Skip to content

Knitters, I hope you are enjoying the life-changing magic of a fresh start this month. Even when it’s only the arbitrary magic of a date on the calendar—which this year feels less artificial—even if the changeover is only happening in a 6 x 8-inch notebook, I am just so excited to square my shoulders and open a new month in my journal and gaze upon the promise of a blank dot grid. TGIJ!

The future is my time! The checkbox and its BFF, busywork: those are my worry beads. The plan—any plan, planning in general, planning as lifestyle—that is my Bad Romance. In high school I was voted Least Likely to Live #goalfree.

Balance, though. If, like me, you can be more of a palliative planner (thanks for that phrase, Maybe Baby newsletter) than a real doer, or if you find yourself organizing many things but somehow not the important things, you might like the Bullet Journal method for getting on with the actual business of life. It’s a soothing, hands-on way to satisfy that box-ticker part of you while the rest of you runs a nice self-caring bubble bath.

I’ve been bullet journaling for six or seven years, and I’ve always liked its analog approach—the BuJo method uses paper and pen, and little else—but there were aspects that never quite worked. Like indexing my notes. Migrating my notes. Keeping up with the BuJo “collections.”

It had to be Felix

Turns out, I was making it way too hard. (A life theme.) Then I found Felicity “Felix” Ford’s Knitsonik online bullet journal course, and it’s not an exaggeration to say her style has sparked a bonfire of joy for me. Here are some simple life-changing things I’ve learned this month from the course: 

  • Felix points out that her journal is not a work of art, but a place to engage with her art. Social media give us endless showy examples of how to BuJo at a high level. But these journals are more like heirloom scrapbooks than they are places of work. We don’t get need to get hung up on making the BuJo a precious object.
  • But make it fashion: I thought washi tape was only for retail. Nope! You can use washi tape for easy-access tabs to pages sharing a theme, such as recurring meetings or class notes. If my BuJo is my workroom, I need to be able to put my hands on all my WIPs, whether these are actual makes or other long-term projects.
  • Use a date stamper, instead of the pre-printed dateline at top of your journal’s page. This means you can use one page for several days, which eliminates waste but more important, offers easy task rollover. Some of you have been using this obvious tip for years, but I needed Felix to point it out. Major block: resolved! 

The Knitsonik BuJo course is full of smart tips like these. Its open-minded and playful mood sparked other ideas for me, too, like: What if I aimed to do only what can be done before lunch? What if I were to say when lunch is over, the workday’s over? I’ve tried this for a week or so and it’s not a perfect system. It’s a work in progress—emphasis on progress, as in I’m already doing less than before, and feeling better about it.

It’s almost as if bringing together the executive function of planning and the playfulness of stamps and washi tape has brought the two sides of my brain together. Ideas just seem to flow better when the whole brain comes to the party.

Have you been using the BuJo method? I want to continue the experiment, so I would love to know what you’ve discovered. Please put your journaling tips below so we can all try them out. My plan is to circle back for a best-practices review here mid-year, so I really want to hear your thoughts.

And may your 2021 be much, much more manageable.


IMAGE CREDIT:  Zittende vrouw met een boek, Pieter van Loon, 1841, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.
In the MDK Shop
It's how we hold that thought. Thanks for your purchases. They support everything we do here at MDK.
By Leuchtturm1917

About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • I was literally looking at washi tape in Kmart this afternoon not knowing what I’d do with it.
    Guess I’m running back in there again tomorrow…

  • Looking forward to reading these comments and re- energizing my bullet journaling!

  • Hi Max!
    Oh your words speak to me so! I have been using BuJos on and off for the past 5 years or so, and have tried the whole BohoBerry style (which I love); since I’m not artistically inclined without sticks and yarn, and too much of a perfectionist to be happy with my less than insta results, I migrated to a less demanding (artistically and time wise) style, which still takes quite a lot of time to set up.
    With a move to another country and all that that entails, I haven’t touched my BuJo in about 4 months, and just picked it up a week ago. After a review, it is now wonderfully simple, still has colour (super important), only tracks what I need (no collections), and is quick to set up (no rulers allowed!). I am learning to let go of perfectionism to focus instead on and enjoyment, and yes, productivity.
    The best thing about BuJos? They are whatever you need, and totally forgiving 🙂
    Have a wonder week!

  • Thank you for your tips and links. I’ve been bullet journaling since 2014 and I love it! I keep it simple and practical. I follow Ryder Carroll’s structure. I use collections. I’ve been keeping a second bullet journal for work too. I’m a teacher. I like to use my fountain pen and write titles in cursive but otherwise I don’t use elaborate spreads. I don’t use a ruler! Unless I’m drawing projects I plan to make, my journal is pretty simple. I use dot stickers folded over the edge of pages to mark the current week, month and my latest food shopping list. I use the index a lot and occasionally check that it’s up to date. Somehow I feel more organized if that index reflects all my notes. I’m looking forward to your review and to other comments to your article. Happy bullet journaling!

  • I took Felix’s class last summer and it is life! I love that she gives us all “permission” to be messy and do what works best for you. No Insta-perfect pages expected. So freeing!

