You may have heard the term bullet journal thrown around (or “bujo” for short) and wondered what it is. Or perhaps you have a vague idea of what it is and think it could be something you’d like to try but you’ve no idea how to get started. Either way, this blog post is written with you in mind.
I have to confess I’m a relative late-comer to this phenomenon. A workmate mentioned bullet journalling to me a couple of years ago and advised me to check out Instagram where there were tons of inspiring posts on the topic. I did and was captivated. It felt like the perfect organisational system for me. I’ve always been a list maker and a notebook keeper, in fact my shelves are crammed with old notebooks
I began my bullet journal at the beginning of 2018. Now I have a journal packed with thoughts, ideas, doodles, sketches, dreams and daily tasks, events and achievements. I get immense joy in flipping through the pages from time to time. So I thought I would share some guidelines to help get you started.
The creator of the bullet journal
I have a confession. I’ve only recently found out that someone actually invented the bullet journal, and not that long ago, either! I didn’t really give it much thought before but I imagined it was something that had just kind of evolved on its own!
The creator of the bullet journal was a digital product designer called Ryder Carroll. He created it to help him focus, stay organized and productive. So, your first step on your bullet journal journey will be to check out his website https://bulletjournal.com/
Ryder has tons of information to get you going. You’ll learn the use of symbols and all about bullet journal terminology such as collections, signifiers, future logs and nesting. But don’t worry, once you’ve learned the system, you can decide what parts you want to use.
Instagram and Pinterest is a fantastic resource for inspiration so I would encourage you to check out some posts. However, bear in mind designers and artists create many of these posts. If you’re not artistic you’ll quickly grow disillusioned if you expect your bullet journal to look as amazing. Here are some random examples using the hashtag #bulletjournal
You don’t have to spend a fortune on supplies. At a bare minimum you need a notepad and a pen but it would be worthwhile having a think about the type of notebook that will work best for you. Do you want a journal you can carry around with you during the day or do you work from home in which case it will mainly live on your desk? Do you want to be able to draw or paint in your journal or will you just write in it?
Last year I bought a very cheap A5 size (half letter) artists visual notebook with 120 pages of 110 gsm (about 30 1b) weight like these:
It worked well for most water-based pens and markers. Ink-based pens bled through to the other side (but that would happen with most notebooks). My only problem with this notebook is that I ran out of pages in October.
I then continued with a Moleskine soft-backed journal with plain pages. The paper was much thinner so most pens bled through, which wasn’t ideal, but I liked the size and the feel of this notebook.
Most avid bullet journallers recommend the Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal which comes with a healthy price tag which may not suit all budgets. However, they have dotted lines and numbered pages which many people find useful.
For 2019 I’m using a simple A5 ring binder and cutting pages to fit. That way I can experiment with different papers as the mood takes me. It also means I can trash a page if I really hate it. I spruced it up by covering it with a beautiful, handmade paper I found in a local art supplies shop, then sealed the surface with Modge Podge.
Your Bullet Journal Content
So what do you include in a bullet journal? I would say at the barest minimum you need your weekly/monthly pages plus an index, which means you should number each page. After that you can really plan it any way you like. I personally like to have a week on two sides so I divide my page into four sections which leaves one section blank each week for either a weekly goals list, or some artwork or a doodles, whatever I feel like. As I’m using a ring binder I add washi tape to one edge for extra strength when I punch the holes.
As you can see, you don’t need to be artistic if you want to include pictures to your journal. You can make pretty patterns by just scribbling and colouring in the scribbles like this:
This is where you list all the events you have planned in the future. So, say you have a trip planned in several months time, you can list it here and then transfer it to your monthly and/or weekly log when you’ve created them. You can also use the future log for recording friends and family birthdays and other events.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need the month as a header and some space to add events as they arise.
Daily Habits Tracker
Last year, later in the year (and I wish I’d started earlier!) I created a daily habits tracker page. First, I decided what habits I wanted to track, then I divided a page into columns and rows, with a column for each habit, plus one for the day and added a row for each day. It was a great way to see if I was on target with my goals and also for forming good habits. I generally just mark each space with a tick or a cross as applicable, but other bullet journallers like to colour in the space. It’s all down to what you prefer. Experiment with different methods on different months.
This is what my February tracker looked like at the beginning of the month but at this stage I hadn’t decided what the last column would be, which is why it’s blank. I’ve since decided to track my water intake to make a habit of drinking at least two litres of water each day.
The list of habits will be relevant to you personally but it could include things like:
- Practising Art/piano/golf/tennis (or any other hobby/skill you want to improve)
- Drinking water
You don’t have to track the same habits each month.
Sandwiched between the weekly spreads are other pages (which Ryder Carroll calls “Collections”) showing, for example, a list of the movies I’ve seen that year, or the books I’ve read or ideas for blog posts. Provided they have a page number and you note them in the index they’ll be easy to find later.
It’s all down to you. In fact, there is no right or wrong way to do a bullet journal. It’s about what works for you. Yes, it’s an organizational device, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun too!
Find out which websites have helped me the most here.