An Introduction to Bullet Journaling

 

Bullet journaling is one of those things that’s become really popular on social media in the last year or two, and for a lot of good reasons: it’s a versatile system designed for busy people who like to keep track of their lives and thrive on organization. There are LOTS of resources out there for bullet journaling, and I won’t pretend to be an expert – in 2018 I’ll be starting my third year of bujoing, and while I love it and recommend it and can talk about it for hours, it really is up to the individual and the system doesn’t work for everyone. Before I launch into an entire blog post about bullet journaling, let me first just say: If you’ve tried it and bullet journaling isn’t your ‘thing’, that’s okay! I know social media can make it feel like you sometimes “should” be doing certain things, but screw it – some things aren’t for everyone and that’s totally fine! If you have a hard time keeping up with a bujo, I’d suggest a few alternatives:

  • Google Spreadsheets (there are apps and these are so versatile – I am a huge lover of spreadsheets in everything from my work life to my personal gaming life, so if you’re online a lot or prefer technology, you can definitely translate the bujo system into one that’s online!)
  • Pre-made planners (some people find the thought of creating their own spreads each week / month daunting, and don’t feel or like the creative aspect of bullet journaling. Lots of companies make journals with pre-made sections and areas to write, so check Amazon for planners and see what you can find!)
  • Various phone apps (Search your app store for ‘planner’ and you’ll find a lot of different planner-esque apps to use! You can also find apps for journaling, tarot and things like keeping track of your health habits, like water, sleep and exercise!).

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So, first things first. What is bullet journaling and why should you start?

To put it simply, bullet journal is a way of quick-journaling to keep track of daily activities and your general stuff. It was created by Ryder Carroll, and was originally designed sans washi tape, colored pens or fancy tools – so don’t feel scared if you can’t afford an investment of craft supplies right away (or at all). You can read more about Ryder’s original bullet journal system here, which gives a great introduction into bujoing as a whole.

To me, a bullet journal is personal to each person. I personally have a couple – one for my “general, everyday” bullet journal, and for this I try to stick to 1 per year if possible for the sake of organization. I include monthlies, weeklies, goals, trackers and even a few journal pages here and there when I feel like writing a bit more than my day’s space allows. I use my bullet journal to keep track of everything from birthdays to work deadlines to how many cups of water or steps taken I’ve had on any particular day. When I look at this data, it’s a great way to keep me on track for any goals that I’m working toward. It’s also an enormously great resource for me professionally, because as a project manager with sometimes up to four or five different projects with different meetings, deadlines and events to handle, a calendar reminder and a visual look at my month/week/day is invaluable.

But you don’t have to be busy to enjoy a bullet journal! I’ve heard people use them for all kinds of things that I personally don’t – for example, a friend of mine that recent had a baby showed me her spread for breastfeeding tracking and it helped her keep track of how much milk she was pumping (and how much baby was drinking & at what times!), which she could bring with her to her baby’s next doctor’s appointment. You can also use your bullet journal to track school, assignments and homework — or, if you’re weird like me, you’ll make several spreads for various video games to track all the items and collections completed (as well as achievements — oooh, the achievements!).

Overall, bullet journaling is a really great life tool for anyone that likes making lists, writing little notes to themselves, needs reminders for things, has a lot of meetings, has a lot of thoughts — really anyone, imo. Try it, see if you like it! It’s worth a shot. 🙂

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Starting a Bullet Journal – The Essentials*

Note the asterisk in the title – this is here because you don’t need anything other than a notebook and a pen to start bullet journaling. When I say essentials, I’m using this term both loosely and to describe the tools I personally use for my bullet journaling. You may find other things work better for you – some people (a lot, much to my surprise, as someone who l0ves color so much 😛 ) love bullet journal minimalism and prefer black and white spreads to anything with color or washi tape. Check out various Instagram and Pinterest pages, as well as Facebook groups for people that share your interests! I’m in a few bullet journal groups specific to different things that I have interests in – like video games and tarot! It’s really nice to find like-minded people, however specific your particular niche! 🙂

