Bullet Journal Update: 1 Year

It has been one whole year since I began Bullet Journalling, and I am still at it, which just goes to show how successful this planning system has been. I have never stuck with any planner for more than a couple of months. I thought it would be fun to do an update and show how my BuJo system has evolved over the last year (read this post to learn about Bullet Journalling, and this post for a tour of my BuJo from last year).

One of the defining features of the Bullet Journal is its adaptability. More than anything else, I think this explains why so many people have found lasting success with the BuJo system. Just looking at the changes I’ve made over the past year really brings this point home.

The first thing I’ve changed is my index, which serves as a Table of Contents. If you are using a Leuchtturm1917 (the most popular journal) then it comes with a built-in Index. I used to make a note for every page of my journal, but I found that I rarely ever referred to the Index. So now I only note the start of each month and any collections I have, rather than trying to document every page. You can see the difference here between last year (on the left) and this year (on the right).

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Also, I adopted the practice of marking the start of each month with a strip of washi tape along the edge of the page, which made it really easy to flip back to earlier months on the rare occasion when I wanted to find something there.

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In terms of spreads, I’m still doing my monthly spreads with the same vertical format, and I have stuck with the practice of only listing those appointments and events that are not regularly scheduled. I still rely heavily on my Google Calendar for scheduling, and I refer to it when I’m doing my monthly and weekly planning. I’m still tracking garbage pickup days, and now that I have a cleaning service (more on that below), I track them as well (both are every-other-week events). I also added a dividing line to provide a quick visual of the weeks.

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The biggest change in my BuJo has been my weekly and daily spreads. I went back and forth with using, or not using, a weekly spread, but it just wasn’t clicking for me. First, I found that I was basically repeating my monthly entries in the weekly calendar, and then having to repeat them again in the daily spreads was getting too redundant. Second, my weekly spreads allowed me to easily list to-dos that weren’t time sensitive, but sometimes I would want to assign a task to a specific day of the week ahead. Drawing arrows to the date made the whole thing look pretty messy. Third, some weeks had little going on, so I wasn’t always maximizing the page. Fourth – and this is something only a certain type of personality can relate to – but the combination of one weekly spread plus two pages of daily spreads meant that I was starting new weeks on alternating sides of the journal, and the daily spreads would sometimes be separated, which I did not like. Finally, I didn’t like having to flip back and forth between the weekly and daily spreads so often while tracking my to-do list.

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All of this was in the back of my mind, percolating away, when my favourite BuJo guru, Kara Benz of Boho Berry, provided me with the perfect solution: a daily/weekly hybrid.

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This spread provides the look-ahead ability I wanted from my weekly spread, with room for daily modifications. It solves the page-flipping dilemma, and allows for maximization of page space. I’ve been using it for 4 weeks now and I love it (you can hear Kara talking about the daily/weekly hybrid in her January 2018 Plan With Me video).

As Kara did, I started out with the vertical layout. I love the look! But after a while, she and I ran into the same problem: not enough room for writing effectively. I found I was deliberately trying to shorten the name of a task so that I wouldn’t have to use up another line for text.

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Also, the weekend spaces have much less room. Although this might make sense for most people, I have a lot of tasks that fall on the weekends because that is when my daughter’s homeschool reporting is due, and when the next week’s assignments are released. As noted in this recent post, I’ve taken a much bigger role in her homeschooling this year, and my BuJo has been a huge help in keeping me organized and on track. I needed more space for weekend entries.

It just so happens that Kara was doing a “One Month in My Bullet Journal” feature, where she posts a daily planning video for each day of February. So I got to see her working through the layouts day by day. It was during this month that she decided to try a new layout for her daily/weekly hybrid:

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I thought this might be the solution I was looking for, and I could not wait for the next week to begin so I could try it. I’m about halfway through the week now, and although it is working really well, I’m unhappy with the choices I’ve made for marking the days.

