I first came across the term bullet journal about a year ago but was not interested in finding out more as I’ve never really kept a journal. I came across the term six months later when I was on pinterest looking for a method to record my daily routine. This time it got my attention; I was intrigued, looked into if further, gave it a go and now I am hooked!
What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is a way of organising your life and recording ideas or events all in the one place. It’s like a calendar, diary, to do list, notebook, sketchbook or whatever you want it to be, all in one.
The best way to find out more is to go straight to the creator himself, Ryder Carroll – bulletjournal.com where you will find step-by-step tutorials, inspiration and ideas.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you click and make a purchase I make a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Bullet Journal Supplies
When I first started experimenting with the bullet journal system I just picked up a notebook I had at home and started using that. It was an experiment because I wasn’t sure that the system would work for me as in the past I have only kept a journal or diary for a couple of weeks before it gets forgotten. However, six months later I am still going strong, so it definitely works for me!
When I finished the notebook I then looked for a dotted notebook, as that is what is recommended. After much searching online (I couldn’t find anything in our local shops) I settled on this Moleskine Soft Large Orchid Purple Dotted Notebook from fishpond which cost me NZ$25. If you are not in New Zealand you can also get the journal from Amazon.
A lot of the bullet journal articles I have read show that they use a selection of fancy coloured pens to write in their bullet journal. I wanted to carry my journal around with me so I only wanted one pen. I still liked the idea of colour coding though, so I bought a couple of these 4-Color Ballpoint Retractable Pens and keep one in my handbag and one in my office. I think four colours is enough for me, or I’d get confused! You can also get these pens from Fishpond or Amazon.
I also bought my first roll of washi tape! The washi tape craze hasn’t really hit me yet, but I decided that it would make a good marker for my monthly pages. By adding a little fold on the side I can easily find my monthly pages without having to refer to the index. Check out the great Washi Tape Selection at Amazon
Here is some more inspiration for how to use washi tape from Pretty Prints and Paper. And while you are there click on her Bullet Journal Menu to find her other great posts on the subject.
UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve shown my bullet journal some more love and purchased some other supplies. Check out my Bullet Journal Supplies post and download the checklist below.
Bullet Journal Layout
The key to the bullet journal is that you can include whatever you want, and lay it out however you want. The main things that I have in mine are the ‘future log’ (more about that soon); monthly planners and task lists; weekly meal plans; Daily Log (with appointments and to-do lists); and collections/notes.
The future log is really a calendar for you to record events for the year, or the next year. I have taken two full pages for my 2016 calendar and divided each page so six months show on each full page. I wanted to be able to see the dates and I discovered that my husband’s diary had a calendar at the bottom of each page which was the perfect size so I photocopied it and stuck it into my journal. I then have another page for 2017 dates. This is for me to record any dates I may want to remember in no particular order. I don’t have much in it yet, but it is amazing what you can know this far in advance (school term dates, when the clocks change, a holiday or conference you have booked etc.)
Monthly Planner and Task List
At the start of each month I then write my monthly planner and task list and transfer the dates from the future planner. Here you can see the freedom the system and the dotted notebook allow for your own layout. In January and February I listed the dates but in March I decided to make a grid, which I much prefer. I then have a page for tasks or goals that I would like to work on in the month.
The daily log is the section that keeps you on track with to do lists and appointments. I cross out the items I have completed that day, note down any other things I want to record, and write a new list for the next day. I try to think through the day in order to help me remember everything, but if I add something out of order that doesn’t matter. Having all the tasks written down and then crossing them off really helps me to be motivated and fight procrastination.
The key to keeping the list organised is the signifiers. These are symbols for the different categories you choose to have. My most commonly used signifiers are:
- a bullet point for a to do item, which I cross out when completed or put an arrow facing to the right through if I am carrying it forward (migrating) to the next day;
- a small circle for an event, e.g. visiting a friend, a birthday
- a triangle for an appointment, this is more time specific than an event, like a doctor’s appointment
- a # for a note, something short that I want to remember, maybe a quote I liked, or a milestone the children reached
- I put a ! before the bullet point if it is something urgent that needs to be done that day
- I also use my colour coding here – with red for headings, blue for blog, green for inspirational notes and black for everything else
There are many more signifiers that can be used, so check out different websites for inspiration.
