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Bullet Journals - What You Need To Know

Updated on April 30, 2017
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Laura has a passion for writing about many different subjects that she has personal experience in, and always writes for her readers.

Where Did They Come From?

The Bullet Journal process was originally created by Ryder Carroll, who is from America. It is basically described as a journal process, where you create the best layouts and set ups for your own, personal needs. It's about having one place for all of your planning and organisational requirements, without having multiple notebooks, each with different elements in them. It's also about mindfulness, and using your journal as a place for goals, aims and tracking good habits.

My First Journal

I originally stumbled across Bullet Journalling through a friend, who had been using Pinterest. She had pinned some beautiful diary pages, and so I had a little investigate, and discovered this whole community of BuJo creators and users.
I was so inspired, that I think I started that night, in a scruffy notebook! I just started, using Pinterest to create this intricate, yet simple type of journal. I remember being so disheartened that my journal just didn't look anything like the ones on Pinterest, and it took me some time to realise that it's not about the way it looks; it's about its practicality and functionality. If it's not helping you to be productive, and have a clearer, more focused approach, then it's not doing it's job.

I started using a simple A5 lined notebook, with a biro and some felt tips. I just wanted to get going, and didn't think of all the tools I would need straight away! I just remember carefully drawing boxes, and doing brightly coloured themed pages. I learnt a lot during my first journal. I knew the things that didn't work for me straight away, and the things that I definitely wanted to move over to future journals.

See below for my tips and techniques of setting up, and also using a bullet journal.

Each time I decided to start a new BuJo, it was because I wasn't happy with one or more elements in my current one. I'm a self-confessed perfectionist when it comes to things like that, and one mistake meant I wanted to throw the notebook out the window! To some degree, I do still feel like that when I make a mistake, but it is all part of the process, and there are even ways you can rectify some mistakes! This is about the things I have learnt along the way, that I want to pass on to keen BuJo creators.

Tips For Starting A Bullet Journal

There are a few simple things required to set up a Bullet Journal, which make using it so much easier. You can use a plain notebook of any kind, but I have started off using a Moleskine, ruled, in A5. This is also a ruled notebook, with no internal extras. I've just purchased a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, as I see these heavily recommended. These already have a set of Index pages built in, and the pages are already numbered. If you are using a plain notebook:

1. Make sure you have done a pen test of quite a few different pens, to decide which would be the one you want to use throughout your journal. It makes it a lot easier if you do this before you start!

2. I would also make sure you have some other tools before you begin. I love highlighters, and have some really great pastel ones that make the journal look great. I would have a ruler, some washi tapes and some stickers if you would like, for the extra touches to your pages.

3. To begin with, create a key page. Use the first page of your journal, and create a list that show what each of your future icons will mean. I.e. a box for tasks, empty when outstanding, with an arrow if you are moving it, and a tick once completed. Have a look on Pinterest for some ideas if you want to make a more detailed key.

4. Next, set up an Index Page at the start of your notebook. I would leave around ten pages, as it can quickly run out depending on the way you write in it! I've made the mistake of not leaving enough pages, and it is really annoying having to then add a continued index at the back of the journal.

5. I would then decorate these pages and make them as decorative and pretty as you like. If you prefer, you can leave the pages basic and minimal. It's entirely up to you, and what you want it to look like. It's there to help you be more organised, but it can also be a place for you to express some creativity.

6. I would then decide the first actual pages you want to have in the journal. I tend to put a year planner at the start, at this is something you will use quite regularly. Then you can move on to further pages.

7. Don't forget to number your pages as you go, and update your index. When you're 50 pages in, it makes life much easier if you keep this up to date as you go!

My tools
My tools

Pages, Collections and Planners

Once you have the basics set up, the next thing to do is start using your journal!

There are many different pages that you can do. I would recommend using a monthly page, and a weekly page. You can use these to track appointments, goals, to do lists and plans. They make life much easier, when you can see these things broken down in this way. You can make these as detailed as you like, and incorporate as many different elements as you like, although I would advise not to track too much at once. It takes away from the focus of the individual things you are aiming for, and can be overwhelming.

Again, you make these as minimal or as creative as you like. As long as you are enjoying it, and is helping you feel more organised then it's entirely up to you! I would use a double page spread for both monthly and weekly planners. You can then put the dates down one side, and track your appointments and events, and then use the other side for things like goals, to-do lists, and extras like mantras, and motivating quotes.

You can also incorporate collections into your journal, which are pages that have a certain theme. This would be pages like a Bucket List, a to-buy list and similar things that you want to track and follow. There is an unlimited amount of pages that you can use, and these are great for so many things. I use these regularly in between my weekly pages.

I would also advise that if you are going to draw anything, it would be best to do it on a separate piece of paper, and then stick it in to your journal. This means if you make a mistake, then it won't ruin your journal. You can then add it in once you are completely happy with it!

If you need any inspiration, I would definitely browse Pinterest. There are so many ideas that you can use to help you plan the pages, and find themes and colours that work for you. I am going through a pastel phase at the moment, and there are some really beautiful ideas in a pastel tone on Pinterest.

Tips and Hints

As I have mentioned, I have had quite a few different journals since starting roughly a year ago. When I decide I am going to start a new journal, I write a few pages at the end of my old one, noting the things I have learnt, and the things I want to carry forward, and also the things that didn't really work for me. I do a pen test on any new pens I want to use, and also circle all of the collections that I want to move across to my new journal. This helps me plan better, feel more organised, and also gives me a headstart. It stops me making the same mistakes! These are the things I would like to share:

  • Decide whether you are going to write in lower case or in capitals. I write much neater and clearer in capitals, so decided to carry that on
  • Don't get too ahead of yourself; write the monthly planner at the start of the month, then track your weekly planners as you go, and don't go past the week you are on
  • Take your time on each page, and don't rush to get it done! There's no time limit on making the journal pretty
  • Do a recurring monthly tasks page, rather than writing these on every months page. It makes it quicker, and easier to track these more mundane tasks, i.e. wash the car
  • Do drawings, doodles and artwork on a separate piece of paper, and then stick it in, to save making a big mistake and wanting to throw the journal out the window!
  • Do a pen test before you begin and make sure you are happy before you start. Check it doesn't smudge!
  • Avoid a general to-do list page; add these in to the monthly planners to stop yourself having to tick the same thing across different pages, and leave enough space on the spread to do so. This stops you getting confused, and makes them easier to deal with.
  • Have fun! It is supposed to be a nice, organised way of planning and tracking the important things in your life, and shouldn't take away from the productivity increase it is supposed to give you.

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