It’s no secret that the Bullet Journal system has allowed me to make incredible changes in my life and stay on top of my work and personal life. This flexible system has dramatically reduced tasks that slip through cracks, and given me intention in my days. Most importantly, I’ve stuck with it longer than 3 months!
If you follow me on Instagram or on this blog, you’ll also know I am an instructor and work in higher education in the USA. My responsibilities range from teaching to curriculum writing to program coordination, and so on – I noticed there are many other Bullet Journal Junkies that do the same thing! To share some of my tips and tricks, I’ve put together a video and this blog post explaining how I bullet journal as a teacher and administrator.
First of all, check out the basics video from creator and designer Ryder Carroll at the BulletJournal.com to get familiar with the system and how it works. The main parts of the system includes:
The beauty of this system lies in its endless flexibility and ability to adapt to what you want it to do. The Mystique of planners, if you will. And without further ado, layouts for an educator’s bullet journal!
Your signifier symbols should be meaningful to you and how you’ll indicate things like tasks and appointments. I use pretty standard icons – I don’t like to do too many different icons because it takes up too much mental capacity, so I keep these basic.
I DID add the delegation and connection icons in my legend. When working a lot with a team, I needed to identify when I had taken tasks off my plate, and this works wonderfully as a record. I also have a heart for connections – when you work with students and have a strong team environment, I wanted to acknowledge these joyful moments that happen. My day isn’t always just about production, and wanted to capture that with this icon.
The index is your log of relevant pages in your bullet journal. In this photo I’ve split it up to provide some general categorization of different pages. Sometimes people ask if you need to index your dailies or weekly layouts – I don’t think so. I think it’s easy enough to keep track of your planning pages and it takes up a lot of space to track them – so I would only index pages like collections and notes.
Perhaps many of you have your calendars online, which takes care of future planning, but perhaps you want to use the bullet journal version. Here is a slightly upgraded version of Ryder’s original. I like to section off different areas – in this case, tasks are different than events, which gives you an easier way to reference your upcoming professional development, conferences, or research appointments.
You can also print out the traditional grid calendar, a familiar layout that is easy to print off instead of draw.
Part of living intentionally is knowing what you’re doing the work FOR – so keeping goals at the forefront of your journal can help you stay on track throughout the semester or the year. Whether they are from your annual review and created with your boss, perhaps they are standards for the district, number of attendees to programs, or something that you’re setting for yourself, listing them and fleshing out key milestones will help you avoid the trap of time slipping away in the midst of prep and writing proposals.
This layout is an evolution of Ryder’s original monthly layout, which lists the month on top and the days/dates on the side. By adding additional columns you can fill in tasks related to the different parts of your job, whether that’s research, service, your role as level leader, or administrative duties. In the first column, I put teaching topics in the class I teach. This helps me see the monthly overview of where we’re headed, and what big topics we’re covering each day. As I outline in my work post, you can look per line and take stock of how full your day is, or plan your tasks strategically with the responsibilities already there.
One of the things I take very seriously as an instructor is being on top of deadlines and knowing what assignments are happening and when. I find that college students take you a little more seriously when you feel confident in your knowledge of the flow of the class, which is helped by this chart.
By listing my assignments on the bottom and the weeks across the top, I use my trusty Pilot Juice Pens to shade the timeframe of those assignments. I start on the day I launch the assignment, darken the date they are due, and continue to shade afterward to indicate when I will be grading those assignments. This gives me (and my students) a more complete picture of an assignment.
The most helpful part of this is breaking down our 2 huge group projects – I can easily see the cascade of deadlines, as well as how many things they are juggling in any given week. You can use this for much of anything – your projects at work, your year’s cycle like I do in my job, housing placement and community events for residence life folks, research process… anything!
This simple but immensely helpful layout helps me get a grasp of the arc of the course, and is extremely helpful when I learn new courses. It’s too easy to go day to day and execute a lesson plan – it takes much more effort to make connections across each day, to build throughout the semester. Inevitably, I make this layout every semester.
I teach twice a week each semester so I draw this out with Week 1 Day 1, Week 1 Day 2, Week 2 Day 1… and so on. I jot in the basic deadlines so I know what the students are dealing with. Then, I add in the big activities and concepts we’re talking about and learning that day. Stepping back I can see the building blocks and the many connections that overlap each week or day, and can be more intentional about connecting backwards to previous ideas while also foreshadowing and laying groundwork for future concepts. This practice alone has made me half the teacher that I am today!