  • I use a modified Bujo religiously at work. A weekly calendar on one page with reports to generate, meetings, and cropped up issues to resolve. The other page is my carry over notes/issues from the previous week. It is so easy to leave with someone else when I am away and someone else is covering for me. I have never succeeded in using it consistently at home, though every few months I dust it off and try again.

  • Thank you, Max! I’ve failed at BuJo for the last 4 years. This may be the answer!

  • I recommend Felix’s bullet journaling class, too. She makes it easy for you, whatever you’re like and whatever your goals are.

  • I been using the bullet journal since Ryder first introduced it; I even have one of his original journals I purchased as part of his GoFundMe! My advice- do what works for you and as Max says, don’t worry about how you’re looks compared to others. I try different styles from time to time, month spreads, week spreads, over one page, over two …

    For awhile I started a new one each birthday. Now I just randomly start a new one when the old one is finished and/or I need a fresh start. Being recently retired, I’m using it more than ever with my lists of what I want to do today, what I did, what I want to do post vaccine, etc.

    A tip: if making a “to do list” feels overwhelming and see the end of the day you look at it and feel hopeless because you haven’t done anything, try a “to done list” (ignore the bad Grammer). At the end of each day, write down everything you’ve done. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and I do this, I realize how much I did, even if it is “just” empty the dishwasher, replaced the thermostat, had cocktails.”

    • Awesome idea! Thank you. How ’bout a TaDa! list? ;>)

    • Along the same lines, Gretchen Rubin on the Happier Podcast talks about the “Ta-Da” list, a list of what you have done. A great way to express it, I think.

    • I have been known to write a list of tasks that includes a few things I’ve already done, just so I can have the satisfaction of x-ing them off. Such a psychological boost!

      • Me too! So satisfying!

    • I love the idea of a “to done” list (perfect grammar if you ask me!).

  • My notebook/sketch book life, spanning decades, was totally transformed by including an index at the front of every volume, an essential part of the Bullet Journal structure. I used the classic Bullet Journal notebook for my day day to stuff, and it STAYS in my studio. I use Pacon Composition Notebooks, green is my favorite, with pages alternately ruled and lined. This notebook goes everywhere with me. From an Instagram follower I got a lovely sewing pattern for a cloth envelope with a Velcro tab. I have made several of those, large enough to hold the notebook and pens, pencils, even a slim watercolor set, and protect the contents as I move through the day. I use this notebook for ideas, sketches, lists, story starts, and general life musings. I always washi tape an image on the cover of every notebook, along with the dates of use. Sometimes I think my notebook life is my creative life — almost everything I do starts on a notebook page.

  • Everything old is new again, I’m thinking. All this hubbub about bullet journals reminds me of the 1990s and when all of us working women needed a Day Runner. Lots of choices of pages to pop in your leather ring binder and you could move them around as needed. I was a busy Weight Watchers leader and we made our food planners in the same style so women could tote them along. I was panic stricken if I forgot my Day Runner at home! Perhaps I can dig out the old faithful to get back on track in 2021.

    • I still have the sound of the ripping open of the Velcro flap in my sense memory!

    • An extremely organized friend of mine still uses her Day Runner exclusively–I’m pretty sure she has a smart phone but truly only uses it as a phone!

  • I took Felix’s class in the summer and found it so useful. Elements of her approach have worked their way into my work notebook (I adopted a one-notebook system when I suddenly started working from home) and the washi tape and colored pens are SUPER important.

    For anyone who is considering taking Felix’s course, I say “do it!” You will learn something about yourself, whether or not you aspire to be a bullet journal person.

  • I took Felix’s inaugural BuJo course and was so inspired! I went out and bought washi tape and colored pencils and rulers, and wrote a list of all my UFO’s and even did little drawings of each one, and then my practice just died. I’m unusual as someone of my age (63) being more wedded to electronic solutions than to paper, but I find that the paper–as beautiful and helpful and evocative as everyone’s spreads are–just takes me away from actually planning where I’m likely to look–in my phone/on my computer. i don’t carry anything big enough to hold a journal when I go anywhere–my bag is very small and even my phone barely fits in it.

    I have 8 planners scattered around my desk–original BuJo, Felix’s bujo, one where the pages are made of crushed rock (I had to see what that was like–very cool), but I am no more organized than I’ve ever been.

    And perhaps that’s fine. I don’t miss meetings, I get my work done. However, some of the things I’d LIKE to have in my life fall by the wayside, and I think perhaps that’s where a BuJo practice might help. Getting to it like I try to get to my walk and my yoga everyday may help get things done that I WANT to get done as opposed to things I “NEED” to get done. And perhaps these two categories can swap places one day.

  • I’ve been doing the bujo system for 3-4 years and have found it helpful. I do sometimes write down tasks I’ve already completed. It makes me feel better and I know when it was finished. I love the washi tape for tabs idea. I use paperclips but I’m going to find some tape. I have made a crude penholder out of wide elastic and a discarded eyeglasses case that goes around the front cover. I was too cheap to spend $10-20 for the ones I saw online.

