Getting organized with Bullet Journaling & Travellers Journal

Sunday, September 03, 2017

I first discovered the travellers notebook concept through Jane Davenport, her “butterfly” book is designed to be a travellers notebook for artists and I thought it was genius that you could have different sections with different types of paper - making it the perfect “sketchbook” for notes, sketching and watercolour. But I also stumbled onto a whole world of travellers notebook journalers. And through that a world of bullet journaling. Bullet journaling is based on the concept of designing your own journal. Many people use it for a calendar which doesn’t appeal to me as I am a heavy user of shared Gmail calendars - one for each member of the family. However mastering a To Do list and all those little snippets of information floating around in your head appeals to me. So I spent some time thinking about these tools and how they could work for me and eventually came up with a solution in part influenced by @HoneyRozes (Instagram, Youtube), a bullet journaler.

Rather than using my Butterfly book - which is set up for art - I decided to purchase a leather travellers journal from the Travellers Notebook (‘TN) company (formerly known as Midori). This is really just a cover for the notebook inserts to be stored within it but works the same as the Butterfly book where you can add your own notebook inserts. I used the default insert that came with the TN. I love the smell of the leather and the way the cover gets more and more worn with time. 

On the cover I wrote the date the notebook was started (June 2017) so I can easily identify the date range for each notebook. Inside the notebook I created a calendar so I could reference dates when planning To Do’s. I also wrote out 12 Questions for Change taken from the “Change Your Life, Change Your Questions” book. 

I made a mistake with the calendar as I didn’t have enough space to have a full year of planning - instead I only had room for 10 months instead of the full 12. Yes, I should have measured everything out in advance. Got to remember that for the next one!

The next layout in my journal was to create a monthly planning list view. This time I had space for all 12 months! This enables me to add items in advance for each month - if they are due on specific dates I add the date in the square - if not, the square remains blank. If the item is a project that spans months then I draw a horizontal arrow leading into the next month. As I add weeks into the journal I reference this page to make sure there aren’t any items to be transferred in for the week.  Here’s how it works... at the beginning of the week (usually on Sunday afternoon or evening) I plan the upcoming week.

First I set up the page layout....

Then I add the section titles.... the titles I came up with are work, not (i.e. not work stuff), home (for home maintenance items), and kids (for things I need to do for my kids). These sections are for my To Do’s for the week. 

Next I add the date range for the week, along with the week number. The week number isn’t really important but it’s kind of nice to know how far we are through the year already. These go at the top of the page.

Next I add additional section titles. I am still playing around with these but I think I’ve settled on Lessons Learned, Successes, Notes and Next Week. I use the lessons learned to record things I want to do better in the future, successes to record and celebrate my successes, Notes for anything I need to write down for the week - phone numbers, messages and so on, then lastly Next week to write down anything for next week. This section isn’t really required as I could use the monthly planning list view. I highlight these headings to make them stand out and easier to read.

Then I transfer in all the To Do’s from the previous week....

Each item transferred has a box next to it. Let me explain how I am using these.
  • An empty box means it isn’t done,
  • A box with a date means it needs to be done on a specific date,
  • A box with a cross in it means its cancelled,
  • A box with a > in it means it’s incomplete and transferred to the next week,
  • A filled box means it’s complete (yay!).
I have been using this system successfully since the beginning of June. Initially I used the system to collect a “brain dump” of everything floating around in my head that I was worried would be forgotten. Each week I have many to do more items that I collected and gradually everything that was “non-urgent” has been accomplished and my To Do list has gotten shorter.  Is the system perfect? I doubt it... but it has the advantage of being portable, doesn’t conflict with my gmail calendar(s), isn’t overwhelming (weekly seems the perfect length of time for planning) and is always there for me to write quick To Do’s and notes. I haven’t filled out all the remaining “speads” in the notebook in case I want to tweak the weekly layout in the future. I hope you have enjoyed this quick tour of my personal organization system and you are inspired to create a system of your own.   

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