What I learned about bullet journaling: tips, recommended tools and mental health

My bullet journal journey, review, thoughts, mental health and tips

I started bullet journaling in August. Before I started, I have been trying many ways to keep my work tasks organized because my to-dos are starting to stack up and my brain has reached its capacity to able to keep up with it. Most importantly, listing out my tasks has helped my “mental health” a lot. So here, I am going over about the way I felt before start bullet journaling, how I progressed with my journal, how it helped my mental health, the tools I recommend and what I’ve learned while researching on agenda’s and journals. And hopefully this will help you in some way.

– Uh, what? “Mental health”? –

I always had the habit to use an agenda during school, but all I had to do was to insert all assignments’ due dates and work out my to-dos for them accordingly. So I always knew what I got to do and feel accomplished as I progress in each assignment.

When I graduated and started working full-time, I suddenly do not know how to get organized. At my work, I have a lot of “soft” deadlines with a lot of last-minute tasks as well. As time goes on, I am getting more responsibilities and more “urgent” tasks stacking up. And It gave me a feeling of a never-ending to-do list. I end up feeling tired and stressed every day. At some point, at the end of a working day, I couldn’t even recall what I have done and that leads to some kind of overwhelming feeling. It felt like I haven’t done anything while I acknowledged that I didn’t slack off either. Hence, it makes me worried about my own performance. It’s all a vicious cycle.

I know that I am the kind of person who liked to do things that are more project-oriented and seeing the end product. That is what motivates me the most. And what I do as full-time is more of an on-going thing versus to my graphic design side projects that I could see the final product when delivering to my clients. Therefore, I discovered that I should have a task list that I can cross off every time I complete a task. That way, I can see the full picture by the end of the day. It tells me: even if the project is not close to being finished, at least you have made steps towards the final product.

– Before I started bullet journaling –

I first started with an environmentally friendly method and tried to use my Outlook’s Calendar to schedule my daily tasks. However, not only that the time I set for each task is too little, I will always need to move the tasks for later. And knowing that I have so many urgent things to do… well at some point I just gave up on the hassle of always delay the tasks every time. Some of them could still keep moving for another 2 weeks. All about priorities!

I also find myself being lazy, in the sense where some things I need to do are so small tasks that I would skip the process of putting it in the calendar. The reason is, everyone says technology should save time. Well, at least not in the case with my method with Outlook. I will have to go through so many steps in order to put in ONE task… I counted, I will need to do literally 8 mouse clicks/steps from opening the window to save it as a calendar event. I mean, mind as well not register it and finish the task and move on right? Well, it just kind of coming back to step one. No to-do list.

– Why I prefer the pen & papers method better? –

Since University, I always knew that I prefer taking notes with pen and paper than typing on my laptop (mind you, I would get distracted by my typing because I want to have everything so perfectly typed). And in fact, I write faster than typing it all out anyway. So I started taking scrap paper and write my to-do’s at work but I will eventually lose it… We are starting to get somewhere but not quite there yet.

– Getting a planner? Make sure to find the perfect one –

bullet_journaling_novemberI was looking for a yearly agenda and hoping that I can find one to my liking. While I was browsing the web, I came across someone mentioning that while buying a planner/agenda, it is best to find one with layouts that suits you best. Most agenda has generic content, such as a calendar of the month and with a weekly planner with lines going across each page. What if I want to take small notes for my tasks? What if I want a column called ongoing to-dos instead of the “Notes” column? I soon noticed that the chances for me to find the right planner will be impossible. Then I remembered that my boyfriend told me about “bullet journaling” as he comments on how I like to have a list for most of my things.

When buying a planner/agenda, it’s best to look for the layout that suits your work flow. Otherwise, bullet journal works best.

– What I learned during my research on Bullet Journals and practiced for 3 months. –

Ever since I started my bullet journal, it really helped me with my mental state. I find myself a lot more productive, helped me to stay focus, have a clear vision to what to expected to do next, feeling accomplished and happier each day.

