My simple bullet journal: how to use notebooks intentionally

Before I learned about bullet journaling,  I grabbed a notebook willy-nilly, whichever one was handy, to jot down my grocery list, hash out measurements for a project, brainstorm ideas for something, take notes from a meeting, or whatever else I needed to write down. 

Over the years, I realized that I actually liked flipping through an old notebook and finding something I’d written down. It was like a journal of sorts, only I had to rely on clues from the note itself as to when I’d written it. 

Becoming more intentional about notebooks

It dawned on me several years ago that I should be more intentional about my notebook usage, so I developed a very simplified plan for using them.
I took the notebook that I’d been using the most at the time and found a Sharpie and wrote the date on the cover. I can’t remember the year, but I’ll just say it was “February 2012-.” Then, each day that I wrote ANYTHING, I’d use the same notebook and put the day’s date down first. When I came to the end of the paper, I grabbed another Sharpie and wrote the ending date on the cover.

So now I have notebooks over the past seven or so years that I can flip through to see what was going on in my life at any given moment. It’s a way of documenting my days without trying. 

Dates make them easier to use as a reference tool

It’s also nice to refer back to a specific time period, like what was going through my mind for New Year’s goals or notes from a book I was reading or personal application questions from a seminar or other learning experience.

Notebooks complement digital tools

I do journal daily, a habit I’ve kept using the Streaks app for well over a year and a half now. But my actual journal entries are in an app called Day One that syncs between all my devices. Occasionally I will also use the 5-Minute Journal app, but my notebooks aren’t used for most of my daily record and reflections.

I also use Evernote and Apple’s Pages, Notes, and Numbers for keeping track of other things (like bucket lists and my final goals after I’ve brainstormed).

Simplfied works best for my style

When I first read about bullet journaling, I tried to adopt some of the interesting tricks and tips that more creative documenters use, but my super-simple system is what works for me. It requires no planning ahead or elaborate systems or anything that I have to remember other than making sure I use the same notebook and that I write the date down anytime I have to jot a note to myself.

I do use a calendar planner as a supplement to my notebook because I found making my own in my notebook to be frustrating. I needed to write things for future dates, but I didn’t know how many pages in to put monthly calendars or how long I would even be using a particular notebook.

And although my original notebooks were just cheap ones I got on sale at the beginning of the school year, I now like to use prettier ones and I don’t write on the covers with markers.

I’m still looking for my ideal notebook, one that’s a great size, has a spiral binding, attractive cover, and dots or grid-ruling, but for now I just use the small pile that I’ve been collecting that have been given as gifts. Some of these were meant to be journals, and they are all different sizes, but I already have them, so that makes them basically FREE! Ha ha.

Do you have a system for your everyday note taking? Do you like to use a tear-off pad that you can throw out each day or do you perhaps write down EVERYTHING in your planner?

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