Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Tour of My 2017 Bullet Journal

[Looks like I'm posting late again. I'd love to be able to say, "Check for new posts every Saturday morning bright and early at 7 am!" But it's been hard to stay consistent with how busy school has been. My apologies, and thanks for understanding!]

Introductory note aside, I thought we'd do something a little different today! Usually I stick to blogging about reading books, writing books, admiring bookshelves, discussing the nature of books, watching books (oh wait, I mean movies), et cetera. Basically everything that equals story. With the exception of Subplots & Storylines, Adventure Awaits isn't really a lifestyle blog.

Buuuut as we all know, life doesn't fit in boxes. What affects life inadvertently affects writing. When life is prioritized, writing tends to go better. When life is chaos, I struggle to find time to string together even a paragraph, and when I do get time, my brain is too tired to make good use of it.

So, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to...


Cue fanfare and trumpets!

This day planner/to-do list/calendar has been around for a while, but you may not have heard of it. Worry not, I shall do my best to get you well acquainted.

Before we begin, I'm not promising a miracle cure or easy fix. Bullet journaling may not even be for you. (Keep in mind, I'm the kind of person who LOVES lists, because they let me pin my thoughts down on paper where I can see them, manage them, and conquer them. You may be the exact opposite, which is great too.) But after keeping a bullet journal for the past year, and loving it, I'd like to share my experience. Who knows, it might help you put 2018 in ship-shape order!

what is a bullet journal?

They call it the analog system for the digital age--essentially, it's whatever you want to make it. A typical bullet journal functions as a day planner combined with a to-do list, with calendars and goals and similar things thrown in. You can actually buy an official bullet journal, or read all about the real thing HERE.

Some people get really fancy and make theirs an art journal as well, with artwork and photos and quotes and washi tape and stickers all over the place. Just look up "bullet journal" on Pinterest or Instagram and you'll find endless photos of aesthetically gorgeous journals. #jealous

What's great, though, is that you don't need anything fancy to get started. A regular old notebook works just as well. Spending hours on pretty art isn't necessary unless you want to do it. The key to a bullet journal is how you organize it.

Rather than repeat what's already on the website, I'll be showing you my own personal methods.

Before we get there, you may be thinking, "But I have my phone's calendar, notes, and apps to do all of this. Why would I go to the trouble of making a special journal?" If your phone's tools are working for you, great! I still use all of those things too, because my phone does go with me where my bullet journal does not. What I prefer about bullet journaling, however, is the way everything is in one place. And I find that the physical act of writing makes things easier to remember and more satisfying to check off.

the notebook itself

I first heard about bullet journaling from my pal Lisa (affectionately referred to as Lisa Pickle about 99.3729% of the time) in 2016, and thought it sounded quite fun. So for the last couple months of the year, I experimented in an old notebook, just to see if I liked it and how I wanted to set it up. Then in January 2017, I bought this pretty notebook from Chapters and dove in for real! *is secretly pleased that the cover matches my blog* This notebook is lined, but next year I really want to try a dot-grid notebook!


Like I mentioned before, this is definitely the key to making a bullet journal work for you, and it's what sets it apart from regular planners.

I drew this legend on the first page to remember what each symbol means, but by now I no longer have to refer to it. Most of these are the official symbols, with one or two I made up for myself.

  • (dot) = a task that is yet to be completed (this is what you'd use on a to-do list, for example)
  • (x) = once you've completed a task, you turn the dot into an x to mark it off
  • (>) = to move a task to a different list, scratch a right-facing arrow over the dot to signify that it's been moved elsewhere in the notebook
  • (<) = when you scribble down a task during Monday, let's say, like "pick up cookies at the bakery" but it's really a task for next Wednesday, you later draw a left-facing arrow over the dot to signify that you've scheduled the task (as in, moved it to Wednesday)
  • (a star) = priority task (self-explanatory)
  • (open circle) = an event, rather than a task
  • (dash) = a note, rather than a task or event

If it sounds complicated, it really isn't--and you can always simplify these symbols however you like. My migrating and scheduling symbols have kind of merged over the year to just a ">" that tells me an incomplete task was moved to a future list.

On my next page, I have an index or table of contents. Since I didn't know ahead of time where all my pages would end up, I just filled this in as I went along throughout the year, naming the pages and indicating the page numbers. This makes it easy for me to flip through and find what I'm looking for.

future logs

A future log is a six-month spread (again, set up however you like) that lists the major events and tasks coming up over the next half a year. I love this spread because it gives me a birds-eye view! Pictured below is my July-December future log.

