I posted this picture of my bullet journal on instagram yesterday, and everybody kept commenting that they wanted to buy it, which tells me that those people don’t understand the basic concept of a bullet journal. That’s ok, neither did I once.
The beautiful thing about a bullet journal is that it doesn’t have a fixed format. It evolves weekly and even daily, depending on what you need from it. It solves the classic journal problem – a problem that I am intimately familiar with – which is the problem of deciding you’ve found THE perfect journal format that will work for you forever, printing or buying it in bulk, and then realizing you want to change it days, weeks, or months later. And then you repeat those two steps over, and over, and over, and over… forever. After doing that for almost two years I finally learned about bullet journals. Finally, my journal reformatting struggle ended.
Bullet journaling has a reputation of being really cute and fancy and creative and that leads many people to think that bullet journaling is only for people who are creative and have beautiful handwriting. THAT IS A BIG LIE.
Anyone can be a successful bullet journaler. To do, love, and be good at bullet journaling, you need three things:
- A journal (with dot pages or grid pages)
- A pen
- 5 minutes somewhere in your day to devote to your journaling routine
This is a bullet journal.
If you do a google search for bullet journaling, you will quickly be under the false impression that you also need the following:
Pretty colorful pens of all different shapes and thicknesses A special case to put all your supplies in A fancy calligraphy pen Stickers and decorative tape A pocket sized ruler Glitter pens and scrapbooking materials To be a crafty, creative person Knowledge of all the bullet-journal specific terminology like “dailies” and “weeklies” and “future log” and “migrating” and whatever else bullet journaling enthusiasts have made up to intimidate you Beautiful handwriting and an interest in hand lettering and calligraphy 5 hours every day for writing in and decorating your bullet journal
I’m just gonna go ahead and cross out everything on that list. You don’t need any of that. Unless you really WANT any of that, then be my guest.
Some people get really into the creative aspect of bullet journaling and are serious bullet journal nerds. Because those people make pretty things, the pretty things are a majority of what you find on the internet. I admit, I am a little bit of a bullet journal nerd, and sometimes my journal is pretty. Often times it’s not. (But that’s not what I post online, which is exactly the point I’m trying to make about selection bias). That said, none of that fancy stuff is necessary. It’s just fun and frills for crafty people who enjoy that kind of thing. If that’s not your thing, don’t do it.
Anyway, I’ve figured out a thing or two about how to incorporate my bullet journaling practice into my Bright Line Eating program.
So, rather than selling anyone a fish, I thought I’d write a post teaching them how to fish.
Components of my BLE Bullet Journal
If you have any experience with BLE, you’ll know that there are a million different ways in which you are supposed to interact with a journal. You’ll notice that this method combines a lot of them. And also that it’s flexible. That’s the beauty of it.
At first, I used to have all my work and life stuff in there too, like to-do lists, work tasks, grocery lists, etc.
I didn’t like that, it got too overwhelming. I decided to make this journal my special little BLE journal, my personal, intimate, sacred little world that stays separate from rest of the more mundane stuff in my life.
So, here are the consistent components of my BLE Bullet Journal:
- Nightly checklist (writing down and tracking daily commitments)
- Habit tracking (tracking things I’m curious about but not committed to one way or the other)
- Daily notes, reflections, & gratitudes
- Weekly goals
- Food journal
My daily journaling routine takes about 5 minutes.
Every night I do the following:
- Complete my nightly checklist and record the day’s data
- Write down a couple of quick notes, reflections, and gratitudes
- Make the heading for tomorrow’s entry (day of the week and date)
- Write down tomorrow’s meals
Every Sunday, I cozy up with my journal and spend about 10-15 minutes reflecting on the next week’s commitments and goals, and I create the next week’s nightly checklist.
Content & Format
Here is how I think about each component of my journal, along with a few formatting ideas. Some aspects of my formatting change from week to week (if something needs an adjustment to work better for me) but many things stay the same week to week because they are working well.
- I record two things at the end of each day:
- Notes from the day
- Notes: A note can be anything I want to note – how hungry I was that day, whether or not I had any cravings, emotions from the day, something I did that day, thoughts or ideas that I might want to remember, it can be anything. I use a little dot point for notes. Sometimes I just write one thing, and sometimes there are lots of things.
