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Why The Bullet Journal is perfect for my ADHD

bullet journal on pinterest

Bullet Journaling is starting to get noticed and its popularity is on the rise!

Mark my words... everyone will be talking about bullet journaling soon and it will be a "fad". But one, I think, that is here to stay.

So if you are saying... "What the heck is a bullet journal?" -let me fill you in. So, when your friends all jump on the bandwagon, you can say "Oh. Yeah! That's old news... I already bullet journal!"

I can't go one scroll on Pinterest without seeing a bullet journal reference! It seems like everyone is doing it...yet I know it is mostly bloggers and moms right now. But, women in general (moms and bloggers among them) kind of run pinterest and set the trends, so in case you have not come across this new popular thing yet...let me tell you about it!


The Bullet Journal Craze

Bullet Journaling is an analog system of doing a to-do list and keeping a calendar/day/weekly planner in a blank notebook or journal that is simple and straight forward. It's an action/doing journal you design yourself and all you really need to bullet journal is a blank journal and a pen!

It was developed by a cool dude named Ryder Carroll. He's a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY and I love his brain!

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Why do I love his brain!? Cause I think he is genius for this and generous for sharing it with the world.

With the simplistic way he lays stuff out, it instantly organizes your to do list...even if you are a scatter brained adhd mom like me!!!

ESPECIALLY if you are adhd with a million thoughts going around in your head at a million miles an hour, like me!

I'm going to show you how I do mine below in a minute... but after you read this post and see mine. I want you to pop over to the official website for bullet journals and see how the original simplistic system works. That is where you start - the foundation of bullet journaling you will build yours on.

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I found bullet journaling on Pinterest in December randomly with a tutorial by Kara over at http://www.bohoberry.com/ when someone I follow re-pinned her blog post about it.

I really liked how she did her bullet journal. It's beautiful...but it felt too labour intensive for me with drawing out calendars by hand and how neat her penmanship was. I knew with my adhd and being artsy, I could get lost in the glitter and perfection of the laying out of a journal and never actually get to DOING my to-do lists.

At a quick glance at the hashtags #planneraddict and #plannercommunity on instagram you will see many people using expensive preprinted journals and buying loads of themed stickers on etsy to decorate their planners. While I understand why people do this, it never appealed to me. (They do it to find some joy in the mundane of day to day stay at home mom life, and to make the necessity of planning a little less tedious.) I myself never could afford such systems. And honestly- to me, it looks over cluttered and unorganized-even to a cluttered adhd mind like mine. I guess, like in life- I just like to draw my own boxes to live within!

So, when I fell onto this new bullet journal thing,the non consumerism aspect of it appealed to me.

I looked at bulletjournal.com hoping for some guidance to organizing my thoughts and possibly making my comp note taking be effective at keeping me on track. The idea of a planner I make myself was really drawing me in. I had already been using a simple dollar store composition book for years to jot down daily to-dos and get out massive brain dumps onto paper to clear my mind. I just never applied an actual system to it.

But, checking out the system I was overwhelmed again, by the neatness of the writing and second...by how deadly boring it seemed to me because it was just words and lists - what I had already been doing for years with little success at using a planner daily.

But, even with that feeling of " I can't be that neat" it still grabbed at me as something I should try. I think being given permission or ...encouragement to do it my own way kept me interested.


I laughed at the fact that I had just realized that I needed to PLAN my PLANNER in order to make it functional for ME.

So, I went back and looked at Kara's again. This time using it as a starting point to decide how I could do mine- MY way.

It really inspired me to be artsy with mine. Which as it turns out...is the key to my personal success with keeping and following a planner daily! ( I've been at it every day for a month now!)

2016 goals journal

When I really sat and thought about it...I realized that planners fail people because they are not personal, and they don't have sections for that individual's life needs, and they don't utilize a persons strengths.

I am a visual learner and I love color and art, and every time I am on the phone I doodle to listen. These are common ADHD traits. So, I knew I would need to make my journal to suit those traits.

I know me and I know my adhd. If something feels like a chore and is boring to me... I ditch it faster than a squirrel running from a cat!

I'm an artistic person, but Neat and I are not friends... I knew I'd never keep a neat, no-doodle bullet journal going for more than a day! I knew being super fancy and artsy could see me procrastinating - doing more art in my journal than checking off on the lists of tasks to be completed.

