I thought being an adult would be different. I thought I’d be super responsible, be able to remember everything, and it would be easy to stay organized. After all, as the adult, you’re the one in control right?!
I still feel like a kid inside, even though I have two kids of my own now. I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate the world and keep my stuff together. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be the example for my kids?!
Adulting is hard…no matter how far into adulthood you are.
I’m learning that it’s not about who you are, but about the tools and strategies you use that determines how organized you are.
At 37 years young, I feel like I’m finally finding my way. I’ve discovered the best strategy to make adulting (acting and feeling like an adult) easier—bullet journaling.
I was inspired to abandon all my old note-taking and planning systems and start a bullet journal after reading my friend Kalyn’s ebook Brainbook: Bullet Journaling Your Way to a More Organized Life.
I’m an affiliate for Kalyn’s book because it helped me finally figure out one place to manage my work and family schedules, all the tasks that come with running a small business, meal planning, and my fitness goals. My bullet journal has quickly become my external brain—I’m not sure how I survived so long without it.
To say that it’s changed my life would be an understatement.
8 Ways Bullet Journaling Improves My Life
1. Planning My Week In Advance
No more sleepless Sunday nights mentally running through my task list for the week and hoping I don’t forget anything important.
Bullet journaling has helped me get into the habit of planning my week in advance. Every Sunday I spend an hour or less creating my weekly spread and filling it with all the tasks and events I have for the week.
I go to bed Sunday night optimistic about my week, and I don’t wake up with a severe “Case of the Mondays” anymore.
2. Tracking Bills
I used to stress out trying to remember what day of the month I need to pay each bill. We have a lot of our bills automated, but there’s some that fluctuate month to month that I prefer to pay directly.
On occasion, I’ve missed paying a bill on time because we were traveling or something else about our schedule was off.
One other thing I’ve been terrible at is paying attention to changes to our statements. Like why is the cable bill more expensive this month? If those changes go unnoticed, you could go on for years paying the wrong amount, or for a service you don’t use (like HBO after a promotional trial period ends).
I created a bill tracker in my bullet journal. I log every bill now, automated or not. I include the day it’s due, the amount due, the date it’s paid, the confirmation number for the payment, and any relevant notes about the bill.
Not only is the bill tracker helping me stay on top of due dates and statement increases, but it also gives me an at-a-glance view of how much our monthly expenses are.
3. Eating Healthy
The month I started bullet journaling is also the month I decided to do my first Whole30 – no sugar, grains, or dairy for 30 days!
I would not have survived Whole30 without my bullet journal.
First, I included space on my weekly spreads for meal planning, which is a necessity to get through Whole30.
Second, I kept a list of healthy snacks. Instead of giving into cravings throughout the month, I referred to my snack list for a healthier alternative. (Please note: I’ve updated this page since finishing Whole30 and everything in here is not Whole30 compliant.)
Third, I created a Whole30 meals page to document our favorite Whole30 recipes. During November, we tried over 20 new recipes. If we liked a recipe, we recorded it in the bullet journal. My kids got a kick out of telling me if a meal deserved to be written down. During the month, we ended up developing a legend with symbols to mark each meal as kid-approved, freeze-ahead, crockpot, spicy, or quick and easy. Now I can refer to this list for future meal planning.
Fourth, on my monthly layout, I included a “no eating out” tracker. It’s tough to comply with Whole30 if you’re eating out, so my goal was to eat out as little as possible.
4. Meal Planning
Bullet journaling is a great way to start meal planning. I’ve never actually maintained a meal plan before. Now, I like how I can incorporate space for a dinner menu right along with my weekly planner.
Bullet journaling is also helpful when planning for big events.
To give myself the best chance of staying Whole30 compliant on Thanksgiving, I decided to host. I used my bullet journal to plan the dinner menu.
I also created a timeline for preparing dinner, which was a great visual to share with my husband. He knew how to help or what to do next without asking. The timeline also helped ensure we could have a very early Thanksgiving dinner (lunch) before my sister had to head out for her evening shift at the hospital.
5. Decluttering My House
We are trying to minimize our belongings. We’ve been in this house for over seven years now, and the storage closets we never thought we’d are filled up. So have our dressers, bedroom closets, and cabinets.
We want less stuff.
Throughout the year I’ve been decluttering little by little. Now that the year is coming to a close, I want to get more aggressive and finish decluttering.
I created a page in my bullet journal to list out all the areas in our home that need attention. They’re organized by room. When I tackle an individual area, I cross it out. When I get a whole room done, it’s satisfying to X it out.
I have a lot left to do, but I know this list is helping me make progress.
6. Christmas Gift Ideas
These Christmas spreads are my favorite bullet journaling pages. They’re so festive and fun, but also practical.
On the Gift Ideas Page, I labeled every box with a recipients name. Once I’ve decided on their gift, I fill it in, and it becomes my shopping list. Because we’re celebrating with our families at different times this year, I included a small calendar with key dates.
