So you’ve decided to start a bullet journal? Or maybe you’re here because you want to know why everyone keeps talking so much about them? Fear not, we have you covered for all things bullet journal (AKA BuJo) related. In this post, we’re going to cover your need-to-knows as well as looking at practical ways bullet journalling can help you get organised.
What Is A Bullet Journal?
Bullet journalling is a system that is designed to be your calendar, diary and to-do list. It’s most useful for the people who are into making lists, goal tracking, and want to go old school with a fine-looking notebook rather than a phone or tablet. That’s right, folks – it uses good old fashioned pen and paper, so highly digitised types can feel free to duck out now. But if you’re the type that needs to write something down or else you’ll forget, read on…
How Does It Work?
It all starts with getting a notebook. Not too big, not too small – something chunky enough that you won’t forget it but portable enough to take anywhere. Actually, half the fun of a bullet journal is spending an hour or two agonising over which fine-a** notebook you’re going to buy! Most people tend to opt for the simple yet elegant Moleskine.
Once that dilemma is over, you can get to work filling your journal. Start off by creating an index – this is a simple table of contents on the first page of the journal. On it you’re going to list important categories and topics of the journal – for example, ‘Work’, ‘Family’, ‘Money’. You’ll also fill out the page numbers for each month as you add them in. One page of the journal is usually fine for this, but feel free to leave two if you want. One of the things we’ve had to experiment with through trial and error with bullet journalling is how many pages to use for various needs.
Obviously there won’t be much in the index to start with – in fact, we recommend a strategy of ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ when you’re getting started. Once you’ve been journalling for a few weeks, you will get a sense of how you want to fill out the index. Just remember to keep adding to it as your journal takes shape. Lastly, don’t forget to fill out the actual page numbers on your journal if it didn’t come pre-printed with them!
The next 4 pages of your bullet journal will be your calendar. Some people in the BuJo community call this a ‘future log’, but we think calendar is a little easier to understand. Divide each of your 4 pages into segments of 3. Each page now represents a quarter of your year, with each segment representing 1 month.
Before going any further, it’s worth outlining the notation system used in a bullet journal – as you’re about to start using it. The genius of BuJo really lies in it’s simplicity. The idea is to notate everything in short, clipped sentences. Be brief! Using a specific symbol at the start of each line, you can mark out whether what you’re writing is an event, to-do etc. Let’s take a look:
- To-do’s are marked out with a bullet point. If you’ve completed the to-do, turn the bullet point into an ‘x’. This is how you signify completion of a task in BuJo (we know it feels weird not to just cross the task out, but bear with us).
- If you need to jot down an event, this is done with an ‘o’.
- Notes are recorded using the ‘-‘ symbol.
- Next, you can record the status of a task. If it has been scheduled, put a ‘<‘ symbol there. If it’s been migrated (this is BuJo speak for “too lazy, I’ll do it another time”) then put a ‘>’ next to it.
Note: You don’t have to use the notation above, feel free to experiment! Remember to write down a key at the back of your journal to record what all your symbols mean
Anyway, let’s get back to filling out our calendar. Under each month, write out the high level important stuff you have coming up. This could include birthdays, holidays, or the staff Christmas party. Remember to add the appropriate symbol at the start of each line whether it’s an event, to-do etc.
Next, you’re going to create a more detailed overview for the current month. Using two pages of your journal, write out a line for each day of the month on the first page followed by a task list on the second page. As you get to the end of the current month, you will need to fill out the next month’s overview. – but we’ll cover that in the ‘daily’ section next.
Daily Journal Entries
Now that you have your first detailed monthly overview, it’s time to fill out the individual days on your bullet journal. This will be the real meat of your book. In the first page after your month overview, write in an entry for today. We find this is best done in the evening – a way to unpack the day and jot down your thoughts and achievements. Put the date at the top, and then start writing. Remember to use your key for events, to-do’s etc.
If it’s a note, but something big has happened (i.e. you want to make a traditional diary entry) you can make a quick and dirty note and then write out more detail on the next page.
Keep doing this every day you have something to write (it takes less time than you think!). When you get to the end of the month, go back to the previous step and write out a new breakdown for the month ahead. This is when you will migrate tasks that you didn’t manage to complete. Put a ‘>’ symbol next to any uncompleted tasks for the previous month, then add them to the next month’s task list. If a task is no longer relevant, then strike out the line instead.
Then in the next pages you write out your dailies again, rinse and repeat. Before you know it, your journal will be full and it’s time to buy a new one!
That’s… Kind Of It
That pretty much covers the basics of bullet journals, folks. Some people like to get way more involved with it – introducing meal planners, sleep logs, affirmation logs – but at its heart, a bullet journal isn’t very complex. If you want to introduce something new to the journal – maybe you have an important trip coming up or you want to track a new project – simply use the next available page in the journal. Just remember to add it to your index, and resume your daily entries on the pages that follow.
We know it can seem like quite a time drain to set up, but you’d be surprised – I got mine ready to roll in under an hour. When it comes to writing my dailies, this almost never takes more than 5 minutes. Like all organisational tools, a BuJo is only as good as the person holding the pen.The more you put into it, the more you are likely to get out.
Key take away: All a bullet journal is is a combined calendar, diary and to-do list, which uses a specific notation system to track things. Like any good planner, it starts with your year at a glance, then a monthly breakdown, and then your daily entries.
Hope you enjoyed this post folks. Remember to check out the rest of our blog for all the latest Tiny Living developments.