Bullet Journal: My Daily Planning Routine

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

Just under a year ago, I shared my daily planning routine over on YouTube. Although my process has remained very much the same, I still get a lot of questions about my routine, so I’m sharing an update with you here today.

Before I jump into explaining my routine, I want to address something that I’ve seen come up time and time again — the concept that Bullet Journaling is time-consuming and that you spend more time planning than actually doing the things.

In my case, that’s simply not true.

Maintaining a Bullet Journal and making it work for you can seem like a daunting task, but I’m here to assure you that it doesn’t have to be. Even with my doodles and “artsy” entries, I only spend an average of around 30 minutes to an hour each day in my Bullet Journal.

Sure, there are lazy Sunday afternoons where I might dive in and spend a couple of relaxing hours being creative and artistic, but the vast majority of the time that I spend in my Bullet Journal is planning, assessing my progress, and evaluating/improving my system.

It is my firm belief that having a daily planning routine in place has been the single largest factor in my success over the past year and a half. Today, I’m going to share that exact routine with you :)

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

MY DAILY PLANNING ROUTINE

I do the majority of my daily planning in the evening right before bed.

I like planning at this time because it allows me to reflect on how my day went and get ready for the day ahead. Every night, I sit down with my Bullet Journal about 30 minutes before I go to sleep.

In addition to feeling more “on top of” everything going on in my life and business, this screen-free downtime helps me to rest my eyes after a day of staring at my computer and phone. All electronics get shut down, and it’s just me and my Bullet Journal.

Here are the steps that I follow:

1 >> REVIEW OF CURRENT DAY

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

The very first thing I do when I sit down for my daily planning routine is to review my current day.  Often times I’ll mark tasks off throughout the day as I complete them, or jot down notes that I can refer back to later.

I like to double check my list at this point and mark off any additional tasks that I completed and take a mental note of the tasks that I still have open.

2 >> SET UP FOR TOMORROW

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

The very first thing I do to set up for the following day is to draw out my header. I like to track things like the moon phases and weather, but this, of course, is completely optional.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

Once my header is done, I move on to drawing out my time bar. This time bar has gone through many iterations in my Bullet Journal, but I’m currently enjoying this vertical layout.

Later, I’ll segment this time bar based on my planned schedule for the day but for now, I just segment my sleeping hours. I wake up at 5:30 AM and go to sleep at 10:30 PM.

Once that is finished, I check for appointments and events coming up by flipping back to my Calendex.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

In this particular example, I don’t have any appointments or events tomorrow. So now it’s time to move on to creating my task list and planning out my time for the day.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

I create my task list by first racking my brain for any tasks that I know need to get completed the following day. In the event that I’m starting a new spread, I always refer back to my previous spread and migrate over any uncompleted tasks that still need my attention.

Related: Here’s how I handle migration in my Bullet Journal

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

Once all of my tasks and appointments are in place, it’s time to add some color. I have a specific color code that I use throughout my Bullet Journal that allows me to see things more easily at a glance.

3 >> Update Monthly Spreads

Once the following day is complete, it’s time to update my monthly spreads. I keep all of my monthly spreads together at the beginning of each month so that it is easy for me to just flip from page to page as I update them.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

First up is my time log.

(PS – I have to admit here that I haven’t been updating my monthly spreads in the past few days because I’ve been sick and haven’t kept very good track of things… hey, life happens!)

I use an app called ATracker throughout the day to keep track of where I spend my time. At the end of each day, I can see a consolidated report and log my hours here in my Bullet Journal.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)

My monthly tracker is up next. The colors here don’t actually mean anything, but they provide a nice separation so that I can easily see where I’m doing well and where I’m falling behind for the month.

It's time for an update to my daily planning routine. Here's how things have changed... and how they've stayed the same :)
(originally inspired by Kim at TinyRayofSunshine)

My gratitude log comes next. This is where I get to be a bit creative and have some fun :)

It's time for a Bullet Journal update on the Boho Berry Blog today! Here's a page-by-page peek into my Emerald Official Bullet Journal :)

Last but certainly not least is my Mood Mandala. Inspired by Fiona (@bujo.mama on Instagram), this is where I track my general overall mood for the day.

In case you’re curious about how this works, I have a full video explaining it all here.


And that’s it!

While breaking this down bit by bit may make it seem like a lengthy ordeal to some, this whole process only takes me about 30 minutes each evening.

ADVANTAGES OF PLANNING THE NIGHT BEFORE

  1. You can clear your mind of all of those nagging thoughts and looming tasks so that you can get to sleep more easily.
  2. You can eliminate the morning frenzy of not knowing exactly what needs to be done when you wake up.
  3. You can hit the ground running on important tasks in the morning because you already have a clear plan for your day.

