How I Bullet Journal

This is the fourth post in a series about the Bullet Journal system of planning and organizing life. The first discusses how I planned before the BuJo system; the second lists reasons I like the BuJo system; the third gives some of my adaptations to the basic system. You can read more about the original Bullet Journal concept by following this link.

The BuJo system operates on a concept of “migration.” That is, moving incomplete tasks to future days and months; moving some information to new notebooks. Migration happens at three distinct times: the start of a new year/notebook, the end of the month, and the end of the day.

Some people choose to incorporate weekly spreads into their journals. I find the monthly and daily lists sufficient.

I will go through each phase of migration in detail below. This will serve as a sort of “how to use a Bullet Journal,” in my own way, of course.

New Year/Notebook

My current BuJo is set up through the end of the year. I intend to begin a new notebook then, even if this one is not full. This style of planner is highly variable. Some people will fill a small notebook like this in 2-3 months. Others may find it sufficient for an entire year.

Every notebook begins with a key of bullets/markers, index pages, and a future log. This is when I can evaluate my list of bullets, alter any that aren’t working for me, add new ones, or remove ones that I never use. My future log has 2 months per page. For this notebook, I only needed two pages to get through the end of the year. My future log is very simple — month number and name, then events/tasks (dated if necessary) below.

Now is a great time to talk about  “collections.” In my index, there are entries for “cleaning,” “meals,” “recipes,” and more note pages. These are referred to in the BuJo community as “collections,” which allow similar pages of notes to be indexed together. For example, the entry “weekly meal lists” can contain all meal lists, instead of having a new entry in the index each time.

Note pages are what make the Bullet Journal system shine. I love having everything in one place. My cleaning routines,

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cleaning routines

hobby-related notes,

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presidential biography reading/goal list

even recipes.

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slow cooker freezer bag recipes being tested

Some note pages will be migrated to new notebooks. My cleaning routines and presidential biographies list are two examples. Recipes will probably not be migrated, unless they still need testing — although, I hope to have tested these recipes by then! If I find myself re-writing some pages in every notebook, I could make a printable version that could easily be printed and taped into any new notebooks.

New Month

At the end of the month, I prepare the monthly overview spread for the next month. My monthly spreads are on two facing pages:


November spread

I use the month name as the topic. Then, I list the date numbers down the left side of the page at the start of the line. To the left of the numbers, I write the first letter of the day name. I also extend the ruled lines to the left to visually separate the date list into weekly chunks. Dated events and some tasks are written on these lines. Other tasks for the month are written in the empty space on the right hand page.

First, I look at my future log and transfer all events and tasks to the monthly spread.

Then, I migrate tasks from the previous month. If they go into the new month, I mark them with a forward arrow (>) and write them into the new monthly spread. If they need to be moved more than one month ahead, then I called them “forwarded,” mark them with a double backward arrow (<<), and write them in the new month in the future log.

I also take this time to make plans or write down tasks for the month. I might add the task to look up a craft idea for Sprout or plan our daddy date for the month.

New Day

At the end of the day (or morning of the next…), I set up a new daily log.


daily logs from October

I write the date in MMDD format, then the day name in the next sizable space — either below the previous date or a new page. Tasks and events are concise; I only write as much information as I need.

Then, more migration. 🙂 First, I migrate tasks from the previous day and mark off completed tasks. If a tasks needs to migrate further in the same month, I write it on the monthly spread. If it needs to migrate even further than that, I write it in the future log for the appropriate month. Most daily tasks move either to the next day or within the same month.

I look back at the monthly spread and find tasks/events for the day. This is how things are scheduled. I can pick off tasks from the monthly spread that seem feasible for the day — I don’t have to plan specific things so far in advance.

As I complete tasks (or at the end of the day), I mark them off with an X. Tasks that were begun but not completed only get one slash (\). For example, on 1013 in the photo above, I planned to fold clothes out of the dryer and wash diapers. I folded the clothes but did not put them away, and I washed the diapers but did not fold them or put them away. So those tasks, in my mind, were “incomplete” and marked appropriately. The dusting was migrated along with “wash couch cushion covers.” I did print pictures and update the kids’ baby books, though, so the day wasn’t entirely wasted. 🙂



Notes  can be entered as short one-liners in the daily log or on a new page. Most often, I write notes on new pages because they fit into collections like recipes. I prefer not to have recipes interspersed with all my daily logs. The BuJo can be used as a notebook anywhere from doctor appointments to educational lectures. Those notes can then be transcribed into a more suitable location after the fact, which is a great way to refresh anyway.


This style of planner lends itself excellently to diary-keeping. I have experimented with keeping a one-sentence daily diary and also short diary-style entries at the bottom of each daily log. I have not been diligent with either of those (I am not, naturally, a diary keeper.), but I like the ideas. Diary entries could be given their own pages and “collected” in the index.


I am not artistic. I may draw a doodle now and again on a monthly spread or daily log page. Occasionally, I copy an interesting quote into a blank space. Overall, my BuJo is plain, and I like it that way.

That wraps up my series on the Bullet Journal system for life planning, organization, and management.


My Bullet Journal

This is the third post in a series about the Bullet Journal system of planning and organizing life. My first post covers how I planned before BuJo; the second lists reasons I like the BuJo system.

You can read about the basic, original Bullet Journal system here. The adaptations I give below might not make sense if you don’t know the basic system. 😉

[Please excuse the personal items I have blocked out in the pictures below. Oh, and I have been using this system for 3 months, but started this physical notebook in September — just to clarify.]

