I Started a Dot Journal

Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, trackerYou might be thinking, WTF is a dot journal and why should I start one? Luckily, one of my favorite bloggers has already covered that:

A bullet [aka dot] journal is good for:

  • People who have a million little to-do lists floating around
  • People who like pen and paper to-do lists
  • People who are into goal-setting and habit tracking
  • People who like stationery, journaling, scrapbooking, beautiful pens, etc.
  • People who really love planners
  • People who want to really love planners, or who want to be more organized
  • People who would really like to keep a journal/diary but are having trouble sticking with the habit

Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, year at a glanceA dot journal is a planner, to-do list, and diary all in one. It can be used for goal setting, habit tracking, meal planning, and note taking. A dot journal, in sum, can be anything you want it to be.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, meal plannerI’d been looking for a paper planner that would allow me to keep track of weekly appointments and events, serve as a weekly meal planner, include space for daily to-do lists and notes, and include yearly and monthly big-picture views. Well, such planner doesn’t exist — at least not in a pre-formatted notebook.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, listsMy previous system — which included two Google calendars (one for work, one personal), one spiral-bound desktop weekly calendar (vertical daily layout) for appointments, one notebook-sized weekly calendar (horizontal daily layout) for meal-planning, a dry-erase monthly calendar in our kitchen for big-picture planning, the Wunderlist app for to-do and shopping lists, and anything from steno pads to post-it notes for paper to-do lists and reminders — was a bit unwieldy. I never had everything I needed in one place and, with the exception of my smartphone, nothing was portable.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, future log, yearly spreadNow you might be thinking, Why would you need anything other than your smartphone? We live in a digital world — it’s true. I’ve previously opined about my love of certain tangible products (i.e. scrapbooks), so I won’t repeat myself, but here’s what the New York Times has to say about the case for using a paper planner:

[W]riting by hand forces you to slow down and approach your planning with more mindfulness. Research even suggests that writing things down by hand helps you retain information better, which is a useful perk if you really don’t want to forget that important work deadline.

Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, monthly spreadI originally hadn’t intended for my planner to be used for anything other than scheduling and time management, but once I really dug in and realized the endless possibilities for a dot journal, I expanded its purpose. I got a lot of ideas from the Internets, but I went ahead and purchased “Dot Journaling — A Practical Guide” by (aforementioned blogger and BuzzFeed writer) Rachel Wilkerson, which really inspired me to think about what I wanted my dot journal to be.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, listsIn addition to incorporating different calendar layouts (yearly, monthly, weekly) for traditional planning and scheduling, I decided to ditch my other paper journal (my use of which was sporadic at best) and use my dot journal for, well, journaling and writing. Keeping a regular gratitude journal and daily writing are part of my 2018 Future Letter to Myself.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, habit trackerI was also intrigued by the idea of a habit tracker, which could be used to help foster good habits or kick bad ones. I’m starting with just a handful for February. The great thing about a dot journal is its flexibility — I can add more as the month goes on, change the layout for next mont, or ditch this idea altogether.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, exercise trackerEven though I use (and likely will continue to use) the Fitbit and MyFitnessPal apps to track exercise and nutrition, I also created a page to track monthly exercise, divided into running, cycling, strength, and stretching. I was pretty religious about running and taking various group exercise classes (RPM, BodyPump, and yoga) at the gym for the last two years.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, indexThings are a little different now since I’m 8.5 months pregnant and in the U.S., sans gym membership, but I’m still keeping up regular (albeit much lower intensity) exercise. I’m under no illusions that Kail and I will be able to spend four hours at the gym followed by a leisurely lunch every weekend — I think we’ll be lucky to get four hours in a week — but my intentions are to keep up some level of fitness and get my pre-baby body back by the end of the year.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, baby trackerSpeaking of Piopio, I’m going to experiment with a monthly baby tracker page, including sleeping, feeding, and diapers. I’m planning to use an app as well, so I might find that I prefer one method over another, but I’ll see how it goes this month. I can modify/delete for March if need be.Dot journaling definitely requires a bit more work at the front end than your regular old planner, but the final product is worth it. You just aren’t going to get the same level of customization or organization from a pre-formatted layout.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, weekly spreadMy repeat layouts that take the most time — the monthly spreads (which, for me, include month at-a-glance, baby tracker, habits, and exercise) only have to be created at the end of each month in preparation for the following. My weekly layouts (weekly spread and meal planning) aren’t that time consuming so I don’t foresee a problem creating them every Saturday night for the following week. Of course, everything took me twice as long this time around because the perfectionist in me created practice layouts on scratch paper before copying them into my notebook.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, daily spreadThe daily layouts simply include the date and consist of nothing more than a to-do list and a couple notes about the day (including my gratitude items) or more detailed, journal-like observations. I imagine mine will include a mix of both, but I’d really like to take time everyday to write, especially given Piopio’s impending arrival. What better way to capture details, however mundane, about this fleeting time in his life?Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, trackerOn notebooks. In the past I’ve been partial to Moleskin, which does indeed make dotted grid journals, but I settled on a Leuchtturm1917 dotted journal instead. Side note: You don’t need to use dotted grid paper for a dot journal (aka bullet journal), which is named not for the dotted paper but for the bulleted note-taking format that makes them easy to use — and thus, the idea goes, facilitates regular use instead of collecting dust on a shelf, like so many of my journals past.Bullet journal, dot journal, leuchtturm1917, journaling, planner, calendar, diary, tracker, washi tape, pens, led pen, staedtlerI’m not even going to get into pens and accessories (a new favorite: washi tape!) right now because I’ve already written 1,100+ words about what is essentially a notebook. If you want more details on the specifics of standard dot journal components (i.e. index, key) and how to begin, check out the BuzzFeed article as a start (or if you’re ready to dive right in, the book).Do you use a paper planner or keep a journal (or a dot journal)?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

5 thoughts on “I Started a Dot Journal

  1. I love the blue cover and the washi tape! I need to finish filling out two of my 6 ongoing journals before I think I can consolidate into one dot journal but I love this idea because I do have so many journals going at once.

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    1. Do it! I feel like it has a lot of potential for homesteading and farm life in terms of tracking and goal-setting. I also think (for more creative/artistic people) there’s a lot of potential for pretty layouts and nice designs. I wanted to start simple to make sure I keep it up regularly, but there is a rabbit hole of dot journaling layouts on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration!

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  2. Wow, an incredibly descriptive post, thanks for taking the time to share! How long did it take to set it up? My biggest regret with my baby was not writing any of the moments down and think this is a great idea. Good luck with the baby!

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    1. Thank you! I’m hoping I have time for some memory-keeping/writing about the baby, but we’ll see how the realities of parenthood actually go. ;)I set up my journal over a period of a few days. I would estimate about 3-4 hours — but that’s on the long side because I did practice layouts on scratch paper for the more involved ones (like the workout grid). The first few pages only need to be created once (the yearly pages and lists of books, etc.) so it won’t take a lot of recurring work and (hopefully) will be faster with each subsequent month/week since I’ll have already made the same layouts before …

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  3. […] I’m taking a different approach to New Year’s resolutions for 2019. In fact, I’m not making New Year’s resolutions at all. Instead of writing a “Future Letter to Myself,” as I have done for the past six years, I’m simply going to keep up with my monthly habits tracker in my dot journal. […]

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