I’m curious… what does YOUR planning routine look like? Let me know in the comments below :)

Kara Benz
Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.

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  • Elisabeth | FGG Designs

    Love it! Thanks for sharing. I’m just starting out and still in the process of learning the ins and outs of bullet journaling. Currently I’ve been writing out all the days during the beginning of the week, but I’m not liking it. I’m going to try to do the way you’re doing it…a day at a time. I just need to find a place for the tasks that need to get done on a different day. ;)

  • bklynebeth

    You are so right Kara – it doesn’t take that much time each day to update the journal. And the time it does take comes back three-fold because keeping the journal streamlines the day so efficiently. I am most productive, happy, and healthy on the days I work with the journal and feel lost on the days I don’t because of the burden of keeping everything in my head.

  • Diana

    My favorite thing about bullet journaling is that it can be customized to all types of routines. Sometimes I plan the night before and sometimes I plan in the morning. Sometimes I don’t need a daily spread at all because my day might not be as busy as others. Loved your post, thank you for sharing all the awesome stuff you do.

  • I tried doing morning planning this month (for a change of pace, just to see how it went), and I hated it. It threw off my entire morning routine and I still haven’t sorted it all back out yet. I’ve given myself a break (Jan is a rotten month, let’s just admit it. Those “let’s go with all the goals people are nuts”) and am ready to full steam ahead in February!

  • I really need to work on doing this every night. I want to, but I seem to hit a wall at the end of the day and just fall in to bed with my BuJo on my bedside table not reviewed… Thanks for sharing your process. Hopefully it will inspire me to do something similar!

  • Lisa Garrow Bough

    I plan at the end of my work day. This allows me to check personal items for the evening and evaluate my priorities for my next work day. I often check again before bed to see if anything personal needs to be migrated that I didn’t complete that evening. My BuJo is open on my desk at work and open about 50% of the time at home.

  • Jenna Lin

    I try to do some planning in the evening — maybe jot down some things I don’t want to forget. Then I try to look at my BuJo right before I sleep, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. The best time for me is to plan while I eat breakfast at 6:30am to 7am. I’m lucky that I almost never have to “hit the ground running” nowadays for work :-) . When I get to work, I spend about 10 minutes planning my work day by prioritizing my projects. Then I simply get started!

  • Fantastic! I think I’m going to change things up next month. I’ve been doing weekly spreads and I’m not convinced it works for me. I’ll admit that I spend way too much time doing the “dressy” bits though! But for me it’s a bit of a distraction and a way to unwind.

  • Sandra

    Hey Kara! In your description you said you’d check the calendex to see whether there are any events for that day. Don’t you transfer all your events from the Calendex in your Monthly Log at the beginning of a month? If yes, why don’t you refer back to the monthly log and if no, what do you use the monthly log for?

    And another question: What do you do about to-do’s for the future?

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  • Jessie Pascarelli

    When do you consult your weekly spread?

  • Robin E.

    I’m brand new to bullet journals as of this month, and from the beginning for me the focus has been much less on the planner/to-do aspects and much more on the journaling. I like to journal about my day, doodle whatever strikes my fancy, write a quote, and so on. I might change as I continue (and I do plan to continue!), but for now I am tracking things like exercise, daily gratitude, diet, and exercise on each day’s page as well. I prefer the focus of each day.

    However, even though my bullet journal has a bit of a different focus, I too only spend 20 to 30 minutes each evening before bed writing about my day and setting up the next day.

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  • Isabel Barrera

    Hey Kara! I love your blog and youtube channel, so inspiring!
    I have a question abour the calendex method… what happens if you have to use a new notebook and you calendex is in the old one? how would you do it to reference it in the new ntoebook? would you have to had your old bujo on hand every day when you plan yor next day??

  • Phelan K.C.

    I just watched your daily planning video and there I left a comment about your time bar/log. I truly, really, completely, love the idea of it. I already made a spread for this week (I don’t fancy have all the future, monthly, weekly, and daily spread — right now I only use monthly and weekly but I do plan on switching the weekly with daily) but since it’s already Thursday anyway I definitely will incorporate your time bar to my Sunday page for next week!

    Like you, I also plan at night before bed (or noon, back in my nocturnal days). You’re right, it does clear my mind from unnecessary cluttered mess. But I only started to go back to free writing journaling recently though, as recent as a day or two. I used to use my journal to do free write, then as a planner, then tried to combine the two and failed, but seeing how I fall asleep much better after writing what I felt and accomplished during the day as well as how I feel and think while I write the entry I plan on doing it more. If you had one line a day, I have one page a day! :-D