Tools of the Trade 

  • Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium (A7) Dotted Grid Journal (various colors – my favorite is Berry, but this year I’ve moved onto Emerald!)
  • A case (this is option if you feel you’ll need something protective around your bujo! I tend to take mine places and use it a lot, so it gets scuffed – I got a new case for 2018 and can’t wait to share a review on it! It’s in the photos above and is by ChooseToDo!)
  • Sakura Pigma Micron Pens (various sizes and colors, but I prefer .03 or .05 in Black for my outlines, and .01 in Black for details)
  • Zebra MildLiner Highlighters 
  • Crayola SuperTips Washable Markers
  • Washi tape (my fav place to get this is the Target dollar section or at Michaels Crafts during a sale, but you can also buy on Amazon and AliExpress!)
  • Pencils with a durable eraser

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Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

So, maybe some of these will be obvious to some of you, but here are some things I wish I’d known before starting my bullet journaling:

  1. Here’s a secret: the photos you’re using as inspiration are the best ones made – not the ones that include mess-ups. Everyone makes mistakes though! Your pages don’t have to be perfect. Lots of my pages are messed up or have crooked / uneven lines or misspelled days of the week – and it’s fine! Just do what you can to fix it with some washi or a creative font redesign – or even just scribble it out and write it new, or leave it! Who cares? Perfection is overrated. Be proud of your pretty pages, but appreciate the ugly ones too because they’re just as functional — if not moreso since you’re not completely worried about messing something up! 😛
  2. Do everything in pencil first! If you use markers or pens first, mess ups that could be avoided previously can’t. I know it seems anti-point 1, but trust me – sometimes a pencil makes all the difference between  “ah, just right!” and “shit, why am I missing two columns?!”
  3. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for pages, literally just Google it! “Ideas for bullet journal pages” is a very popular search tag — you’ll find lots of really fun ideas!
  4.  Experiment! Make your bullet journal yours! It doesn’t have to look like the ones you see online if you don’t want it to. It doesn’t have to be anything specific if you don’t want it to! Look around, see what appeals to you, and go for what does – and ignore the rest! Bullet journaling is very personalized and “take what you like and leave the rest”, so take advantage of that and try new things every so often to make sure you’re not getting bored (or don’t! It’s up to you! How helpful am I right now?! Super, SUPER helpful! Really, it’s your choice – you’re in total control!)
  5. Prices fluctuate on the pricing of things on Amazon A LOT! If you check something, it could be 50% or more off the next day — so be sure to shop around for the best deals and keep an eye on price fluctuations! Bullet journaling supplies can get expensive if left unchecked. 😡
  6. I know I keep mentioning personalization, but seriously! If you take a look at the above photos, it looks like a lot – and it kind of is – but it’s personalized to me! I keep my bullet journal for work/life/everyday stuff, my regular writing journal for actual journalling, and my holographic tarot journal all in my ChooseToDo case, and it’s a system I use together but can also be separated if I felt like leaving a book or two home! (I don’t really like taking my journal out for obvious reasons! 😛 )

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Planner Pages vs “Collections”

I use my bullet journal as a combination between a regular everyday planner and also a compilation of various things I like, want to remember, or want to keep track of. In the example above, you can see a sample ‘planner’ page that I use for everyday planning and daily stuff — and then also an example of a ‘collection’ page, which is pretty much just everything else I want to keep track of in list form. This particular collection is the shorthand symbolism for tarot cards I pull for my daily spread (which get plugged in at the top of the weekly planner spread when I pull the card each day — see how the different parts work together? 😀 I know it’s nerdy how excited I am over these things, let me just have this, okay?)

You can have collections for anything, and any variations of planning pages. Some people make dailies, some only stick to monthlies. I personally try to keep my monthly overview pretty small since my weeklies are my focus, but that wouldn’t work for everyone!

 

Example Collections:

  • Books to Read (or ‘Books Read’!)
  • Movies Watched (or ‘Movies I Want to Watch!)
  • A Wishlist for a specific store
  • Health tracking
  • A collection of your favorite quotes
  • Mood trackers
  • Anything hobby related (I have a bunch of video game related spreads and it’s super nerdy and you’d be appalled — just do you! It’s yours!)

 

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And Finally… Example Photos of my Bullet Journal!

 

My three most-used journals! I have several others for things like hobbies, practicing layouts, etc – but these three stay in my case most of the time! Teal is an ‘Emerald’ Leuchtturm1917, Black is a Moleskine Softcover and the Holographic was one I found randomly in a Target and couldn’t pass up!

I love this case so much.

I try to choose one word or theme each year to focus on, and aim most of my goals toward that focus. This year’s word is ‘flourish’, so I added the word plus its definition to the yearly page which is one of the first in my book.

