How to Bullet Journal as a Teacher

Image showing two open journals on a desk

Do you struggle with trying to keep track of all the things you need to get done in a day? Have you heard of bullet journaling or how to bullet journal as a teacher?

In this post I’ll cover:

What Is Bullet Journaling?

If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling, then I suggest going straight to the source. What is the source then you ask?

The person who created the bullet journal method is Ryder Carroll. He describes the method well in his book The Bullet Journal method which I wrote a review on here.

Carroll developed the method in 2013, since then he’s created a book, notebooks as well as a course, a community, and the Bullet Journal Companion app for iOS and Android to be used when you’re away from your notebook.

The reason, as Carroll himself describes it, was to help him keep track of things – something that is difficult when you have ADHD and your thoughts are all over the place. The systems that existed didn’t work for Carroll, that is why he designed his own system over time and later shared this with the world.

The most simple way to describe the method is that you use a pen and notebook to capture your thoughts on paper. From there you can organize and prioritize what you need to do today, tomorrow, or sometime later.

Compared to using a printed and dated planner, the bullet journal is a fully customizable way to organize your life. There are some basic components to the system, but it’s easy to get started: you need something to write with and something to write on.

Image of a weekly spread in a journal
An example of a weekly September spread

Pros and Cons of Using a Bullet Journal

Comparison is the thief of joy, and this rings true when you use a bullet journal as well. A quick Google search and you’ll end up seeing lots and lots of beautiful spreads with intricate designs.

It’s easy to look at your own journal and feel as though you’re missing something or not doing it “right”. Let me tell you the opposite, if it works for you then you are doing it right!

The original method is very minimalistic, so if this is more your style then go for it! There are even Facebook groups dedicated to minimalistic design, as a counterpoint to the fancy designs you can see everywhere online.

Nothing wrong with making your journal pretty, it can be a creative outlet for sure. But fear of this shouldn’t be something to keep you away from a useful method.

Image of a monthly spread in a journal
An example of a September monthly spread in a bullet journal from work

Pros of Bullet Journaling

The method is easy to start, but it takes some time to get used to if you’re more familiar with a preprinted planner or calendar. Going analog might feel strange, considering we’re using smartphones and other devices throughout our day.

The good part about using pen and paper is that it’s easier to capture your own thoughts and check in with yourself before you let the rest of the world tell you what you should be doing.

Taking back your own mental space and owning it! No more distractions from the rest of the world it’s just you, your thoughts, and something to write on.

Cons of Bullet Journaling

The cons? It’s easy to go overboard and feel less than if you compare what you do to what others do and present online. It’s also easy to feel like you have to use the right supplies and do all the things when you start out – tip: you don’t!

Keep in mind, that your journal is YOURS and it doesn’t have to look anything like the ones you find on Instagram or Pinterest. Social media can be a good place for inspiration, but don’t let comparison take the joy out of a focused mindset!

Also, it can feel tedious to rewrite things you haven’t finished – but there is an upside to this as well! If you find yourself rewriting the same task for a couple of days, then perhaps it’s time to sit down and be honest with yourself.

Is this really something that is important to you? If the answer is yes: migrate it, if the answer is no: scratch it from your list and move on!

Examples of Bullet Journal Setups as a Teacher

If I compare my setups and layouts between my bullet journal at home and at work, there are some major differences. At home, I use my bullet journal to be a creative outlet of sorts, at least when I use an analog version.

For weekly spreads, I stick to one or two layouts that work for me, but I might include a picture at the start of each month to spice things up a bit.

Image of a monthly spread in a journal
An example of a monthly overview and to-do list in a bullet journal for work from 2019.

For digital bullet journaling, I add digital stickers and use highlighters – that’s it! Sure, this year I started by adding things into the pdf of my planner before I started using it on my iPad and phone so I did some preparation in advance.

Image showing a digital journal in GoodNotes
An example from my digital bullet journal in GoodNotes for week 20 2022

At work, my journal is all about function and not about making it pretty. I create a picture at the start of the semester, but that’s about it. I used to include a calendar view at the start of the month for an overview, but I’ve moved away from this since it’s in my Outlook anyway.

