movies-to-see, bucket-list, wish list, chore list, prayer, people to serve, things to do, subjects to learn more about, Christmas card list, birthdays
- Meal plans and favorite recipes
- Favorites: date night ideas, movies, books, quotes, scriptures, places to visit, things you want to try, adventures to go on
- Finance and budget tracker, savings planner
- Planning: gift ideas, holiday plans, vacation planning
- Goal planning and actionable steps
- Ideas & inspiration: projects, big dreams, goals, life mission, personal revelation
Isn’t that exciting? But remember with so many possibilities it’s important to be intentional about what collections you include in your bullet journal. What do you need to get organized? What do you need to keep track of? What brings you joy?
Figuring out what collections you need is part of the process. Looking at how you’re spending your time and energy, and how you WANT to spend it helps you become intentional. Think of collections as a practice in intentionality as you determine your focus and create space for it in your life.
It’s great to be inspired by the millions of ideas on Pinterest for bullet journal collections, but in the end use only those that truly add value to your life. Some ideas look beautiful on other people’s pages, but may be cumbersome and tedious for you to keep up with. Others truly help you move toward your goals and increase personal development. Trial and error will help you decide which collections are best for you.
I’m sure you’ll create some of your own along the way as I’ve done to get exactly what you want. I’m happy to share the printables I’ve created, you can grab them at the end of this article.
Here are some of my favorite collections. The point here is not to make you think you need to do all these collections, but to give an idea of the POSSIBILITIES! Your bullet journal can be whatever you want it to be!
This tracker is from the Abundance Toolkit (you can grab it for free below). I use this two different ways: to collect abundance memories and, like below, to measure where I’m at in attaining levels of abundance I want in my life (based on Hal Elrod’s Level 10 Life from his book Miracle Morning).
Year of Abundance Planner
This little planner is powerful in helping me plan goals and stay motivated all year long.
Daily Fruit & Veggie Tracker
I keep this collection behind my monthly calendars. You can learn more about this tracker here.
95% Rule Treat Tracker
This helps me stay healthy and happy by tracking my treats. You can learn more about the 95% Rule here.
This planner helped me with a huge project that spanned months and many details.
I have so many books I want to read and here is where I keep track of them. When I hear a good book recommendation it goes on this list.
I record special events such as vacations, adventures, and important memories right in my bullet journal in a super minimal fashion. It’s a joyful way I celebrate and commemorate life.
I take notes from classes, talks, conferences, scriptures, and whatever book I’m reading. This is a fun format I’ve recently discovered that I love!
After I’ve added a few pre-determined collections, I turn to the next blank page and start daily planning. This is the heart and soul of my bullet journal. This is where I live, work out my days, and record my life. The idea is to use short descriptors next to your signifiers to keep it simple and easy to see at a glance the information.
First, each day has a title. I use a simple circle with the day’s initial inside and the date set in a box. This signifies each new day’s entry. It’s fast and simple. I don’t set up anything in advance for daily planning, such as one page per day for the whole week. I don’t save pages or designate a specific amount of space per day. That’s too confining and leads to waste and frustration like with other planners. Some days need only 10 lines, some days need a few pages. So I just take it one day at a time. That’s also a great mindset for life!
Daily Habit Tracker
After I title each day’s entry, to the right I create a mini HABIT TRACKER. Many people like to have a collection with one whole page dedicated to tracking their habits all month long. I found it tedious to flip back to that page each day to track my habits and often forgot to do it. So, instead, I create my mini habit-tracker each day with the top 3-5 most important habits for my life at the time. Any more than that and it’s too much. Even though there are many good habits I’d like to incorporate in my life, if I try to establish them all at once it’s overwhelming and I give up. Set yourself up for success by choosing and master only a few at a time.
And as an added bonus, I recently learned of research put out by Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University that says writing our goals daily significantly increases our chance of successfully accomplishing them. Win-win! I’ve experienced that myself as I write my targeted habits out each day, keeping what’s most important right in front of me reminding and motivating me to get them done.
Usually my top 5 habits are:
- scripture study
- exercise (movement)
- taking my health supplements
- healthy food prep
You can see an example of my mini daily habit tracker here:
Daily Appointments, Tasks, and Notes
Next I list the day’s appointments and tasks after consulting the previous day’s undone tasks and monthly calendar and to-do list. This is where the signifiers from the Key page come into play. As I work through my day I cross off those I’ve finished and create an arrow to move them to the next day or cross them off if they no longer apply. I review at the end of the day and LOVE seeing my progress. It’s a little hit of dopamine with each item accomplished. Go me!
After my list of appointments and tasks goes everything else I want to take note of that day: writing a favorite verse from my scripture study, jotting a phone number I need to keep, thoughts, and favorite memories from the day sprinkled with pictures or memorabilia such as ticket stubs, receipts, or business cards. Some days I have lots to say, others not much. But either way I have room for whatever’s on my mind and in my heart.
Life’s So Much Better Here
It’s the end of the day and I’ve climbed into bed. I grab my bullet journal from my nightstand and one-by-one cross off what I accomplished and smile. It’s been a good day! I take a minute to look at my monthly calendar and make my list of things to-do for tomorrow. I’m at peace knowing I’m prepared for the morning. Then I snuggle into the pillows and settle in to write about what happened that day. I never want to forget. And with the memories down on paper, I now know I won’t.
Hey friend, bullet journaling has helped me live life more abundantly by helping me be more intentional and organized about living principles of abundance. It’s given me a joyful place to plan, dream, and record. If you’re looking for a powerful but simple planning/ journaling system, I think your search is over. Give bullet journaling a try. I love it so much. And with the printables I’ve created it’s even easier to plan and live the life you want.
Grab your FREE Bullet Journal Printables here! Monthly calendars, trackers, planners and more.
Hey friend! I’m happy to share my bullet journal printables with you! They’ve helped me be more organized and intentional about living principles of abundance. Using them makes me happy! I hope you’ll love them too.
Yes! I want FREE bullet journal printables.
The FREE Bullet Journal Printables are my gift to you when you subscribe to receive inspirational notes from me in your inbox (don’t worry! I’ll only send great stuff and never send spam!). When you sign up you’ll have access to my private Gifts for You Collection here at my website where I keep all the bullet journal printables I’ve made and a whole lot of other awesome resources to help you live life more abundantly.
Do you want to live life more abundantly?
You’re not alone. I’ve got great news for you, my Friend. Watch the video for a virtual hug and words of encouragement from me. You’ve got this!