This is my journal. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

For 2018, I’m committing to another year of my Frankenstein Dash Plus meets Bullet Journal, but grafting on a dose of Craig Mod’s “Drawing the Calendar” to track some habits. These are habits I’d been keeping up with, in some cases redundantly, with iOS apps.

Before I get into the changes, I need to reflect on what I did in 2017. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten that “on paper.”

Dash Plus

The foundation of this is Patrick Rhone’s Dash Plus System. Which is great—I’ve used it off and on since about 2010 for quick lists of tasks. The elegance of the dash (-) becoming the plus (+) to show you’ve accomplished something, stuck with me. (That all the other meta symbols are built from that humble dash made it that much sweeter.)

Dash Plus never stuck for “project management” since it didn’t have any structure. Instead it was a quick and disposable checklist.

Bullet Journal

There’s been plenty written about Bullet Journal.

Suffice to say that it’s an excellent pen and paper system for keeping up with what you are, and are not, doing. You use one journal for the entire year. Write down what you’re going to do. If you don’t get it done, you have to carry (or in BuJo speak “migrate”) it to the next day or month.

There’s accountability for your tasks. Weight for the tasks you put in the journal.

When I first stumbled into it, I was neck deep in doing this sort of stuff in various apps, so I didn’t give it a fair shot.


The spark for this came when I stumbled across James Gowans’ write up on how he hybridized the two and then augmented them with OmniFocus. A hybrid seemed like the right move—scavenge the parts that work. Use Dash Plus, modified to suit me, within the framework of a Bullet Journal. In February, I found a fresh, unopened Moleskine on the shelf, unwrapped it, and put pen to paper.

It was a good experiment this past (most of a) year. At first, there was redundancy in dealing with work projects. I made some changes there—it helped that several of the staff had also transitioned to daily, pen and paper list making.

Beginning and ending with pen and paper became a better way to start and close each day.

My meta. That last one didn't really stick.

2018: The Frankensteining

Later today or tomorrow, I’ll crack open a new journal for 2018. The underlying structure of the Bullet Journal remains:

  • Index: Used for recording unique entries and what pages they’re on.
  • Future Log: A pair of two-page spreads that document the next 12 months.
  • Month: Another spread to list every day of the week on the left side and notes about what you’re looking to accomplish that month on the right.
  • Days: As the month goes on, record what I intend to get finished every day. I’ve found the key is to be specific.

When you get to the next month, start again with a new spread. Note it in the index, list out the days, carry over the things you didn’t finish. Or take it as a sign that maybe you don’t need (or want) to do that thing and dump it.

In finding ways to spend less quality time with my phone, I drew inspiration from Mod’s Drawing the Calendar. I was happy with how 2017 went with the Bullet Journal and wasn’t particularly interested in having a second notebook/journal to manage.

Hardware Agnostic

I didn’t want to set the stage to require a particular notebook or pen(s). That’s one of the original appeals of a Bullet Journal. You could use any notebook you had lying around. Mod’s calendar system is excellent, but I wanted to use whatever pen I had at hand. Don’t take that the wrong way. I can fetishize the tools of writing extraordinarily well. Sadly, my penmanship has been described as being “like an unbreakable code. . . or something.”

Yes, I have pens I like—even prefer—in making my “indecipherable to nearly anyone but me” scribbles. Building a system that requires specific pens to feel like I was doing it correctly? Nope.

Maybe in 2019. For 2018 though, I wanted to find a way of incorporating that idea into my existing method. So any notebook and whatever pen I have with me.

Trickle Lists

Bullet Journal’s start of every month spread always felt a bit redundant. At least the left side where you list days and important events. Shared calendars are a blessing, curse, and something I probably won’t be able to shake anytime soon. But what If I leveraged some additional columns for daily tasks?

Apparently, this was a part of Gowans’ original Hybrid take. A piece I missed until I started documenting how I got here.

Trickle Lists are a simple means of recording your commitment to a set of tasks. Every day you do them, put an “X” in that column for that day. When you’re crushing it, you can see that column build down the page.

For 2018, I’m starting out with:

  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Write
  • Booze

Exercise, Meditate, and Write is stuff I want to do more frequently. Booze will remain at the end so I can note with whom and the occasion. It’s something I’ve not thought to keep up with until late this year. This run through the holidays has me curious about how frequently I do partake.

We’ll see how it goes.

Closing this screen and cracking open the notebook I’ll use for the next year.

Out with 2017 (top), and in with 2018 (bottom).

Out with 2017 (top), and in with 2018 (bottom).