Book Love,  Life,  Other Crafty Stuff

2016 “Bullet Journal”

Well here we are once again! New year, fresh start re: regular posting – a little later than expected due to internet connection issues we had all last week – but now that (hopefully) that’s resolved, it’s time for another installment of…

Bullet Journal 2016 header

Last year I gave an adapted version of Bullet Journaling a try, and it worked surprisingly well once I tweaked the system to suit my own needs – specifically, keeping the “Bullet” part pretty much completely confined to tasks and to-do lists. Bottom line is, for my life and for my line of work, the actual “bullet” part of the system for planning purposes? It totally doesn’t work as a freelance musician and adjunct instructor, when I often book things months (and sometimes years!) in advance.

And so I adapted the system in certain places to essentially function like a regular, traditional planner. Specifically, the addition of monthly calendars at the beginning and more space for daily planning in the month-by-month section made it far more functional for my purposes. You can see the details of last year’s planner here, if you’re curious, but I’ve pretty much kept all of last year’s changes, so we’ll rehash them in a moment.

Now, this year’s journal is not EXACTLY the same in every way – as well as what I set up last year worked, as I used it, I did find myself adding pages, and using set pages slightly differently than expected. So as I set up this year’s, I’ve added in some new pages that I hope will work even better for my personal goal attainment and planning.

It also took a little while for me to get it up and running this year, due to my indecisiveness with regards to the actual notebook I was going to use. Last year I just used a spare journal I had lying around, since I didn’t know if I was going to stick with the system or not. But this year I felt an enormous amount of pressure to pick something that I knew I really liked since I’ll be stuck with it all year.

And let me tell you, was that difficult. I just couldn’t find one that I both liked and was the right size/set-up and it took me quite a while before I found and settled on this grey Eccolo journal featuring a cat and a ball of yarn. It’s still a little plain for my tastes, but it was at least the size and shape I wanted, and wasn’t just a plain solid color like the Moleskine are. Overall, I’m pleased with the quality of it – the cover is sturdy, but flexible, and the paper quality is nice – a little thin, but the ink at least doesn’t end up feathered.


I decided to forgo a key this year, since I pretty much know my system at this point, and I have a color-code key taped to the case of the staedtler fineliners that I use for calendar work anyway. I also skipped the index/Table of Content pages, since I didn’t use them AT ALL last year. Instead, the journal starts right in with the monthly calendars in the first 12 spreads.

Once more I used the beautiful calendar pages from this year’s The Handmade Home’s free planner. Like last year, getting them actually inserted and affixed to the journal took FOREVER, but it’s seriously so worth it for me in terms of functionality. I use these calendars for entering the “big stuff” that I need to keep track of through the year – concerts, birthdays, gigs, etc… as well as anything I end up having to schedule more than a month in advance. This way I have one place to see everything that falls outside the realm of the “daily grind” when I get called to schedule something – double booking is a real fear of mine if I don’t have everything written down and accessible. I only had the page about half-filled in when I snapped this picture, but as you can see by the few smudges there are, I color code things on my calendar – green for personal, blue for my academic job, red for music gigs, and pink for birthdays.


Following the monthly calendars, I have a few spreads that I will be using throughout the entire year, the first of which is a list of my New Year’s Resolutions, along with a blank page adjacent to it which I plan to jot down challenges or set-backs, and generally use to help assess my progress as the year goes on.

Bill Log

The next is probably the most important “yearly” spread beyond the calendars: my Bill Log. I’ve always found it helpful to have a checklist like this for everything I can’t set to auto-pay. Having it really helps me keep my anxiety re: adult finances under control, since if I ever find myself second-guessing myself about having paid a bill, I can just look at the list, and all the information is there. I also usually write down exact amounts, and either the check number or the payment confirmation number, but January’s bills were paid when I was still working from last year’s journal – so I only transferred the checkmarks (I would have edited those out in Photoshop for privacy/safety purposes, anyway).

finished book log

Next up is a log of all my Finished Books. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more, I want to keep a log of what I get through in terms of pleasure reading (I will not be logging books or parts of books I have to read for work/lecture purposes… only the books I choose for my own enjoyment/enrichment). Hopefully at the end of the year, I can look at this spread and be able to really tell that I’ve made progress in making pleasure reading a habit again.

