The best of both worlds: bullet journaling with a planner

I love seeing how people use their bullet journals (check out Tsh’s posts here & here; she also gives some background information on what exactly a bullet journal is if you’re new to this phenomenon).

I’m in a Facebook group for those who love to bullet journal (affectionately known to devotees as “BuJo”) and some of the photos people share of the journals amaze me. Some are flat-out works of art (but really practical, useful works-of-art!). Others are simple.

The common thread of course here, is that BuJo users can tailor their notebooks to their own needs.

As a visual person, checking my trusty paper planner is one of the first things I do in the morning. I’m no Luddite– my husband and I have a very well-synced Google calendar that I reference daily, but my planner is where I get down to the nitty-gritty on paper.

Combining a planner and bullet journalIt’s something tactile that I can see at a glance.

Years ago, before I knew the term existed, I was using a Moleskine journal to plan and keep track of my days, in a simplified BuJo style.

Over the last couple of years though, I realized that while I really love the idea of bullet journaling, I also really love planners, with their one-week spreads already sketched out, one-month calendars laid out with no work required.

I’m a creative person, but sometimes the blank page intimidates me.

My return to a love for paper planners began several years ago with a certain brightly colored cookie-cutter planner, but it didn’t quite fit my needs. I then tried another beautiful planner via Etsy that I was able to customize a bit, but it was still not quite right for me (apparently I was the Goldilocks of planners).

And then finally last year, I landed on my favorite planner yet. And why was this one such a fave? It’s minimal, useful, and leaves me lots of room to apply a bit of bullet journaling flair (and add my own color with fun pens) right in my planner.

Combining bullet journaling with a planner

Here’s how I combine bullet journaling practices with using a simple planner:

(I use the Get to Work Book, but there are probably other ones that you could adapt).

Meal planning

My planner has three shaded spots on each day that could easily be for the most important things on your to-do list. I use those for the day’s meals. I always write my meals in pencil, because often, life happens and I have to shift days and meals.

Schedule

I like the days to just have open lines on my planner. No set times pre-printed. This way I input appointments and times where they fit for me visually in the day.

To-Do

Each week spread has three main items or goals, and I use those for bigger-ticket items like a writing deadline or important errands I need to fit in. Smaller daily to-dos go in on each day.

Extra notes & blank pages

My planner has plenty of space at the bottom of each page where I can brain dump or take random notes, and it also has some blank pages at the end of the book and at least one every month (plus some goal planning templates).

A non-negotiable for me are blank pages, and these are where I can go to town with lists like books read (I use GoodReads but want to get better at tracking on paper, too), house projects, gift ideas, and big-picture planning.

Combining bullet journaling with a planner

The open space is a great place for habit-tracking, too, something I want to venture into more next year, along with some BuJo-inspired symbols and using my washi tape more.

If you custom-order a planner online (via Etsy or elsewhere), sometimes you can order extra blank pages which would be a great way to make room for bullet journaling practices.

And another planner that would work really well for combining planner use with bullet journaling is the Nomatic planner (as mentioned on the Sorta Awesome podcast), which has lots of lined and blank pages if you want to include the index aspect of bullet journaling.

As with any productivity/planning system, the important thing is finding what works best for you.

Don’t feel like you have to be pigeonholed into one system either– pick and choose what works for you so that life can be as organized and productive as you want it to be.

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21 Comments

  1. Seana Turner

    I love my Filofax that has my calendar on the left page and to do (with boxes) on the right. I’ve been a bullet journalist for years. It just works.

  2. bdaiss

    I’m a planner+Bujo too! In my case, I use a Levenger circa (or Staples arc) disc system. I love the calendar printables by Miss Tiina on Etsy. Mine is set up as:
    1. Journal – a simple 3 lines per day journal page I use for my scrapbooking.
    2. Miss Tiina printable monthly calendars for the whole year.
    3. Weekly calendar – another Miss Tiina printable that lets me note any meetings/activities for the week along with planned workouts and any other special things (birthdays, anniversaries, visits from friends, etc). I opt for blank pages rather than numbered as some weeks (when I travel) I don’t use this much.
    3. Bujo daily – a daily summary of my work/goals for the day, both professional and personal. This is just dot paper I printed and punched to fit.
    4. FIT journal – a monthly tracker and document system I’m working to get focused on my overall health and fitness goals for 2017. (This is a Cathy Zielske class, but the layout is completely customizable.)
    5. Meal planning – a weekly spread printable from Miss Tiina.
    6. Big Bujo stuff – Tracking movies watched, books read, shopping lists, gift/craft lists, etc etc. The more ephemeral stuff that doesn’t fit into a daily/monthly format. Again, dot paper I’ve printed and punched to fit.