Here are a few tips for you when you are thinking of starting bullet journaling:

  • Don’t be afraid: A lot of people gets intimidated by the beautiful journals on Youtube or Instagram. People get creative, they do crafting and doodles in their journal. Indeed they look very pretty. But don’t be scared and don’t stop trying, in the end, it’s your to-dos and not your art book.
  • You need to experiment, find your own ways: There is no perfect journal. The purpose of a bullet journal is that it gives you the freedom on how you want your planner to be. That’s why they are blank pages. I started with using 1 spread for the whole month. On the left page is a calendar spread and the right page is a page containing: my ongoing projects, follow-ups, ideas and small/urgent tasks. It worked well for me because all I had to do is to open the spread for the whole month’s snapshot. When it’s time for a new month, I transfer all the things that haven’t been done to the next.
    After 2 months on doing the same method, I realized that I never use the calendar spread. I also noticed that weekly spread with my daily tasks would suit my work better. So I went ahead and use the weekly method including a to-do tab with all the task that needs to be done and a small follow-ups area on the right-hand side. Each morning, I would spend 5mins to plan my day, by transferring the un-done ones from the previous day to today.
  • Ticking off your finished tasks is the most satisfying feeling: There’s nothing more pleasant than striking off each done tasks. For me, it’s a motivation because I feel accomplish and moving on to something else. During my research, if you are using your journal for motivation, it is best to write all the task you did, even if they are big or small tasks or last-minute adds. Even if you need to take a shower, write it down. At the end of the day, you will see how much you have done and reminding that even a shower is something good you did to yourself.
  • Find your own ways to check off your tasks: Crossing them off is one of them. So far what works best for me is to use legends or colour coding. For instance, I would colour a whole square when the task is completed, empty when I haven’t work on yet and a half to indicate it’s not complete yet.
    My bullet journal journey, review, thoughts, mental health and tips - week Spread design
  • Get to know yourself better, knowing if you are over or underestimating your time. I always like to make a big to-do list at the start of the week. Well at a reasonable length, I’m not superwoman either. Like that, it will help me to understand how many tasks I could accomplish on average for each day. Now, I found out that I can complete 5-7 tasks a day but on some occasions, less. And by making a bigger list on a Monday, it will help me to plan my week already.

–  What I bought for my bullet journal & recommendations –

Bullet journaling? All you need is a pen and a notebook. That simple and it works. But here is what I prefer for bullet journaling and it might help you kickstart your bullet journal:

  • Dotted or squared pages notebook: Those are the best for bullet journaling. Since the concept is to freestyle your own agenda, the dotted or squared pages will help you as a guide when you draw in your design. It looks very subtle compared to lined pages and won’t distract your drawings. I got mine on Amazon. Oh and also, for those who like to keep small receipts or small pieces note papers, this notebook features a pocket at the end of it. Super convenient!
  • A black ballpoint pen or fine tip marker: I love writing in black ink especially in fine tips markers. I always buy the ones from Sharpie.
  • Pastel coloured highlighters: I really like the pastel highlighters colour scheme. Something different than standard fluorescent ones and it adds to the aesthetic. I got the Zebra Mildliners. They are great because it has both highlighter and marker felt tip. So you don’t have to get new sets of markers.
  • Other pastel markers, if you need more colours: This is optional but I bought it to have more colour selection. Tombow has one of the best markers. The Tombow Twintone Marker Set 12 in Pastel also have a double tip with a fine tip of 0.3mm.
  • A pack of fine markers in different colours: I got the Maped Graph’Peps Felt-Tip Pens of 0.4mm tip of 20 colours. Just because I like it a little more colourful.
    bullet journaling tools fine line marker pack Maped Graph Prep

There are so many other things you can get to decorate your journal. You can get yourself decorative tape, stickers and even watercolour paint!

Hope this lengthy blog post helped to understand more about bullet journaling. I totally recommend this method for your planner. Whether it only writing down a few tasks on a random page or having a completely decorated journal, I think it is a great habit to have. Bullet journalling definitely helps my stress and time management a lot!

If I have anything to share about my bullet journal journey, I will definitely write more post! Remember to take care of oneself, your mental health is more important than you think. Yet, it is something that I need to improve on as well.

– Melissa xo’


  1. There is such a noticeable diffrence between then and now in your journals! That’s so good, I have seen the Mildliners so many places, I think I am going to add them to my Christmas list!;) xo


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