Bullet Journaling: The Ultimate Guide
People who follow me on social media would probably be shocked to find out that I am a loyal bullet journal user.
Me- the girl who can’t decorate or cook or clean or do her own hair- actually keeps an *adorable* and functional notebook.
I’ve come to rely on my bullet journal and I use it to do everything from planning my daily schedule, and tracking my water intake, to creating my internet content- especially the more creative content.
The Absolute KEY to Bullet Journaling
Before I even start explaining the bullet journal, I want you to understand one thing. The bullet journal is all about simplicity and functionality. While there are beautiful journals out there, and some of you have the potential to make your entire journal drop-dead gorgeous, my suggestion is to start small, and take it to a more “creative” level later if you want to.
Why? Because there are TONS of beautiful examples out there, but trying to replicate them, for most people is going to be more stressful than helpful!
However, if the artistic side of bullet journaling keep you coming back for more, or if you can make a Martha Stewart style page easily-go for it.
But, keep in mind, the KEY to Bullet Journaling (regardless of all the information I’m going to throw at you) is simplicity!
Why The Bullet Journal?
If you’ve ever picked out a planner you’ll know that you generally have to choose what one will BEST fit your needs. But the bullet journal fits all of your needs, which is a pretty amazing thing if you’ve ever been a planner person.
Hopefully you’re intrigued, so let’s talk about what they are and how to use them.
For some reason, bullet journals, which are in actuality, very simple- are notoriously hard to explain. So, let me start with some basics.
What Is A Bullet Journal?
A bullet journal is basically a planner that, like a unicorn, can transform to anything you imagine it to be…. Okay, maybe that imagery doesn’t work, but I like it.
The bullet journal, although seemingly boring and simple has stood out in a world of planners. Much like a unicorn stands out in a sea of horses… I’m going to stop now.
It’s essentially a planner that can do or be anything you need it to be and can change with you as you grow and your activities change… and the best part is it takes less than five minutes to set it up and start using it!
What You Need:
The bullet journal starts with blank notebook and a pen- That’s IT!
Other useful, but optional supplies include:
How Do I Use It?
The process of using a bullet journal is easier to understand once you understand how to set up the journal.
So let’s start there first.
Picture Credit: tealnotes.com
So the first step in setting up a bullet journal is to.
Make An Index
I always start by setting a few pages aside for my index and numbering them.
The index is what makes the bullet journal so sexy and appealing.
Like you might imagine, the index is simply a list of pages in your journal and the corresponding page number.
Unlike traditional planners, nothing in your bullet journal will be in consecutive order- which makes it surprisingly more useful than a traditional planner- but it therefore also requires a good index.
Now, you know those index pages you set aside? Label them “Index” and add them to your index.
Picture Credit: christina77star.net
Make A Key
The page after my index (for me page #5), is my “key”.
The key consists of symbols of your choice that represent tasks, events, ideas etc…. This is what this looks like in my journal, but I’ll tell you more about them later.
Picture Credit: zenofplanning.com
Create a Future Log/ Year In Review
From this point on, the bullet journal really becomes your work of art! So be prepared to think about what will work best for you personally!
Most people start their journal off with a future log or a year in review- something that allows them to quickly jot down and view large events happening throughout the year.
Decide which style fits you the best and create a page for your future events. Then, write the page numbers and description in your index.
Make a Monthly Log
Your monthly log is a breakdown of everything you have planned for the month. Your appointments, birthdays, dinner dates…. You know, all the stuff you’d normally put in your phone.
Once again, you’re going to have a lot of options as to how to set up your monthly log.
Here are some examples.
Remember that this is all supposed to be simple! Yes, I’m giving you different examples, but only so that you can figure out what’s going to work best for you! Don’t overthink it, or let it turn you off to bullet journaling.
Create your first monthly log and write the page numbers and description in your index.
The Daily Log
Your daily log is just that- a LOG.
The actual definition of log is “an official record of events during the voyage of a ship or aircraft.”
Now your daily log won’t be recording events on a ship or aircraft… I don’t think. But, it will be recording your voyage. Tasks, appointments, birthdays- yes, but also your thoughts, a poem you heard and liked, a book you want to start reading, a moment you want to remember.
This is the part of my bullet journal that makes me come back time and time again.
On one page I might have a dental appointment written down, but right under it, I have something nice a friend said that day, or a new song I heard and wanted to remember, or maybe just a random brain dump of ideas for my next blog post.
Basically, the bullet journal lets us shift through all the tons of information that hit us each day and prioritize what’s important in the form of shorthand lists.
The key that I mentioned up above helps us do this and keep these lists organized.
I have only a few symbols that I personally use, because having too many made things too difficult.
When I’m writing in my daily log I can typically remember the symbol I need and insert it before a thought or appointment to keep everything organized at a glance.
So these are your basic four modules that the official bullet guide recommends using!
But, there are other ways to add to your journal that might help you keep things organized.
Picture Credit: zenofplanning.com
Other Things In Relation To The Bullet Journal
Collections are element in your bullet journal that aren’t logs.
Some examples are books to read for the year, a habit tracker, weight loss tracker, blog post ideas, water intake tracker, cleaning lists etc.
A lot of people like to put their collections in the beginning of their bullet journal right after their key, but before their monthly, or daily logs. I personally, don’t recommend doing this, because what a lot of people do is create too many collections and then not use them!
When I first started my bullet journal I was definitely guilty of having WAYYY too many collections. I think it’s one of the most common sins of beginning bullet journalers. Most of us have these lists somewhere in our mind already and while putting them on paper can help us actually track our water or read books, it also can be too much to try to look at and do everyday. The bullet journal should make your life easier, not more stressful.
Currently, the only collections I use in my bullet journal are my blog idea and video idea collection which are just lists and ideas… and my daily Youtube statistics collection where I keep track of my subscriber numbers, video views for 48 hours and revenue for 48 hours. These collections ended up being in the middle of my bullet journal, not the beginning because they happened naturally out of need.
In the future I would think long and hard about putting collections in my bullet journal right off the bat. While there are some great ideas out there for collections, such as these (insert pictures), I prefer for the collections to happen naturally one at a time.
At the end of a month, it’s a good idea to migrate some of the undone tasks, events or even thoughts and ideas to the next month. This helps you be able to focus on the month at hand, rather than get caught up flipping back and forth throughout the months.
When I migrate something I typically just put an arrow through it pointing ahead in the journal and I re-write the undone somewhere else. This system allows me to know that everything I need is where I need it!
During this time you can also decide that something is no longer worth doing and cross it out.
Since bullet journals are designed to be non-consecutive, threading is a little trick that allows you to quickly find information.
For example in your index you may have something that falls on pages 9, 18, and 46. Now on those pages themselves you can put a little arrow at the bottom and list the next page number.
So, on page 9, it would list 18 and on page 18 it would list 46… this saves you the energy and time of looking up every page number individually in your index.