My minimalist bullet journal tips & tricks

Updated Dec. 31, 2018.

Minimalism for the sake of fast, efficient organization, task management and goal setting: That’s been my approach to bullet journaling from day one.

I started here and by watching a bunch of YouTube videos, sketching my favorite layouts and ideas on a page where I also identified monthly goals I wanted to track.

Things that haven’t changed since then: Everything is in black ink or yellow highlighter, and I learned how to sketch exactly one pretty header.

Things that change: My layouts. All the time. It’s taken me four months to get to this point, so I’ll continue to update this as I develop a better system. I’m always ISO new ideas, so please send ’em my way.

Constants.

My supplies

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Key

Turning a bullet into an X wasn’t enough for me to quickly differentiate between tasks to be completed and accomplished tasks, so I draw a single line through the task. Other than that, I use a fairly standard bullet journaling key.

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Fun stuff

All of the cool stickers I collect through travel and at conferences end up on the inside covers of my journal, for a little added color, and create a scrapbook of sorts.

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November 2017.

Page 1: Personal tasks for the month

Every new month starts with a piece of washi tape down the entire side of the page. This way, when I look at the side of my notebook, I can quickly see where each month begins.

​This page is where I note the things I have to get done this month: thank you notes, a trip to the dry cleaners or a present for a family member’s birthday.

Every Friday, I assess this list and create a smaller task list of achievable items for each weekend.

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Page 2: Goal tracker

This is part meditation, part inspirational, part aspirational. Did I hit 10,000 steps today? Did I go for a run? I list goals and priorities for the month down the left side of the line. At the end of every day, I mark an X in the corresponding grid if I accomplished the goal.

The highlighted bars that span my goal tracker on page 2 and month ahead on page 3 allow me to quickly see the week, Monday to Sunday.

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​Page 3: The month ahead

I start at the bottom of the page with the last date of the month and ascend to the 1st of the month.

Instead of a traditional index, I use a monthly index to note the date, what I did that day and the corresponding page.

Big events go down the middle column. This month, the first two I added were my mom’s birthday and Thanksgiving. Travel and big meetings get noted here, too.

Down the right rail, I keep track of important milestones, training classes and vet visits for our newly rescued toy poodle, Pepper (as well as the anniversary of his gotcha-day with a ❤︎).

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Pages 4, 5 & 6: Weekly layouts

I start my weekly layout by marking half of the top of the page with washi tape, so I can quickly access it. This is where I plan ahead and set tasks that don’t need to be accomplished today but have to happen this week. When tasks get migrated backward with an arrow (<), this is where they go.

​This is also where I track conversations I need to have with coworkers. I know when a meeting will happen, so I mark the person’s or group name in the column of the week it’s occurring. Then, I have days to think about all of the things I want to discuss and jot them down here.

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Page 7: Daily layouts

Daily tasks are listed to the left, and things that need to be edited go to the right. This was my adaptation of an Eisenhower Matrix. Meeting notes from that day go below the grid. Every night, I create a new grid for the next day and add tasks.

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January 2019.

I’ve simplified a lot of my bullet journaling practices since first starting, because it’s helped me learn something important about myself:

I think I can accomplish a lot more than I actually do in the time I have available. 

What does that look like? Long, rambling to-do lists that never get done, and a goals-oriented person who’s frustrated by the lack of progress on that list. My new lists short and achievable. Here’s what’s changed or (gasp!) been digitized:

  • Personal tasks for the month now live in my Notes app. It’s nothing special, but I’ve found that I need something closer at hand (i.e. my phone) to jot down tasks like “buy stamps” or “send thank you notes.”
  • My weekly layout became a place I could write something down and not think about it again, because I wasn’t turning back to it daily. Now I use a bookmarked Google Spreadsheet with conditional formatting for an Eisenhower Matrix (important vs. urgent) to track long-term work goals. Tasks get filtered into my daily spreads.

Page 1: Goal tracker
Page 2: This month

Since this is now my first page for the month, I still run washi tape down the entire side of the page.

Set real goals. My goal tracker became a task-manager rather than a true indicator of how well I was meeting the intentions I set for myself.

Now, I pick about 5 musts (marked in yellow) to accomplish daily. These are the things I must achieve. Everything below it is nice-to-know information about myself and priorities. Each month, I have the chance to re-evaluate what goals are most important to me and reset them.

A simplified monthly spread. I found that I liked more space to write a sentence about the day rather than my more rigid earlier spread.

Rainbow weekends. Because it’s pretty — and a good way to visualize the work week.

Ban.do stickers. I picked up a book of these lovely stickers at Barnes & Noble and love the color and whimsy they bring to my spreads.

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Page 3 & 4: Daily spreads using Eisenhower Matrices. 

As much as I would love to accomplish an entire half-page of tasks in a day … I can’t.

Now, I set daily tasks assessing their importance vs. urgency and can see my entire week at a glance. I’ve given myself room for notes, too. I generally sketch new weekly grids on Friday to advance (>) tasks that I don’t accomplish by EOD Friday.

Pages beyond that are notes from the week.

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