  • I just started bullet journaling this year! I have a big personal goal for myself this year and wanted a simple way to keep everything in one place. Right now I’m focusing on the productivity, not the creativity, until I get a good rhythm going. I came across Matt Ragland on YouTube and watched his “2021 Beginner Friendly Bullet Journal Setup”. He recommends keeping it really simple to start, with just a few basics (weekly planning, tracker for only a few habits) until you get into the habit of daily journaling. I love colour, so I have used a coloured pen to check of my accomplishments and have played with some bolder, slightly fancier printing for my titles, but other than that, I’m keeping it simple. So far, so good!
    I also recently came across Felix’s course (it looks soooo good!), and I will likely take it in the future to expand my creativity in my journaling, but for now I’m sticking to the basics to build up my journaling muscles!

  • I pretty much only follow the Ryder Carroll instructions and don’t get too fancy with my BuJo. That said, I do leave a blank page at the beginning of the month and space at the bottom of pages rather than starting a new day to draw or do some handlettering. Having the basic format, and then space for expression, seems to be a good balance for me.

  • I just started my third year of bujos and I keep it really simple —not capable of artistic spreads, and I’m really just there for the notes and lists it helps me keep in one place. I love the future log and have a monthly spread and weekly page when I’m on top of things. I like to have tasks/goals for each month and each week. Oftentimes don’t get to them all—I’m a more ambitious list maker than doer—but I like having them in one place. I do collections—for church ministries, book clubs, or volunteer board business most often. The index helps with that—I don’t usually reserve blank pages for a collection, just keep track of what page I’ve used on that topic and thread the page locations from one set of pages to another. I’ve been going through 3-4 journals a year. Just started two separate books; one for knitting and one as a “commonplace book”, a place to capture quotes, ideas, or to paste pretty cards or pictures I come across. Can you tell I’m a fan? I wish I was a skilled calligrapher or drawer, but I’m not. I use highlight pens and fine point crayola felt pens to add color, and the occasional picture torn from a card or magazine to add visual interest. I do go on. Thanks for asking. Will look up this Felix class—there’s always more to learn.

  • Am I unique in not being a planner? Given that I don’t get paid for anything I do now I’m retired, there isn’t work to plan for though my days are full and busy. I have never been good at committing my plans to paper and I find to do lists uncomfortable and stress inducing. From time to time, well meaning friends have suggested all manner of list making and planning styles to encourage me to fit their mould and about 4 years ago I even joined a Kickstarter scheme a received a fancy planner book which remained unopened: it threatened me and made me feel inadequate. I always have far more ideas than I have time or the resources to execute and always several projects in process – which i do complete. I love greeting each new day without a fixed plan; I consider the weather – if it’s fine I’ll be outside gardening, walking or simply sawing firewood. If it’s a day when being indoors is more enticing, then there is sewing, knitting, baking, writing, painting, renovating or, if unavoidable, cleaning, to be done. I have learnt that I am far more effective when I do what I feel like doing at the time and know I certainly won’t settle indoors if the sun is calling me to be out. One thing I have noticed this past year, is that some of my friends who are inveterate planners have struggled with the uncertainties caused by the pandemic and resultant lockdowns whereas those whose style is more responsive and spontaneous have done just fine. Back in the days when my self care was seriously lacking, I felt useless despite the lists of things I had done each day but now I have adopted the Ta Da! way of noting my achievements I am much happier with myself.

    • You aren’t alone.

  • I’m so curious about Felix’s class now… I’ll have to make a note of it in my Bullet Journal on my Noteworthy page. As you can tell my BuJo is heavily modified. I use it to keep track of my teaching stuff (I’m a sessional instructor at a university) and my work stuff (also a grant writer). I have monthly pages instead of daily pages to keep myself from organizing too much and I use as much colour as I can for headings and so on. It becomes a bit of a creative act setting it up each year and keeps all-important colour in my day! Now I need to seek out some washi tape to add even more colour. Sounds so much better than plain old post-its.

  • I have been doing my own flavor of bullet journaling at work for nearly a decade. Instead of migrating tasks forward, 2 years ago I started using a to do list app. So all the notes and original to do items are in my notebook and I either check them off as done or as “migrated” to the digital to do list. I like the app for flexible organizing by project and deadline and rely on the notebook for sequential notes on meetings, phone calls, brainstorming, etc. Always looking to hone my system, so I will definitely investigate these resources, thanks!

  • I just got a Bullet Journal in 2020 while I was quarantined with my 92 year old mom, and only did it because of an article in MDK!

    I’d been thinking about it for several years, but got really turned off by the elaborate artworks I was seeing on Instagram- I knew I just wouldn’t do that. But then I read one of the MDK articles and saw the possibilities … and now I love it. Mine is very plain, but it really works for me and I’m comfortable with the idea of it as an evolving work – the way I use it may change and that’s fine – a big step for me!

  • Thank you! I signed up for Felix’s course after I read this article and I’m loving it! Finally all my ideas, thoughts, to do lists in one place – heaven. She simplifies the whole process so I didn’t overwhelmed at giving it a try.

  • Thank you for mentioning Felix’s course. I’ve just finished it and I loved it! It’s helped me find my joy in my notebook again. Thank you!!

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping