The Great Bullet Journal Challenge of 2017: Here’s what 8 creatives can do with a moleskine and a pen

Abby Otting

Senior Content Strategist

Friday, June 30, 2017

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At the beginning of this year, a few of us at Intrinzic decided to take up a bullet journal challenge. Some of us had already been testing the waters of this DIY-take on the classic paper planning systems and others were looking to use it to kickstart their own organization goals. Excited to see how different personality types and skill sets would approach journaling and personal organization, Senior Designer Courtney Morgan and I took on the task of documenting everyone’s progress from January through June.

Who would follow through in maintaining their journals every week? Who would be the most creative? And, most importantly, who would be the most organized? Eight Intrinzic staff members (including Courtney and myself) agreed to open their books and show us what they had created inside.

1 Elaine Zeinner, Content Strategist

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

Before, I would have my work notes and to-do list in one notebook, and personal to-do lists in various places around the house. But with work and three little kids, my head was constantly spinning.

What formats are you using?

The weekly list. Everything in my life is on this page. It’s probably about 20% work and 80% life.

I also have some custom pages, for things like freezer meals (which used to be on a random piece of notebook paper that I kept on the counter), books I want to read, ativities to do with my kids that I would have put on Pinterest and never looked at again.

What worked for you?

I use the bulleted list and then x it out. I don’t like to cross out the to-do items because then I can’t go back and see what it was. I did a diagram of our house because there is so much work we need to do on it and it was good to get it out of my head.

What didn’t work?

Fancy stuff. I bought a bunch of stencils, but I don’t have time for that. I don’t use the index. Or the future logs – my life changes so much and what I was putting in there was so obvious, it wasn’t really helpful. I don’t know the things yet that I would capture in a future log.

Are you going to keep at it?

Yeah! I love it. It keeps me organized and keeps things all in one place. If I’m somewhere waiting for my kids and I’ve got it with me, I can update it in those moments. My journal is organized chaos.

2 Savannah Heekin, Graphic Designer

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

Because of the colored notebooks. I just really wanted the colored notebook.

What formats are you using?

I started out trying some really pretty illustrated formats but I couldn’t keep them up. So now I’m not using any formal format. Now, after our Monday morning traffic meetings, I make a list of projects that I’m working on for the week. And then I have another list of all the meetings that I’m in for the week.

What worked for you?

It’s a great notebook. In the beginning I liked the dot grid to help incorporate interesting artwork, but now I don’t like them. I just need a lined notebook. I can’t write within the dots.

What didn’t work?

Everything. From the beginning – it was too much pressure. As an artist I felt it needed to be beautiful and functional. I found myself writing on the last page of the book in case I messed it up. It became more of a chore than an outlet.

Are you going to keep at it?

Using a notebook? Yes. Writing things down? Yes.

3 Sarah Eisenmann, Associate Design Director

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

To become more organized. To stop procrastinating on things I don’t want to do, but know that I should be doing. I’ll let things go for months if I can get away with it.

What formats are you using?

I keep three separate books: one for personal, one for work, and one for a charity where I volunteer. In my personal book I keep a monthly calendar, priority list and a future log where I capture goals for the month — that last one tends to be where I slack off.

What worked for you?

The monthly calendar and priority list have been super helpful because I'm holding myself accountable to priorities number one and two. Number three usually moves to the next month, but it eventually gets done as it becomes clear that I’m going to have to move it to next month if I don’t complete it.

What didn’t work?

The daily bulleting didn’t work for me. I do that on post it notes and then throw them away. I don’t want to think about them after that day. I love throwing them away!

Are you going to keep at it?

Yeah, now that you’re reminding me of it…I need to get my monthly calendars up to date again. It was helpful. The hardest part is remembering to carry these things around with you.

4 Rob Pasquinucci, Senior PR & Content Strategist

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

I use to use a program called TeuxDeux, but a colleague suggested I try an old-fashioned handwritten to-do list. So I decide to give bullet journaling a try.

What formats are you using?

I make big list of everything I have to do and then break it down by component tasks.I have a section for ongoing to-dos. I also have a fitness tracker I check off when I bike or workout. I was able to tell the doctor at my last appointment how many days a week I exercise.

What worked for you?

It has kept me more on top of things. I have less oh sh*ts on Friday when someone reminds me of something that fell off my radar.