    I love that the disc system lets me move stuff around at will and add/remove pages as I need them. I can get creative as I want or keep it simple and streamlined. So far, 6 months in, this is my favorite calendar system yet!

    • Nicole Bennett

      I love the disc-type system too! I made my own homeschool planner with some printables and some blank pages kind of like yours. It’s such a cool system especially if you get a punch (which I never did or I may have stuck with it!). 🙂

    • TTwyman

      I was going to use my arc notebook but ordering from staples come up to over £6 for one packet of a5 paper. There aren’t any stores that sell them after staples have closed. I’m also can’t afford to buy a hole puncher even if it is £20 for single paper one.
      I’m now just using a lined Oxford campus notebook as they were on sale.

  3. Anna

    I like looking at other people’s bullet journals, but it’s really not for me. I would not enjoy making the calendars, and I would probably get behind. I also like to have a simple set up so that I can personalize it as I need. My life tends to change a lot, so I can change my planner to suit my needs. I have a ring bound with months at the front, and then a page per day in the next section. I have room for more paper for lists, etc, and I like that I can rearrange the order.

    • Nicole Bennett

      It’s so fun to see how people take these techniques and run with them. It’s all about finding what works to inspire us and help us to be productive!

  4. Erin

    I love my Get To Wprkbook for this exact reason, all the benefits of a planner with lots of blank parts to be able to customize and track different parts of my life.

    • Leslie

      What is get to workbook?

      • Nicole Bennett

        Hi Leslie, it’s just my simple planner of choice. 🙂 See the link in the post to check it out.

  5. Paige

    I love the GTWB for the same reasons. I’ve always organized my work and home projects by what day I’ll do them in a week, so the week spread works perfectly. I love the blank space on the bottom of each week to keep track of what I’m reading, phone calls to make, etc. The extra blank pages are helpful, too. I’m currently using them to break down a home renovation project and new car research. You never know what you’ll need to write down on paper in order to plan it out and achieve it! Thanks for sharing your GTWB! It’s inspiring!

  6. Kelsey Jones

    This post is sooo helpful. I love the idea of bullet journaling but it is way too open-ended for me. Also, whenever I lay out a month I do it grudgingly since I would always think “there had to be some sort of hybrid that still has a calendar portion combined with open ended space”. Enter, this post. Just bought the Get To Work Book. Exciting!

    • Nicole Bennett

      Glad to hear it inspired you! 🙂

  7. Megan

    I have the Volt planner which is another good one to use for a combo bullet journal/planner. It has a great amount of white space and places to write your goals, to-dos and schedule. It’s been the best of both worlds for me!

  8. Lauren

    This is awesome! I love planning, and being organized but I’ve been struggling with finding the right planner too. I keep our family stuff on a big whiteboard calendar on the wall so my husband and I can both see it. Then I try to keep track of everything else on my phone calendar or on “To Do Lists” but that’s too many places to look! Your system looks great but a little over my head. I don’t even know what bullet journaling is. If you’re ever looking for another blog post idea, how about “Daily Planning and Bullet Journaling for Dummies.”

    • Nicole Bennett

      Try the top 2 links in the beginning of the post; Tsh gives a great overview of what bullet journaling is in those posts. 🙂

  9. Yasar

    Nice sharing.

  10. Shannon Adamz

    I use these planners: https://intheleafytreetops.com/2017-mom-on-the-go-planner/. They have plenty of room for customization, but have lots of cute design as well. I really like her style and the extras she inserts. There are lots of cover options as well as styles of planners for singles, moms, etc. so people can find just what works for them. I am new to the bullet journal idea, but it sounds fun. This post helped me understand a little more about it.

    • Nicole Bennett

      Those are pretty options!

    • Nicole Bennett

      Good pens are such a fun ingredient to planning and journaling! 🙂

  11. Catherine

    You’ve hit it on the spot about loving to bullet journal but not wanting to ditch the planner system. I have so many kinds of planners and have always seems to use them for a few weeks or months and then trying something new. I like the idea of the disc system but like the bujo paper. I like the bujo idea but don’t want to make planner pages over and over. I like the planner pages but want some room to have a habit tracker. I have tried the fauxbonichi system and love that kind of paper but have trouble keeping up with it. Whenever I am on my days off I get really into it but when I head back to work, I fall behind and that frustrates me. I’m starting to think of using a planner, take notes in the weekly spread the bujo style and having habit tracker inserts. Oh the amount of money I waste switching between systems!!

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