I’ll admit it: I used to hate planners. I’d avoid them like the plague. Instead of keeping my notes in a planner, I’d just leave little sticky notes all over my house, with no intent of ever organizing them, and hope they’d help me remember everything I needed to do (they didn’t).
Why did I hate planners so much? Because there was no way to customize them. You had your monthly calendar already set up, along with the weekly schedule, and no space for anything else. What if I wanted to include extra space for other things, like a place to track my goals for the day/month/year? Or just a page for jotting down my thoughts?
I crave creativity, so the $5 planners from Wal-mart were just not my style.
That’s when I discovered the bullet journal system, and immediately fell in love.
What is a bullet journal?
The bullet journal is an analog system designed by the amazing Ryder Carroll. The great thing about the bullet journal system is that it’s completely customizable to your needs. You can use it as a to-do list, diary, or sketchbook (or all three combined!), but ultimately, it’s designed to help you organize your life.
For a more in-depth look at a bullet journal, here’s a video with an example of one from the creator himself!
There are basically a million ways you can use a bullet journal. Some of the most popular uses are to organize your social life, school, or even your blog/business. So even if you’re like me and not big on planners, the bullet journal system is much more flexible and can pretty much relate to everyone in some way.
What do I need to start a bullet journal?
Technically, you only really need a blank notebook and a pen or pencil.
If you want to make your journal look really pretty and Pinterest-worthy, you will probably want to invest in a good-quality notebook and a nice pen. Also, here’s a list of bullet journal supplies (under $10!) that can help you save time and make your life a little easier, but again, these are just nice and useful extras.
Here are the supplies I currently use and totally recommend:
Washi Tape (I couldn’t find the exact ones I bought, but I’ve seen lots of people use these and the reviews are really good!)
Components of a bullet journal
While a bullet journal is totally customizable, there are a few aspects that you’ll find in most journals. You don’t have to include these pages, but they definitely help you organize your journal and get the most out of it.
1. Index and key
The index is usually the very first page of a bullet journal, and just like in any book, it’s a place that helps you find a page you’re looking for quickly. You’ll need to number your pages for this to work, unless you’re journal comes with numbered pages (the Leuchtturm1917 journal I mentioned earlier comes with a built-in index and pagination, by the way!)
Some people use the index, and some people could care less about it. It’s really only helpful if you think you’re going to refer back to it. If not, I’d just forget about it.
The key is something unique to the bullet journal system that is meant to help you manage your tasks. You can really use any symbols you want, so don’t feel like you have to go with what everyone else is doing!
Personally, I don’t have a page for a key. I just mark everything with a dot, and I know when I’ve completed it. But for some, they find it helpful and it keeps them on track. Even if you make a key and don’t use it, you’ll know for your next journal that it’s not for you!
2. Future Log
A future log is basically a ‘year at a glance’ page, where you can see future tasks ahead of time. This is where you’d put things like a future doctor’s appointment, or a vacation that you’re planning later in the year.
Here is another way to layout your future log:
Some people always ask, ‘Do I include the current month in a future log?’ Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I say no.
Think about it: If you’re going to be doing a monthly layout (see below) anyway, then it doesn’t really make sense to include the current month in your future log. The future log is meant to help you see tasks way down the road that you can’t really fill in yet. So, if you add the current month, doesn’t it make sense to just put it in the monthly layout?
3. Monthly Layout
The monthly layout is a great way to quickly see what your schedule looks like for the month. Most people use a calendar of the current month, and then either include the events inside the calendar or write them out to the side, as shown above.
4. Weekly/Daily Layout
Weekly layouts and daily layouts are similar, with the only real difference being that a weekly layout is set up ahead of time, while a daily layout is done each day.
So, if you don’t really want to spend a whole lot of time each day filling out your journal, a weekly layout is the better option. My only complaint about the weekly layout is that you can’t really add more space once you’ve set up your spread.
Here’s an example of a daily layout:
Filling in your journal as you go is a huge bonus, because you know you’ll have enough space.
In the example, you can see that Friday’s entry is much longer than the others, so if they’d used a weekly layout they probably would’ve ran out of space.
The only setback to this format is that you have to dedicate time each day to filling it out, and if you have something planned later in the week, you can’t really schedule it yet. In this case, I usually just put it in my monthly calendar and fill it in later.
I like to use both of these formats. Sometimes, if I’ve got a super busy schedule, I’ll spend time one day creating a weekly layout. Other days I’ll just fill my journal out as I go.
It’s not an end-all-be-all, you can change it up! That’s the great thing about a bullet journal, it’s so flexible and you can always change how you use it.
Other common collections…
Now that you’ve got a better idea about what the main components of a bullet journal are, let’s talk about some of other collections (any page or pages with a common theme) you can include in your journal!
This can be anything from a mood tracker to a water intake log. It’s just something that you, well, keep track of! There are tons of things you can track, and even different ways a tracker can look (to see what I mean, check out my Pinterest board here full of mood tracker layouts!)
Here’s where you can keep a collection of your favorite book, movies, TV shows, etc. It’s just a fun way to see what kinds of things you enjoy and like!
It’s so helpful to have a place where you can write down all of your ideas. This can be anything from blog post ideas to bullet journal page ideas! I definitely use this to organize my blog, which you can see in action here.
Whether it’s yearly, monthly, or daily goals, this is a common page in many bullet journals. Setting goals is a great way to get stuff done, and a bullet journal gives you the ability to keep track of their progress.
Need more inspiration? Here are 50 Bullet Journal Page Ideas (With Examples!) to help you out! If you’ve got an Instagram, here are 5 bullet journal accounts that you should totally check out!
Feel free to ask questions below!
And if you found this helpful, be sure to pin it so others can find it!
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