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I thought it looked messy and so, using the back pages of my previous year’s journal, I played around with different elements until I figured out what I didn’t like. My original intention was to use one colour for regularly scheduled events (like taking the kids to the learning centre), and another colour for those that aren’t regular events as a way of making them stand out. But I think in the end it just looks chaotic. Also, I really wanted the events to be arranged in order of appointment time, and to appear before the daily tasks, but that doesn’t allow much flexibility when events change or when new ones are added during the week. Finally, I did not like the practice of leaving a blank line between rows. It just takes up too much room. I also tried to leave a blank line between my daily tasks, but there were too many and I had to infill some lines. The irregular line spacing made it all look untidy.

After trying out some different systems, I settled in on using one non-black colour for events and marking them with a circle, which is actually how they are keyed in the original bullet journal system. Daily tasks are done with black ink and marked with a dot. I’m going to stop focussing on trying to get the events all in one place and the tasks in another – having two colours should make this easier. I also realized that the pen I’m  using (a Staedtler triplus fineliner) is too thick for this application. I borrowed my daughter’s Pigma Micron 03 and it was perfect, so I’m off to order some Microns for myself.

Making these choices also solved another nagging issue: an easy visual indication of what day I’m on. With my old daily spreads, the current day was simply the last entry on the page. The empty space below it clearly marked where I was at in the week. For example, here it is easy to see that I’m on Wednesday.

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Kara does a bit of journalling on each day of her daily/weekly hybrid page, and that provides a ready visual cue that the day has been completed.

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I didn’t think I would have room for journalling, but when practising my new layout, I found that I likely would have some room. I’m going to try it next week and see how it goes.

This example of tweaking the daily and weekly hybrids is the perfect illustration of why I love the Bullet Journal system. Each week and/or month you have the opportunity to try something new, and experiment with layouts and designs until you have something that fits you at that particular time. If things change for you, the layout can change with you.

The final update in this year’s BuJo is in regard to my collections. Although my old BuJo wasn’t used up by the end of 2017, I decided to start the new year with a new journal. That meant facing the task of migrating my collections over. It really showed me how little I use most of them, as fun as they were to create. This year, I’ve narrowed it down to two collections so far. The first was a total revamping of my housekeeping chores list. Last fall I was crazy busy with work, and my husband has been travelling a lot, so I finally bit the bullet and hired a housecleaning service. They come every other week, and that has significantly changed my housekeeping task list. Rather than daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks, I was able to narrow it down to a monthly tracker for most things, and a yearly for the longer-term tasks.

I also created an entire tracker for bedding changes. When we moved into the new house everyone got new quality mattresses, and I want them to last. With three beds and my insistence on rotating the mattresses, I really needed a way to keep track of who had their bedding changed, when, and which way I rotated the mattress.

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Most tasks don’t need to be done more than twice a month. The list on the left provides two boxes per month, where I enter the date that the task was done. A few tasks should be done more often, and those are listed along the bottom with room for up to 6 entries per month, though I would not normally do them more than 3 times per month. Finally, on the right is my Bedding Tracker.

As I’m typing this, I’m sick with my first really bad cold of the year. I had a couple of mild cold bugs earlier this year, but for some time now I’ve wanted to keep track of how often I get sick with colds, and the start of 2018 gave me that chance.

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The key is on the facing page (I neglected to make room for that when I drew this out), and provides three colour-coded levels of severity. Green is for mild colds, where I feel a bit crappy but I can still exercise and get through my day. Yellow is for when I don’t feel up to exercising, and/or I may jam out of any minor tasks and appointments. Magenta is for severe bugs where I’m basically in bed as much as possible, cancel pretty much everything, and feel really horrid.

So that is my Bullet Journal system as of February 2018. I want to add that I spend a bit of time each morning, while I have a pot of tea, doing my daily planning. Often I’ll watch one of Kara’s videos while I’m at it. It is a part of my day that I really enjoy; I find it quite meditative. You definitely don’t need to go all fancy with colours and illustrations, but if that is your thing, then it’s just an added bonus.

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