The Best Bullet Journal Lessons (whether you use a BuJo or not)

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we’ve all got to-do lists. Mental or written, long or short (ha!), to-do lists can reduce or heighten stress. I’ve mentioned that I’m a type A Virgo with a penchant for organization, but what I’m just now learning about myself is that I haven’t been using to-do lists as efficiently as possible.

Let’s start with the basics – I used to wake up with my mind running through all the things I had to do that day, and at some point I would jot them down. “Thursday’s To-Do List” was usually productively-wishful thinking, but I always prefer to shoot for the moon (if I miss, I’ll land among the stars…ahhh) so I would mentally prepare myself to accomplish ALL of my tasks that same day.

The Best Bullet Journal Lessons (whether you use a BuJo or not) | Happy Wife, Creative Life

My engagement photo-topped journal courtesy of bestie T 🙂 (repurposed from a gift notebook for my bridal shower!) Pick a notebook you love!

The challenge quickly became not just wanting to accomplish every single solitary task, but that I was compulsively checking my to-do list – between tasks, or even sometimes in the middle of one big, ugly task (think cleaning out the garage).

Another downside to the simple to-do list is the anticipation of SO MUCH STUFF TO DO! That concept alone provokes anxiety – looking at a long and growing list can be horrifying! And heaven forbid circumstantial prevention of my ability to complete tasks…it’s RAINING?! But I had planned to go plant flowers!! Cue a minor mental meltdown. Crazy? Perhaps…but c’est la vie 🙂

And of course, I think all of us cohabitating with others (especially a spouse/partner) have experienced the beauty/misery of the honey-do list. Now, I’m a firm believer in separation of chores and spouse, but my approach has improved over the years I’ve been with Matt. I used to call to him “Baaaabe?” and he would squinch his face up and brace himself for the favor I was about to ask before replying with a smooth “Yes, dear?”

I had complained to my mother about his lack of enthusiasm for completing our household chores (remember Jennifer Aniston in The Breakup? “I want you to WANT to do dishes!”) and Mom gently inquired about the last time I had asked my husband what’s on HIS to-do list. I was stunned, and she was obviously right. Now, I ask Matt what’s on his mind/list for the day/weekend, and then he asks about my list. We can support each other in letting our partner focus on what’s most important to him/her, and help out where appropriate and needed. M loves this system – recently, we were naming 3 things each that we were grateful for, and he said “I’m grateful you took care of so much stuff around the house, so I could focus on getting done what I wanted to do.” What a beautiful system (that I maturely remember to execute MOST of the time)!

Back to my to-do list organization – there are so many tips out there, but one that resonated with me was the impact vs. effort rating system. It requires a little more legwork than just jotting down tasks, but the concept is simple and pretty effective. Rate each task 1-5 according to the amount of effort it requires, then assign a 1-5 rating for the impact completion of that task would have. That quick system helped me to streamline my lists, and go a little easier on myself if I realized I couldn’t complete EVERY task that day. Its simple brilliance did result in the same old system of revising to-do lists frequently, which was fine but not mind-blowingly good.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, came bullet journals. Hallelujah, bullet journals. Thanks to my good buddy Pinterest, I stumbled across Kara from Boho Berry’s Bullet Journal post and my organizational life was forever changed! To be fair, I think bujos (yep, bujos) have been around for a little while, so I may be a bit tardy to the party – but my cool-kid youngest brother hasn’t heard of them, so obviously I must be somewhat of a bujo pioneer 😉 Pinterest has, of course, a zillion pins on bullet journaling, but here are my favorites so far.  The downside of the aforementioned zillion bujo-related pins is, of course, that the whole point of the concept is simplification – and information overload can come on fast and scary! So as the dedicatedly (is that a real word, Grandma?) obsessive documenter I am, I had to gather the absolute best bullet journal lessons I could find online. And then, because hello, I’m a blogger, I wanted to share those fantastips 😉 here!

If you decide that diving in, grid paper and colored pencils a-blazing, is right for you, awesome – welcome to the bujo scene! Check out Kara’s gorgeous blog for the prettiest and most efficient bujo around.

If bullet journaling itself is not right for you (it does take a little planning and time – 1000% worth it for me but not necessarily everyone) I respect that and want to share the best lessons I’ve learned from bullet journaling anyway, because they’re helpful for we organizationally-minded folk and those who want to get their stuff together a little more pragmatically AND prettily. 🙂

Awesome tips in real life: I usually start the week with a long list, then I use tip #1 below to prioritize, and just a few days later (sometimes!) my list has shrunk significantly, even though items can be added as needed. True story – I have woken up for the past two mornings actually wondering if the only task on my to-do list is loving on my EPIC new Secret Garden coloring book, which I purchased from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts shop – such a win. My point is that I did NOT wake up with a zillion things to do!! Another win.

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The Best Bullet Journal Lessons I learned

  1. Prioritize and then trust your judgement. Choose your top 3 things to do in the morning, mindfully create a mental action plan, and then once those things are done (do them first whenever possible!) consider your day a productive success.
  2. Doodle to your heart’s content! Color inside and outside the lines, top your “I”s with hearts whenever you feel like it, and if you make a mistake, turn it into something awesome-looking! Or don’t worry about it and color something else 🙂
  3. Track daily stuff you WANT to do. Whether your daily goals include eating breakfast (a given for me – I’m not one to skip a meal!) or doing yoga, this stuff is important. Just as much, if not more than, the less-thrilling tasks like paying bills or researching your dog license renewal. Check out Kara’s Habit Tracker for a gorgeous example!

I’ll ask a favor of you now – if you’re still reading, I’m guessing you have a great sense of humor, a big heart, and you probably enjoy organization (or at least want to get more organized) so I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below letting me know your favorite to-do list tips, or how your bullet journal is working out – most of the ones I’ve seen are much prettier than mine! I like to think the point is the experience, not the end result, and my experience so far has included a lot of learning from others 🙂

Thank you so much for reading along. Sending love from our organized(ish) home to yours!


A Happy Wife

Happy Wife, Creative Life


  1. I like the streamlined ideas! Most info I have seen about bujos have made them seem more complicated than they’re worth. I wonder about blending with morning pages…have you tried morning pages?

    • Hey Rachel, thank you for reading!

      Love the tip – I hadn’t thought of blending bujos with morning pages, but the customizable element of bujos is my favorite 🙂 I like to do my own thing, so whether that’s coloring in a whole page because I’m excited to go to NYC this weekend (I feel a coloring-session coming on!) or morning pages, you can just tack the page number on the bottom of those pages, flip back and log ’em in your index, and move along!

      What a great idea, thank you so much for sharing!! 🙂 Let me know if you try ’em out!

      Happy Friday!! Hope you have a wonderful day! <3

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