Bullet Journal: Lessons Learned in 6 Months

Six short months ago, I opened up the first page of my brand new Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook and began my very first Bullet Journal. What I didn’t know at the time was how much of an impact this “little” system would have on my life.

I’ve always loved planners, but often found myself sticking with them for one or two months, and then reverting back to my unorganized ways. The Bullet Journal system is the first “planner” that I have been able to stick with, and the first system to really “click” with my needs and my way of life.

To celebrate my first 6 months as a bullet journalist, I’ve decided to entertain you with the 6 things that I have learned in my first 6 months with my Bullet Journal. Ready? Let’s go!

I've officially been a bullet journalist for 6 months! Here's the 6 lessons I've learned in 6 months with my Bullet Journal.

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

When I first started my Bullet Journal back in August of 2015, I was like a kid in a candy store. Over and over again, I found myself on Pinterest or in the Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook just looking for more list & collection ideas to incorporate into my Bullet Journal.

Fortunately for me, I realized pretty quickly that all I was doing was crowding my Bullet Journal with a bunch of “noise”. Did I really need all of those lists or did I just want them because they looked so pretty in other people’s Bullet Journals?

Although I still look back fondly on some of those early lists and collections, I decided to move forward with what was actually useful. I was going to keep it simple.

2. CONSTANT REVIEW IS KEY

If you were to sit down and flip through my Bullet Journal, you would find review spreads sprinkled throughout my pages. I believe strongly that nothing is ever set in stone.

One of the things that I love about the Bullet Journal system is its flexibility. Is something not working for you? Ditch it! Is something making you more productive? By all means keep it, but also think about how you can make it even better!

I haven’t been a stickler about sticking to a weekly or monthly review. But I have found that when I take the time to analyze my system from time to time, I am the better for it. My productivity increases, and my Bullet Journal slowly morphs into the perfect system for me.

Here’s an example of one of my review pages:

Here's a little spread I did towards the end of 2015 to decide what was working for me in my Bullet Journal, what I wanted to get rid of, and what I wanted to try next.
This is a little spread I did towards the end of 2015 to decide what was working for me in my Bullet Journal, what I wanted to get rid of, and what I wanted to try next.

3. DEVELOP YOUR OWN SYSTEM

Piggy-backing on the review process is my focus on developing my own system. The way I look at it, the whole purpose of the Bullet Journal is to create a planning system that works for you.

According to Ryder Carroll, the inventor of the Bullet Journal:

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”

Over time, my Bullet Journal has morphed and evolved into a system that is completely my own. Ryder’s original method of rapid logging tasks and thoughts is still alive and well within my pages, but ultimately it has become a living, breathing entity of its own.

My Bullet Journal System
I love Ryder’s original method of rapid logging and signifiers, but I’ve also added elements of my own to make it truly special and functional to me.

4. GET INSPIRED BUT MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

One of the main aspects that drew me to the Bullet Journal was not having to follow any pre-set layouts or guidelines. In other words, the ability to make it my own.

I love to find inspiration from others as much the next person, but I also like to take those ideas and transform them in a way that works for me.

The way I see it, if I’m just constantly copying other people’s layouts and spreads, I might as well just be using a pre-printed planner. And that is not what the Bullet Journal system means to me. To me, the Bullet Journal equals freedom.

Here are two examples of ideas that I have borrowed from others, and how I have adapted them to work for me:

I just LOVE watching my monthly memories page fill up in my #bulletjournal each month! Huge thanks to Kacheri @passion.themed.life who gave me the idea a few months ago ☺️ It's always one of my most cherished pages each month!
My Monthly Memories page.
My Gratitude Log, originally inspired by Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine
My Gratitude Log. Originally inspired by Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine

5. MISTAKES HAPPEN – OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM

Oh, the dreaded mistakes! I’ll be the first to admit that I suffer from perfectionism from time to time. One thing that the Bullet Journal has taught me is how to let go of the reigns a little bit and accept that mistakes are a part of every day life. We are all human here, after all.

“Old” Kara would have freaked out over the tiniest mistake, ripped out the page, and started to cry because her pretty new notebook was ruined!