You should know, my actual lesson plans are digital. I am all about paper planning until it is a severe inconvenience – so I rely heavily on Google Docs to be my detailed daily lesson plans. In those documents, I outline the supplies I need, my agenda, and then detailed notes on the lesson. It is easier to make copies and update for each semester, as well as collaborate with my teaching assistant and co-teachers.
One of the biggest game-changers in my teaching was understanding the connection between the intention or purpose to the actual assignment itself. This took me a lot of energy at first but helped immensely when I explained and launched assignments in class. Simply, I write down the major assignments on the left column and then, in my own words, write down the connection to the deeper purpose or objectives of the class or topic. Doing it once makes it easier for me to make it relevant to the students.
You all know I’m a huge fan of weeklies – but you can adapt it in so many ways for your teaching or education work by adding different rows and sections. Try a 5-day across the top to maximize space. You can sort your day by the different classes you teach and your teaching-related tasks, and then break off another row for your admin work. If you work in higher ed, that box can be for research or project-related tasks. Then on the next page, you can have your weekend and free space for projects, grading, a weekly review, or other planning.
Of course you’ll leave the bottom for flexible sections – whether that’s “to do something this week,” or the dreaded “Grading Section” you can adapt whatever you need. For grading, I find it most helpful to have a visual tracker for the week for each assignment. It can feel pretty grim sometimes, so I have a box for each assignment I need to grade so I can see that I’m making some progress.
Other helpful sections:
These are logs I have in my Google Drive, and I refer to them constantly. Once I get my class roster, I set this up with their names on the left hand side. Then I do 2 different spreads – dates across the top on one for attendance, and then assignments across the top for grading.
Attendance is pretty self-explanatory, I mark who is present and who is late or absent for grading in the semester.
The assignments log is really helpful as a shared document among teaching teams. We split up grading and each claim a color. I’m usually purple, so anything I grade, I highlight in purple. With this method there’s less confusion about who is grading what, and I can jot down the scores I want to give them. By doing this first I can take a pause to make sure these are the grades I want to submit – we are not perfect, so points may be adjusted here quickly before being finally sent to the LMS.
Throughout the semester, much like you’d fill out a gratitude log, fill out this student log to capture specific stories of how they use their strengths and gifts in class. Maybe they advocated for another student, or they brought new perspective to conversations, or easily brings people together. Additionally, make note of their challenge areas – what is their next step, things they can work on? This gives you rich stories to tell parents at conferences, or to the students themselves. The impact it makes when you acknowledge someone’s gifts is truly astounding – and needs to happen more often. You can do this for people you supervise, or even perhaps your teammates’ strengths.
Love collections? See how I use them in my bullet journal.
See the photo above
As a curriculum writer and Gallup Maximizer, I keep track of the little snafus I hit or improvements I make throughout the semester. If I notice a prompt isn’t working, an activity needs clarity, or timing on a topic is off, I will jot it down in this on-going collection. Then, when the Magical Time of Summer arrives, I know what changes I can make – and have record of it outside of my faulty memory.
It is extremely frustrating to work for or with someone where you have to figure out what they want – in an effort to not be “that guy,” I have started a list of what my personal quirks are and what I expect from students and teaching assistants. It makes a stronger partnership when you can name these things from the beginning rather than stumble upon them later. As I think of them, I jot them down.
We’re always looking for ways to make learning come alive, so why not capture your list of TED Talks, videos, books, or other websites to check out in one place?
One of the most important things to do for students is to make learning come alive. I have a few ways of doing this, as I’m sure you know – but it’s through giving “real world” examples and stories of your own. Students are always wondering how different knowledge is applicable to their lives, or why it should matter – by giving examples of how different physics concepts or leadership concepts show up in current events, students can start connecting their learning to a lived world. I have a collection literally titled, “Real Life.”
Another powerful mechanism for learning is through your own stories. This is especially helpful if you are given a curriculum to teach – it is difficult to feel like you really own the material. By going through the different concepts, take time to look back at what stories YOU already have to exemplify and illustrate those ideas. This exercise can equip you with an amazing tool box to use in the classroom.
If you facilitate a lot of discussions or activities, this may be the perfect collection for you to keep track of strong questions to add to the mix to spark new thoughts for students.
Want more tips? I share a few more ideas in an update here.
WHOO. So that was A LOT but certainly not exhaustive – what lists are you keeping? What layouts have you used? Perhaps something was useful for you, or inspired a way you can adapt to your own needs – let me know in the comments!