What is a Bullet Journal?
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Curious about how to start your first bullet journal? It’s easy, so let’s get started. All you need is a pen and a notebook of some kind to start a bullet journal.
How to Start a Bullet Journal
Are you someone who struggles to stay on top of things? Is your schedule all over the place, and does it stress you out? I used to be like that. In fact, most of my life was spent in a state of confusion and frustration because I couldn’t plan to save my life. No planning system ever worked for me, and it left me in a heap of sticky notes and half-used journals. The thing that finally turned me around is the bullet journal system. In this post, I’ll show you what the bullet journal is, how to start a bullet journal, and why it’s the solution you need to get organized. Yes, this is real! Are you ready to have your socks knocked off?
Okay, so first things first – what is a bullet journal? In a nutshell, it’s this awesome note-taking/list-making/groundbreaking productivity system that is entirely customizable and serves your needs specifically. Take a quick minute and watch this video to hear how to start a bullet journal straight from the mouth of the genius creator of the system, Ryder Carroll. You can also check out this huge ultimate guide about everything bullet journal!
- Gather your supplies. You don't need anything fancy to get started, but having the right supplies can help you stick with it. All you really need to get started is a pen and a notebook, everything else is just extra.
- Create an Index. An Index is simply a place where you can keep track of all of the pages you include in your bullet journal, similar to a table of contents. To create a basic index, all you need to do is create two columns. In the right column, write "page" on the left write "page number." Now, as you create pages, you can fill out your index. You can learn more about creating an index here.
- Create a Key. A Key is one of the simplest pages in your bullet journal. It is simply a place for you to keep track of all of the different symbols you use in your bullet journal and what they mean.
- Create a Future Log. Your Future Log is a place for you to plan for things that are not coming up immediately. This is the perfect place to include things like birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, and other important dates.big project deadlines, or doctor's appointments made in advance. There are many ways to make this spread, and you can see more here.
- Create Your First Monthly. Next, you want to create your first monthly spread. This can be as simple or as complicated as you like. There are two common formats: calendar or list. Either works well for beginners, you can learn more about creating monthly setups here.
- Create Weekly and/or Daily Logs. Weekly and Daily logs are the heart of any bullet journal, but what they look like can vary significantly from person to person. You can also choose to combine them into one page or use both independently. You can learn more about Daily logs here, and learn more about Weeklies here.
- Update Your Index: Your Index only works if you keep it updated, so go back and make sure to include all of the pages you've created.
- Customize Your Bullet Journal: There are a ton of different types of bullet journals out there. Some are fancy, and some are simple. It's up to you what form yours will take, but remember to make it yours. One of the best things about the bullet journal is how flexible it is, so don't be afraid to adjust it to fit your needs
- Use it Daily: If you want the bullet journal system to work for you, you need to be sure to keep it updated. Making a habit out of using your bullet journal is the easiest way to make it stick.
Index - If your journal does not come with pre-numbered pages, I recommend you take the time to write page numbers in the corner or color-code your bullet journal.
Done, Not Perfect - Don't worry about making your bullet journal perfect. Done is always better than perfect.
Experiment - These are just the basic spreads you need to start a bullet journal, but there are tons of other pages you can create. You can see a bunch of suggestions here.
How To Bullet Journal – Further Explained
If you are anything like me, you have a bunch of ideas, doodles, notes, lists, and other nonsense tucked away in all kinds of places. You might use a dot grid notebook, your phone’s calendar, Post-It notes in your pocket (paper ones or digital desktop ones), and task-oriented apps on your phone to try to keep all of these things sorted. At first glance, these systems work a bit, but they just don’t really do the whole job. You need something that can keep track of everything in the past, present, and future – not five systems to cover all your bases.
My crutch? Journals. I love journals. I used to be guilty of buying all kinds of notebooks, journals, and sketchbooks to hoard on my shelves. I would do one of two things – use ten pages before I moved on to the next thing, or never write in them at all because I was terrified of ruining the beautiful blank pages. Even when I tried to use a blank journal for a planner or note stash, I just couldn’t make it work. It always felt like a temporary patch.
