Journalling Habit

Journalling Habit

Wednesday 28 Feb 2024, 6:15 pm

For a while now, I’ve been finding my memory is not what it used to be. I struggle to remember things that I said or decided (this was one motivator for going ‘coffee-free’ in Fun Free February). It’s not like major amnesia or something, just forgetting bits and pieces. I also watched the COVID enquiry (or, parts of it), and was interested to see that most of the high-level folks were keeping journals which they could refer to, and I liked the idea.

So in early January, to try to support my memory, I started taking notes in a journal. Again. But it’s stuck with me a bit better since I tried it last. After 8 weeks of writing stuff down, I’m not sure that my memory is much better, but I do find that I’m able to stay on top of stuff a bit more easily. There are probably a number of reasons for it: checking for ‘left-over’ to-dos helps stop stuff escaping my mind. Deciding and actively prioritising what I note down seems to also help. Nevertheless, I treated myself to a fountain pen and I am finding it (surprisingly) pleasant to write with. I never really got on well with fountain pens in the past, and my handwriting is dreadful, but I am enjoying it.

I went for the Lamy Safari in a lovely matte black which set me back around €15 (which seems to be markedly cheaper than you can get it elsewhere in Europe, and it’s already a cheap pen). I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I enjoy writing with it compared to the rollerballs I was using prior to this. I find it a bit heavy with the cap fitted (apparently this is known as ‘posting’, or ‘writing posted’, for some reason), but with the cap off, it is very comfortable to hold and write with. The pen came with a ‘fine’ nib, which is… well, fine, but I might try a medium nib at some point to see which I prefer. I’m tempted to get some ink and a converter so I can use liquid ink rather than cartridges. Better for the environment and a bit more fun I think.

The journal I’m using is the (surprisingly cheap and decent quality) A5 Bullet Journal from Flying Tiger Copenhagen. For €5, you can’t really go wrong, but it surprised me how nice it is. Dot grid (looks like it’s 5mm, but haven’t measured), 192 numbered pages but no other page decorations, it’s nice. It has a small pouch at the back, but I don’t find that very useful. Others guess that the paper weight is 80 or 90gsm, which sounds about right (if I had to guess, I’d say 80 just because it’s a cheap planner and 80gsm paper is more ubiquitous than 90gsm paper). In terms of cons, the paper is not completely opaque, and you can see through it (the ink does not bleed through, it’s just visible through the slightly translucent paper, which I understand is known as ‘ghosting’). I also hate the child-like ‘Bullet planner’ wording on the cover. It makes me a little embarrassed to carry it around with me and get it out. There are a couple of other dot grid notebooks, but they have equally embarrassing covers, and they don’t have numbered pages. I’d love it if they had bold, simple colours like the Leuchtturm 1917s (which are like three or four times the price - and like 1.5 times the price of the pen!). I also have found that the ribbon markers are not very securely attached inside the spine, so they’re starting to fall out a little bit.

In terms of my bullet journalling process, it’s very simple and no-frills.


Index page(s)

At the start of the notebook, and at various points throughout the notebook, I have a list of pages and all of their respective page numbers. The last entry in each index is the page number for the next index page.

Periodic Pages

I have a yearly page where I outline my goals for the year, and a monthly page for each month where I outline my goals for the month, as well as key dates and to-dos for the month, as well as a couple of focuses for the month. I normally include a mini-calendar and some habit-tracking calendar things.

On a Monday morning, I create a weekly page, where I capture the plan for the week (any important appointments, to-dos for the week, etc.). I also use this time to review the previous week, pick up any unactioned action items, and move them to the new week. I normally update the index here as well.

Every day (except at the weekend), I create a daily entry (depending on how long the previous day’s entry was, this may be on its own new page, or it may be continuing on the previous page). I scan the weekly page to see if I need to add any of the to-dos to this specific day, and add in any specific appointments that are relevant for that day (normally personal stuff, work meetings I keep in Outlook because they get moved and cancelled and so on fairly frequently).

Functional Pages

Every meeting (where I’m an active rather than passive participant), I’ll create a meeting entry. The first meeting of the day will be on a fresh page, but then after that, meetings can squeeze in onto the same page as long as there’s space. Occasionally, I’ll even go back and put a meeting in a space left in the previous day (which is why the index is so important). I’ll also create a new page for important topics that need a lot of information to be gathered together (e.g. I dedicated a page to my travel to Helsinki, which was quite unremarkable and not blogworthy, by the way).


I use a pretty basic key, not much different to the basic ‘rapid logging’ system.

  • Same as rapid logging, an event is indicated with an unfilled dot bullet. I use this for scheduled events (such as doctor’s appointments, guitar lessons, etc.), general date-related events (e.g. birthdays, mothers’ day, etc.), but not much else. The example on rapid logging of ‘signed the lease’ or ‘best friend moves away’, I would probably consider a ‘note’ on that day’s page (‘best friend moves away’ might feature on my monthly page as an event). I don’t have a consistent time syntax yet. So far I’m flitting between DD-MMM HH:mm: and DD-MM: @ HH:mm. I like the second format better, but it is not as easy to scan for the time.
  • Same as rapid logging, a note is introduced by a dash. However, I’m a bit more flexible on recording time-bound things that are not actionable as notes compared to events.
  • Differently to rapid logging, I use an empty box to indicate a task. It stands out more to me visually, and allows me to see more quickly at a glance what is outstanding. I use the following indicators to indicate task status:
    • Same as rapid logging, ‘migrating’ (or moving to a new ‘active’ list) is indicated by a right chevron (>). The task itself is followed by a right arrow and the number of the page to which it has been migrated.
    • Same as rapid logging, ‘completing’ a task is indicated by an X
    • A single slash in the box indicates a blocked task. I’m not fully happy with this because it stops me from being able to ‘migrate’ the task, but it does at least give a clear status visually. I am considering using a line from top left to the middle instead, allowing to continue to the bottom right and then slash top right to bottom left to ‘complete’, or migrate by adding a line from bottom left to the centre.
    • I use an exclamation mark as a signifier in the margin for points that I need to see quickly and be aware of readily (for example: things to flag to my boss, etc.

For headings, I use two ‘lines’ followed by a missed out row. I underline by hand without a ruler, and for emphasis, I use a single underline if needed. I think I’ve done this twice since I started.