Are you ready to start a bullet journal? Or maybe you’re intrigued by the concept but don’t know what’s involved?
If you’ve been looking for an easy way to get organised then this is it!
But first off, what is a bullet journal?
Created by Ryder Carroll, a Bullet Journal is a way of documenting everything going on in your life. It’s basically a planner/organiser/diary and creative space all in one. Not only that, it’s a flexible system that can be adapted to suit any lifestyle.
If you only remember three things after reading this post:
Don’t be intimidated by all of the information out there about starting a bullet journal.
Creating a bullet journal should be fun, not overwhelming.
It’s going to help you be more productive with your time.
When I first decided to start one, I opened up a search box, typed in ‘bullet journal’ and fell down a rabbit hole.
There was so much to read online; different ideas for layouts and designs, trackers, colour schemes, fun doodles, washi tape…the list goes on.
I hadn’t even put pen to paper but already felt overwhelmed. I had no idea where to start, what to do or how a bullet journal (bujo for short) would help me from day to day.
Seeing pages of beautiful drawings had me frozen in fear and my inner voice was saying ‘there’s no way your bujo could ever look like one of those’.
Then I read somewhere, one of the main reasons people give up on bullet journaling is because they set their standards too high. Putting pen to paper and making mistakes scares people so much that they just give up. No one is perfect so your bujo doesn’t have to be either!
For now, forget about all of the complicated designs and ideas, those things can come later (or not at all – it’s totally up to you!).
Just jump right in and concentrate on finding the best way to get yourself organised.
Why start a bullet journal?
The main reason for starting (and keeping) a bullet journal is to make your life more organised and boost your productivity.
With our lives seemingly getting busier and busier, sometimes it’s difficult to remember everything. Your bullet journal can record whatever you need.
Maybe you’ve got appointments/meetings/a work schedule that you want to keep track of.
Or perhaps you’ve got important school deadlines you mustn’t forget.
Or you could be a busy mum or dad trying to organise appointments, play dates and things that need to get done.
It could be a combination of all these things or something completely different. It doesn’t matter.
That’s one of the great things about a bullet journal – it can work for absolutely anyone!
It’s a completely flexible system that involves bullet points and quick note taking (called rapid logging).
So, let’s begin…
- All you need to start with is a notebook and a pen.
- Go basic if you’re just starting out.
- It might take a little while to find out what works best for you.
- It doesn’t matter when you start your bullet journal – it can be any time, of any day, of any month.
Still with me? Good!
First, grab your notebook and pen, find a comfy chair somewhere quiet and open your notebook to a blank page. That’s it – you’re ready to start a bullet journal.
Now draw something, anything; a slice of pizza, a lemon, a hot air balloon or all three. It doesn’t matter.
Make sure that the first page isn’t perfect.
Now it’s time to map out the next few pages.
A basic layout for a bullet journal:
One page for a key.
One page for an index.
Two (facing) pages for a future log.
One page for a monthly cover page.
One page for a monthly log.
Two (facing) pages for a weekly spread.
One page a day for a daily log.
As much space as you need for habit trackers.
Here is a breakdown of the individual elements of a bullet journal:
A key page will decipher the symbols you decide to use throughout your journal.
Having a key will help you to log tasks, events, and notes quickly and efficiently.
Here is the original bullet journal key:
So throughout your bujo, all you have to do is draw the corresponding symbol and write down the task/note/event next to it.
Rather than writing things down in longhand, you can use the key symbols with short notes beside each one.
This is called ‘rapid logging’.
Recording everything with this method saves space and time. Plus you can mark off or schedule as you go through your daily/weekly tasks.
The index page will be blank to begin with but as you go through filling in your bujo, your index page will gradually fill up too.
To start, you’ll need to make sure that each page of your journal is numbered.
Note: Some notebooks come with pre-numbered pages but if not then you can just add them in yourself as you go. Either is totally fine.