- Gratitude: One or more things I am grateful for from the day. I use a little heart symbol to denote a gratitude. A pretty simple and lovely practice.
- This is pretty self explanatory. It’s Bright Line Eating 101. Write down your meals the night before. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nothing in between.
- Write down what you are actually committed to eating, not what you think you might eat. This is a big personal integrity piece. If I don’t know what I am going to eat because I’m planning to go out or be at a potluck or something, I write “no sugar no flour.” Sometimes I write down BLM (bright line meal) and sometimes I write down exact quantities of food in ounces. Just make sure that whatever you write, it’s a true and realistic commitment.
- I create my nightly checklist for the week on Sunday night, and use it to record my data and recall my commitments every night.
- These are your DAILY commitments.
- Consider: What are you really actually truly committed to doing every day this week? Be REALISTIC. These aren’t your fantasy world hopes and dreams. These are things you are actually devoting effort and energy to right now, this week. This is the section where you want the highest integrity.
- Write each commitment down along with some way of checking a box each day. It’s just a yes or no situation. Don’t get too fancy about it.
- Don’t put it in the nightly checklist list if you aren’t actually intending to do it. These are the promises you are making to yourself. If you put “maybe” kinds of things in there, the nightly checklist loses its power and you will watch yourself breaking your promises to yourself, which is the opposite of what you want to do. Save that stuff for habit tracking (below).
- Allow these things to change from week to week, and take the time at the end of each week to reflect and re-evaluate your commitments.
- These are the things I’m curious about but not committed to one way or the other. What separates these items from my nightly checklist items is whether or not I feel a loss of personal integrity (or disappointment in myself) if I don’t check the box. For me, these are things like caffeine, alcohol, and eating out at a restaurant.
- Tracking this kind of data helps me notice patterns in my behavior and decide if I’m ok with them or not. For example, I might not notice I’m eating out four times per week unless I see four checked boxes, and then I can have some awareness and get real with myself.
- If something I’m tracking in this category starts to escalate and become an issue, I will temporarily move it to the nightly checklist if I choose to reign it in or abstain from it for a little while. Otherwise, it’s just something that stays here to keep an eye on. For example, sometimes I feel fine about my coffee habit, and sometimes I don’t. So it often bounces between my habit tracking list and my nightly checklist.
- These are any goals that are flexible in terms of when they happen during the week. I usually have a weekly goal to attend one yoga class and one cycling class each week. Sometimes I put projects in there, or any self-care or hobby activities that I want to make sure I attend to.
A Note on Style and Formatting
There are so many ways you could format and organize entries in a bullet journal. If you are excited and inspired, google bullet journals. If you are intimidated, whatever you do, don’t google bullet journals. Create something simple, easy, and pleasing to YOU. The only goal is that it is FUNCTIONAL and serves you. Once it’s been serving you for a while, make it as decorative as you want. Or don’t. It’s your journal. Nobody is going to steal it and post it on instagram or a bullet journaling blog.
There are NO rules. If you do go down the google search rabbit hole, just beware of this phenomenon.
So that is what I do, and I love it. And no, I won’t sell you any of my journal pages. If you like them, give it a try yourself! You can do it!
Is there a component of your journaling practice that I didn’t mention? Don’t do it or you’ll be doing bullet journaling wrong. JUST KIDDING. Add things! Remove things! Try stuff! Experiment! Explore! Have fun! Be playful! Cross things out! If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it! Don’t try to be perfect, don’t overthink it, don’t get attached to any particular way of journaling, and don’t take it too seriously. That’s what it’s all about.
If you have any fun journaling ideas or practices, leave a comment, I’d love to hear about them!
Ok fine, I’ll post a few pictures of my actual bullet journal.
Realness warning: The following pictures reflect my real life and the fact that I’m not perfect at things. 🙂
Note: I know, these pictures contain some evidence of the fact that sometimes I eat a little bit of what probably is NYF (not your food) but as you probably know, I’m lower on the Susceptibility Scale, have happily settled into maintenance, and have personalized my program quite a bit. Also the little W/M and FP code is about whether or not I weighed and measured my meal (sometimes I eyeball quantities or use a one plate rule) and whether or not I stuck to my food plan categories (I don’t always do that either, if I eat out for example). My own personal boundaries and standards with my food are quite a bit different than they were when I started BLE. I’ve written a lot about that. But I digress.