How to Not Be Daunted by Dot Journaling
When it comes to getting organized, we should all be taking notes from Rachel Wilkerson Miller, the author of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide—one peek at her meticulous to-do lists, created using the bullet method (more on that in a second), and her color-coordinated office supplies is more than enough proof. And don’t let her super-advanced example up there scare you away if you’re currently scribbling reminders on the back of receipts:“To start, just set aside 15 minutes a day, and actually use that time to lay it all out,” Rachel says. “It will pretty quickly become a habit.” Ok, Rachel, show us the way—we’re lining up.
Q: What the heck is dot (or bullet) journaling, anyway?
A. “It’s a pen-and-paper system for keeping track of your life based on bullet points. I wrote a Buzzfeed post explaining it when I first got into it, and there’s a whole community around the system. You can use it to keep to-do lists, track habits, and journal all in one place. Unlike pre-printed planners or journals, it’s totally customizable—a lot of guides refer to ‘spreads,’ which are just lists or calendars laid out across single or multiple pages. Most dot or bullet journals have an index, so you can go back and find things really easily. I wrote my book for both total beginners and enthusiasts. It’s a mix of very accessible, short ideas and then examples of how to get a little more detailed. It was really important to me to give people permission to go their own way.”
Q: What does your journal look like?
A: “If I start a new journal, I’ll set aside a few pages for an index and larger goals for the year. After setting up those, I start with new monthly pages, like a habit tracker, where on one sheet I can check off which days I exercised, which days I took my medicine, which days I drank. Then I do pages broken up by day, but you could do a page for each week instead. Each page gets a number that goes into the index—if you write a list on a random page, it can be hard to find it later. For example, my entire month of May is pages 40 to 50. My daily logs have really simple to-do lists. When each thing is done, I put an x over it, and if it’s not done, I can move it to the next day. So at a glance, you can see what the status of everything is. I write little notes on the page, and I’ll write a diary entry whenever I feel like it. I’ll paste in postcards or do little doodles or add samples of my washi tape collection—so it can be a little like scrapbooking—but you don’t have to do any of that. You have a ton of flexibility.”
Q: What do you say to people who are totally intimidated by this?
A: “I think most people still do some form of list-making with a pen and paper. And writing in a journal is one of those things that’s universally agreed upon as being helpful for record-keeping. I used to have this idea that work lists and personal writing should be separate, but it was easier for me to form the habit and feel more organized by putting it all in one place. And there’s a lot of detailed, beautiful examples out there, but I like to remind people that they’re not creating it for the internet. It’s just for you. And I bet for most people, spending a little time figuring out what works for them is a worthwhile endeavor.”
Q: What about tools? What do you like to use?
A: “Well, you really just need a notebook and a pen or pencil—the rest is all optional. There’s a whole chapter in the book about my favorite pens, highlighters, tape, etc., but I always compare it to going to Sephora—no one actually needs most of the stuff in there, but if it’s fun for you to get into and you enjoy it, go for it. My go-to pen black pen is the Pilot Juice 0.38 gel pen.”