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Magpie’s Adventures in Bullet Journaling


Bullet Journaling has really fascinated me ever since Jenn from With Luck Blog brought it to my attention way back when I posted about planners. The concept seemed to work really well with the system I was currently using for my to-do lists, but there was one big issue with it – the inability to plan ahead by more than a month or so. As a freelance musician, I sometimes book weddings and masses months and even years in advance (funerals, not so much), so the lack of a static monthly calendar in the system was a major flaw for me.

But everything else seemed so great… so I decided in the new year I was going to try to figure out a way to adapt the system to fit my needs and give it a shot.


The notebook I chose is one I got on clearance at Barnes and Noble – it’s clearly an imitation of a moleskine, without the price tag (I think I paid $3?). So far it’s held up similarly, with the added bonus of having a gorgeous butterfly wing cover.


The brand is Piccadilly – the paper quality is great, and again comparable to moleskine.


I used a pretty Project Life card to make my key – I use mostly shapes for the actual “bullet” part of it, and the color coding is for calendar entries. My “bullets” are mostly done with whatever pen I have handy, and for my calendar I have a 10-pack of Triplus Fineliners.


This is my index page – not sure how useful this will actually be for me. I don’t do too much idea logging other than blog posts, and I’ve got little post-it tabs to demarcate where my idea log for the month is along with my current active calendar sections.


To solve my need to plan ahead problem, I printed out these lovely monthly calendars from The Handmade Home, trimmed and pasted them in the first 12 spreads of the journal. Getting them folded properly and to lie flat was a bit finicky, but is proving massively worth it. Having this monthly calendar allows me to plan ahead as needed without lugging around a second book/planner specifically for this purpose.

Note that my calendar is not actually this empty – it’s actually pretty disgustingly flooded with stuff. I just feel a bit weird about posting my schedule and where I will be and when for all to see on the interwebs, so I edited out my entries in photoshop. But it should be noted that this is where the color-coding happens. And you can see what each color means on my key above.

In general, I keep the “big happenings” on these pages. The “out of the ordinary” stuff like concerts, weddings, gigs, doctor’s appts, birthdays – but not the day to day work stuff like meetings, classes, rehearsals, and the sort of daily grind things.


Following the monthly calendar spreads, I have a bill checklist – I’ve always kept track using a checklist like this, and now having it in with all my other stuff is great.

(Before you say anything, yes, I know I don’t have a ton of bills – I’ve only listed the stuff I don’t have on auto-pay here, and I’m super lucky to have most of my utilities included in my rent.)


Then, at the start of each month, I have a spread that includes space for logging blog post ideas, and keeping track of habits I want to make permanent.


After the Ideas/Habits spread, then comes the daily listing of the month – here’s another place where I altered the Bullet Journal formula to suit my own needs. Instead of one line per day, I leave a big block for more detailed calendar work. At the beginning of the month I go through and transfer the “big stuff” from the monthly spreads, and then use the rest of the space for “daily grind” sort of stuff – meetings with students, rehearsals, classes, lunches, etc… These are also color-coded.

(Again, I edited out my entries – most boxes are pretty full, I’m just not feeling great about having the details of my daily schedule up for the world to see.)

And then comes my daily lists – here you can see I pretty much stick with the bullet journal formula – although I occasionally forget to “migrate” tasks I don’t complete (as you can see, grocery shopping is one I let go pretty frequently… actually as I type this I’m eating a bowl full of mashed pumpkin for lunch because that’s pretty much all I have left in the cabinets… whoopssss). I use pretty washi tape to differentiate between days, and for a lot of other decorative purposes throughout the book.


So far this system has been working out super well – particularly now that the semester is underway. It’s handy to have my Must-Do lists for the day alongside literally EVERYTHING ELSE, without adding the heft of a big leather binder planner to my bag. The only potential problem I see coming is if I end up running out of space in the book, since the monthly calendars are already affixed and filled – swapping them into another book without having to re-print and re-do everything might be logistically problematic. But judging by the rate at which I used pages so far this year, I *might* be okay until next January first…

But I suppose we’ll see!

Do you bullet journal? If not, what do you use to plan? Any tips or tricks you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

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  • bluchickenninja

    I actually do something similar to this. I have a blogging notebook that I use for taking notes and planning blog posts. I have a page that is literally covered in sticky notes with post ideas. I have pages with lists of books I have in for review and I do something similar with the monthly calendar. However instead of printing off all the months for this year I only have the current month and the next month. Does that make sense? Like at the end of January I pasted in a calendar for March. Its working really well. I should do a post about it.

  • jenndice

    YOU ARE BRILLIANT!! I have been trying to keep up with my bullet journaling each month. Some weeks I do really well… And others I don’t. But that’s why I like it so much! Because the space is whatever I make it, I don’t feel like I’m wasting space. My only issue is the fact that there is no calendar to keep me on track but you fixed it! I may even add this in right before March.

    • Magpiemakingdo

      Seriously adding the calendars was SUCH a good idea – I don’t know how I’d function without them now. And I’m not so good somedays either – I don’t really “journal” so much as just keep to-do lists with the occasional note, but somedays that are less busy and more run-of-the-mill daily grind stuff I don’t even bother to make a list for.

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