I have done just about every sort of planner to try to find what works for me. I have done daily, weekly, and monthly planners, and I have a hard time finding something that works for me. I find I can’t stay focused enough to stay with it and then I have these half-used notebooks and planners.
I have mentioned before that I have an extension on my Google Chrome called Momentum that helps me know what is going on during the week. However, that can only do so much to help me. Enter the bullet journal!
What is a Bullet Journal?
A bullet journal is pretty much anything you want it to be. People use it to track aspects of their lives, keep track of their calendars, and take notes. A bullet journal is a blank slate to make it anything you want it to be. You have the opportunity to make it whatever you need it to be. The creator of the bullet journal made a website, bulletjournal.com, where you can learn a whole lot more about it.
What do you need to start a Bullet Journal?
To me, there are three things you need to start a bullet journal: an idea, a blank book/journal, and a writing utensil.
Having an idea is the most important part of a bullet journal. There are so many ideas out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Go in with an idea so you don’t get burned out (I’ll talk more about that later).
Let’s move to the journal. A lot of people swear by the Leuchtterm 1917 with the dot grid (find it on Amazon here). That’s great and all, but these do run about $20 apiece. I tend to be on more of a budget. So the one I have is the Artist’s Loft Dot journal I got from Michael’s (link to the exact one I have is here, but there are 13 color options). I got the journal for $5 and I love it.
Included in the journal is also the kind of paper/grid. Most people (myself included) prefer a dot grid, but I have also seen graph and blank paper as well. Find what works for you.
Lastly, you’re gonna need a writing utensil. I use Sharpie pens (Amazon) for outlining and anything else that requires black. I also use the Trombow Dual-Tip markers in the Bright shade (Michael’s). Some people use gel pens, some use felt tip markers, and others use brush tip markers. I like the dual tip that way I can make both thicker and thinner lines.
Once you have these three things, you can start creating your bullet journal! Pinterest and Google have millions of ideas for you. I mentioned earlier about getting burned out, and so here is what I mean. With all of the ideas, there are these extravagant layouts and spreads. Examples:
I don’t want you to think that I am bashing on these. These are really beautiful and well done! However, if those kinds of things are not what you are going for, THEN DON’T DO THEM! It’s important to do things in your skill level. I’m going to show you later my entire bullet journal. You’re going to notice that a lot of my designs are pretty simple. They look nice but they aren’t as elaborate. It doesn’t have to be the most gorgeous thing if it works for you. Functionality over beauty. Find what works for you so then you don’t have to feel burnt out on your bullet journal before you even get to use it.
Bullet Journal Don’ts and Do’s
So now that you understand how a bullet journal works and how to get started, I want to give you “don’ts and do’s” that I follow or have accumulated in the month I’ve been doing this. I’m starting with the negatives so that you can see the more positive aspects.
- Don’t overdo it- This goes back to what I just mentioned, but don’t focus on making a bullet journal so pretty that you don’t want to use it. Or you work on creating it so much that by the time it gets to actually using it, you’re burnt out. Make it look nice for you, but still be able to use it.
- Don’t compare yourself to others- Again, those ideas I showed you are beautiful. They’re also way out of my skill league. I do not have the time, energy, or skills to make something of that caliber. Make the journal for your abilities and your purposes.
- (If it’s not broke), don’t fix it!- There are things in the first month of bullet journaling that I’ve found and I loved just the way they are, to the point where I made it almost the exact same for the next month. You don’t have to do all these new ideas if you’ve found something you like.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things or make mistakes- Having a mistake in your bullet journal to me just makes it look more human and used. You’re human and going to make mistakes. It’s okay. A journal you use every day should reflect that.
Now for the good things!
- Do use it every day- For me, it is a good way to keep me organized. I have a mood and habit tracker, so even those things require my use every day. The more you use it, the more habitual it will become. That being said…
- Do set a specific time to use it every day- I update my bullet journal right before I go to bed. That way, I have a good fresh review of the day I had.
