Dot Journaling • A Practical Guide

How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together Paperback by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

I loved this book! Rachel Wilkerson Miller (may I call you Rachel?) is a “hybrid bullet journalist,” just like me. She has developed her own system over the years, adding some of the original Ryder Carroll Bullet Journal system in with her own journaling methods from when she was young. Plus, I really enjoy Rachel’s writing style, tone and the easy way she explains things. The examples she shares are inspiring and makes me want to try new things.

So much drama

Let’s just get this out of the way first, ok? What I find fascinating about this book is the controversy around it. Inevitably whenever this book is mentioned in any of the forums or Facebook Groups drama ensues. Why? Because people who have never read the book start screaming about trademark infringement … when really if they had actually read the book, they’d know that the author gives full credit to the original Bullet Journal system and acknowledges that when she heard of Ryder Carroll’s original system it was confusing and didn’t fit her style.

Rachel writes a book that tells how she customizes her journal based on her own experience of keeping diaries since grade school and inspiration she got from others and sprinkles in some aspects of bullet journaling to keep things organized and structured.

If there was any sort of legal issue with Ryder’s trademark being infringed, I doubt this would still be available for sale – in fact, because this book has a traditional publisher, I doubt they would let a book that gets them in legal trouble past their team of lawyers. So there. IMHO there is no trademark infringement so let’s not even go there. Let’s move beyond that little bit of drama, mmkay?

An intersection of bullet journal and diary

Rachel shows how the original bullet journal system might look in your own journal … BUT where this books truly becomes valuable is when she takes that original bujo concept and intersects it with what the actual bullet journaling community is doing in the real world. But also how she brings some of her childhood journaling methods into her adult life and shows how they can work in a modern-day journal for staying organized and recording your life.

We all see those highly creative, artsy, hand-drawn layouts and wonder how they could ever be part of the original intention. But here, the author shows us how those types of layouts can be adapted in multiple ways to work for the life you are living and want to keep organized. For each type of traditional bullet journal section (monthlies, weeklies, dailies, collections, etc.) she gives multiple examples of various ways to set up those pages and why they might work for you.

You’re not going to see pictures of layouts you have already seen while browsing Pinterest or Instagram. Nope. Rachel draws all the layouts in this book herself. The concepts might look familiar because if you’ve spent any time at all browsing inspiration sites, you will have seen some of these layouts – but they have a unique twist to them because she explains what works and how you can adapt it to your own needs.

Some of the ideas she covers include:

  • Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily ideas
  • Health and Fitness
  • Financial Management
  • Chores and Keeping House
  • Meal Planning
  • Travel
  • Using your journal as a diary

Fascinating Examples from History

Rachel reminds us that keeping a journal isn’t anything new. She gives some insight into the Diary of Anne Frank (and how what we read today is not what she originally wrote – Anne edited her entries!). There’s an amazing “zero-emotion” excerpt from the Diary of Mary Vial Holyoke who kept a record of her life in the late 1700’s. And Rachel shares a brief history of commonplace books that gives some insight I hadn’t heard before.

What did I take away?

Personally, I’ve adapted her idea for daily pages where she suggests combining traditional bullet journal task management and tracking with old-school dairy-keeping by writing a bit of narrative about your day at the end of each page.

Rachel’s daily task list (one page per day) is more diary than it is a to-do list. She records just a few important tasks to complete at the top of the page, then the lower ⅔ of the page is filled with a running log of what happened that day, observations, what she ate or what she did with her husband. I love that she’s combining the idea of keeping a record of your life as they did in the Victorian era with the modern idea of bullet journaling.

After reading this book I started to include a small area at the bottom of my daily page to record a sentence or two about my day or something I’m grateful for. It’s so nice to flip through my old journal and read those notes and the memory of the day is crystal clear. In looking through this book again to write this review, I think I’m going to incorporate even more life and memory keeping entries into my journals.

Nerd Approved!

I highly recommend this insightful look into how bullet journaling can work for those who don’t adhere to the traditional system but also can’t deal with the overly-artsy trend happening in the bullet journaling community right now. Buy the book on Amazon or pick up the Box Set that includes a blank dot-grid journal along with the book.