(some dates blurred out for privacy)

You can see that I included birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, exams, important writing deadlines, and miscellaneous things like a wedding and a concert.

monthly spreads

I find this is the most fun to make, but also the most time-consuming! Every month I draw out a fresh calendar, which I fill in with my work schedule, school projects, events, appointments, birthdays, and more. Basically, it's like zooming in on part of your future log, but in calendar format.

(sorry, a wee bit more blurring here too)

I start by drawing out the calendar with a ruler and pen. Then I list my goals for the month along the right-hand side, turning the dots into x's once each task is completed. Lately a number of goals haven't been completed by the end of the month, so they're forwarded to the next month . . . and then the next month, and the next, until I finally finish them. Heh.

I also enjoy decorating my monthly spreads a little bit. It's fun to change it up every month with a new color combo.

At the bottom of the spread, I draw a few habit trackers, which I'll explain in more detail right away.

(Just a note: some people break their monthly spreads down into weekly spreads as well, but for me they're redundant and take too much time.)

habit trackers

This is another favorite thing of mine! And I sound like a broken record saying this, but habit trackers are yet another thing that are very individual. Some people use them, others don't. Some people track dozens of habits, others--like me--track just a few.

I chose to track my writing, blogging, reading, and bedtime habits. (Too many habits would've been hard to keep track of, and I suspect I would've fallen off the wagon if I'd attempted a dozen right away.) Each day that I write, work on blogging, read a book, or go to bed by 10:30 pm, I color in a square. (The bedtime habit has been an epic fail this year! Oops!) I've also seen people track exercise, devotions, how much water they drink, chores, and all sorts of things. And I may add one or two new habits next year. But the point is to make habit trackers work for you. They're meant to motivate you and give you an honest look at how you spend your time.

daily logs

Every night before bed, I write down what I've done that day, check my goal progress, and fill in my habit trackers. If there are several things pressing on my mind for the next day, I'll make a to-do list under that day's heading. This takes just a couple minutes, and it's relaxing to put the day to rest on paper.

My daily logs usually take just a few lines, unless I did a lot of varied things throughout the day. I'll write down things like school times, work shifts, and errands I ran; or the fact that I edited my WIP, read a book, answered blog comments, hung out with family, or went out to eat. I'm not strict with how I list these things.

In this way, I'd say my daily logs are more like a bare bones journal. But some days that have a lot going on turn into more of a to-do list . . . which might be more effective if I carried my bullet journal around with me everywhere I went, but for what I need, using it once or twice at the beginning and end of my day works fine.

By the by, I don't actually have a superhuman memory when I sit down to write those Subplots & Storylines monthly summaries. I rely hugely on my bullet journal!

Here's a glimpse at a couple of pretty average daily logs:

As you can see, I mostly use the dashes to indicate notes about what I've done. To-do items are x'd out if I finished at the end of the day, or forwarded (>) to a different day if not. I don't keep a strict amount of lines for each day--I just fill in each one as I go along.


A bullet journal can be more than a planner and to-do list! You can also add less frequently used pages to keep track of anything and everything you want. I kept my extras to a minimum this year. Mainly, I made pages of books I've read, movies I've watched, future blog post ideas, and a few other topics.

(here's proof that your journal doesn't have to be perfect--you can see the whiteout in the header. xD)
(whatever you can read here is probably incomprehensible.
looks like I was keeping track of tv episodes too)

(spoiler alert!)

some tips and tricks

  • I'm quite pleased that I managed to keep up this new habit of bullet journaling for a whole year! For me, the trick was to keep the notebook and pens/pencils right next to my bed so that it was one of the last things I'd see every day. It reminds to me to write in it every night.
  • Track what's important to you. This applies to the whole concept, not just habit trackers. If all you want to write in your calendars are appointments and big events that you absolutely should not forget, fine. If you want to go into great detail and schedule in little everyday activities, that's also fine.
  • Don't be afraid to change it up. I did stick to pretty much the same format throughout, but with my experimental journal in 2016, I tried a bunch of things to see what I liked.
  • Make it pretty if you like, but don't feel like you have to.
  • Make it functional. You can create top-notch aesthetics, but if your bullet journal isn't useful in some way, you may as well call it an art journal.
  • You do you. Yep, I've said it about a hundred times in this post already, but if you're going to use a bullet journal, set it up in a way that works for you. What's your schedule like? How much time do you want to spend on this every day? What's the best time of day to use your bullet journal? What are your primary reasons for using it in the first place?
  • Think outside the box! You could borrow the bullet journal format for something that's not a planner at all--it could be used for a writing journal, a notebook of strictly to-do lists, a collection of ideas, an address book, a homework organizer, whatever!

and that's it.

