I kept a Bullet Journal (planning system created by Ryder Carroll) for almost 2 years, and although I enjoyed the time spent learning about bullet journaling and creating my own, there are a few major issues that became deal breakers for me. The bullet journal system was attractive because of the freedom to create my own planner, and also that I could have my planner and notebook with me at all times.
The main problem that I was having, though, is that my bullet journal felt messy. It was a book with pages completely out of order. I didn’t like my week and month’s calendars to be spread out, and I didn’t like my interesting snippets of information and ideas to be caught up in my calendar. These problems caused an awkward cycle of not using my bullet journal as a journal, and not using it effectively as a planner either.
So, I reluctantly made the switch. I went to TJ Maxx, found a planner, and inserted it into my Traveler’s Notebook (a cover that holds multiple notebooks in one book). I found my traveler’s notebook on Etsy, and it was well-worth the investment.
Switching back to a planner was a bittersweet moment for me because I’m sad that my bullet journaling adventures are ending, but I am so stinking excited that my calendar for the next year and a half is set up and all in one place. Since I’ll be using a Traveler’s Notebook, I can keep my planner and journals side-by-side at all times to catch the information that I’ve been recently deterred from recording (along with exciting new intentions for my journal that I didn’t know existed)!
I got a few pleasant surprises after I made the decision to begin using a planner. I realized most of the concepts that I enjoyed about bullet journaling and what I have learned are easily applied in my new planner. So much so that it actually functions very much like my former bullet journal.
Selecting a Planner
The first thing that a year of bullet journaling taught me is how to choose a planner that works for me. Setting up my own calendar and being able to try a new format anytime I liked let me try on many types of daily and weekly spreads and even different notebooks. So when I went to choose a planner, I was much more effective in choosing one because I now know what works and what really doesn’t work for me in a planner.
I learned that I like two pages for each week and the pages to start relatively blank. I found a planner with no frills, fine gray lines, and plenty of room to work each week. And it’s college ruled, which is a huge plus to me because it keeps my messy handwriting under control.
Looking back, I realize that I used to choose my year’s planner based on color, cover, cost, and what I hoped would be enough space. This time I weeded right through planner options and actually balked at some of the formatting because they provided such little space.
Understanding what I wanted so well was a huge benefit when going through the options because I was able to rule out planners quickly based on formatting and available white space. Knowing that I wanted to use my traveler’s notebook was also helpful because I wasn’t focused on comparing and contrasting covers. So, instead of choosing something with lots of color but little room, I knew what I needed and found it.
Freedom at last!
When I set up my first week, I was still unsure of where I would put my weekly to-do list. Without hesitating I wrote “To Do” over the section where I would normally set it up in my bullet journal. My weekly to-do list will run right through Monday and Tuesday, which is something I never would have done before, but there it is and I’m perfectly fine with it. The lines are so small and fine that I still have plenty of room to add my notes for Monday and Tuesday and it doesn’t feel crowded like my bullet journal had.
When I was gifted the tiny washi tape a week later, I tried it on and I think it’s a great bit of color to separate Monday and Tuesday from my to-do list. I haven’t been as crafty with my bullet journal as I had hoped to be, but I like that this planner offers plenty of white space at the top to doodle if I ever want.
A problem I had with planners before I started a bullet journal is that when a new event came up I had tried to write everything in my digital calendar and my physical calendar. Since I spent time learning about bullet journal planning I’m in the habit of setting up the physical calendar once a week for the upcoming week, because I only use it for weekly planning. Otherwise I delegate events to my digital calendar.
Since my planner is set up ahead of time, however, I’ve switched to setting up one month at a time. This gives me a great overview of what is coming up and what I should add to my to do list to prepare. For actual tasks that come up, however, I add them to my to-do list.
To Do List
Oftentimes I get caught up in ideas and life and my to-do list doesn’t get accomplished. It’s an issue I’ve had for a while, but I’m learning to accommodate it and also become more motivated manage the time I have available and to prioritize.
This is why I personally like having an overview of the week with an accompanying list (other than the fact that I’ve been deemed a listoholic). I’m a very visual person so looking at the week and tasks as a whole is so much easier to comprehend than any digital structure I have tried. I can look at my week and see when I will have time to do the things I should do, and when I have plans. I’m not in the habit of doing my tasks day-by-day and I don’t like transferring them for each new day like the original system suggests. If my list needs to be transferred to a new week, however, I can see what is getting done, what has been waiting for too long, and what should be discarded.
I’ve also started a sticky note list on the following week with ideas and future tasks. This way my current tasks have priority, but I can declutter my mind.
This outline of what I learned from bullet journaling and how it has changed my planning style is a great example of my process of learning what works for me, whether in a bullet journal or planner. My planning doesn’t remotely follow the original system, but just as that system has evolved for others, the system and their ideas helped me evolve my organization and understand that figuring it out is a process.
Bullet journal advice (original or from the community) can translate into getting the most out of any planner. The important thing when considering it is to reflect on your own planning system, your goals, and how the ideas presented in bullet journal posts can help you stay organized. I will definitely use the experience and reflection to plan more effectively, and as an added bonus, I’ll create a bullet journal-esque masterpiece from now on.