What didn’t work?

I have a hard time capturing the unexpected things that pop up during the week, and “soft” items that aren’t set in stone – I don’t always think to put them in the calendar.

Are you going to keep at it?

Yeah, the weekly thing, definitely. It gets a little chaotic when I try to incorporate notes from meetings, I could use some help keeping those better organized.

5 Sarah Fry, Design Director

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

I had a goal this year to move away from digital dependency. I felt so dependent on my phone and living a little more in the analog world was appealing. The bullet journal was also an organizational opportunity.

What formats are you using?

I had full-year calendar, monthly and weekly calendar formats, as well as goals, and personal and work to-do lists.

What worked for you?

The to-do list. It was maintainable. My to-dos used to be on post-its on my computer. Now I just have an ongoing list.

What didn’t work?

The daily stuff didn’t work for me because it felt like no one else was operating this way. Everyone else was using digital calendars and this felt really duplicative. The world operates via phone or computer.

Are you going to keep at it?

I am going to keep at the to-dos — I find them helpful. Unless something’s been on there for 2 months. Then I feel like a failure!

6 Michelle Kolenz, Account Manager

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

I was already doing all the pieces, just separately. The bullet journal brought them together for me. I had a running list on my desk for work, and personal items were all in my digital calendar. The bullet journal aligns my professional with my personal.

What formats are you using?

I keep a weekly tracker and a yearly tracker of holidays, PTO days, and friends’ birthdays. I created a 2017 goals list, but there are only 2 goals on it and I’ve done one.

What worked for you?

The to-do lists helped me prioritize for the week and change on an as-needed basis. Before, these were just a running list, now I group to-dos by client and project. It takes me about 20 minutes to set up the week. This helps me in weekly status meetings. I also record inspirational quotes – they keep me focused on what’s important during the week. And I have a page for passwords.

What didn’t work?

The monthly tracker. The full month layout looks nice, but I was just using it for big meetings, and they move around too much. It didn’t really show me where we were in the work or track deadlines because they frequently shift.

Are you going to keep at it?

I would like to, It’s been very helpful to me.

7 Courtney Morgan, Senior Designer

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

I found the idea in an Buzzfeed article and I thought it sounded like a good way to condense all my notebooks and lists into one place. I always had these ideas to start notebooks for separate things, but I never did it because I just couldn’t translate it into a useful tool. This seemed to answer that for me.

What formats are you using?

I’m using the year-at-a-glance, the month-at-a-glance and weekly.

I followed formats for the year-at-a-glance, but I made my own template for monthly and weekly pages — it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

What worked for you?

I like to be able to sit down and get a feeling for what my week is going to be like. I always look at the monthly to-do to see if there’s a light week coming up where I might be able to take care of something that I normally wouldn’t have time for or that I’ve been putting off forever. I keep track of my time for work in here, too — it takes up a full spread every week.

What didn’t work?

I originally tried to do the daily, but that was too daunting. I track daily to-dos in my weekly spread. I was doing cute little design nubbins when I started, too, but I’ve stopped because I can’t keep it up.

Are you going to keep at it?

Yeah, I think so. I might switch my template up after seeing what some of the other Intrinzic bullet journal-ers are doing, though. One thing that others are doing is keeping a place for work to-dos. I’m still keeping those on separate post-its and would like to find a way to incorporate them into here.

8 Abby Otting, Senior Content Strategist

Why did you decide to start a bullet journal?

I’ve been doing a bullet journal for a little over three years, but mine had always been the super-basic, day-to-day bulleted list. With the challenge, I was hoping to incorporate more of a calendar format into the bullet style.

What formats are you using?

I now use a weekly 2-page spread that merges daily appointments with the bullet action items.

What worked for you?

Setting my journal up one time at the beginning of the week is more efficient and helps me plan better than the day-to-day lists I used to make. The challenge also made me consider different ways to use the journal, and I’ve started using it for my daily morning pages. So, I’m actually journaling in my journal. Brilliant, I know.

What didn’t work?

Sketching and illustration do not come naturally to me, so any time I tried to go off the grid with wild design other than my own handwriting and straight lines, it was pretty much a disaster. You will never see me posting my journal to Instagram. Having a picture here on this blog is more than enough.

Are you going to keep at it?

Absolutely. Three years and counting, so why stop now?

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