So, I decided right away that I'd not be fussy or fancy. I'd not worry about my penmanship-and I would use what I had already, a composition book for $2 bucks, crayola pencil crayons, markers and pens.

I then sat down and wrote down on a post it note what I liked and what I needed in a MY bullet journal to make it work for me.

I decided I needed:

    -a calendar (even though I keep a shared digital calendar with my husband on my phone, I needed one in my journal to remind me of garbage day, recycling day every 2 weeks and upcoming events farther than a week away, cause i rarely look at my phone calendar until a notice pops up.)

    -A page per day. weekly layouts for a whole week never worked for me before. By Wednesday I'm not looking at it anymore.

    -It needed to be colorful

    -It needed to be engaging so I'd keep at it

    -I needed pages to just scribble and jot down my thoughts (brain dumps)

    -It needed to be relaxing to WANT to do it. (Not feel like a chore)

    -And, it needed to not take me hours a day to do.



I quickly decided to use scrapbook layouts as inspiration to give me boxes to write in and color as I finished my tasks.

I had been collecting scrapbook layouts on pinterest for over 2 years. I like the layouts, and in some unrealistic fantasy I was saving them to scrapbook... someday... maybe.

Realistically I knew I'd likely never get around to ever doing a scrapbook. I have known this all along- but I'm a dreamer of "in a perfect world I'd..." sometimes.

So... I decided to use the layouts I collected as my daily page templates for my journal. They make me happy... they are not boring. And everyday is different and they take me literally 5 minutes to lay out! PERFECT for my ADHD brain that gets bored with sameness day in and day out.

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On my page per day layout, I decided I'd need:

    -A space for a time grid to track how I spend my hours. (At TMO's suggestion. He thinks I do too much "interneting" -insert sigh and eye roll here 😉 )

    -A specific to do list of my "me hour" to-dos to help establish a morning routine for myself with my seasonal depression therapy light.

    -A to-do section for daily important tasks (no more than 4to 6 aside from meals,dishes and laundry not be overwhelmed).

    -A place for an inspirational quote of the day.

    -A space for 3 things from the day I was happy about or that brought me joy. ( Inspired by the 5 minute journal)

IF you are like me...you doodle when you are on the phone, or you are a messy, fast printer/writer.

I had to figure out a way to let my doodling nature be a part of my low key/laid back journal in order for it to be functional.

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I write on my page and doodle and color it all in as I go through the day. I add quotes, thoughts I have, things the kids say. I make notes about a movie we watched, or a memorable event that happened in the world that day, the name of a podcast I listened to, etc. None of this takes me more than a few minutes..I jot notes fast.

The index card in the picture above is the bullet journal symbols index (some of my own symbols) and my color coding system I use for filling in my time grid of how I spend my hours in a day.

The original bullet journal puts the index at the front of the journal. But, I got tired of flipping back and forth to see what my color codes were as I was implementing it. So, I stuck them on an index card and I carry it through my journal day to day with a binder clip. It makes it super easy to open my journal to the day I am currently on, as a bonus.

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Jan 11-2016


Stickers & washi tape are my new favourite things!

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I printed a calendar off and glued it into my journal for the next month, because gluing is faster then laying out a whole month by hand as many do with a bullet journal.

I know a mistake in measurement for columns for the days of the week would drive me bananas. So, I just "smashed" it in and I stuck washi tape on it to pretty it up. (A little secret! Before a bullet journal I thought washi tape was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen and never owned any!! Now it is the little treat I grab myself from the dollar store whenever I go shopping!)

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Don't let the neatness of others' journals scare you away from giving it a go... and don't let how I do mine scare you off either! If you like the bare bones bullet journal... go for it!

REMEMBER... you make it yours.

Get an idea of how it works for it's fundamentals, find some inspiration in others styles and then get a notebook and your favourite writing supplies and get started on your unique journal!

I can guarantee you...every blog you look at with their bullet journal posts will be totally different in decorating and design.

Check out my Bujo Inspiration board on pinterest I made to accompany this post to get some more inspiration!

Some people spend hours laying out a calendar and habit trackers, financial spending trackers and doing fancy writing.

Others use stickers or do a lot of sketching and drawing.


But, no matter how different they all are, they all have the basic bullet journal system that Carroll created driving them.


The Bullet Journal Essentials

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A table of contents at the front of the notebook
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And numbered pages. (I like mine numbered in the bottom middle. It just makes me happy)

How ingenious is numbered pages in a blank book and a table of contents at the front to keep track of pages you may want/need to look back at!!!?