Left: Year at a glance in little cute mini calendars! Right: 2 trackers I’ll use monthly – one for bills/payments and one for chores or things I should be handling monthly, like backing up my phone! (I’ve lost my photos too many times to count and this little tracker saved my butt in 2017!)

A ‘Future Log’ is an at-a-glance look at each month and any events (birthdays, parties, weddings, holidays, etc) that might fall within it. Some people need bigger ones, some can fit them on a single page — I try to keep mine in a 2 page spread like this although it normally doesn’t even nearly get filled up!

Explaining this would take forever and require its own blog post, so google “level 10 life’ and you’ll get the gist! I’ve edited mine to be specific to me because I believe in – say it with me – PERSONALIZATION! 😀 I plan to fill this out on the 1st of the year (and this was taken before the year started tbh) so it’s empty in this photo but I’ll likely do a check-in partway through the year to show how it evolves.

These are a bit personal for me and I briefly considered not sharing but I figured it’d be a good example of a more popular tracker as well as something very specific to me. Left: Mood Tracker — There are tons of versions of this (last year I kept track using a ‘Bigger on the Inside’ Doctor Who version!), and it’s fun to use and see all filled up at the end of each month (and the year!) Right: This is a tracker I had in last year’s journal as well, and it helps me keep track of my dreams. For years I’ve had weird dreams of an “other place” and the frequency is pretty alarming I’ve discovered after researching a bit about how often people dream of the same things so I decided to track it annually. Last year I only thought to do it a few months before the year ended (and it was pretty insightful tbh!) but this year I’m excited to see it fully filled out!.

Here is something you’ll see various examples of all over Pinterest and Instagram! I love these – for each movie or book you watch or read for the year, you write in and then color a corresponding space. I filled last year’s bookshelves, although I don’t watch enough movies for the amount of spaces I had so I lessened those this year (I’m guilty of long Netflix TV show binges though 😛 )

I want to focus on my blog this year and keeping it consistent and I’d love to gauge how that consistency impacts growth, so I made a handy little tracker! I’m repulsively organized, I know, I know.

Left: If you haven’t played any of the Telltale games, try them and then come back to me. This tracker isn’t totally accurate (I’ve played quite a bit) but I want to restart them this year and they don’t take very long to finish! Right: I kept track of commissions last year all over the place, so this year I’d like to keep things a bit more organized – and pink!

 

Here are some January 2018-specific pages, including my monthly and weeklies – plus some regular collections I plan to continue each month!

The two boxes in the bottom are half of the month each and will contain line graphs charting my water intake, sleep amount and steps during each day. I’ll compile this info bimonthly based on my Fitbit and daily tracking data in my bujo! I want to see where I’m at so I can make achievable goals for myself for the rest of the year.

This is a habit tracker! I use one every month (and you’ll notice I also keep one during my weekly and tbh sometimes they’ll contain some of the same info depending on the week once filled out!). I tried to pretty it up with a random quote and some doodles this month, and am trying to keep track of my anxiety and stomach pills with the bottom section which is something I don’t normally do.

I love doodle challenges! I want to do one every year in 2018 – wish me luck!

Left: I’ll write a couple short lines recapping the day in general (or something specific if I want to remember it about the day) Right: I’ll choose 1 thing for which to be grateful for every day and slowly fill up (from the top down???? – see what I mean about learning as you go? lol) my gratitude jar over the course of the month!

An example weekly spread! I likely don’t use the food log much because I lack discipline but it’s there so we’ll see! I also have trackers for self-care to ensure I do at least one thing for myself each week, plus separate general life and work to-dos. On the right side of the right page, the high/low temperatures go in the rectangular blue boxes and the smaller white boxes will be filled up with the water I drink each day! Each small blue box = one task or note (and I’ll x them off when I complete them).

Overall…

I know the system can seem intimidating at first, but it really has helped me a ton and it’s super fun to find new ways of things that work for me. I use a variety of notebooks and even some spreadsheets online for things, and I know not everyone has the time or the luxury of so many different and in depth trackers — and that’s okay! If you only have a few minutes a day at most, Ryder’s original bullet journal plan will be perfect for you — and if you can spare a bit more time and want to get a little creative with it, I hope some of my photos have helped!

 

Feel free to let me know if you have questions and also to share photos of your bujo with me – I love seeing them! You can tag me / follow me on my Instagram for bujo stuff @ctrlaltcassie 🙂

 

Happy Bujoing!

 

xoxo

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