Today I’d like to introduce one of my latest obsessions…the Bullet Journal! The idea is having one notebook to track past, present, and future events. It sounds like a basic planner, but, you guys, it is so much more!
Of course, I rarely do anything exactly how it’s suggested. Read on to see my modifications to the bullet journal and hopefully you’ll pick up a few ideas on how to incorporate a bullet journal into your life.
The Bullet Journal
You might want to watch this short YouTube video that describes the basics of a bullet journal to help you get up to speed.
There are countless ways to personalize a bullet journal. It can be a bit overwhelming, but keep in mind that the intention is to make your life more organized, not to consume your every waking moment tracking each and every event in your life. What really makes bullet journaling special is that you can personalize your journal to fit your own personal style.
If you take a few moments to look up bullet journals on Pinterest, you will quickly see how beautiful some have made their journals. Try not to get overwhelmed by the level of detail some put into their bullet journal. I tend to be a minimalist, for the most part. I don’t have the artistic ability or patience to draw lots of embellishments in my journal. But, I have used a little washi tape and colored pencils on occasion to make mine a bit more colorful. Of course, none of the fancy stuff is necessary!
So, what exactly is a bullet journal?
Basically, a bullet journal is a daily planner, to-do list, diary, habit tracker, and a consolidation of personal goals and ideas all in one notebook. It is also great for those who still enjoy paper and pen lists, but don’t want post-it notes everywhere to get lost and forgotten. If you are a person with lots of ideas bouncing in your mind and aren’t sure how to best keep track of them all, a bullet journal pulls them all together in a very organized way.
What you need to get started…
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To create a bullet journal, all you need is a blank notebook and pen. Ryder Carrol, the creator of the Bullet Journal concept has a specific notebook (Leuchtturm 1917 A5 ) that he suggests. The Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks have the option of pages that are dot grids, squared, lined, and blank – just pick what suits you best. The color options are amazing, the paper is thick, the pages are numbered, and the index is pre-printed in the front. They also have ribbon markers built into the binding to hold your place. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan! But, if you aren’t yet certain if this is something you want to commit to (as this notebook is a bit pricey), just grab any basic notebook to get started. A 5 inch x 8 inch notebook is a good size.
I keep a ruler stored in the pocket in the back of my notebook. This isn’t necessary, but helpful if you prefer perfectly straight lines.
Other items that are completely optional to help personalize your journal are washi tape and colored pencils/markers.
How to set up your bullet journal…
To begin, open your notebook to the first blank page, this is your INDEX. This is where you log the page numbers of your journal’s contents. Keep a list of the pages/description (you do have to number each page if you opt to not splurge on the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook) so nothing gets lost in the Great Notebook Abyss. Save 2-3 pages for your index — your index will expand along with the contents of your bullet journal.
The index was a game changer for me. It is such a simple concept, but something I had never done before in a personal notebook. With all of the pages numbered, it is easy to list information in the front of the notebook for easy reference. Nothing gets lost! Any list, idea page, tracking record, etc. is simply entered into the index making it very easy to locate as needed.
The real meat of the bullet journal comes after the index. This is where I use some of the bullet journal concepts, but incorporate my own personal style. If you are a rule follower or just want a better understanding of how bullet journals were intended to be used, refer to the bulletjournal.com website as it will walk you through it step-by-step.
But, if you are interested in seeing how I have modified the system, please read on!
My Step 2:
Complete a year at a glance calendar and place the page number in the index.
Year at-a-glance Calendar
I’m old school when it comes to a daily planner. Since I have used one regularly for over 25 years, I just couldn’t let this go. I LOVE seeing the calendar for the year in a one-page view. If this is not necessary for you, then don’t do it. As I said earlier, make your bullet journal work with your life and preferences!
My Step 3:
Create a birthday and anniversary calendar and place the page numbers in your index.
The above “calendex” was inspired by Eddy Hope. It is a great way to get a quick view of friends’ and family’s special days. With this view, I’m easily able to see who has a birthday approaching, plan for gifts, and get a card in the mail.
As you can see in the photo, the days are all numbered on the left and the months go across the top. The weeks are then divided Sunday-Saturday as they occur within each month. When I saw this, I thought it was genius!
My Step 4:
Create your monthly calendar and enter the page numbers in your index.
In Step 4 and 5, I set up my bullet journal like a typical daily planner. If you refer to the picture of my index above, you’ll see I just list all of the pages for each month (monthly and weekly calendars) together. I like having my month and week set up in advance, and then I write things in as the mood strikes.
My Step 5:
Create your weekly calendar, entering page numbers in index.
The above picture shows my weekly view. On the left side of each listed day, I write in scheduled appointments, including times. Then, on the right side of the day view, I list my specific to-do items for that given day.
On the second page of my weekly view, I also have a weekly to-do list, weekly meal list, my blog to-do list, and a habit tracker section. In the habit tracker section (in the above photo, this is the section just above “blog”) I keep track of things I need accountability for throughout the week. I often list piano practice, running, bible reading, etc. in this area. If I accomplish that task each day, I will put an X in the box.
My Step 6:
Next is the Collections section. This section and the Index section are why I originally decided to give bullet journaling a try. The collections are where you store your lists. This can be a page of personal goals, tracking of monthly spending, master meal list, lists of movies or books, lists of gift ideas, home repair tracker, vehicle maintenance log, etc.
The ideas are endless on what can be included in the collections section. For each of these pages, you simply fill the page with whatever you like then enter the page number in your Index for easy access later.
Here are a few examples of collections I have in my bullet journal:
Inspiration from bohoberry.com
It’s great having my daily planner and my lists all together in one place! Before starting this system, I had my daily planner and a variety of other notebooks that I was always trying to keep track of. Now, there is only one notebook and I’m set!
I do like finding ways to make my pages pretty, but I just don’t have time to get incredibly creative. Therefore, I keep it simple. So, if I do anything extra, I typically do it while I’m watching TV in the evenings as a way to unwind. While searching bullet journal ideas on Pinterest, I have also found some great websites on hand lettering. This is another slight obsession of mine and a fun way to make my pages look more interesting.
Once again, you can refer to the Bullet Journal website at www.bulletjournal.com for other details on getting started. You’ll see my method is quite a bit different than the original, but hopefully you can find something that works perfectly for you!
Now you know how to customize your Bullet Journal!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Bullet Journaling! If you’ve tried it, did you follow the guidelines exactly, or did you modify them to fit your life? Do you prefer the bullet journal over a traditional daily planner? If you use a bullet journal, do you still use a calendar on your phone? Share your comments below.
Have a great day!