Think of any book with an index. Your bujo index is no different. It will serve as a roadmap to your journal.
March – pages 10-21
March mood tracker – page 22
April – pages 23-33
And so on.
An index is really useful for when you need to go back through your bujo to find a specific date or event.
Rather than having to flick through the whole bujo, you can go straight to the corresponding page.
A future log is a space where you can fill in upcoming events for the year. Think of it as your year at a glance.
Add in any future events like birthdays, holidays, weddings, concerts etc. Anything you know is happening during a specific month.
You don’t really need to go into much detail, the purpose of a future log is more to remind you of the event.
Here is an example of a basic future log layout:
Just before the month starts, go back to your future log and transfer any upcoming events for that month into your monthly log. This is when you can add in further details like when the event starts etc.
The key, index and future log are pages that only appear once in your bullet journal. The following pages are completely flexible so try out what works for you.
Monthly Cover page
A monthly cover page introduces the beginning of the month. It’s a good way to break up your weekly or daily spreads and can set the tone for the month.
A monthly cover page is a great place to start when you want to add some creativity in too. Try out some doodling or add a splash of colour!
A basic monthly cover page:
A monthly log also comes at the beginning of each month.
It lists each day of the month with a little space beside for adding in events. I also like to add in a section for goals but this could easily be swapped out for something else.
When it comes to filling in your monthly log, flick back to your future log pages and carry over any upcoming items for the relevant month. Go from there to build up a picture of the month ahead.
Note: If you want to save space, you can combine your monthly cover page with the monthly log.
Example of a basic monthly log:
A weekly spread is my favourite part of a bullet journal. Although it’s not part of the original bujo setup, it’s really useful for keeping track of your upcoming week.
The best part of a weekly spread is being able to see your whole week at a glance. It’s easy to jot down any appointments you may have, any tasks that need completing or things you need to remember. As you go through the week, items can be added, moved to a later date or ticked off as necessary.
Leave a block of space for each day of the week, a ‘tasks’ area and ‘next week’ and you have a really basic weekly spread.
The little extra space in the bottom right hand corner can be used for more tasks, doodles, a habit tracker, a meal list, weather forecast, or just left blank. It’s totally up to you!
A daily log is a space for writing down everything and anything. It’s basically a more detailed version of the weekly spread.
If you needed to keep to a tight schedule then you could break down each day into time blocks and fill it in that way.
A daily log can be really helpful if you’ve got a busy schedule and need to record lots of events or appointments.
Like the other sections, a daily log can take up as much or as little space in your bujo as you like. Say for example, you know that you have a really busy week coming up but the following week is relatively quiet. Why not use a daily log for the first week and then switch to a weekly spread for the following week?
That’s the great thing about a bullet journal, it’s completely customisable.
Yep, you guessed it – a habit tracker is a place to track your habits.
Habit trackers are a good way of helping you to stick to and build on habits.
By measuring and keeping track of a certain habit, you are able to look back to see just how much progress you have made and how well it may (or may not) be working.
You can record anything from hours of sleep, glasses of water consumed, exercise, read a book or even a Netflix show tracker!
Habit trackers can go anywhere at all in your bujo. So you can try one out to see if it works for you. If it doesn’t then try something else.
If it’s a monthly tracker then you can place it at the beginning or the end of the month and just flick back to it each day and fill it in.
Or if it’s a weekly or daily tracker then include it in your weekly/daily spread.
Have a look at this post for Water Tracker Ideas.
And that’s pretty much it, once you’ve got the main setup sorted, you can go from there.
Try out some of these ideas and see what works best for you. That’s the great thing about a bullet journal, there’s no wrong or right way of creating one. It’s all about what will make your life easier and more productive.
Don’t feel as though you have to stick with any one of these ideas above. If you find something isn’t working, ditch it and move on.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below. Or if you’ve adapted some of these methods then I’d love to hear about it!