Thanks for coming along for the tour! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a little tool I use to manage life.

Now tell me, wayfarers: do you use a bullet journal? (If yes, let's hear your own tips and tricks!) Are you thinking of trying it out? How do you keep your time and projects organized? And honestly--am I the only one who likes lists so much that I put down already-accomplished things, just for the satisfaction of checking them off?? Come on, 'fess up.


  1. wow... now this looks so interesting, I've never heard of this sort of journal. I'm definitely an organized person. But most of it stays inside my mind. I don't think I'd ever be able to do this though... I don't do lists, or plotting, or such. Though I really love graphs, and statistics...

    1. Being able to stay organized in your head is a great skill to have! If you ever do try bullet journaling, you wouldn't have to use it for lists or plotting. It could function more as a historical record for all those stats you love. ;) (Mine involves a lot of that too!)

    2. Now THAT sounds tempting. Something fun I plan to do for 2018 is journal in a calendar... which will be kinda like this, space wise.

    3. There ya go--an idea to file away for the future. ;) Oh, neat--my Mom keeps a calendar like that too!

  2. I've heard so much about bullet journaling and I watch a lot of videos about it.
    I've considered doing it, but I'm not sure. I've thought about making that a 2018 priority, that it might help me be more organized in my day, but 2018 is going to be a year of new things. Having just graduated high school this past summer, and hopefully getting my license in January, I'm also going to get a job and try to adult. I thought this might help. I'm still on the fence, though because I tried it for a week and was terrible at keeping up with it.

    I do love the aesthetics and yours looks awesome! Thanks for this post because its given me a lot to think about. :)


    1. Ooh, that is a lot of new things happening next year! *hugs* You've got this, girl. I won't say "do it" or "don't" when it comes to bullet journaling--because it could either be one more overwhelmingly new thing amongst all the others, OR it could be a tool to help you manage all those new things. And ultimately you'd have to decide that. :) Keeping up with it can be hard! I would be absolutely terrible at it if I didn't make it a habit to write in it every night. I still sometimes have to catch up on a couple of days now and then. :P

      Thanks, Ivie! I'm curious to see what you do with it if you go that route!

  3. Wow, that is impressive that you keep up with it. It looks pretty too!

    I might try to do this at some point, but I have a hard time staying organized.

    1. Thank you, Skye! I wasn't expecting to keep up at all. XD

      If you do try it sometime, don't put too many expectations on it (or yourself) at first! It can be as low-key as you want.

  4. I messed around with the idea of a bullet journal for a few months. I made some elaborate ones (at least, elaborate for me) in a notebook, which didn't work too well for me. I finally settled on purchasing a planner from the clearance section and doing a sort of bullet journal in that instead. I really loved how that worked out.

    Your's looks amazing! Very tidy and creative. I love it!

    1. Simple is often the best way to go, I agree! I use a separate planner for my homework and school projects, actually, and I use the bullet journal dots and x's to mark things off every week. I'm so glad you found a system that works for you!

      Awww, thank you! ^_^

  5. That looks really cool and organized! That is not how I work out my life, hahaha. I've never been good with to-do lists, unless they're your basic "I need to get these school assignments done by the time they're due" checklists. I use handwritten notes and Word and Excel files for some organization, but I don't think I could ever keep a cohesive planner, at least of this sort. But your journal looks awesome, so if it works for you, keep it up!

    1. Not everyone likes the same level or kind of organization, and that's totally okay. Even among those who do use bullet journals and the like, there's a huge range between the minimalists and the extravagant planners. And if your notes and files are working for you, you keep it up too!

  6. AHH THIS WAS SO COOL TO READ. I try to bullet journal too but I miss days all the time lol I love seeing others' journals and logs! It's so inspiring!!!