SO simple... it's stupid smart! Maybe because organization and planning are weak areas for people with executive function issues, it is only me who never clued into this... But it is THE key reason I decided to do bullet journaling in the first place.

Even thought the neatness had me a bit scared, these essentials calmed my worry. (Not to mention it took the stress out of trying to decide what the first page of a fresh book should have on it!!)

By keeping everything in one analog blank note book that you fill in as you go - you get all that stuff out of your head down on paper in an organized fashion and it can be easily referenced back to when you need it.

That alone was so relaxing to my adhd brain!!

I don't have to try to remember stuff anymore... and I don't need to worry... cause it is there to look at whenever I need it again.

Here are some of the pages I've added to my journal, and cataloged in the table of contents to easily go back to when I want to.

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Bullet Journaling literally works for everyone. Because YOU decide how you like it to be!

Do you prefer a weekly layout? A page per day? 2 days on a page? A simple weekly and monthly overview page? Do it! It conforms to YOUR needs.

Need a tracker for financial spending monthly, but not a fitness tracker? That's fine! There are no unused sections in a bullet journal, like there is in a preprinted planner! Because you don't need it - you don't create it!

Some days I don't do a to-do list on my page because we are going out for the day and my to do list tends to be mainly my household chores and tasks I need to get done in a day. Maybe it was a holiday, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the day. It still works for me.

Because art journaling at the most basic artsy level drives my journal... I still document the day. I can make it simply a journal entry page to remember the days events, and get more creative if I want.

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A pretty page I did for Christmas day. No to-dos. Just memories.

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Boxing day was messy and busy. But the journal still functions to keep me on track, even if it is messy. That's why I call it my scribbles & jot journal.

When a day planner system is so personalized it WILL function for you.as i mentioned... I've been doing it for a month now daily-with ease!!! The best part is-if you miss a day... no big deal. It's a blank page. Just go again the next day.

It is unlike all those day planner/to do list systems you have invested in over the years, that are now sitting unused and dusty in some box or drawer-Because it supports your way of thinking-you actually use it!

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You can even do it in a small composition book! Whatever suits YOU!

I know people who are starting it in a simple scribbler to get going at it. Use what you have. Use what works for you.

My bullet journal excites me!!!

I have used large composition notebooks for years... a page per day to keep my lists and info down...but it never occurred to me to number the pages or have a table of index! I never thought to ENJOY the process and color the pages.Or, to make notes about the good in the day. Or look back and move forward tasks as I go! I just always made a new list. What a waste of brain power and time!

Back then, whenever I had a brain storm I'd flip to the back of the composition book and scribble stuff down. But then I'd consider the composition book "soiled" as my planner/to-do book and end up dumping the book in my drawer and I would start a new one never looking at the dump list again! What insanity!

Now I have figured out that I can just make a dump list on the very next page in my journal! It works for me and it makes it useful because it is there to refer back to. It's not in the back of another comp book I've tossed in my desk drawer! Some of that stuff might actually GET DONE now!!

Later...if I want to cover over a scrappy page I just jotted stuff down on...I can! I can just glue some pretty papers over it and make a journal entry. Or smash in some pretty Instagram pictures from that time/day/month I printed off from my phone and write some quotes! It's not a spoiled page or book anymore.

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Bullet Journaling gave me permission to just use the next page- To keep all my thoughts organized with numbered pages and list it on the front table of contents page as I go.

I always hated the restrictions a typical printed planner put on me so I never used one. I shunned the day planner as boring and not my kind of thing. I didn't celebrate or enjoy putting my to-do list into a composition book like I do now because I was stuck in it needing to be all serious like.

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I did a planner because I have adhd and I have to or nothing got done. I did a planner because all the organized people keep one-so that must be the trick to getting organized right?!

Until now, my planner habit was just another failure for me. But without a planner and lists I don't prioritize my todo list daily. I found it tedious and boring and I never understood why people enjoyed their planners so much!

2 years ago I wanted to art journal my days... keep account of things we did that day. To celebrate the everyday... but I stopped because I was using one comp book for art journaling and another for my boring to-do and notes. My art journaling felt like wasting time and I felt guilty... and-I didn't want to "spoil" my art journal with to-do lists scratched off in it. But, when I stopped art journaling out of guilt - I stopped doing a to-do list too cause it was too boring. I tried keeping notes in my phone... but when you don't look at a planner... it doesn't work.

