How I Adapted the Bullet Journal for My Lifestyle

I’ve always had this desire to be more organized, and I’ve always loved pens and planners. However, I’ve noticed an unpleasant trend over the years.

I buy a planner, use it for a couple days (and sometimes don’t use it at all!), and then I stop. No planner has ever felt right.

I get distracted by the pretty colors and designs and tell myself that I’ll use it. Then, I get frustrated knowing I spent the money for nothing. Sometime in August, I was thinking about this particular trend and the ONE planner I actually used and enjoyed. 

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going." - Jim Rohn

It was near the end of my college days, and I took the free planner they gave out and changed things up. Instead of writing down my homework the day I got it, I wrote down when things were due. I wrote when meetings were and when I worked. I put my to do list in each day. Suddenly it had a purpose. I even color coded it all, and it lasted me the entire academic year. It was glorious, and I’ve never been so organized. Once the planner ran out of pages and I no longer had classes, I stopped using the system.

This past August I was thinking about it again because I was going to be taking a college class again and I had the blog and writing that I wanted to do. Not to mention the other stuff I had going on.

I’ve always been a fan of to do lists, but I tend to write them down on any and every surface. That tends to lead to lost notes though. I recalled how my best friend has a small notebook she carries everywhere that she puts notes in. I wanted to do something similar but with a planner involved too. I thought I could bring back my old planning style.

Enter the quest

I found a notebook finally that seemed suitable for my needs and began creating my planner… Except I did it upside down. Oops. It wasn’t the end of the day though. I used stamps at first, but then decided to use colored pencil for the headers because I could make it more colorful.

monthly spread with September written in orange and red colored pencil
September with Colored Pencils
Monthly spread for December in red and green colored pencils
December with colored pencils
weekly spread with days of the week stamped in green
Weekly Spread Example with Stamps

I quickly realized it wasn’t worth the time and effort though. I had only just drawn lines for the next four months and was already exhausted. It took too much measuring and lines didn’t look right.

I did some Googling for ideas and thought perhaps a dot grid would be better. Then I somehow stumbled upon the Bullet Journal.

The Bullet Journal was pretty much identical to what I had done in my college except there were special symbols for everything and it was in a normal notebook rather than a daily planner. It seemed like it combined my perfect planner with my friend’s catch all notebook. It was just what I needed. It was so simple! I wish I had figured it out first.

I wanted a dot grid journal, so I splurged and got a new notebook. I set up the remaining days of August and went from there. I’ve already gone through a lot of different layouts too.

Here a few layouts:

index and key for my bullet journal
Bullet Journal Index and Key
September 2015 to November 2016 mini calendars
Year at a Glance in Colored Pencils
to do list from September 27th
Daily Spread #1 from September
to do list from August 31st with color coded daily time stamp
Daily Spread #2 from August with color coding time tracker

I ran into a different, unexpected dilemma though. I normally do not carry a purse. Instead, I just put my wallet and phone in my pockets. A purse that can carry my notebook tends to just get filled up with unnecessary junk and lead to a sore shoulder in my experience. I stopped carrying my notebook with me everywhere, and it quickly stopped being useful to me.

Instead, I started using it to journal what happened in my day. My to do list was stuck in my head or scrap paper again. I needed something better.

The solution came to me when my dad came home from Walmart one day. He buys a three pack of the mini-composition books to keep track of his blood pressure due to his diabetes. I asked if I could borrow one.

I didn’t follow through in September or October. in the middle of November, I decided enough was enough. I watched a few episodes of TV and designed each page with a different day until I reached the end of February. Now I have a future planning solution, which Bullet Journalers tend to struggle with, and a pocket safe solution. Add to it my mini BIC 4 color pen that clips to my car keys, and I’m a planning ninja on the go.


January dates written one per line on lined paper
January Monthly View
Resolutions 2016 written at the top of a page
Resolutions List
February view of the month
February Monthly Spread


I changed up January and February so that I could easily copy the design to make it more uniform, which ended up making the edges of the pages colorful. I like it because it makes it easy to jump ahead to a different month. I’ve decided to use one for each season (so that’s three months per journal). I still have tons of pages left as well for when I need more space for a page.

Edges of the pages colored in blue and red
You can see the blue from January and the red from February

For instance, one day I wanted a grocery list. I knew I needed a lot of supplies, so I went to the next available empty page and wrote down everything I needed. Then, I wrote the page number next to where it said “shopping” on my daily spread.

to do list for November 24th with "shopping (page 129)"
My shopping list clearly starts on page 129

I also plan on adding a March and perhaps April monthly view for future planning once I get to February.

For some, the room on each page may not be enough. However, I find that it is the perfect amount because it keeps me more reasonable in what I can accomplish in a day. I tend to be a perfectionist who has unrealistic expectations for myself. In my first bullet journal, I wrote TONS of things to do, and I was lucky if I accomplished half of the tasks. Now, I actually accomplish just about everything and sometimes even have time to add MORE things to my list.

As for the other journals? It hasn’t been a total waste either. My dot grid notebook has become an art journal of sorts where I doodle something about my day and then write more about it.

Drawings of TV show logos I watched with the family
Part of a journal entry from November where I watched a lot of TV with the family

It’s been really nice exercise in getting over my perfectionism in art as well because the notebook is already “messed up” so it doesn’t matter what anything inside looks like. I plan on using my other notebook for writing rough drafts of blog posts or stories. Or perhaps it’ll be the next journal. We shall see.

Who knew a .30 cent notebook would be the solution to all of my planning needs? For a little over a dollar, I can plan for an entire year! Who says planners need to break the bank?

Your Turn:

How do you plan? What does your planner look like?

Do you want an updated post with my decorated cover? Or a how to video on how I decorate it? Let me know!

Can’t comment here? Feel free to continue the conversation onTwitter or Facebook with me!


9 thoughts on “How I Adapted the Bullet Journal for My Lifestyle

  1. I love bullet journal. I have the same problem with bought planners, they never quite work for me. I got a Passion Planner this year because so many people raved about it and it was a total disappointment.

    I’ve started tinkering with my bullet journal set-up a while ago and I’ve been collecting lots of ideas on Pinterest. I’ve got this weekend bookmarked for actually making my first 2016 journal – exciting!

    1. Aren’t they just wonderful? The best thing about them is that you can easily swap out a layout that isn’t working for you. And you can use any notebook, which I love because money is finite. I don’t understand why people spend 65+ dollars just on a planner.

      Have you shared any photos of your planner? Do you decorate it or keep it simple?

      1. Yep, I spent around $40 on the Passion Planner (almost half of it on shipping, as well…) and it was a total waste of money…

        No pics as of yet, but I will take and post some. Or maybe I’ll put them on Instagram, dunno yet… I don’t go overboard with the decoration, but it’s not all plain. I draw icons for the day’s weather and mark certain things with washi tape or sticky notes. I want to get star stickers, too 🙂

  2. I can totally relate to this…I loved buying notebooks and trying to create a to do list. However, I usually just end up just doing the start but not able to get through with it. Hopefully, this year it will be a different story. God bless to your college journey…I wish I could go back to college…I love being at school and listening to teachers and learning stuff. 🙂

  3. Thank you for your very simple, but effective method. This is perfect for me and economical! I just put a hairband around my mini composition book and stuck a pen inside-let’s see where this all takes me!

    1. I’m glad I could help! Hair ties and those fancier ones kids use as bracelets are good closures. I’ve since also added a pen and a few other features that I’ll be showing soon. It’s a flat pen that goes inside.

      I hope your notebook is as helpful to you as it has been for me!

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