I have been using a bullet journal for 3 years and just started my 7th journal – I started my 1st bujo in 2016 during my postdoc when I was getting overwhelmed by never ending to-do lists and a barrage of notebooks. I needed a one journal fits all approach and I started a bullet journal. My journal design has moved on quite a bit but it’s still very much all about lines and colour coding for me. I also did write a Bullet Journal update in 2017.

With my set-up a journal lasts 6 months with some pages spare to test things. This suits me quite well as I can put all monthly trackers and running log at the start of the journal for example. My bullet journal really is a journal for everything – but I keep track of some work related things in a separate journal. I like the chronological order of things but if you prefer categories maybe check out Dr Raul Pacheco-Vegas Everything notebook.

My tools                                                                                                                                                          Journal: Since the start I have been using the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 dotted – but my current  journal is the square version (I didn’t pay attention when ordering it – but it’s working ok so far).

Pens: I have used a range of pens but I like brush pens (I have WHSmith own brand and a set of pastel Tombows). I combine that with uni pen fine line set ranging from 0.05 to 0.8 and papermate pens.

Other stationary: I have a stencil set to help with some of the styling and a short ruler. I also use tape, stickers to do some decorating. My journal is not an artistic masterpiece and that’s ok. It’s doing its job.

I have tried different layouts, keys, indices in my journals but have now found the set-up that works best for me and that I will keep for the next while. The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can try new things, test them for a while and keep evolving. Below is a summary of some of the things that have worked well. I explain the different sections in my latest bujo in order of appearance.

Index: I like to find certain pages quickly and have tried several methods to mark pages e.g. pull-out index, tabs, washi tape, colouring in the edges. But for me the best set-up has been coloured dot stickers that can be stuck over the edge of the pages and line up with the first page in the journal that has the corresponding index. I’ve been using the coloured dots since journal #4.

Six months overview: Since I know a journal lasts 6 months I have an overview on the first double page after the content pages. This is great to have an overview of trips, birthdays etc. I like the column approach as it’s easier to fill in. I will use the colour for each month for the monthly and weekly spreads, as well as the corresponding monthly habit tracker and running log weeks.

Monthly overview for July to December 2019 with a column in a different colour for each month.

Monthly habit trackers & running logs: Because I know that a journal lasts 6 months I add all my monthly habit trackers at the start. This makes it easier for me to compare months. I make the first tracker and then adjust as necessary later for the other months in case I want to track different things. The main things I track are sleep, steps, exercise, mood and how my MS is doing. I have a space for comments so I can note down when I was ill or other things to explain anomalies in the tracker. I also have a running log to keep track of my running and to keep me motivated as I’m trying to reach 800km in 2019.

MS tracker: At my first meeting with my neurologist (2 months after my MS diagnosis) he suggested I use the MS Impact scale (MS-IS-29) to track my MS symptoms every month and have an eye on its progress. As a researcher I was quite excited about collecting data on myself. I combine this with a range of apps an I did write about this in a previous post. (How I keep track of my MS).

MS Impact scale (29 questions) with a score for each question for January to December

Monthly spread: I use a grid calendar over a double page for each month. There I note trips, important meetings to predict any busy periods. I’ve used the grid layout from the start as I like the look and the space per day to add more than one thing. I sometimes add a gratitude box at the end of the week for a highlight.

Weekly layout: My weekly layout has changed quite a bit over the years as I added things to the page. I have tried 2 weeks per double spread, dutch door set-up and so on. My current layout is working really well and has everything I need for the week on a double page. For each day I have a time column to correspond with my working hours (8am – 4pm) and a box underneath for appointments and tasks. I also have weekly to-do list split into work and home, room for notes, upcoming appointments and weekly tracker. I plan my week on a Sunday evening and copy my appointments and tasks from my office apps. I then decide what tasks fit around the scheduled appointments with some room for last minute things. The weekly spread is my main planning tool.

latest weekly spread - weekdays in the middle of the double page with room either side for to-do list, notes and trackers.
Current weekly layout (using this since March 2019)

Academic logs: I have had different levels of success with work related logs – mostly because the journal based system isn’t as flexible as an electronic one to changes and because I haven’t been that great at sticking to filling it in. The reading tracker from my first journal worked quite well as motivation. For this journal I decided to give a writing tracker another go. Inspired by Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts (http://www.elliemackin.net/research-planning.html) I added 10 boxes for each week from the 15th July to the last working week of 2019. I’m aiming to write 10 x 25min per week. I will schedule these blocks into my weekly planning and hope to get a bit better at making writing part of my routine again. This is placed in the middle before the Say NO checklist as I had started the journal already and wanted this somewhere easy to find.

Weekly writing tracker with 10 boxes per week.
New 2019 writing tracker

Say NO checklist: I came across this 2 years ago or so by Dr Ellie Mackin Roberts (http://www.elliemackin.net) and have added it into the middle of my journal since then. The checklist has changed a bit but it’s a reminder to be mindful when accepting new projects. On the opposite side I added a list with my side projects – also as a reminder.

The say no checklist: Do I really want to do this? Will it take away from things to achieve my goals? Will this positively impact my life? How exactly will this help me? How much time will this take? Will this add to my circle of influence? Right side my projects: Blogs, Chronically Academic, MS Society/Shift MS, Mentoring in STEM

Ideal week & morning routine: The last 10 pages in the Leuchtturm journals are perforated which makes them ideal for pages that might change over the 6 months. I use these for my ideal week – which is a breakdown of my weekdays into sleep, work, exercise and the morning routine I aspire to complete every day. I’m only 7 months into my new job so I don’t think these will change too much but I might adjust them for the winter months once the clock changes as I tend to sleep longer. My partner recently re-located for his job and is away from Sunday to Thursday – so I might take this into account when planning my exercises.

Left side time blocks for sleep, work and exercise per week day. Right side morning routine from 5:45 to 7:00

Everything else: Meeting notes, ideas, race numbers and results are noted down when they occur in true bullet journal style. I might add a meal planner again to make sure I eat healthy and maybe give meal prep a go. The flexibility of this journal means I can have as many pages as needed for notes etc between weekly spreads. And I can adjust most things as I go along. Some of the other things in my journal are below.

I hope you enjoyed this little view into my bullet journal!