    1. THANK YOU, GIRL! <3 LOL, missing days is common! I just fill my blank spots in as best as I can. (What gets me every month, though, is taking the time to draw the monthly spread. I often wind up doing it a week into the new month, so filling in that many habit trackers is challenging. XD)

  7. EEP. I loooved getting an inside look at your Bullet Journal. AND IT IS SO GORGEOUS. *stares at all the pretty pages* And before you even mentioned it, I was thinking how your journal matches your blog so perfectly! That is the best! Such a pretty journal! <333

    I've definitely considered keeping one, but I don't currently. I feel like I'd probably keep it up for like...a week and then abandon it, because I'm awful like that. XD It also kind of overwhelmed me (and the point is for it to help keep things NOT overwhelming) but seeing the way you do yours makes it look so helpful and simple and not overwhelming at all! I LOVE how you have yours laid out! Just having a nice monthly spread and listing out daily goals (which I already do often anyway) and keeping a daily log seems very useful and simple!

    I also love how you have lists of books you've read and movies and blog post ideas and things. I know that must be really nice to have!

    You're going to make me cave and join the BuJo craze. :P But seriously, I LOVED this! It was very inspiring. And your journal and pages are so, SOOOO pwetty!

    Thank you so much for sharing with us! :D

    Also, I TOTALLY list things out I've already accomplished on my to-do lists so I can check them off. *grins* I literally did that today! It's so satisfying. XDD

    1. Awwww, thank you! I wanted to keep it clean and simple, because if I tried getting to elaborate I'd never keep up with it. XD Heehee, I'm pleased with the matching too. Anything with trees or foresty colors = <33333

      LOL, exactly! The point is to reduce the overwhelm! They can definitely be made very simply and functionally, even moreso than the way I've been doing it. (Not like BuJo's are the ONLY way to stay organized, but if you've been considering it, it doesn't have to be difficult!) Glad you like the looks of it, though! ^_^

      It is super fun! I mean, I already keep track of books with Goodreads, but it's nice to have it on PAPER, you know? And movies too. (I don't know how many times I've wished GR had a movie equivalent, haha!)

      Hahaaaaa, my evil plan is working!!! >:D XD On a somewhat related note, Deb's post the other day about writing journals kind of made me think of my BuJo in some ways, except ALL ABOUT WRITING. So that's another journal-y thing I want to try.

      Aha, it's not just me! XD

  8. Your bullet journal is so pretty! I do a sort of daily log thing as well or sometimes it's a log of a few weeks. I try to stay as consistent as I can. XD And your handwriting is so nice!

    1. Thanks, girl! ^_^ I used to just buy planners and write in there, but I've really been enjoying setting up a bullet journal with my own format. Yes, staying consistent is the key! (And also the challenging part.) Awww, really? Thanks! It gets rather messy when I'm in a rush, though. XD

  9. Ahhhhh, Tracey!! Now you've made me want to try again...

    1. Haha, I hope that's a good thing! XD

    2. Sort of!!! I attempted it back when they first became popular and actually hated it. But I think if I modify it just right, I would really enjoy it?? Not sure. Just needs some tweaking or something.

    3. If you hate it, definitely don't do it. That just defeats the purpose! But yeah, if you tweak it and make it work for you, it could be great!

  10. Oh wow. This looks very organized. It seems like a good idea. I don't know if I'd ever try, but I tend to get caught up on the whole perfectionism thing too easily. Especially with lists and priorities.

    1. Thanks! There ARE smudges and inconsistencies and scribbles throughout, so it's not all perfect. ;) Whenever I hear about a new organizational method, my first question is always, "Will this system serve me or will I end up serving the system?" So bullet journals, like anything else, won't be a perfect fit for everyone! I TOTALLY understand getting hung up on perfectionism. <3

  11. Oh my word, YOUR BULLET JOURNAL IS SO BEAUTIFUL. *heart-eyes*

    I tried bullet journaling once... for, like, a week... and I failed. Miserably. XD I may need to pick it back up again because YOUR METHODS LOOK SO ORGANIZED AND AMAZING! #goals

    1. Why thank you, Liv! ^___^ New habits take some time to stick, so maybe a second try would help, as long as you keep it simple. LOL, you're too sweet. <3

  12. I'm like super late to comment, BUT OMGOSH YOUR BUJO IS SO ADORABLE! ^_^

    1. No comment is too late! And AWWWW, THANK YOU SO MUCH, GIRL. <3