Well! Now I see how foolish that was!!!

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I have combined the art journaling and the planner and it has been a complete game changer for me in being more productive, getting in some art time every day and actually ENJOYING following a planner and to do list!

I actually LOOK at my planner through the day, and I enjoy drawing out my next day's page layout the night before.

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So!? Are you excited about bullet journaling yet?

Just in case you need more reasons why this will be the best thing you've ever got in the habit of doing... Let me point out why this is a great thing you should just start!

    1. It's as simplistic as you need/want it to be. You can simply jot stuff down. Or you can decorate it. The decorating it is what got me excited. For ME that is the key to my success with keeping at it.

    2. All your plans and thoughts are in one place. Right there, page after page with an easy table of contents at the front to find what you are looking for if you want/need to look back.

    3.It's not digital...so you can't lose data. If you're a digital planner type. Consider bullet journaling as your hard copy. And put your do tos into your phone/calendar. (Or simply take a picture of your page, like I do for my grocery list when I go shopping)

    4.Writing things down physically has been scientifically proven to help you strengthen your executive functions more. You remember better.You learn to plan better.

    5. If you decorate and color your bujo (short for bullet journal) it is relaxing and lowers stress. Why do you think all those adult coloring books are all the rage these days? It's an active meditative exercise for our busy digital lifestyle.

    6. Bullet Journaling is fun and addictive! I started it a month ago in earnest- after a year since I did any art journaling or real serious to do lists. It has been the one daily routine I have easily implemented into my adhd scatterbrain life EVER!

The more you do it... the more you want to! And, then... the more organized you get!!

So... what are you waiting for? Get bullet Journaling! I know you are going to love it!

Happy planning!!!!

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4 Comments on Why The Bullet Journal is perfect for my ADHD

  1. This bullet journal sounds amazing. I’m just wondering where you keep it. Do you take it with you places or do you have a designated journaling spot? I just know I would loose it and/forget it all the time.

    • I fill it in at night sitting on my bed while I watch TV/movies, and it gets sat on my bedside table when I’m done ( I spend about 10 minutes setting up my page for the next day the night before)

      When I get up in the morning, I take it with me to the desk in the living room with the computer. I keep it open there and take a look at it through the day and check off things I’ve done as I go.

      I don’t generally take it with me place… Instead I take pictures of the page with my cell phone and I look at the picture to remember my grocery list etc. You cannot lose it if you only allow it to be in a few places ever. But I did take it with me recently on an overnight trip and it fit easily in my purse.

      Do you have a desk/command center in your house you use to keep track of stuff, where your calendar is? Make a place for your Journal there. You go to the Journal…don’t carry the journal all over the house, it will lower your risk of sitting it on top of a shelf in the laundry room while you switched loads over and temporarily losing it mindlessly for a week.

      Having only a few select places where I use it regularly cuts down on it getting shoved somewhere and lost. Building rituals and routines around things like this ensures that you use it regularly,and it doesn’t get lost.

      Doing this sets it in place as a habit, and cuts down on misplaced things..and the beauty of this trick is it works for everything!!

      Doing this with stuff like your cellphone, purse, car keys, etc-as well, helps cut down on losing things.

      For example… My cell phone is always in a left side pocket on my body all day- In my hands because I’m using it, or on the charging station on my bedside table, or in the car.

      My car keys are always in my right hand pocket ( cause the ignition of the car is on the right, and my cell phone is in my left pockets and I don’t want to scratch my cell phone with my keys)

      If they are not in my pocket they are in the ignition of the car because I’m driving, or they are hanging on the hook on the back of the front door, where I keep them when I’m not using the car. Deciding to have clothes that always have pockets was easier than carrying a purse with small kids when I started the habit, and looked far better fashion wize, than using a fannypack 😉

      Having such routines in place helps minimize the time I waste looking for misplaced things. It was easy to set the same habits with my journal.

  2. Wow! This definitely seems like the perfect planner for the creative mind. I’m not quite done with my “custom” planner from Plum Planners for this year but I’m ready to switch. I just change projects and needs too quickly for any one preprinted planner to work for an entire year. Thanks for sharing so passionately about this!

    • So glad you like the idea! I’m totally obsessed with bullet art journaling still, it’s the longest I have ever kept at a day to say planner!! I’m driving people crazy talking about it! LOL

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