It feels a little presumptuous for me to walk you through my bullet journal. You can find infinite amounts of information available discussing this system, so I felt like adding my take on it would be unnecessary noise in the universe. In addition to the bullet journal originator Ryder Carroll, countless bloggers, Instagrammers, and YouTubers have lifted up their voices in praise of the bujo. What could I possibly add to benefit the world?
But here’s why I had to throw in my two cents: I’ve spent the past nine-plus years in the direct sales industry, and I’ve been an entrepreneur for over <gulp> 20 years. Between these two factors of my history, I know that this post will be of benefit to the following groups of people:
- People in the direct sales industry
- Stay/work-at-home moms
- Those juggling more than one career or multiple significant areas of focus
I happen to fall into all four of these categories. With that in mind, will you join me as I take you on a journey through how I use the bullet journal to improve my personal effectiveness? First we’ll go over the basic layout of my bullet journal, and then we’ll discuss how I use it to manage my direct sales business as well as the blog.
*This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase something through the links provided…and I only post products I’ve tried and believe in. Thanks for supporting the Scattered Fashionista!
The basic layout of my bullet journal:
There’s no real passion in my voice when I refer to my bullet journal’s index, but—and it’s a big one—this is the glue that ties the entire system together. As you can see from the picture, if I need to find my green smoothie recipes, I turn to page 68. My quickie workout plan is on page 45. I’ve got the list of things I need to sell on eBay, Facebook, or Craig’s List on page 101.
The index is a tool, and a fabulous one. It’s completely functional, but neither pretty nor fun. So I use it as intended and when needed and move right along.
My top concern about the bullet journal (as I mentioned here) was how I would stay on top of my direct sales business. I often schedule events up to 12 months in advance, and in my line of work there is a 30% rescheduling rate. This equals lots of what we call “calendar movement” in the industry. In plain English? Always use a pencil or removable labels. Otherwise, your calendar can end up looking very, very ugly.
This problem surrounding advanced planning overwhelmed my thoughts—both during the day and interrupting my sleep at night—for over a week. I read Kara Benz’s post on various ways to do advanced planning in the bullet journal. Even though I found the Calendex system visually attractive, none of the options listed sounded just right.
I’d almost decided to dedicate the first 12 spreads of my bujo to traditional calendar pages when I stumbled across a blog called Revolution of Love. Bobbi had come up with a brilliant idea:
“The one thing I missed about a traditional planner was having calendars of the entire year to keep track of future events and appointments. To make up for this, I made simple calendars that I cut out and washi taped to the last pages of my BuJo. As the months pass I can remove the paper calendar easily with the washi and still use the blank page for writing.”
Well, duh. Why didn’t I think of that? Rather than reinvent the wheel, I downloaded the pages Bobbi provided and washi taped them into the back of my Lleuchturm 1917. Boom.
Now that we are well into May, the one thing I wish I’d done differently is leave extra pages open in the back to add the first few months of 2017. It’s not an impossible remedy—I just have to sit down and re-position June-December of this year.
As I schedule jewelry shows, receive wedding invitations, set up doctor appointments, and add My Guy’s vacation schedule into future months, I flip to the back of my bujo to do so. Then, a day or two before the upcoming month (let’s go with May, shall we?), I remove the printed calendar page and use it to create my monthly spread on the next available page in my bujo.
In all honesty, my monthly view is nothing like what you’ll find at bulletjournal.com. Ryder created a vertical monthly log, which you can read about on the website under “getting started.” And even though I knew this vertical layout wouldn’t work for me, I still gave it a shot. When will I learn to trust my intuition? That lasted, oh, about two days.
I love new beginnings. There’s something amazingly fresh about a new year, new season, and with the bullet journal, you get to celebrate newness every month, and even every single day!
Let’s get hypothetical here and pretend that it is April 29th or so. In a perfect world, I’d dedicate an hour to set up the first few pages of May, focusing on the traditional monthly calendar. But who, may I ask, lives in that perfect world?
