I have a new love in my life: bullet journaling. Bullet journaling is another form of planning and organizing your life, but in a form that you get to design yourself. Did I just make it sound complicated? I promise, it’s not. Let me give you a brief introduction to it.
A bullet journal can be whatever you want it to be. A planner, calendar, running to-do list, diary, doodle book, anything! There is no perfect way to do it, and there is no right or wrong way, either.
What do I need to start bullet journaling?
Two things: a notebook and a pen. That’s all you need! It can be any notebook you have lying around. I’ve seen journals with fancy covers and pages, and I’ve seen simple notebooks. Anything works! The notebook can be a bound notebook, a spiral, a disc-bound, or even loose-leaf paper in a binder. There’s no specific size you have to get. The type of paper doesn’t matter either – lined, graph, and grid all work brilliantly.
When I started, I grabbed a random blank lined notebook I had in a cabinet for my practice BuJo (as it’s charmingly referred to in the community), but I am also experimenting with a disc-bound notebook now. I also have a dot-grid Moleskine that’s itching to be opened. Decisions, decisions!
What’s inside the bullet journal?
The first thing in your bullet journal is going to be your key. This is where you’ll make note of the symbols that precede your entries and what they mean.
The original bullet journal system (created by Ryan Carroll of bulletjournal.com) uses a system of dots or “bullets” to notate entries. Tasks (things to do) are marked with a bullet, and x-ed out when they’re complete. Scheduled tasks are marked with a “<“ and tasks that have been migrated (moved to another day) are marked with a “>”. Events (items that are date-related – appointments, birthdays, etc.) are marked with a small open circle. Notes are marked with a dash.
Personally, I prefer a different key. I like to mark tasks as “in progress” so I use open squares instead of bullet points. Like a said above, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Experiment a little a find a system that works best for you.
You can also add signifiers to entries to note certain things. For instance something with an exclamation next to it has a deadline, something with a question mark might need further research, and so on.
Next in your bullet journal is the index. Think of it as your table of contents. As you go through your BuJo, number each page as you get to it and give it a title. When you come to something important that you don’t want to lose, make a note of it in your index. You’ll want to leave about four pages empty for this when you’re setting up your bullet journal.
After your index, you’ll need a space for future logging. This is where you record events or tasks that you haven’t gotten to in your journal yet. For instance, if it’s October now, you probably won’t have your pages for January set up yet, so you’ll need somewhere to record upcoming events, like birthdays, appointments, etc. I set up spaces for six months in mine, but you can do the whole year if you prefer.
Start with the month you’re in, and give yourself a monthly view. The original bullet journal system uses a list style, but since I’m such a planner lover, I prefer a calendar style. Keep track of your appointments and events here, and reference this throughout the month.
This is completely optional. The original bullet journal system doesn’t use weekly views, so you can skip this if it’s unnecessary. I like an overview of my week so that I can plan it out a little better and make a menu.
Now it’s time to start bullet journaling! Start with the first empty page and write the date at the top. Then log in all of your activities, tasks, appointments, and notes. Mark things off as you complete them. When that day is done, start the next day right below it. There’s no need to go to the next page if you still have space on the current page.
Some people do structured layouts, much like a planner. I prefer just listing my tasks, as every day is different for me. Some days I’ll use two pages, some days only half of one page. That’s one thing I really love about bullet journaling – you have as much or as little room as you need every day!
This is the really fun part about bullet journaling! A collection is basically a themed brain dump on it’s own page. To make one, simply start with the first empty page, number it, give it a title, and add your notes. If it’s something you’ll be referencing a lot, go ahead and add it to your index.
Collections can be brainstorming ideas, doodles, meeting notes, family birthdays, or any kind of list. They can be a chart of habits you want to track, or a month of things you’re grateful for. For instance, this DIY weight-loss chart I made is a perfect example.
Then you just continue with your daily/weekly logs immediately after.
Who should use bullet journaling?
Anyone and everyone! This isn’t just a girly thing like some planners can be. It’s great for ladies, men, adults, kids, students… everyone! A bullet journal is a great way to organize your thoughts and free up some space in your head.
If you’re the creative type, you’ll love all the room for doodles, drawing, and hand-lettering. I’ve never been much of a doodler, but I have been feeling all sorts of creativity since I started bullet journaling. I even drew this my first day!
It’s perfectly fine if you’re not into washi tape, calligraphy, and doodles. You don’t have to decorate or color your bullet journal. Like I said before, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You just have to find what works best for you.
The hardest part about bullet journaling is getting started. Some might say it’s intimidating staring at a blank journal and fear that they might mess it up. But once you get some ink on the paper, it just starts flowing and you’re good to go! Don’t worry about imperfections – this journal is a log of your life, and no one’s life is perfect!
So what does this mean for my Happy Planner?
You might remember a few months ago I did a post saying that the Happy Planner is the only planner you’ll ever need. I still stand by that! It’s gorgeous, and solves all of my planning problems. However, I’m a curious person, and once I discovered bullet journaling, I knew I had to give it a try.
Right now I am using my Happy Planner strictly for blogging! I have so much more room every day to keep track of what I need to be doing (but that’s a whole other post!). I’m using the bullet journal for my home/family/personal/everything else. This system is really working out well for me right now.
As soon as I started bullet journaling, I immediately fell in love with it. I’m hooked. It’s another great creative outlet for me, and it’s really helping me boost my productivity. I really think everyone should experiment with bullet journaling at least once!