Rocket Journal: My (More Robust) Bullet Journal

I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system since September of last year. Starting in January, I separated my journals out into two – one for work, and one for personal. I found this to be extremely important for being able to separate those two parts of my life. For one, I won’t fret about home to-dos while I’m at work (or home to-dos while at work), and for another, I can format each in a different way to fit how I need it to work at home and at work.

I’ve also found that there are multiple additions to the Bullet Journal in general that really help me – especially making bigger annual goals that eventually break down into smaller month/week/day chunks.

Here’s how I’ve broken down the differences.

What Stayed the Same

The main part of the journal that I’ll never get rid of is page numbers and indexing. I know when I’m going to have to refer to something again, and it’s easy to jot it down in the index so that later in the year you don’t have to flip through everything to find it.

For the most part I know that I’m going to need the Year to Month to Week to Day goal breakdowns. In fact, they’re implementing something very similar to that at work already, so doing this myself will help me keep track of that. It also helps to keep me from being overwhelmed by my bigger year goals. This year I want to completely redo my wardrobe as I have lost enough weight that everything is baggy on me. To do that all at once is overwhelming, so I can break that down into researching, donating old clothes, saving up, and buying a few items at a time, instead of feeling like I have to go on a shopping spree.

Another particularly helpful part is still the random lists of things to do, find, research, or just remember. Gift ideas, articles to write, documentation to update… some things don’t fit in the schedule no matter what, but you should be able to have the freedom to add them in various places. Having the lists scattered throughout the journal isn’t an issue if you have the index, so feel free to jot down a new list whenever you need to.

What Changed

Personal Journal

Work Journal

The Journal

I prefer a hard-cover Moleskine for this – specifically the large, ruled version. I’m currently using a red one; while I generally prefer black notebooks, I’ve found that it’s important to be able to just find it quickly, and it’s hard to miss a bright red notebook. I prefer ruled to blank or grid because I’m more often writing longer entries of a few lines, and I’m just never good at keeping things straight.

For my work journal, I wanted to have a dotted notebook, similar to the original Bullet Journal. Moleskine sells soft-cover dotted notebooks as well, and I’ve found this to be the perfect solution for me. I don’t need a hard cover at work because I’m almost always at a desk or table and having a built-in writing surface isn’t as important. I also prefer the grid for this since I’m more often sketching something out or tracing out a larger grid. The dots are much lighter than the lines (or the grids in the hardcover), so it’s easier to be flexible with.

The Index

The index of my personal journal is already filling up. I find it important to get granular with this because my thoughts are really scattered throughout. I also pre-populated the months in the index at the beginning – whether this is a good idea or not remains to be seen.

The symbol key is in the upper right of the first page. There are a couple extra symbols on top of the original suggested Bullet Journal key, as well as swapping symbols out from the original. I left space blank below in case I need to add more to the key.

I simplified my work journal index, didn’t pre-populate it with months, and changed the symbol key both in what symbols are used as well as how granular it is. I’m basically doing an A/B test here to find out what will work best for me as time goes on.

The Year

I am actually not happy at all with how I set up this year’s event index. It’s hard to guess how many spaces each month will need, so I don’t want to leave blank spaces, but it will always bother me if my event calendar here is out of order as I add more.

Next personal journal that I do, it will be formatted like the work journal.

This is the way to go, in my opinion. There’s space for each month and it makes it a lot clearer at a glance. There’s still the chance of having event dates out of order, but it’s a lot less frustrating than having months out of order.

The Month

The month index as a list is easier to do than the year index. In the Moleskine lined journal, conveniently, there are 31 lines. Each day gets a line, starting with day of the week and day of the month. First thing I put in are bills, in red. I cross them off as I pay them, especially if I pay them early so I remember what’s still due. After that, events go in in pencil so that I can move them around if needed, and after the day has passed I’ll erase them and put them in ink if they did actually occur.

On the right side of the page is a section for checkmarked goals. I blurred them out since you don’t need to know what I’m working on, but you can use it for various dailies that you might want to do – clean your place, read, exercise, meditate, whatever. It’ll give you a good overview of what habits you need to focus more on.

I decided to make a month grid in my work journal. It’s Monday through Friday in larger blocks, then the weekend in half blocks. The reason I did this is because it’s going to be rare that anything work related will show up on the weekends, so I could use the space for other things.

I didn’t include a daily habits section in this yet, but if I decide to in the future I can take the bottom row of each day and mark it off into boxes, and have a key elsewhere as to which boxes mean what.

The Week

Since I don’t really need an in-depth week calendar in my personal journal, I skip right to the goals list. Most of these goals are broken down smaller parts of the monthly goal list, so that it gets even more manageable, or one of the smaller month goals that I’ve decided I’ll do this week.

The reason I don’t feel like I need this broken down is that I can easily check my Google Calendar for details, and take a glance at the month overview. I often have fewer events in a day on my personal calendar than my work one, so the granular view isn’t as important.

For my week, I find it’s better to have a laid-out schedule of my meetings so that I can have an overview at a glance, with a few rows empty at a bottom to throw a few goals in there. I think this showcases the biggest difference between my personal and work methods.

I have a calendar in Outlook of course, but it’s really nice to have this filled out at the beginning of the week so that I can grab it and check what room a meeting is in without having to open up my computer (Such a pain in the ass if I’m rushing around or late).

The Day

I tend to have a lot of daily tasks in my personal journal, as well as various notes as to what happened during the day. For example, I got a notice one day that I was behind in rent, so I put that in as a bullet point for reference (It turns out they actually owed ME money, so that was stress over nothing). Or maybe just a quick note over a date that went well. There’s also just the daily goals that I decide to grab from the week goals.

My days in the work journal are either really short or really long. Either just tasks, or meeting notes added in. I’ve found that actually writing down meeting notes can help me pay attention if my mind is wandering, compared to taking notes on my computer.

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5 Responses

  1. Dane says:

    Very awesome Chelsey. Thank you for sharing. I’m def going to adopt an approach like this. Nice to see how it’s broken down based on your thought process.

  2. Kristine R says:

    I am a bullet journal newbie and I have two situations that I am not certain how to handle:
    1. If I have an event that occurs at a specific date every month (for instance, giving my dog her heart worm pill on the 14th of every month), where do I “put” that until I reach the 14th in my day section? 2. Where do I put future appointments (i.e. a dentist cleaning in six months?)

    Thanks!

    • Kristine,

      If you’ll look at the month section in the article above, that’s where I put monthly recurring things such as bills, in either the calendar grid or in the month list (which I just now realized has the wrong picture in the thumbnail, my bad – I have fixed it now).

      As far as future appointments, you can use the year grid at the beginning. However, for me, the Bullet Journal is not my scheduling system. I use my Google Calendar for that. For me, the Bullet Journal is, well, a journal, an archive of what happened, instead of focusing on planning what will happen.

  3. MD says:

    Thank you!! I’ve been searching the internet for 2 days trying to find a work-specific bullet journal!! I can’t take PII home so I needed a separate journal, but I also am terrible at using notes I take at work, and everything that I’ve found is both work and personal. Thank you for showing that it can be done!!

  1. March 28, 2015

    […] as a list, but I’m not sold on it. I may try the more graphical annual and monthly calendars that Chelsey Dagger has demonstrated in her “Rocket Journal”—in part because those visual systems will stand out better to me than the calendars-as-lists. […]

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