- Do keep your journal in a specific place- You don’t want to waste your time looking for your journal. I keep mine on my desk right next to my bed. That way it’s there when I’m ready to use it.
- Do start with pencil- I start with pencil in all my writings and drawings. This way, if I make a mistake I can fix, erase, or correct it.
- Do try new fonts- I have had a couple people tell me that their handwriting isn’t good enough for things like that. Mine isn’t either. So what I do is look up “font alphabets” on Pinterest and copy that. I love finding new fonts and mixing them up.
- Do use it in ways that will help you- I’m working on incorporating an assignment and reading schedule into my bullet journal that way I can help keep myself on track. This way I can also avoid writing all my assignments down at the beginning of the month, writing them down as soon as they come up, or (even worse) forgetting about an assignment altogether.
- Do use this to your enjoyment- Bullet journals are not supposed to stress you out. I think they’re probably supposed to do the opposite actually. This goes back to my “don’t overdo it” point. If you don’t listen to a lot of music, do not put in a music page. Bullet journals are so customizable. I love looking at my bullet journal. You may not, but it’s not meant for you. It’s meant for me and it works for me.
- Do make it fun- There are a few small details in my bullet journal that I absolutely love. I incorporated my tattoo into my bullet journal. On my mood tracker page, I have a quote from The Book of Mormon. I used the Disney font on my blog tracker page and found 12 rolls of Disney washi tape to use as a bar graph for the number of views I get. These are small things in my bullet journal, but they’re so fun and personal.
Pages to Incorporate
You’ll see every person who does a bullet journal have their own list of pages they think you should incorporate. So here is my list for just about everyone, regardless of your purpose:
- Index- This is a running list telling you where everything is
- Key (and use the key)- Having a key is a good shorthand way to remind you what you’re using so you don’t have to write out “appointment” or other words you may not have space for.
- Future log- This can take many forms. Mine is just a calendar of the year and a page of things I want for myself this year. Some people do 6 months in the future. Have a goal that you’re working towards at some point in the future.
- Entertainment- I have a page for books I read this year and another one for movies watched. Some people do TV shows, and others do music.I think an entertainment page is important because it can remind you to let loose and have fun. For me, it also encourages me to fill up the pages with books or movies.
- Mood/emotion tracker- Even a month into this year, it has really put my good and bad days in perspective. In the month of January, I had about 2.5-3 bad days. I had 11 good days, including a straight week of really good days. (In case you’re wondering, the remainder of the days were neutrally good. A minor thing or two may have gone wrong but overall the day was good.) But I LOVE getting to fill in my little square of emotion each day. An emotion tracker shows that the bad days don’t last forever, and that is such a great reminder that I think everyone needs.
- Budget/Finance tracker- Let me just say that I am so much more mindful of my spending now that I have a budget tracker. I set up my own budgets for myself, keep track of my bank account balances for the beginning and end of the month, give myself a space for monetary goals, and of course, track how much I spend. It is seriously helpful to me!
- Monthly Memories- I title this page and leave it with as much blank space as possible to write in quotes or events that happen in that month that I want to remember. Then I can just look back and remember the moments.
- Weekly Focus- This is something I have adapted into my own. Some bullet journals do some other variation of what to expect in the week. Since I still keep the to-do list on my laptop, I use the Weekly Focus to highlight a couple of things that I either really need or want to accomplish that week. For example, one of the things I wrote for the third week of January was to apply for scholarships. So I took a day and I did. I submitted my applications and asked a few people to write letters of recommendation. Then I knew I wasn’t going to stress about it for the next few weeks since I did it in that one week.
Now that this is almost 2000 words (oops!) I want to give you an example of what my lived-in bullet journal looks like. I’m going to post a few links to videos I have uploaded to YouTube so you can see the progress and process of my bullet journal (I can’t upload videos here apparently):
My Weekly Roundup this week actually corresponds with my blog post. It’s going to just be pictures of every page as they are instead of a video.