How I bullet journal
I get questions about bullet journaling on an almost daily basis, so I figured it was about time to get a post together with all my tips, tricks, and recommendations.
The creator of the bullet journal calls it “a customizable and forgiving organization system.” I’m not a bullet journal “pro” by any means (the official website will give you more of the nitty gritty behind this specific productivity method) but I am really passionate about journaling in general. I’ve been keeping a diary since elementary school, and I love being able to flip through old, almost-forgotten memories. So, for me, bullet journaling is less of a cut and dry to-do list of the day and more of a hybrid between a planner, scrapbook and diary.
The basic gist is this: your bullet journal can be whatever you want it to. Habit tracker, to-do list, diary, dream log, sketchbook, etc. etc. etc. However you end up using your bullet journal, I hope this mini how-to guide helps inspire you to bust out your pen and paper and find what works for you.
What I use
All you really need to start a bullet journal is a pen and a notebook.
I use a Leuchtturm 1917 dotted hardcover journal, which you can find in a ton of colors on Amazon. I highly recommend this over a Moleskine — the paper feels a bit thicker, and the quality of the binding and the page markers are much better.
My favorite thing to write with is the Muji 0.38mm gel pen from Japan. Again, available on Amazon.
When it comes to my other everyday bullet journal items, I’m never usually without:
- Washi tape (they have tons of options on – you guessed it – Amazon)
- Stickers (I get them on Amazon or Etsy)
- Tombow brush pens
- My Tokyo Disney stationary and pen cases
The bullet journaling basics
You can organize your bullet journal any way you like, but there are a handful of general guidelines that are designed to help you organize your thoughts more efficiently.
First off, some background on the terminology. A bullet journal is so named because of the way you’re intended to jot down your notes for the day. It’s called “rapid logging” and it’s meant to be quick and simple. When you jot a note down, you give it a symbol:
- Empty box means to do
- Half filled box means started
- Filled in box means completed
- Box with a line means migrated to another day
- Circle means it’s a note
- Asterisk means I have an appointment
I also use little forks to remind myself what I ate/cooked on a given day, and hearts if there’s something I’m really happy about. These are what work for me, but you can pretty much use whatever symbol system you like.
Apart from the symbols, there are a few pages (or “modules”) to set up when you start a new bullet journal. The first is your Index. This is just like an index at the front of a book, where you can see page numbers for the various topics and sections you have throughout your bullet journal.
A fabulous perk of the Leuchtturm 1917 journal is that it has a built-in table of contents section, which is perfect for the Index. It also has page numbers, so you don’t need to worry about manually adding those yourself.
Next up is the Yearly View, a page with all the months of the year laid out. I usually mark important dates or go back and highlight days that were particularly special.
After the yearly view, you set up your Future Log, which is basically just a fancy term for another yearly view where you can actually enter in big ticket items, things to remember, etc.
Beyond the Index, Yearly View, and Future Log, I also create pages in the front for:
- The books I read
- The movies I watch
- Big year-long events or tasks — in my 2017 bullet journal, that was my Master’s Thesis; In this year’s journal, it’s wedding planning
The monthly log
The last bit of set-up is your monthly log. If you started a bullet journal at the beginning of the year, this would be your month view for January.
Some people write out all the days of the month in a list view (examples here) but I prefer to draw out an actual calendar. It takes a bit more time (and a ruler, for us OCD folks) but I just think it’s easier to visualize that way.
The weekly spread
Once you’ve got your set-up pages and monthly log all sorted out, you’re ready to dive in! The bulk of your bullet journal will likely be filled with “weekly spreads,” or the day-to-day goodness that fills up your week.
My weekly spreads are heavy on the doodles, quotes, scrapbook-type print outs and diary snippets, so I can never actually fit an entire week on a single set of pages. And they’re always different, depending on my whims of the moment. I don’t really plan them out — they just sort of happen, as the best things always do.
Of course, I take a ton of inspiration from many places: Tumblr, Pinterest, and various Instagram accounts (x, x, x). The rest of the photos in this post are of my various weekly spreads, with the hope that they may serve as inspiration for you!
A lot of the photos in my bullet journal are taken by me. I snapped the Tivoli picture when I was living in Copenhagen, and then had it printed out via Artifact Uprising (one of my favorite services).
But many (like the girl in the bottom right) are found through random internet searches or magazines.
Here’s to 2018
Well, there y’are cuties. A brief look at how I bullet journal, and a peak into some of my weekly spreads. I started my very first bullet journal in February of 2017, and I’ve written in it every single day since. I cannot tell you how much it helped with the pressure of writing my Master’s Thesis!
If you’re stressed out, anxious, sad, or overwhelmed, I promise bullet journaling will help. It is so incredibly therapeutic to get thoughts down on paper, to doodle, to just remind yourself that everything is going to be ok with a good old fashioned note you can reread over and over again. And if you’re happy, ecstatic, over the moon — why not write it down so you can remember that feeling forever?
Honestly, I can’t sing the bullet journal praises highly enough.
If I still haven’t quite convinced you, or if you have any other questions on bullet journaling that I didn’t address, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
I’ll just be sitting here with Lilo, bullet journaling away in the meantime…