“New” Kara? She’s totally chill about it. Messing up a word, drawing a line a little wonky, not spacing things out correctly… those are every day occurrences. Messing up an entire page? Yeah, that happens too. Guess what I do? I put a giant “X” through that sucker and turn the page.

I often post pictures of my mistakes on Instagram because I think there is too much “perfectionism” in the Bullet Journal community sometimes. I want you to know that even though I create some pretty pretty spreads, there is a lot of trial and error that goes into my pages. For every beautiful photo, there is inevitably a mistake to go right along with it.

Here are a few examples of my [big and little] mistakes over the past six months:

Bullet Journal - Heres some "oops" pages for ya!1. Look closely behind that washi tape ;)

2. I think that was supposed to say Christmas? Anyway, I didn’t like it :)

3. That’s how it’s spelled right? Ohhhhh…..

4. Very first word I wrote in October was putting my dad’s birthday on the wrong date. Oops!

Bullet Journal - Heres some "oops" pages for ya!5. Gotta love those stray lines…

6. Border/doodle attempt gone horribly wrong. Yes, it’s still there looking all blegh!

7. Wrong day of the week, anyone?

8. There are officially two #30’s on my 52 week money challenge page… more money saved right?

6. ONE NOTEBOOK IS NOT ENOUGH (for me)

Although I love the concept of “one notebook”, it doesn’t work for me. I currently use three notebooks on a regular basis, and am even considering adding a 4th one to the mix! After working out of one notebook for the last 5 months of 2015, one thing that I longed for was a way to separate my “planner” and my “collections”.

After a lot of brainstorming, I came up with the following system:

Notebook #1: My Daily Bullet Journal

This is my go-to Bullet Journal, where I plan out everything that is going on in my life on a day-to-day basis.

This notebook houses my daily tasks, my future log, and the personal collections that I refer to on a regular basis (monthly tracker, gratitude log, wish lists, etc.). There really are no rules when it comes to my daily notebook. If I want to track it, it goes in here.

Notebook #2: My Blog & Business Bullet Journal

I won’t bore you with too many details on this one, since I already wrote a 2,000+ word blog post about it right here, but this notebook (as the name implies) contains everything having to do with my blog and business.

There are no daily task lists here (I like keeping just one main to-do list in my daily Bullet Journal). This notebook is less decorative because when it comes to business… well… I mean business ;)

Notebook #3: My Marketing Creativity Journal

Just last month, I quit my day job as a waitress/bartender, and began working for my favorite creative business consultant, Lisa Jacobs. My official title is “Operations Manager”, but my role is ever changing and growing.

Essentially, I help her wherever she needs me. Assisting with client work, social media scheduling, content creation, and more. While I love this new role in my life, I quickly realized that I would need a separate notebook to keep track of everything that I do for Lisa on a daily basis.

This notebook houses meeting notes, client call notes, content outlines, and the like. Everything that has to do with her business goes here. I love that it is all self-contained here and does not bleed into my personal or business journals.

Notebook #4: My Brain Dump Journal

Ok, so this notebook does not exist yet. However, I love the idea of a Brain Dump (or as some call it, a Mind Sweep). The idea is to just sit down with a pen and paper and write down all of your ideas in rapid succession without worrying about organization.

I have a “Brain Dump” page in my daily Bullet Journal, but I keep finding myself rationing out the space that I have left and not using it to its full potential.

My Brain Dump journal will essentially be a long, never-ending list of ideas. Ideas that could potentially end up in any of my other notebooks. When I’m planning out my tasks each night, I’ll take a look at my Brain Dump and see if there is anything that can be migrated over to my current to-do list.

Here’s a peek at what my current Brain Dump page looks like:

Bullet Journal: Brain Dump


Although 6 months doesn’t seem like a very long time in the grand scheme of things, it amazes me to think about how much I have learned. Both about planning in general, and about myself.

Through constant review I am continually tweaking and improving my system. I can’t even imagine what my little Bullet Journal will look like in another 6 months!

MY BULLET JOURNAL SUPPLIES:

How about you? What has the Bullet Journal taught you? Let me know in the comments below!

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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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