Learn how to start a bullet journal and really take control of your life.
What is a bullet journal?
You’ve probably either seen or heard about bullet journals, especially if you’re a fan of Pinterest. But, you might still be wondering, what is a bullet journal?
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A bullet journal is part diary, part planner, part journal.
The best bit? It’s completely customizable.
If you are anything like me, you have a bunch of ideas, doodles, notes, lists, and scrappy bits of paper in all kinds of places.
You might use a notebook, your phone’s calendar, Post-It Notes (paper or digital ones), and task-oriented apps on your phone to try to keep all of these things sorted.
I also have a collection of notebooks floating around that I can never find when I need one, hence the collection. I’ve also tried all manner of diary-style planners over the years which have mostly ended up in the recycling with just a few notations here and there.
My core issues are I’m a visual learner and I don’t do well when attempting to fit my square peg into the planner’s round holes. In short, I find them too restrictive and invariably don’t value the same information I do.
Now, all the information that’s important to me is together in one place; my bullet journal.
I include everything:
- Daily Affirmations
- Daily Tasks
- Project Planning
- Debt Repayment Tracker
- Wish Lists
- Reading Lists
- And more…
What you need to get started
One of the awesome things about bullet journals is that you don’t need much to get started and you probably don’t even need to buy anything new. All you really need is a pen and a notebook.
I was already a big fan of grid notebooks and pads for taking notes, and scribbling ideas so it wasn’t a big jump to invest in a nice Moleskine grid notebook. But, a lined or unlined notebook will work, too.
If you’re not super confident with your penmanship or you’re not sure how you’ll approach the structure of your bullet journal, grab a cheap lined notebook. If the bullet journal style of planning suits you, you can graduate to one of these planners:
You can also use a basic biro for your journal or you can go nuts and invest in some beautiful fine liner ink pens like these:
Remember, while absolutely gorgeous, you don’t need any of these things to get your bullet journal started.
The bullet journal basics
To start a bullet journal, you need an icon library and an index or table of contents. Before putting pen to paper for either of those things, think about how you want to structure your bullet journal.
For instance, when I started my bullet journal, I used Post It Notes to mark out sections , like the ones mentioned previously. That way, I could structure the journal in a way that made sense for me. There are things I’ll look at a lot, like daily tasks, and things I’ll look at less often, like my Mortgage Repayment Tracking page.
It makes sense to put your most often used pages to the front and the least used toward the back.
Index and/or Table of Contents
Once you’ve figured that out, and don’t expect perfection from day one, you can create either a table of contents or an index. I started with an index at the back of my notebook rather than a table of contents but I left space at the front for one to be created down the track.
Remember to number the pages of your journal. I only number the even pages… ‘Cos I’m a bit lazy. :-)
If you’re not sure how to put together an index, grab a textbook and go to the last few pages of the book.
You’ll see that each topic is listed alphabetically and can have several different page numbers beside it.
Using an index with your bullet journal means it doesn’t matter if you have to continue a topic, like the tracking of a project somewhere else in your journal. You’ll be able to find everything you need by looking in the index.
Then, create an icon library. The best idea is to keep it simple. I might just be me, but… too many icons and you spend all your time figuring out which one to use and checking back to see what icons mean.
The page above is a great example of a simple collection of icons. When you’re just getting started, you won’t need more than this.
Daily, Weekly & Monthly Layout
Some folks create pages that are very similar to those you’d find in every other planner. If that’s what works best for you, go for it.
That style of page never worked for me. What does work is a page that’s multimedia. I use a combination of the journal page (two page spread) and Post It Notes. This way, I use the same space in my journal over and over again.
I use my bullet journal to stay focused and on the right path to achieve my goals, not as a record of what I’ve done. But that’s me. Your needs will be specific to you. Sometimes, it takes a bit of trial and error to figure this out which is why it’s worth grabbing a cheap notebook to get started.
Question to ask yourself: Are my tasks goal and project-related or date-related? It should help you find your most appropriate layout.
Once you’ve got the basics sorted, you can start working on other pages that could be useful, like birthdays or favorite quotes.
You can create spaces for grocery lists (using a Post It Note) or wish lists or fitness and diet tracking. The possibilities truly are endless.
Start Your Bullet Journal Today
Check out our Pinterest board for bullet journals and be inspired by the endless designs and possibilities available to you.
Sure, it can be a little intimidating to see such beautiful pages but just remember, this is your journal, no-one else ever needs to see it. Experiment with different styles until you find one you can make your own.
Do you use a bullet journal? What do you love (or not) the most about this style of journal?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.