By Noreen Keesey

I love journals, notebooks, planners, and pens. I can lose hours happily wandering in office supply stores. I get a rush of excitement seeing a display of beautiful, empty books just waiting for the smooth strokes of the perfect pen.

This adoration comes with a downside. Even when I make the difficult choice of which lovely items come home with me, I tend not to use them well. The journals with motivating quotes on the cover sit waiting for a spark of inspiration on the best use for them. The planners ended up with days, sometimes weeks, without a single ink mark. Those empty wasted pages filling me with regret.

I hoped that finding the right planner would bring organization and productivity to my life. I could say goodbye to all the sticky notes and scraps of paper with phone numbers and cryptic messages on them, and give my brain a rest. Perhaps you know someone like me.

I’m happy to share that my search for the perfect planner is over. A couple of years ago, I ran across “The Bullet Journal Method” created by Ryder Carroll. I checked into it and was intrigued. Due to the disappointments of so many planners that failed me, I was cautious. I decided to try out the system using the unused last half of an old notebook. One wasn’t hard to find.

I got a little caught up in the online overwhelm, reading blogs and watching YouTube videos of people crafting beautiful pages. This caused me to buy some washi tape, stencils, and more markers than one person needs. Through practice, I found that I spent far too much time putting pages together and was never happy with the result. My bullet journal was starting to become more of a failed art project than a planner.

My reaction was equally unhelpful, with my use becoming more of a notebook than a planner. This was progress, as I could reference important information quickly and easily when needed. What was lacking was the intentional use of the system to support my productivity. This is the beauty of the bullet journal system, and why I love it. As I learn what works for me and what doesn’t, I change it. In that notebook. On the very next page.

I recently filled my first full notebook and migrated to my second. I followed the recommended review process and am implementing my lessons learned, which include:

  • Allow more white space to remain on the page.
  • Reflect on undone tasks to see if they deserve to be rescheduled or if striking them out is a better use of my time.
  • Consider my priorities and whether they are getting the attention they deserve. Am I using my time and energy on the things that I deem most important?

I finally found the perfect planner for me. I expect it to change as I do, and become an even better tool as I gain skill in its use. I will continue to occasionally use my fancy colored markers and add a bit of washi tape here and there; they add just the right touch of flair to my productivity partner.     

Noreen Keesey is a leadership trainer and life coach living in Bismarck. To learn more about creating your own bullet journal, visit