The daily log is not just a place to record what you want to do in the day, but also record events that happened during the day that you want to remember. This could include the inspirational notes I mentioned above, and could also include a record of the weather or any health routine (like weight loss, water intake or exercise) that you are working on.
Here are some examples of weekly spreads, if you choose to use them.
Collections and Notes
As the bullet journal is also a notebook you will also want to have some pages to write notes, lists and plans. Here you will start a new page, record the page number in the index, and then you can refer to this page and add to it whenever you want. Here are some ideas of what to put in this section, it will depend on your lifestyle though.
Books to read, pod-casts to listen to, movies to watch, gift lists, packing lists etc. I also find OneNote helpful for keeping these lists, especially for podcasts as I can look up the podcast on OneNote and click straight to the link.
Party Planning, Event Planning, Holiday (Vacation) preparation
Doing a regular brain dump, or mind sweep, is a great way to free your mind of all those things you’ve been trying to remember. Write down all those thoughts in your head and then sort them into your calendar, to-do lists or other pages. For more about how to do a brain dump check out this post: How to Declutter your Mind with a Brain Dump
A tracker is a great place to see at a glance how you are going with routines and habits you are working on. This is where you can record your exercise routine, water intake, bed time, daily cleaning habit, or what ever else you want to work at doing every day. I set up one in January (with just three things I wanted to record – don’t give yourself too much to start with) but I kept forgetting to fill it in. So here’s one I found from zealousmom.com. It is a great idea, so I think I might start including a tracker again next month.
You can also keep notes from books, lectures, courses or sermons. Find a great recipe at a friend’s place? Write it in your journal.
Some of these collections or notes will be added to frequently, and you may need to start a new page. For example, when planning my daughter’s birthday party I started with a page for birthday invitations (who to invite, ideas for the invitation), then later I planned the games and food, and just before the party I wrote a list of items to buy and more detailed preparation. These were all on a number of pages, with daily logs in between. To keep track of these pages and connect them together, I add the new pages to the index, and also use threading. Threading is one of the key tools of the bullet journal system. You simply add the next page number of the subject to the previous page so you know where to go to next.
The index is the important part that helps you to find everything. You won’t know what you will be entering into the index until you write it, so just write the heading ‘Index’ at the top of the first page and leave it blank. Then number each page (if the pages are not already numbered) and add items as you write them. I don’t include my daily log or weekly meal plans in the index, just the monthly pages and notes.
Tips for the artistically challenged
If you are not a ‘list person’ you can also keep your records in the form of charts or drawings. There are many examples on the internet of beautifully illustrated bullet journals. I’m not very artistic, I’ve never been a doodler, but I wanted to stretch myself in this area and make my bullet journal a little bit pretty. If that sounds like you here are some sites to visit for inspiration.
Take a peek inside this journal from Sublime Reflection
Text dividers and borders from istockphoto gives you some ideas for simple doodles you can use to add style to your journal.
If you would rather go for a printed planner I recommend The Organized Life Planner. The 2018 version is now on sale – and there are some great free bonuses if you purchase your copy before September 18 (including a September to December 2017 planner, so you can start planning now).
Main Benefit of the Bullet Journal System – Freedom
The main benefit of the bullet journal is that you are free to do whatever you want, and change it if it doesn’t suit you. If you don’t need a monthly calendar don’t use one. If you want to draw sketches or blue prints do so. If you couldn’t remember to record in your habit tracker (pointing at myself here!) then stop using one. This is the main reason why the bullet journal has worked for me and I am still using it daily after six months. I don’t have sections in a printed diary that remain empty and forgotten about. It is all structured to suit me, and I can change it whenever I want if things don’t work or I see an idea from someone else.
There are some great ideas in this You Tube clip from boho berry.
Keeping a bullet journal has really helped me to keep organised, to declutter my brain of all the things I am trying to remember, to declutter my desk of all the different to do lists and notepads and it’s helped me to be more focused on goals.
And finally, you can also check out my pinterest board for more bullet journal inspiration. There are lots of bullet journal posts out there!
Do you keep a bullet journal? If so, I’d love to hear about your tips or hacks. What works for you?