The foundation of the system is bullet lists. The bullet style is modified to distinguish between tasks, events, notes, and more. These are the bullets I use:


bullet key


I use the word “migrated” (as in the original system), but replaced “scheduled” with “forwarded” — it just makes more sense to me. I also use two different arrows for forwarding tasks. A single arrow for tasks moving to the future, but in the same month. A double arrow for tasks moving to a new month. The only “signifiers” I use are exclamation points and asterisks.

The system is organized by page numbers and topics that are indexed at the front of the notebook. I write page numbers in the upper corner of the page, then the topic in all capital letters beside that.

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Every page is numbered and given a topic, then the topic and page number is logged in the index. It is a table of contents built as you go. I use highlighters to color-code some topics, which I will cover in the next post in this series.

There are basic modules: index and future, monthly, and daily logs.

The future log consists of monthly blocks were long-term events and tasks can be written. In this notebook, I only included the months through the end of this year in the future log.

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future log

The monthly log is set up at the beginning of each new month on the next available spread. Here is what my monthly logs look like:

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monthly log

I write the day of the week to the left of the date and draw in line dividers to visually separate the weeks. After all of the dated lines, I use the rest of the right-hand page for tasks and notes. Monthly overview pages are given the month name as the topic.

Each daily log is entered at the next available space. In this notebook, I can fit 3-4 short daily logs on each page.

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daily logs

The topic I use for daily logs is the shortened date, given as a range (the page in the photo above has the topic “Oct. 11-13”).

“Migration” is the final concept of the Bullet Journal system. It will make more sense explained through example. In my next post in this series, I will cover how I use my BuJo on a day-to-day basis.


Reasons to Bullet Journal

(Read more about the original Bullet Journal here.)


I am not locked into predetermined box sizes. My daily task list can be a full page or a fifth of a page. My month can span four pages or two. I can have fifteen pages of notes between today’s log and tomorrow’s, if I need them.


My journal can be pretty or plain (which is its own sort of pretty, I think). It can be colorful or monotone. It can be flowery or patterned. And all of that can change from month to month, even day to day. I can doodle a birthday cake on one page and the tree in the backyard on the next. I can use highlighters and markers and bright neon gel pens, or just a pencil.


This is variable, of course. Someone may  choose to spend $50 on a leather-bound dot-grid bound notebook with archival-quality paper and a fountain pen. Or a lined hard-bound notebook from Walmart. Or, cheaper yet, a graph paper Composition book (less than $2 at Walmart; the lined Composition books are $0.97 right now).


simple; not very pretty, but perfectly functional!


This system is task/list-based, not event-based. If you make to-do lists, you may like this system.


Everything is in one place. Calendars, to-do lists, packing lists, meal plans, cleaning routines, you name it. All of it in one book.


I thought I would not like having everything jumbled together. I thought it would bother me to have my meal plan mixed right into the middle of my daily logs. Surprisingly… it doesn’t bother me at all. I can find things easily without (many) tabs or sections. I don’t have to wonder in which section a note or idea belongs.


Most BuJo notebooks are small. Many boutique/special-order planners are very large. Binders are big. Small planners are easy to find… but then the boxes inside are tiny! (see “Customizable” above)

There are a few (okay, two) downfalls to the Bullet Journal system, that I have noticed.


There is a greater time investment in this system. At the beginning of each month, the “monthly spread” must be prepared. At the beginning of a new notebook/new year, some data must be transferred from the old journal.

This time investment can be mitigated slightly by using a very simple layout. The less artistic, the less time is required.


I am not very artistic. Therefore, I have to settle for a plain-looking planner with only the occasional crude doodle or colorful verse in cursive handwriting. I don’t mind. I could customize the covers with fabric, if I wanted to invest the time. It hasn’t really bothered me, though.

Bullet Journal Series

I like to make plans. I like to have a schedule. I like to have at least a vague idea of what is happening next week, month, even year. I adapt pretty well to schedule changes and exceptions, but perform best when there is a schedule from which to deviate. I also like to make lists. Writing down a task or event or list of things to take along aids my memory. The physical action of writing, I mean. I rarely need to refer back to my lists, except to check things off (which is fun!).

In school, I kept planners to make note of assignments, exams, projects, and class events. At that time, I had sufficient “data” to fill the day boxes of a traditional planner. After graduating from college, I was a homemaker without kids for almost two years. I tried the same traditional planner style and… well, it didn’t work. Most of my day consisted of routine, not scheduled meetings or events. I wrote many task lists, but they were individual to-do lists with no cohesive system behind them.

After having my first child, I tried again to keep a planner. And again, it didn’t work. Some days were full of activity and overflowed their boxes. Other days were routine and left completely blank.

I tried not scheduling anything. I tried writing down weekly cleaning routines and meal plans and storing those in a binder (Google “household management binder” for fancy examples). I was frustrated. To-do lists are most helpful for me, but individual lists become scattered, disorganized, and forgotten. And what about those few events I do need to schedule (birthday parties, family gatherings, doctor appointments, etc.)? I was a mess.

A few months ago, I found the Bullet Journal system. I was skeptical, at first. Does a stay-at-home mom of two young kids need to plan her days? I don’t have school events, extracurricular activities, playgroups/dates, toddler group lessons, or job appointments to track. I just clean and play with my kids and do crafts and cook meals all day.


Even a stay-at-home mom can use a place to write notes, to-do lists, schedules, and make plans. Even a stay-at-home mom can benefit from organizing her life and thoughts into a system that makes input and retrieval easy.

The Bullet Journal (BuJo) system can be customized to suit anyone’s lifestyle, career, and needs. Also, it can be adapted even by the day. It is organized, sufficient, portable, and easy to learn.

I love it.

In the next two posts of this series, I will share reasons the BuJo system is superior to traditional planners, my adaptations to the basic system, and how I use my BuJo day-to-day.