Over the years — from high school on, really — I’ve always tried to keep myself organized. The key word there is tried. Whether the need for organization sprouted from the fact that I had a million things going or because of my slight OCD, I’m not sure, but inevitably, my attempts at keeping myself organized would fail.

I bought calendars and planners and even just used lists in various forms, and I did things this way for years. Some of these methods would stick for a month or two at best, while others were basically DOA. I’d waffle between lists and planners and — once smartphones arrived — trying keep everything crammed into the woefully inadequate calendar on whatever phone I was using at the time. Nothing worked like I imagined it would. I wrote day or times down incorrectly or would forget to write anything down at all. Each time I’d try a method for the second, third or fifth time, I’d always end up right back at square one.

Enter the Bullet Journal.

What is a Bullet Journal?

The bullet journal is a basic organizational system developed by a lovely human being by the name of Ryder Carroll. It involves two items: a notebook and a pen. The system operates on a basic premise that includes an index, a future log, collections, and daily logs. The general idea of this journal is for it to be a sort of “catch-all” for your ideas, meetings, events, and pretty much anything else you want to put in it. For a fuller and much more detailed explanation of the bullet journal method, check out the official site here.

What I Use for My Bullet Journal

First things first. My tools.

For a while, I used the notebooks that Ryder suggested — the Leuchtturm 1917 (which you can get from a variety of places). They are well-made and the paper is high-quality, standing up to fountain pens, markers, and anything else you could throw at it. I definitely recommend them, and you can even get the official Bullet Journal variety from Ryder’s site (linked to above), as well as places like Barnes & Noble.

Recently, I decided to make the switch to a binder and loose-leaf paper type of system. I use this organizer/notebook from JCT and fill it with this loose-leaf A5 dot-grid paper. The organizer/notebook is sturdy and of good quality and I like the elastic closure method. Inside, there’s a small zipper pocket with a clear window. Some people keep their phones here, but I use it for a small stencil/ruler and one or two extra pens. The paper is a cream color and is double-sided. It feels a little on the thing side, but stands up to the pens I use and at $10 for 100 sheets, I thought it was worth a try.

As far as writing utensils go, I use a few different items. Most of the time,  I use either these Sharpie Pens or this specific Sakura Pigma Micron Pen. Occasionally, I’ll use this gel pen from Pentel. Because all of these pens are fine-tipped and dark, I use them to create my layouts (everything from the monthly overview to my own custom collections). Outlines, titles, etc. are done with these pens, then when I fill in my details (events, work schedule, etc.), I’ve recently started using pencil rather than ink. For those who are curious, I use this Twist Bullet Pencil (in purple) from Metal Shop. Oh, and I use pencil because my schedule changes quite often during the week and things get rescheduled and moved around. It’s gotten easier (and has kept my bullet journal cleaner) to be able to erase, move, and rewrite as opposed to just crossing things out. Pages can get pretty messy sometimes!

These are just the items that I’ve come to find the most useful for my needs. Perhaps you’ll fall in love with something else, and that’s totally okay.

How I Use My Bullet Journal

My bullet journal is more than just a calendar and a to-do list. It’s a catch-all and I’d be lost without it. I have the index and future log, of course. Rather than Ryder’s daily logs, I use a weekly layout, which has plenty of room for everything I need to write down and/or remember each week. At the end of each weekly layout are three small dot-graphs that allow me to plot and track my water intake, my coffee intake, and my sleep for each day of that week.

Beyond that, I have a few other pages that I keep on a monthly basis. These include a word-count tracker for my writing, a gratitude tracker, and a tracker for books I’ve read. Some of the collections I keep (and usually transfer between bullet journals) include a to-read book list, meal planning/ingredient lists, research/planning notes for my podcast, and the occasional page or two of interview preparations. In past journals, I’ve had travel lists and plans, gift lists and so many other things I can’t remember them.

Like I said: a catch-all. It truly is. Everything I feel I need to write down is put in my bullet journal. I don’t leave my house without it.

A Last Word…

I would never tell you that you have to be organized. I would also never tell you that a bullet journal will solve all of your problems.

But here’s the thing… It just might.

You won’t know until you give it a try, though. Go ahead. Check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.