It happened one insomniac night, as I was browsing Pinterest absently searching for nothing. You guys, those of you who knew about this, have totally been holding out on me. Bullet Journals are the analog answer to all of those organizational apps I’ve downloaded and used for five minutes. The giant bonus is that I finally get to use all my absent doodling in a way that actually helps me get things done.
What the heck is a Bullet Journal?
“Bullet Journal was developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY. Through many years of trial and error, the system has evolved into the ideas presented here. He sees this as an evolving, adaptable platform meant to be shared and self curated as you determine what works best for you.” – Bulletjournal.com/about
The Bullet Journal is a notebook. Plain and simple. It’s a technique to use a notebook as an accounting of your life, be it a to-do list, a task list, a dream board, or a note taking system. You can use any notebook you want, and all the colors of the rainbow. It’s a completely customized DIY journal system, and all you really need is a notebook and pen.
I recommend it to almost anyone, but especially hands-on creatives, non-linear thinkers, and people who are interested in keeping themselves steeped in creativity. Students could definitely benefit from using this in place of the school supplied agenda, which is usually full of pages they never look at.
How does it work?
The first thing you’re going to do is create an Index page. This is how you’ll keep track of important notes you’ve taken, lists you’ve made, pages that are different then your regular daily entries. As you can see I messed up with my index by adding my daily pages. Don’t do that. It’s redundant. Unless you want to. It’s your book. In my first Bullet Journal I left far too many pages blank for the index, the recommended amount is 4 pages. If you need more you can use the back. That’s the beauty of this system. It’s whatever you need it to be.
The main benefit of the BuJo technique is the organization of your writing through the use of signifier bullets. For the first few BuJos you might want to create a Legend of these symbols. I used a library card insert and pocket I’d had left from some crafting I’d done a while back, and glued it into the front cover. In the future BuJos I can just glue in a new pocket, and move the card.
I also like to leave a few pages in the front of every journal I use to add a few quotes I love. Warning, my doodling is amateur level at best.
As for the ensuing pages…well that’s up to you. I find layouts while browsing the web, and especially Pinterest. There is a universe of avid Bullet Journal Junkies, or BuJo-holics who love to share their new interesting layouts, and applications of the BuJo technique. These usually fall into three categories:
- Planner Pages:
- monthly calendar
- weekly calendar
- meal planner
- workout planner
- garden planner
- Tracker Pages:
- water consumption
- baby milestones
- new habits
- holiday gift ideas
- List Pages
- recipes to try
- movies to watch
- favorite songs
- books to read
- books I read
- funny things my toddler said
I’ve been using this method since this beginning of the year, and it’s really working for me. In fact, I now use 3 different Bullet Journals. One for my writing/inspiration,
one for daily personal home/life/kids planning, and a small budget BuJo, to track expenses, spending, etc.
My writing journal is part scrapbook, part diary, and part journal. I save mementos using adhesive pockets I’ve gotten at the craft store, journaling cards, washi tape, and stickers. I’ve even got a Fuji Instax to capture moments I want in my BuJo. It’s a bit of an addiction now, to tell you the truth. What I love, however, is how I’m wasting a lot less time endless scrolling social media–which is one of my biggest time sucks. I’ve got more lists in this one too, since I use list making, as a lead into writing, because it stimulates my memory recall. I like to put recipes in this journal, because my daily one is smaller in size, and I use them up faster. My master meal list won’t be too hard to migrate, as I write individual recipes on library cards. I use a monthly calendar layout in this journal, although my goal is to add weekly spreads soon. The idea is to track my writing, set goals, and have the ability to review what I’ve accomplished.
My daily BuJo is where I plan meals, keep track of events & activities, track my daily mood, and keep lists of books I want to read, as well as the ones I’ve finally gotten to. Shopping lists, appointments, and to-do lists are what makes up each individual day’s entry. I don’t always write in it each day, but I’m not losing out on pages because of it. Sometimes all I do is scribble the date along the top, and scratch out some bullets, but other days I’m inspired to get a little more creative.
One of my favorite BuJo hacks is to run a long slice of washi tape on the edge of the pages that are important to me. When I do this with different color washis, I can’t find the page more easily. Some people go as far as to index the color/pattern washi they use, which makes tons of sense, but I’m too lazy for that.
Drawbacks of BuJo
There are some cons, of course. For example, set-up is time consuming, and at the outset that seems pretty daunting, but I’ll confess that the more I see the awesome BuJos other people on social media are making, the more I enjoy the time I spend. In fact, just setting up my daily header has become part of my daily routine. I find that forcing myself into a creative endeavor, that is justifiably useful, helps warm up my brain. The more time I invest in the journal, the more committed I am to using it. So much so, that because I’m using a daily tracker for my reading, writing, an
d cooking I’ve tripled the amount of time I used to spend on each. I also like that the journal is always new, because I have a lot of trouble getting bored with a novelty. There’s also an issue of what to do with a notebook once it’s full. For me, my journalling, my writing, my notebooks are part of my identity. I keep a giant plastic storage container just for my old notebooks, and I’m not joking when I tell you that they are willed to my daughter. When I’m gone, they will be my legacy to her.
Another con is that it can become consumptive. I’ve definitely increased my store of washi tape and stencils since I’ve been doing this. I guess this is a balance you’ll need to find too. The way I see it, just the fact that it’s making me more effective, makes it worth a few bucks in washi tape.
I’ve got lots of plans for new Bullet Journals too. My next one will be filled with words of wisdom, memories, and lists to give my daughter when she moves out.
Do you Bullet Journal? Share your favorite BuJo hacks, tips, and tricks here!