When I discovered the bullet journal, my heart skipped a beat. I knew that moment that the bullet journal was going to be exactly what I needed. But then I had to wonder – how to start a bullet journal and make it work for me?
What You Need To Start A Bullet Journal
While there is a wide variety of bullet journal supplies on the market, one of the most wonderful things about the bullet journal is that you don’t need much to get started. In fact, you only need a pen and a notebook.
This notebook doesn’t have to be new, nice, or fancy in any way. Any old journal or notebook will do the trick. The bullet journal might even be the perfect way to use those half-used journals that I’m sure you have sitting around. That can help take the pressure off you to make your bullet journal perfect so you can focus on making the system work for you.
If you do want to purchase a new journal to help you get in the mindset of planning, then there are a ton of journal brands that you can choose from. I personally prefer the ever-popular dot-grid Leuchtturm 1917 with the page numbers and ribbon bookmarks. You might also like to check out Moleskine or Rhodia journals – both of which I have tried and enjoyed. You can check out the My Supplies page to see a bigger list of supplies that I love if you want to look around! However, I just want to remind you that you don’t need to buy an expensive new journal from a craft store. Literally, any notebook will do.
There are a million options when it comes to pens. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to weight, ink, color, brand, etc. So in essence, this is totally up to you. I’m just going to suggest some of my favorite pens to get your creative juices flowing!
To bullet journal beginners, I would recommend that you keep things pretty simple. Find one good pen, pencil, or set of pens that you can write with every single day comfortably. One great option for that is the Pilot G2 series of pens, which are extremely affordable and easy to find in stores. If you want something with a larger color range, perhaps you want to consider the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners or Paper Mate Felt Tip Pens. Both are easy to write with and come in a wide variety of fun colors.
Another alternative is a fountain pen. I used to think fountain pens were for ultra-fancy calligraphy, but there are plenty of options that are cheap and extremely fun to write with. Seriously, you’ll be itching to write in your bullet journal every day with a fountain pen. If you’ve never used a fountain pen before, the Pilot Varsity set is just what you need. Or if you want something a bit fancier without a huge price tag, then you’ll love the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen!
Bullet Journal Basics
There are a few things you need in your bullet journal to get started. Let’s cover some of your bases to give you inspiration, so you can get started in no time flat!
Bullet Journal Key
The first thing you want to consider is a key for what signifiers you want to use in your bujo. Carroll suggested some symbols (such as squares, dots, and dashes) that you might want to use, or you can create your own, like different patterns or fonts for your handwriting! Whatever the case may be, you want to make sure you remain consistent, so you don’t confuse yourself with unclear notes.
Another addition to your bullet journal is the monthly entry. Your monthly log serve as a wide-view lens as you plan your life. Some typical things that you can find in this spread is some kind of monthly calendar or list of dates, along with a place to write your monthly goals. This is one that I personally enjoy jazzing up with watercolors, hand lettering, and all kinds of artwork. You don’t need to go all out like this, but if it’s fun for you and helps you come back to using your bullet journal, then please be my guest!
Dailies and Weeklies
Something that you need to keep in your bullet journal is a place to write down all your daily to-do lists. This can take place in the form of a daily or a weekly spread. Basically, it’s the ground level of your bullet journal. All your regular day-to-day notes, scheduling, and task management happens here. There are a million ways to set up these entries, so it’s a matter of trial and error to find the one that fits you the best. I started out with daily logs and worked my way up to weeklies when I realized that I preferred that layout. It’s totally up to you!
Bullet Journal Collections
Once you’ve set up your monthly and daily spreads, then it’s time to start exploring the wonderful world of trackers and collections! There are so many topics to choose from, including a gratitude log, a habit tracker, a mood tracker, or a future log, to name a few. I can’t possibly get into it all here. There’s so much to talk about! Instead, check out the post below:
Start Your Bullet Journal Today
This organizational system was a lifesaver for me. It helped me develop from a stressed student into a full-time blogger and creative maven. If it weren’t for the amazing bullet journal method, I’m certain that I would still be a flailing, frustrated mess today. So if you’ve been searching for the right organization system for you, then look no further. You have found the perfectly flexible, adaptable, and fun system to take care of all your needs. Grab your journal and start your bullet journal today to start working toward your goals with productivity and purpose!