One Notebook to Rule Them All

person holding black pen and book near pink ceramic mug
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Or how I keep track of all the stuff I have to remember for work (and how I hope to do so at home eventually)

Okay so let me clarify… I don’t just use one notebook ALL the time. But when it comes to keeping track of everything at work I found using a bullet journal like system to save my sanity. Maybe you would find it helpful too… because believe me it took me several years at my job, missing deadlines, needing to recall budgets in a heartbeat, and so on and just being frantic as to where I put the information.  (If I haven’t mentioned it already that my day job is a librarian… so I have a lot of budgets, schedules, reports, inventory, etc. that I have to keep track of.)

Now first off, what the heck is bullet journaling? You could Google bullet journal spreads and see free printables, articles about what are considered the best quality tools to use (be it pens, stickers, rulers, stamps, notebooks, stencils, and so on), and an array of what looks like artsy journals on crack. (I mean I love the idea of being this creative on the daily but it’s a lot of pressure) Honestly, It’s all a bit overwhelming really but these are just examples of the more extreme and creative version of bullet journaling or “BuJo” as those creative kids are calling it… Bullet journaling was originally an organizational analog system utilizing a simple dot grid notebook to organize everything in your life from your random thoughts to your to-do lists and monthly plans. This system was created by a man named Ryder Carroll and I have a link under resources if you want to learn all about him and why he started this system.

Basically, with Ryder’s system, you would save the first couple of pages of your notebook as an index after that you just start writing on each page in no specific order, maybe you might set up a month or weekly to-do calendar but ultimately if you started writing about poetry on one page you can start the next with the daily to-dos, and then start the next page with bills you have to pay, and then the next with ideas about cooking, or whatever… marking each page and what you have decided to call it in the index such as (to-do Monday the 12, bills, cooking ideas, etc.) .  Essentially this system is primarily bulleted lists… and you would put a dot next to a task, you would X out the dot when completed, turn the dot into an arrow to the right if you need to move this task to the next list or another list,  turn it into an arrow facing left for a scheduled task, turn it into a star for an important task, and a slash through the dot if the item no longer applies. Yea it’s a lot… and people have gotten crazier with it too.

Here are some examples of bullet journal keys: (the first one is closer to the original bullet journal the rest are people’s updates)


dot journal keybullet-journal-key-lovebullet-journal-key-doo


For work, I only use the dots for to-do lists  and simplified:

 Dot = task

X= means completed

> = move to next month

Strikethrough= no longer applies (meaning I didn’t do it but don’t have to do it anymore)

I will use arrows and highlight and star things when needed but overall that’s my system.

As for just putting your to do list on the next page or just using the next page available for whatever you need, I did that the first year I utilized this system but found it to be a bit too jumbled. So I do that for new ideas or subjects that pop up for work, but overall I have dedicated pages with information. (Some are even grids I printed off of excel glued into my notebook and filled out later.)

Ryder Carroll also swears by a specific notebook: the Lechtturm 1917 dot grid journal. (These are nice and I get it because the ink doesn’t bleed through) I however swear by Mead College Ruled Compbook. I usually pick up one (or two) in August at Target for less than a buck a book.

Now also there are the people who have whole Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards dedicated to beautiful bullet journal spreads,  colorful with brush writing… yea for this system to work for me, I have to let all that pretty stuff go.

Below are a few photos of my notebook but not much because a lot of pages have account information or other work information that I probably shouldn’t share willy-nilly on the internet.

Every notebook for work I start by writing the year on the cover in marker. [I usually set up my notebook 3-4 months ahead in case I need to put any planning info in it in advance.]

I usually use only the front of the page (and leave the back side blank this is my built in wiggle room in case I need to add more info unexpectedly to a particular item/topic) and I number in the right top hand corner.

I leave the first few pages unnumbered turning them into a cover page/key and index. I usually have two indexes, Index A: by page Index B: by subject/topic  (examples, I broke the page into sections “to-do & meetings ”, “Important Info”, “Programming/Budgets”, “Meetings” and “Summer”.


For example:  Pg1: January To-Do  Pg2: January Meeting Notes  Pg3: February To-Do

I will title these pages and fill in things I know such as for January I know December’s monthly statistics are due and so I put that on the list ahead of time. This is primarily where I use the dot, X, arrow system… I will also add the date next to a completed task such as 9/8/19 etc.

Page 25: DUE DATES.

A list of unchanging yearly/monthly important due dates  (Publicity due dates, reports, budget due dates that are the same every year I use this as reference to set up pages 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 for the month’s to-dos)


These are pages that I need to transfer every year, some will be printed out and glued or taped into the book, some will be written but almost all of them are things from the previous notebook that needed to be transferred (as I copy pages from my previous notebook to the current one I will put a X through the page number so I know I transferred that page)

These pages may include any and all of the following (just as some examples… note the titles here aren’t the titles I use, I tend more of a short hand but you probably wouldn’t know what I meant thus the extremely wordy titles) Some of these will only be the title or just a grid with titles and blank spots to be filled in with future information and some will get multiple dedicated pages:

  • Important contact numbers
  • Ordering accounts information
  • Pay date grid (including pay periods, date, expected pay vs. actual pay—minus deductions)
  • Program budget
  • Programs that need to be entered into our event calendar
  • Statistics that have to be entered into bigger grid outside of the monthly statistics report
  • Special craft programs (setup, who’s running it, what supplies are needed, what budget)
  • Staff training (date, length, title of webinar/meeting, date submitted)
  • Vacation time (allotted, taken, submitted)
  • Sick time (allotted, taken, submitted, doctor’s note information)
  • Summer Specific programming (many subdivisions of this)
  • Prospective programming before released budget

Pages Left-over : THINGS THAT COME UP…  There will always be things that “come up” that I will have to add later, I just add them on the next available page. Some examples of things that just “came up” are…

  • Lists of books about particular topics that are in demand that I did not have any titles collected/suggested for previously
  • Books to be added to previously collated topic lists
  • New Invoices that need to be submitted
  • Incident that happened that I need to keep noted in case there is a follow up
  • New policies and procedures that need a dedicated page outside of meeting information
  • How to fill out and submit an updated form


Beyond this of course I also have a USB drive with the actual documents such as blank forms I need to submit, completed forms/reports that I have submitted, lists and so on….  (usually the notebook is for things in flux and also for noting when things are submitted or have to be)  and I also have a calendar where I put statistics and all important work dates (program dates, sick/vacation time taken, co-workers bdays, etc.).

And if you noticed in my alternate title of this post I mentioned that I am also working on implementing a version of this system for my home life, to keep track of bills, events, cleaning, blog posts, projects etc. So hopefully once I have figured out how to implement that system I will write another post about that because I am sure it will differ slightly.


So it took me a long time at this job to adopt this system which other than an initial setup is easy and allows me to remember all my to-dos et al. Maybe this will help you too!

Either way…





Resources:  This is the creator of the very basic analog method that started the whole bullet journal trend.


The fancier stuff…



Image links:

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