I am a list person. The habit was instilled in me at a young age. My father, a brilliant lawyer, always kept a folded sheet of yellow legal paper in his left shirt pocket. He would pull out the paper regularly to jot a note or task. As children, my siblings and I often wondered if the notes about us meant good or bad news. But, the image of his list making is seared in my mind.
I have tried keeping every kind of list/calendar possible — a large leather calendar with notes pages, a notecard holder in my jacket pocket with 3×5 index cards filled with bulleted lists, scraps of paper, mini-notebooks in my bag — you name it, and I have tried the list-making technique. That is, until four years ago when author Kate Messner blogged about the magic of the bullet journal method. If you have not heard of bullet journals, here is a quick video from creator Ryder Carroll explaining the system.
Now, much of my life is organized in an A5 Leuchtturm 1917 journal. My bullet journal offers a space to keep bulleted lists, but I can also dedicate a couple pages to planning my next teaching unit or brainstorming with colleagues. The heart of the system is the index at the front. If I start a page of mentor texts in September, I can add to that page or create another page later in the notebook for more mentor texts. In the index, I add all the pages with mentor texts and I can easily find my work.
In between note sessions, calendars and doodles, I keep my daily lists. Boxes next to an item means I still need to accomplish the task. A filled in box is pure joy — who doesn’t love to fill in a checklist when a job is finished? Once I established the routine of daily list creation in the bullet journal, I found myself limiting tasks to one’s that mattered for that day. I will usually start a page of “Things to Do” for items that don’t have to be done that day or lack a defined timeline. Honestly, I found that my weekly and daily spreads change based on how busy I am or the best way to visualize my day or week at the moment.
There are whole bullet journal communities you can follow on Instagram to get ideas for organizing your journal. But, the key is to make the journal work for you! If you want to make it pretty, get out markers and brush pens…if you want to make it messy, go for it. I average one bullet journal each school year, and one in the summer when my mind is brimming with plans, free writes and story ideas.
Here are a few pages from my current bullet journal to give you an idea: