Since I started my first bullet journal seven months ago, my days have been filled with complete and utter creative, balanced, ecstatic bliss, to put it in the most blatantly planner-nerd-way possible. I know feel like I’ve figured out how to fit everything I love into my life in an organic way.
When I first started using a Bullet Journal it was simply another creative project for me; I used a few different colors of pens, and created numerous time-consuming spreads each week, month, and at the start of each book. A slim 121-page softcover Leuchtturm1917 would last 1-2 months. But after a couple months of brainstorming what my priorities in life were, I came to find that I preferred to make bigger, messier things. Now I have other projects that get me amped up, and my bullet journal has become more of an indispensable tool instead.
I've recently condensed and simplified my methods so that I'm spending as little time with my Journal as possible. Since I use my bullet journal for so many aspects of my life, I require a more complex setup than Ryder's original framework. And, since I also schedule all my appointments and work projects in Apple Calendar to sync across devices, Ryder's monthly spread serves a different purpose for me.
After seven months I have experimented enough with extra features and pages to know what works for me in envisioning, balancing, and reflecting on my busy life, and what does not. These are the big-picture features I use, how often I refer to them, and why they jive with my lifestyle:
This is one of the first spreads in my bullet journal. It serves as a means to envision how I’ll be filling up my creative life, and then I use Apple Calendar for all my appointment scheduling and the breaking down of projects into days. This 6-Month future plan is for seeing where current projects will be overlapping and where it might be realistic to start working on something new. I am constantly having to talk myself out of taking on additional projects, workshops, and trips, and this spread is my accomplice in the weeding-out process. The boxed items signify due dates or milestone events for projects, but no other events or dates are included here for the sake of saving space and time. I use hollow bullets for project signifiers so that I can fill them in when complete, use an “>” to push them to another month, or X them out if canceled. I also use arrows to carry projects over multiple months.
My timesheet calendars have become extremely valuable to me in logging hours spent on trade projects, art pieces, volunteer time, yoga practice, start-up projects, etc. I use it as a means of tracking my time so that I not only know how much to charge people if it’s a paid gig, but also to better estimate how long a similar project might take me in the future, which in turn helps me fill in my 6-Month spreads. I put two calendars to-a-page in this journal because I was becoming resentful of having to make a new Hour Log spread each month. I list the projects I'm working on the side of the month in the order in which they come up, then I move over and jot down a 2-letter code before writing down my hours. In the past I had more than a couple lines per day to write down entires, but it ended up being a waste of space, since I do the logging of all my graphic design work projects in my invoicing software.
Monthly Intentions & Projects
I create my Monthly Intentions/Projects spread as sort of meditation on my life.
On the Intentions page I rate six different areas of my life on a scale of 1-10: Relationships, Adventure, Home, Work & Money, Mind & Body, and Creativity. Then in the six lists below my graph I write down actions I can do to improve or sustain those areas; some I make up on the spot, some are projects I'm already working on or obliged to do.
The Projects page allows me envision how my projects, many of which are tied to the left-hand Intentions, will fit into my month. On the right side I have have various project time ladders that run vertically in categorized columns. The key to the right also allows me to include important dates that may affect the planning and plotting of projects.
This spread is most valuable at the start of the month, although I tend to check in on it about once-a-week to check things off, refocus, and maybe add, delete, or migrate Intention actions.
At the end of the month I add a few unexpected highlights to the bottom right corner, because this spread ultimately ends up acting as an archive of how much bootay I kicked. These highlights aren't usually tasks, but along the lines of "Reconnected with Jesse", "Killed all my tomato plants", or "Found $100 on the street".
Next month I think I’ll limit my Intention actions to two-per-category, to lessen the pressure off myself and encourage more focus, hopefully encouraging the growth of new habits.
These three above techniques are the fundamental tools that I use for my daily and weekly planning and archiving, and important elements in assessing and reflecting on my time. They help me see my life and projects from a distant place that gives me a sense of peace in my crazy-creative life, and maybe bits or chunks of them will make their way into your bullet journal as well. Thank you all for the incredible inspiration I’ve gained from this massive planning and journaling community, directly, indirectly, and from the massive sense of support – cheers!