Unless this date happens to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, chances are my set up will take place in various sittings. But at the end of the day, here’s what happens:
First, I take 5-10 minutes to draw in my calendar and mileage grid. Because I’m self-employed, tracking mileage is quintessentially important. We’re talking thousands of dollars back in my pocket each year. So I love the spread I’ve created here, where I can track mileage on the same page as my monthly view.
Since my current Jeep has a wonky dashboard (soon to be remedied), I jot down my travels in the far right column, then come back and enter the actual mileage at a later time. Thank God for Google Maps, right?
I like to fold washi tape over the long edge of the left page. This way I can easily find my monthly view as I’m flipping through my journal. Plus, it gives me a color theme to work with for my spread. This month I’ve gone with rainbows and pink.
Because I’m highly visual and love color, I’ve added some stickers to this page and try to include at least one photo of loved ones. Here I’ve placed a pic of my kiddos on the 8th in honor of Mother’s Day.
After stickers, I migrate all birthdays and events/commitments from my calendar in the back to the new spread. May is generally a light month for us, as different responsibilities are wrapping up. Memorial Day weekend throws a wrench in my work schedule, which leaves me a lot more time to breathe before summer strikes.
After my monthly spread, I also create a memories page and a tracker page, where I check in with myself to see how I’m doing on certain things like wake-up times, devotions with the kids, drinking water, exercising, posting to Instagram, etc. Each month Kara at Boho Berry creates a new printable tracker if you don’t want to create your own. Once you’re on her mailing list, she’ll let you know when it’s ready for download. #handy
I don’t believe Ryder’s original bullet journal system included a weekly spread, but I knew I needed a place for my weekly brain dump. I toyed with a few different layouts before stumbling across an Instagram photo by (once again) Kara. After thinking through her layout and playing around with a few ideas, I decided that I needed my spread to give me four things:
- An overview of my schedule and deadlines
- A place to list my tasks for the week
- A place to jot notes for future planning
- A notes section to capture everything that pops into my head that week
This spread gets created on Saturday or Sunday evening each week, and I immediately plug in all appointments on the far left column.
Before filling in the tasks column, I flip back through the previous week to see what didn’t get accomplished. If the task is still necessary, I migrate it to the new list. I also enter task items from my list of recurring weekly tasks.
The future and notes columns remain blank until I need them throughout the coming week.
Ok, yes, I’m a little fangirl about Kara, but she is so wise when it comes to managing your dailies. I tried—seriously, I tried so hard!—not to have my dailies look just like hers, with the time tracker and headers, but the girl is flat out brilliant. So I quit fighting and succumbed to benefiting from her wisdom.
Every night before going to bed, I lay out my list for the following day. First I create my time tracker:
Now, please hold your laughter. When I first saw the time tracker, I thought, “Ooh, pretty! Ummmm…what’s the point?”
So. many. points.
For me, the time tracker helps me assess how much time I actually have available to work. The color coding system I use is:
- Blue = sleep
- Yellow = morning routine
- Orange = activities away from home with the kids or man
- Green = working at home
- Pink = away from home alone, for either work or fun
When I start the planning routine with my time tracker, it helps me be more realistic in creating a daily task list. For example, on Wednesdays during the school year we are out all morning, and although I do work at home from 1-6:30 that afternoon, I know that a power nap will probably be necessary. I also know that saving mundane tasks for that afternoon is best, as my creative juices will be low.
Enough about the time tracker.
My second step is to add the date, which I try to keep creative, and then I add the weather. Why the weather, you ask? Because it helps me plan ahead for my clothes, shoes, the kids’ outfits, and even our activities. I don’t watch or listen to the news if I can help it (no judgement please. My Guy keeps me informed.), so this is my reminder to find out the forecast.
Finally, I begin my list. First I plug in whatever is urgent, such as paying a bill or making a phone call. Then, based on the time I see is available, I begin plugging in tasks from the weekly task list.
I’ve never officially created a key for my symbols, but here’s one for your benefit. Keep in mind, your key can be whatever works for you.
Ryder has an entire key for the original bullet journal system, but it’s best to keep this simple and only use what’s necessary for you. It might take some time to find your groove—it certainly did for me.
One thing I do that’s not bullet-journal-pure is moving items to the following day if I don’t complete them. Technically, you leave an item where it is either until completed or until you turn the page. However, I know me and know that I need to migrate my tasks daily. If I leave a task behind, I’ll most likely forget about it.