On the Stocking Stuffer and Friends and Teacher Gifts spread, I labeled all the stockings we need to shop for and close friends and family that we want to give gifts.
I made these spreads in early November, and I finished 95% of our Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving!
I’ve never been so on top of things. I’ll get gifts shipped out on time this year. I even managed to get all the gifts for my husband’s side of the family so we could give them in person while we were in Dallas this past weekend.
7. Travel Planning
Did you know that anticipating future travel brings more happiness than reflecting on a past trip? We’ve found this to be true with cruising. It’s so fun to countdown to the trip, daydream about excursions, to talk about what we hope to see and do. For that reason, since our first cruise, we’ve always booked another cruise while on the ship. So when one vacation ends, we already have another one to anticipate.
We also try to build up anticipation for smaller trips too. Just this past weekend we spent three days in Dallas visiting family. I used bullet journaling to plan for the trip and to build excitement.
I dedicated one page in my Brainbook to Dallas Visit Ideas. As a family, we brainstormed all the things we wanted to do on our trip. After I created the page with a few doodles copied from the Doable Designs guide that comes with Brainbook, I was inspired to make the whole page a visual treat.
I took my families list of ideas and looked up images (logos, house pictures, signs) to represent each idea. Over the course of a few weeks, I added the illustrations one by one. It was exciting for my kids to keep checking back and see what I added. No doubt they are very excited to go on this trip.
On the facing page, I created a packing list. In the extra space at the bottom of the page, I illustrated the weather forecast.
8. Workout Planner
My monthly spread includes a tracker for daily workouts, but I’m planning to add more detailed layouts to plan my workouts going forward.
My friend just challenged me to do a 30-day plank challenge with her. Instead of referring back to the website every day, I created daily plank tracker in my bullet journal for easy reference. Each day I can see the target time to hold the plank position. When I finish, I can chart my results.
I also like to do yoga in the evenings, but it’s so easy to skip it. Late dinner, helping kids with homework, general laziness, and a million other things get in the way. I think a dedicated tracking page that has the yoga workout I plan to do each day of the month will help me stay on track.
Don’t let all the examples here overwhelm you. You don’t need all of these to get started. I created these over the course of a month. But once you get started bullet journaling, the momentum builds. Creating lists and trackers is fun. I like to work on my journal on Sunday, but I also work on it throughout the week whenever I have an idea for a new page.
I don’t always have time to create a layout when I think of it so I created a List Ideas page to keep a running list of layouts I’d like to add to my journal.
I’ve only been bullet journaling a little over a month, but I feel more adult and put together than ever before.
If you’re ready to start your bullet journal, I highly recommend getting Brainbook: Bullet Journaling Your Way to a More Organized Life. I learned everything I know from Kalyn.
Kalyn will show you how to set up your bullet journal step by step. She’ll show you the crucial elements you need to get started and everything you should include in your bullet journal from the beginning. Once you get rolling, Brainbook also has advanced ideas you can use to continually improve your bullet journal and make it the best planning system for you.
I’m so glad you posted about this! I think this is what I’ve always been needing. I found myself dreaming about bullet journaling all last night – is that weird?! I think this is what I need to finally have a fun way to keep all my lists in one place. Thanks!
Not weird at all. I think it means you’re excited about it and see that it’s a Planning tool filled with possibility!
I’m not 100% bought in …. yet …. but ….since posting my first comment a few days ago, I’ve changed my binder system a bit. I took out a section that really wasn’t needed which made it much easier to carry. Then I made a color coded TO DO lists page (instead of all those hand written papers I was carrying in my pocket) and put that in the binder. The page is divided into segments (things to do on the computer, calls to make, afternoon errands, newsletter info for my part-time job, etc). I printed off 10 copies and once a week or so I will re-write my lists (using some bullet journalling tips from a book I read last year about carry-over list items). Today at lunch, I even did a few doodles!
I can already say, without a doubt, that just having a more eye-pleasing system has made me more eager to keep my binder with me. When I have a few minutes at lunch or while waiting for soccer practice to end, I’m going to the lists more often to see what I can do in those few minutes….because it is more fun and eye catching! And when I am driving or sorting laundry or in line at the grocery store, I am more inclined to think about, “What is on one of my lists that I should do next?” because I can visually recall the colors and the lists.
So…. yes, I can see that there IS time for being more organized when we find a system that is more appealing!!
Thanks for helping me wrap up 2017 on a more organized note!!
Penny, you’re an action taker! Look at what Brainbook has already inspired you to do. Isn’t it fun to figure out a system that works?! And making it pretty is the icing on the cake.
How do you bookmark all the lists and sections? Flipping around looking for all the different pages would be counter productive for me. I think I’m going to do better keeping it minimal. And in a journal, doesn’t all the page flipping make the page corners get bent? I think that’s why I prefer my binder, because I can pull out the pages that are getting worn.
Penny, I keep an index at the front. My journal also has two ribbon bookmarks which help me get to my most used pages easily. I know other people that use stick on tabs for important pages.