Gift Idea Tracker

Next is a spread dedicated to logging gift ideas. One of my biggest issues is that I’ll see something, or think of something that would be PERFECT for someone for their birthday or Christmas or whatever – but it’s always too far in the future for me to make the purchase. I’ve learned from experience that if I buy more than a month in advance, odds are that person will buy it for themselves before the birthday rolls around (*cough*JIM*cough*), so I try to avoid doing that. But as it always happens, I don’t write the idea down, and then when it actually DOES come time to buy, I can’t remember for the life of me what that amazing gift idea was. So this year I’m going to try to keep that from happening.

Large Purchase Tracker

The last “yearly” spread is one for keeping track of bigger purchases that I want to make. Because as an adjunct/freelancer my incomes are a) seasonal, b) unreliable, and c) very very small – I have to be very careful about budgeting and planning for larger purchases. To help me do that this year, I’ve included a space for me to keep track of the bigger things I want to buy so that I can budget, prioritize based on need vs. want, and just generally keep them fresh in my mind so that maybe I’ll skip the latte in favor of checking the bigger stuff off the list sooner.

And with that, we’re on to the “monthly” spreads – the spreads I will re-do and re-start at the beginning of each month. The process of sitting down and setting up the new month’s spreads on the first of the month has become a really centering ritual for me, and it’s been helpful in helping me feel like I’ve got a full view of the upcoming weeks.

Blog posts and habit tracker

We start with the month’s blog post idea long, and the monthly habit tracker – both of which are pretty self-explanatory.

Reading Log

Next is a new addition to the monthly lineup – a reading log. Again, since one of my biggest goals this year is to up the amount of pleasure reading I do, I figure keeping a log will help me stay accountable. I’m not yet sure how well it will work, but I figure it’s worth a shot. If I find myself forgetting about it, I’ll just omit it from future months.

January Daily

After the reading log begins my detailed calendar work – my version of the “daily” list in the Bullet Journal system. The alterations I made last year to allow myself more room for detailed calendar work, and the eighty-thousand commitments I have between my three jobs worked very very well last year, so I kept them. Again, here is where I color-code.

Finances Page

Following the “Daily” pages, I also have three new additions to the system. First, a monthly finance tracker. I want to get really serious about saving this year, as well as keep a much tighter rein on exactly where my money is going, and hopefully this and the following page will help. No more frantic checking of my accounts before a spur of the moment purchase.

Purchases Groceries and Meal Planning

Next is a purchase log – basically I’m going to try to write down everything I spend money on over the course of the month. Again, all in the interest in keeping tighter control over how I’m spending my money.

And then finally, the single “weekly” page – I am going to attempt to grocery shop more efficiently by keeping track of what I need as I realize I need it (instead of wandering the grocery store aisles wondering, “am I out of that?”). To further facilitate that (and maybe some healthier eating too) I’m also going to try to log my meals – at least for a few weeks, so that I can get a handle on exactly what my “staple foods” actually are – something that’s long overdue considering I’ve been living on my own and feeding myself for a long time now.

After my grocery page comes my daily To-Do/Must-Do pages, which quite frankly are one of the few places that the “bullet journal” system still actually looks like the “bullet journal” system – but I haven’t really had to utilize that function yet – and probably won’t have to until really the middle of this week.

I am a little concerned with all the new monthly spreads, that I might run out of space this year – but I’m not going to worry about it until I get a better handle on exactly which spreads stay, and which get tossed as I set up for February!

Do you guys use a bullet-journal type set up? How do you use it/what changes have you made to make it suit your needs? Feel free to share in the comments!

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