A note about dailies: one of my sisters asked me what I do if I miss a day. You know what? Nothing happens. Period. Well, except that you save paper. But if you need a day off, planning free, take it. This is your book.
Odds and ends
As I mentioned in this post, the beautiful thing about the bullet journal is that you always have enough paper for whatever you need. So if my day calls for a positive quote, notes from a class, a new collection, or anything else under the sun, I just add it where I am and, if necessary, note it in the index.
How my bullet journal helps manage my business and blog:
Everything up to this point is pretty basic to the bullet journal system. Sure, I’ve done a bit of tweaking to fit my style and needs, but for the most part? Anyone could use what I’ve shared.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I worried that the bullet journal system wouldn’t work with a busy direct sales calendar. Thanks to Bobbi’s calendars, I’ve been able to make it work.
Then my friend Jen asked how I kept track of hostess care and potential new recruits.
What the what? Oh yeah, I need to do that, right?
Her question spurred me on to create a spread called the Home Show Tracker. My particular business is a home party business, but this tracker could be tweaked to work with online parties, catalog events, or whatever you need.
Every week I remind myself to do my 1-2-3, which means touching base with hostesses who are one, two, and three weeks out. But my home show tracker also reminds me to create invitations, send hostess packets, send a thank you note, touch base with customers after their jewelry has arrived, and so on.
As I mentioned earlier, I track my mileage on my monthly views, but you could easily tweak the tracker to include an area for mileage. When it comes to notes from phone calls, things hostesses and I talk about at shows, etc., I write this information on my daily page as it takes place. I can easily add the page number with the info to the calendar at the back of my book, where I’ve recorded their show date. Or, as you can see on the first line of the tracker, I wrote 85 to signify that my notes regarding the location for Jasmine’s party are on page 85.
As far as the blog goes, I keep a separate bullet journal for the Scattered Fashionista. However, I’m finding that I really do prefer to keep most of my notes in my main bujo. Because of this, I list things like…
-Future post ideas
-Blog task lists
-Notes on my weekly blog to-dos
…all in my main bullet journal. I’m toying with the idea of merging the two journals the next time around, as I really do feel like the system could be streamlined by doing so. Again, that’s what rocks about the bullet journal: you mold it to fit your needs.
How my bullet truly becomes a journal:
In my comparison post on the Bullet Journal vs. the Erin Condren Life Planner, I highlighted a few of my favorite collections. You can click over there to see pictures, but here are ideas for your own possible collections:
- Books to read
- Movies to watch
- Places to see
- Recurring lists
- Notes from podcasts or books
- Doodles (you knew I had to throw that in there, right?)
This book is yours. Do what makes you happy.
A Memory Book
This will be showing my age, but I was seriously into the scrapbooking craze back in the…late 90s? That lasted me all of three scrapbooks. My poor kids don’t even have baby books. Each year I create a digital photo album and print enough copies for everyone. Those types of projects overwhelm me by their enormity.
Then I saw how incredibly easy it would be to make my bujo a memory book. There’s nothing seriously deep or wordy in my book, but I jot notes, print photos, and doodle memories in my bullet journal. It really is my life on paper. Ten years down the road, this might provide a better picture of who I was than my daily journal entries. (Which, by the way, are generally written pre-caffeination. Hmmm.)
If you haven’t yet made the leap to try the bullet journal, do it. Grab the closest blank book you own and give it a shot. Links to my favorite bujo tools are listed in this post, but honestly? All you need is a notebook and a pen.
And if you decide to go buy a special book for your first journal, listen closely: dive right in. My first several pages (or 20) aren’t pretty. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and you’ll never know how this could impact your life until you’ve tried it.
If you work in the direct sales industry, it’s your lucky day! You can download a customizable copy of my Home Show Tracker on the password-protected Goodies portion of the site. Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll be sent the super secret password. (And, if you’re like me and forget your passwords all. the. time., go ahead and resubscribe to trick the system.) Enjoy!
So what do you think? Have you given the bullet journal a try? Are you ready to dive in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.