I heard about this thing called a “bullet journal” a few months ago and decided to start one. It was a little complicated and scary at first, but now that I’m used to bullet journaling, it’s the best thing ever. Everything I know about bullet journaling I learned from this Buzzfeed article. The article out lines all of the rules of bullet journaling, and it’s super in-depth and helpful. I’ve shared that article with a few friends in an attempt to spread the good news of bullet journaling, but some people find all of the information in there a little intimidating. A few days ago, a friend asked me to write out a simple guide to bullet journaling for her in a way that’s easier to understand, so, here you go!
First thing’s first. What is a bullet journal and why should I start one?
A bullet journal is like a to-do list, journal, and calendar all in one. It’s a way to organize your life. I used to use the “Reminders” app on my phone religiously. So I like to think of my bullet journal being an upgraded, expanded, and completely personalized version of that app. I think a lot of thoughts in a day. Whether it’s something I need to do, a reaction to an event that happened, an epiphany, an idea for something I want to write I about– my bullet journal allows me to write down all of those thoughts in one place and organize them. Once it’s set up, your bullet journal should be easy to keep up with: just take rapid-fire notes throughout the day.
It’s also a creative outlet. I like the act of writing- it feeds my soul. I like doodling, but I’m not an artist. Some people get super detailed and creative with their bullet journals, and that’s where it gets intimidating for most people (including me!). But here’s the thing: your bullet journal can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. The point is to make it work for you. It doesn’t have to be perfect and pretty, you just have to start, and you’ll figure out what works for you as you go.
Step One: Find a journal.
You can use any journal that you like. A lot people recommend this Moleskine notebook with dotted pages. I found my journal at TJ Maxx for like four dollars. Mine has very light lines, which is good because it gives you the freedom to use or ignore the lines, making the journal more freeform. The size of your journal is also important. It should be small enough to carry with you comfortably, but large enough to still be useful.
Step Two: Fill in page numbers.
Having page numbers will help keep you organized; you’ll need them for your Index in the next step. To avoid getting overwhelmed, only number 20-30 pages at a time.
Step Three: Set up an Index and a Key.
An index will help you find what you need easily. Create your index as you go, adding important pages that you may need to look back to.
Your key is especially important when you first start your journal because it will help you remember what everything means. Remember, a bullet journal is about taking quick notes as you go about your day. Jot down your ideas, organized by the type of bullet point, and you can elaborate on your notes later when you have time. An open circle is an event taking place that day. A dot is a to-do item, and you cross it off once it’s done. A dash is a note: a feeling, occurrence, or idea to be expanded upon later. The (>) is for to-do items that you didn’t get to, but have scheduled for another day. The (^) is for to-do items that you didn’t get to, haven’t scheduled, but will deal with later.
Step Four: Yearly Calendar.
Your yearly calendar can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. Personally, I don’t like the way mine is set up because it wastes too much space, so I’ll probably change it in my next journal. Use your calendar to keep track of birthdays and important events. I put my calendar at the beginning of my journal, just after the index.
Step Five: Personalized trackers.
Your “trackers” are pages dedicated to specific things you want to keep track of. I have one that’s a book list and one to track my credit card spending. You can stick these pages anywhere in your journal as you think of them, just make sure to put them in your index so you can find them easily and go back to them as needed.
Step Six: Format your month.
This might be my favorite part of bullet journaling because it gets me organized and ready for a new month. You can format your month however you want to, creating what ever you need to keep you organized. I start my month with a lined calendar on one page and a monthly to-do list on the next page. My next two pages are a Daily Gratitude list and a Monthly Habit Tracker.
I like doing these monthly habit trackers because it helps me make sure I’m doing the things that help me thrive.
Remember to set up your month the day before a new month starts (or the first day of the month) so that you’re organized and ready to go.
Step Seven: Daily pages.
Your daily pages are what bullet journaling is all about. I take my notes on the left page, and use the right page for doodling, or for expanding on my notes in more detail. You can get really creative and detailed with how your daily pages are formatted, or you can keep it nice and simple. And the format doesn’t have to be the same every day. When you’re in a rush and don’t have time to make things look pretty, just write the date and start taking your notes.
Hopefully this little guide to bullet journaling is helpful! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments 🙂