Planning & Productivity

How to Start a Bullet Journal: 7 tips & tricks

Why would you keep a paper notebook when you can just use your phone or tablet?

Well, there is a really simple reason.  A notebook is the best way to empty your mind and give you the space to really think and create. And it has some amazing health benefits.

Smart women (and men!) use a bullet journal to boost their productivity by organizing their ideas into actual plans and goals.

Once your dreams are organized visually you can take real action.

Your notebook can act as the central space for all of your plans: personal development, financial planning, career goals.

By having them all in one space, you can blend all of these pieces of you into something that makes you fulfilled.

It’s practical.  It’s cheap.  It’s effective.

I have tried to keep a traditional daily journal in the past and have failed miserably.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to sit down and write a summary of my day, but I just can’t do it.

Keeping a notebook is a cheat for traditional journaling.

I’ve always kept a notebook with me at all times, even as a teenager.  I think it was a life coping mechanism at first.

Writing things down cleared my mind and let me enjoy life without constantly thinking about the things I had to do.

Over time, I became more productiveand learned how to use my notebook for maximum time management and productivity.

If my house ever caught on fire, my notebook would be the only non-living thing I would grab. For real.


How to Start a Bullet Journal: 7 tips and tricks


1. Your notebook should reflect your personality.

The first key to making sure that you actually use your notebook is to make sure it reflects your personal style.

You may love to scroll through Instagram looking at minimalist notebook spreads (guilty!), but don’t be inauthentic.  If you are into color and washi tape, then go all in.

The goal here is to enjoy the experience of writing so you do it consistently.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment in your notebook because that’s half the fun.

It just shouldn’t be stressfull.

2. Keep an (updated) index.

My notebook has evolved into a system that works for me: a medley of a bullet journal, a diary, and a random collection of lists.   I use it to plan projects, take notes at meetings, and sometimes just to write some thoughts down.

It would be pretty difficult to find anything if I didn’t have an updated index.

Leave a few pages in the beginning of your blank notebook for the index. You could easily put it in the back as well if that flow is better for you.

Number the pages as you go (if it doesn’t have preprinted numbers) and then update the index with a title or general description with the page number.

Some examples of what I would put into my index are “Weekly- January 1st-7th”, “Meeting with Colleagues- February 5, 2017”, or “Thoughts 9-12-17”.

You get the idea.

3. Find and use the right tools.

This goes hand-and-hand with tip #1.  If you have notebooks and a pen that you really enjoy, you will definitely write more consistently.

I used to gawk at the idea of spending $20 on a notebook but it’s totally worth the money for something I use multiple times a day.)

My first notebook was a small lined, spiral notebook that I could keep in my purse. It worked because it was cheap so I didn’t feel bad when I “messed up.”

But with the soft cover, the pages would tear and the book would warp easily. So I tried new notebooks until I settled on one I like.

I also write in pencil, which is strange to many people for some reason.

I love mechanical pencils and their analog backspace key (also known as an eraser).

Plus I can clip it on my notebook and throw it in my bag with worrying about a pen exploding in there.

Choose what works for you.

Make sure your notebook is the right size for carrying around daily and that you have a pen you like.  If you find that you rarely use your notebook, it is probably because it doesn’t work for you.

4. Set your goals on paper.

I already mentioned that there are real benefits to having a notebook besides keeping a collection of  to-do lists.

Writing down your goals on paper can significantly increase your success rate.  

Researchers have found people are 42% more likely to succeed in acheiving their goals if they write them down consistently.

I mean it makes sense, right? How hard is it to process your thoughts or make an action plan until you can actually see them in print.

Handwriting seems more official, like signing a document.

Don’t get me wrong, I am forever on my computer (obviously) but most of my ideas began in my notebook.

It’s one of the reasons why so many people have added short writing times to their morning routines.

5. Use one notebook for all of your needs.

While it might take a little getting used to, it’s best to have one notebook for both business and personal use.

Your notebook is the place where your ordinary tasks meet your big dreams.

It’s also just easier to get into the habit of writing things down regularly if you have only one place to do it. A notebook is the best option for this due to its availibility and accessiblity in all social situations.

Keeping lists and notes on your phone seems like great option because you always have your phone, making it super accessible.

But let’s be honest- pulling out your notebook during a meeting isn’t as distracting as using electronics like a phone or a tablet.

6. Write down your ideas immediately.

Have you ever been somewhere random and all of a sudden you remember something or think of a great idea?  Me too.

Keep of a running list of these little sparks of ideas in your notebook.

You can always go back to them later.

The best way to organize these types of “rolling” lists is by keeping separate pages and by type so you can add to them as needed.

One of my favorite lists is a gift guide where I keep ideas for people or even just things I think that would be great to give. I collect ideas consistently so I am ready anytime I have to buy a hostess gift or when the holidays come around.

7. Keep your old notebooks.

Notebooks are easy to store.  Think of the wealth of information that is in those old notebooks!

Looking back at your blended life in one notebook is really useful.

You can see parallels in what you were doing daily with how you felt.

So many times we talk about work-life balance and how to be professional.  But the different parts of our lives aren’t as separate as we would like them to be.

Your notebook lets you see (in hindsight) how each part of your life influenced the other.  And sometimes, it’s just surprising.

Want some ideas of what to keep in your journal?  Download the list of my must-have lists below!


Share some of your favorite uses for your bullet journal in the comments below—I am always looking for fresh ideas!

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