I am so excited to talk with you today about an incredible time management /organization /scheduling /maximizing productivity strategy called bullet journaling. Have you heard of it before?
If not, you’re not alone.
Often times when I mention bullet journaling to a friend, I get one of the following questions in response:
- Huh? What is bullet journaling?
- How do I start a bullet journal?
- Don’t you need a lot of time and to be “artsy-craftsy” to use a bullet journal?
Today I will break down these three important questions so that you can learn what the heck a bullet journal is, whether a bullet journal is right for you (I think it is), and how you can get started TODAY!
Are you ready for this? Let’s do it.
Bullet Journaling for Beginners
A friend of mine peaked my interest in bullet journaling several months ago when she dove into the practice. I was intrigued and immediately wanted to learn more about it. In fact, I was wondering those same three questions that I just mentioned above.
So like most people do when faced with something interesting yet unfamiliar, I turned to my good friend, Google.
I eventually found my answers to those three questions, but surprisingly enough, it took me quite a while. I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide or a tutorial that walked me through the entire process from start to finish.
Instead, I found bits and pieces of great suggestions and ideas on several different blogs and websites. Quite frankly, this left me feeling a little confused and intimidated by the entire process.
Nevertheless, I eventually figured it out, and I fell in love with the technique. So much so, that I wanted to create that step-by-step guide that I was looking for so that others could quickly learn the bullet journaling process.
And that’s what you have here today: a beginner’s guide to bullet journaling. Between this post, and my free video course, you will be ready to start your journal TODAY.
First thing’s first: what is a bullet journal?
Basically, a bullet journal is a notebook that combines scheduling, journaling, and a creative outlet, all in one. It is a place for you to maintain your schedule, record your thoughts and dreams, and also express your artistic side.
That being said, the artistic thing is entirely optional. As you read through this post you will see a wide range of different styles. As I am not the most artistically inclined (as much as I try!), my spreads are not super stunningly beautiful. That being said, I reached out to some incredibly talented bullet journalers, who so kindly let me use their images as well. This way I can show a whole range of page designs.
If you find an approach you love, I’ve also included the Instagram links for each contributor at the bottom of this post, so you can check out their feeds for even more great ideas.
“Okay, okay great… I get that the bullet journal is this combination of three components, but what is it EXACTLY?”
Basically, when you create a bullet journal, you’re creating a personalized one-of-a kind planner that fits YOUR schedule, whether you’re a 9-5er, a stay at home parent, a teacher, and everything in between.A bullet journal is a personalized, one-of-a-kind planner that fits your schedule. Click To Tweet
What you need.
Let’s start by talking about what you need. Fortunately, the supplies are incredibly basic.
The two leading brands are Moleskine and Leuchtturm, which both have sewn-in bookmarks and a pocket at the back. If you search “bullet journals” on Amazon, you will certainly find many other brands as well, but those are the two leaders in the field. I personally prefer Leuchtturm, because the pages also come pre-numbered, which is so convenient (you’ll see why in a moment).
Whichever notebook you choose, I suggest getting a notebook with good quality paper that doesn’t bleed through. I also suggest getting a book that is somewhere around 5”x 8″ in size. (It’s the easiest to carry around.) You have many options in regard to the page style, whether it is lined, a dot grid, or blank pages. I like the dot grid style the best, as I think it’s the easiest for drawing straight lines, but choose what works best for you!
Many people who have hopped on the bullet journal bandwagon opt for fun, brightly colored fine tip pens. Do you need that? Nope. Are they fun? Yup! I have a few different favorite types.
Gel pens are classic because they write smoothly and they literally sparkle. The downside, however, is that they take a LONG time to dry, and they often smudge and smear if you’re not careful.
As you can see below, I speak from experience. This was the first day that I bought my journal; I was so excited to get started, and on page four it was SMUDGE CITY. (You have no idea how hard it was for me not to tear out that page and start again. Ha.)
Long story short, when I have time for my pages to dry, gel pens are super fun to use.
I also have a favorite brand of felt tip pens, which dry instantly and also come in bright colors. I use these when I know I have to close my book quickly, or I am creating my monthly/weekly spreads and I’m dragging my hand all over the page.
Not a fan of sparkly neon colors? Totally fine. The classic Bic pen works just as well 🙂 As long as you have your notebook and a writing utensil, you’re in business.
Stencils are helpful when you’re looking for a quick way to create your spreads or are perhaps not as artistically inclined as others (ahem…me). In fact, I actually made some stencils of my own, just because I was looking for a more efficient way to make my weekly/monthly spreads. If you’re interested, you can get them here!
A simple alternative to the stencil – not much explanation needed here 🙂
That’s it! That’s all you need for bullet journaling. A notebook, pen(s), and possibly a ruler or stencils. Easy! Now here’s what you do with them.
How to Start A Bullet Journal
The bare bones of the bullet journal practice include six parts: the index, the future log, the monthly log, the weekly log, the daily log, and a handful of symbols. I’ll go through the basics here, and when you watch the video, you’ll get a more in-depth explanation and further examples to include in your journal.
The index goes at the very front of your notebook, so be sure to save a few blank pages. This is basically growing table of contents. As you continue adding content to your journal (the next month, the next week, your shopping list, weekly menu, books to read etc.) you put the title of that page and the page number in the index. This makes for very easy reference.
This is a section where you can schedule things ahead of time, usually months in advance. Attending a birthday party in May? Traveling to home for Thanksgiving? Anniversary in 6 months? Put that information in the future log. You can migrate it to the monthly log once you reach that month…
As the name suggests, the monthly log helps you lay out your month, and acts as a quick reference. Like your standard calendar, this is where you write the main events coming up in the next 4 weeks. You can tackle this approach in a few different ways.
The original creator of the bullet journal keeps it very simple. They recommend writing the month at the top of the page and the days of that month down the left margin followed by the letter of the corresponding day. So if it is Tuesday the 12th, it would be 12T.
Alternatively, you can physically draw out the month in a grid patten over one or two pages. As I am a visual person, I prefer this method.
I also rely on my stencils so that I don’t have to carefully space out each box each time.
The weekly log breaks down your month into more specific tasks and goals. You might use the weekly log to map out your specific work projects for the week, which gym classes you’ll take, what day the laundry gets done etc. I like to map out my menu, and any weekly goals that I wish to accomplish as well.
The daily log is where you lay it all out each day. What are all the small tasks that you need to accomplish? Do you have any major events today? When is your son’s soccer practice?
The daily log is your to-do list to get it all done. (Overwhelmed by your to-do list? Check out my tips on crushing those tasks in three simple steps here!)
The bullet journal also uses different symbols to indicate what items you’ve completed, what events are scheduled, whether the task is a priority etc. You can create your own marks to designate these items. I’ve adopted the standard Bullet Journal signs, which include the following:
X: completed task
>: you migrated your task to the next day
<: task is scheduled
That’s it! Those are the six main components of Bullet Journaling. Are you intrigued? Want to learn more? Click the image below for a FREE CLASS on setting up your bullet journal. You’ll receive loads of tips, strategies, and suggestions on how to make this planner work for you!
Have you ever used a bullet journal before? What do you love most about the idea of a bullet journal? What do you find confusing? Let me know below!
Looking for Bullet Journal inspiration? Check out these fantastic Instagram feeds filled with beautiful spreads: