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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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