As far as making things pretty, does using a highlighter to show where a new day begins count? That’s really what I do, and it’s worked well for me. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it needs to be a tool for me to get things I need to do done.

Image showing an open and used journal
Example of an analog bullet journal week 33 of 2019

Own Experiences of Bullet Journaling as a Teacher

When you first start to use a bullet journal, I’d advise keeping things simple. As time goes on, you’ll notice what works for you and your journal will change over time. It’s interesting to reference back to previous journals, your style will have changed a bit from one journal to the next!

Don’t be afraid to change things as you go along. Remember, your bullet journal belongs to you and doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy at all! If you like practicing art or lettering in your journal that is up to you but keep your journal as your own!

Avoid getting caught up in everything you see online! Noticing parts that you find interesting and want to try out is one thing, being stuck in analysis paralysis or comparing yourself and feeling unworthy is another.

What About Digital Bullet Journals?

I wrote a post about how to use a digital planner as a teacher a while ago, but it’s worth mentioning in this context as well. You can decide to keep your bullet journal analog, with all the perks of being completely distraction-free and having a more tactile feeling to it.

You can also decide that perhaps a digital bullet journal is what suits you best. Both are good options, as long as your journal works for you!

Want to go crazy with stickers (analog or digital)? Go for it! If you need a more minimalistic approach to keep you grounded, focused, and actually making progress or staying on track? Then do that instead.

The point is, that you will need to do some trial and error before you find your own perfect match. The system as such is simple, your own planning style will be just that: your own. This also means that as you change, so will your style.

Image showing a digital journal in GoodNotes
An example from my digital bullet journal in GoodNotes for week 19 2022

Digital bullet journaling has some perks in terms of speed. Unless you stay true to the original method described in Ryder’s book, then you might spend some time setting up your journal for the month or week.

In a digital version, you can reuse page designs you liked by just copying them over in the app of your choice. If you bullet journal on paper, it will take some time to do the same thing.

If you’re a person who doesn’t like the look of a messy journal where you’ve crossed things out or have to rewrite unfinished tasks, then a digital version of a bullet journal might be a better fit for you.

For the last weeks of this semester, I actually settled for a digital version of bullet journaling. I based it on a free sample book from KDigitalstudio, but I then created some weekly layouts that I can add to the blank pages and decorate them if I wish.

Image showing a digital journal in GoodNotes
An example from my digital bullet journal in GoodNotes for week 21 2022

Conclusion

Is bullet journaling of use for teachers? I would say it is but personally, I use a combination of analog bullet journaling and some sort of calendar blocking or calendar to remind me when I need to work on certain things.

Also, making sure to write down things at the end of my workday, that I need to focus on the next helps to keep my brain calm and I feel less of “what is it I have forgotten to do now”? I still get this feeling sometimes, but not as often as I used to.

As with most things, you’ll need to try and see what you think of the method yourself. The same thing goes for if you wish to stay true to the original bullet journal as described by Ryder, or use your bullet journal as a creative outlet and keep yourself organized at the same time.

There really is no right or wrong way to bullet journal, but comparing your journal to the ones you find on Instagram or Pinterest can take the joy out of it.

Have you tried using a bullet journal at home or at work? What did you think of it?

Resources

Some talented Bullet Journalists to follow online:

Ryder Carroll’s YouTube channel – for visual learners and minimalistic design, a good place to start your bullet journal journey!

Ryder Carroll’s website – if you wish to learn more about the method, this is a good place to start

Apps to use for digital bullet journaling

  • GoodNotes – easy setup and includes some useful paper templates right from the start
  • ZoomNotes – has a lot of functions such as layers, creating a planner inside the app, and more. Takes a bit longer to learn.

By LMT

Language teacher interested in reading, art, games, and how technology can help out in everyday life.

2 comments

  1. I use a paper bullet journal that’s more functional than fancy, but to stay organized I use a digital calendar and notes app.

    1. Function over fancy every day of the week! ???? A combination of analog bullet journal an digital calendar for reminders was my go to before. Perhaps that’s what I’ll go back to for 2023, I haven’t really decided yet. I do like that it’s easier to stay focused on paper.

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