Bullet Journaling for Dummies

A few months ago I discovered the Bullet Journal (BuJo from now on) when my great friend, Jinx Strange, shared his first experiences with the system. Since then I’ve become a dedicated fan. I also know how many words I write on average per day, when I’ve fallen off the no-sugar wagon, and many other useful things. I’ve also learned that a fair number of my friends also use BuJos in their daily lives, and more are interested in starting (not my mom though, noooo, she prefers her iPad).

Unfortunately, because of the flexibility of the BuJo (it’s greatest strength), and the sheer creative force of the human race, trying to figure out exactly WHAT a BuJo is and how it can help you can be pretty daunting. I’m going to share my simple BuJo method in the hopes that it can help you get the most out of your life.

1. What is a BuJo?

The official BuJo website calles a Bullet Journal “The Analog System For a Digital Age.” That’s all very nice, but what does that mean?

In the simplest possible way I can explain it, a BuJo is a nice organised way to keep your to-do lists in one place. Nothing extraordinary or new about it. Why not just use a diary then? Well, I’ve never liked the layout of diaries (like a monthly planner), and they remind me too much of my homework book in high school.

A BuJo stands apart from a diary in that it is a blank slate waiting for you to fill it. You choose which “Spreads” you want to use, you decide how you want to make it look. Your BuJo becomes an extension of you. It holds all your plans, accomplishments, and goals. And you can experiment and adjust it to suit your needs as you go along. It’s entirely up to you.

Bullet Journal example from bulletjournal.com

A very lean Bullet Journal example from bulletjournal.com

2. What kit do you need?

This is all you need to get started:

BuJo1

Notebook. Pen. Beverage of choice.

That’s it.

I recommend a dotted notebook, and a pen that doesn’t smudge or leave blobs of ink on the page.

I’m not gonna lie, I love stationery. Pens, pencils, notebooks, embellishments, the whole lot. I even have a loyalty card for my favorite art store. I have a problem. But I started with a cheap notebook (lined – I’m never doing that again), and a pen. Until I knew that this was something I wanted to stick with, I didn’t spend more money on it than I had to.

This is my current BuJo kit:

BuJo2

  • Steel ruler for really straight lines.
  • Pencil for planning spreads.
  • Stabilo Point 88 Fine 0,4 pens for crisp lines and vivid colours.
  • Moleskine Dotted notebook.
  • A brush pen I’m still learning to use.
  • Washi tape and pretty stickers.

Now, I know that a LOT of BuJo-ers swear by the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook for their BuJos, but I haven’t found a supplier who sells them in SA, and Amazon doesn’t ship them here. Moleskine is the next best option for me.

3. The Spreads

This is where the true power of the BuJo comes into play. A spread is, basically, two facing-pages that you use to store info on. Whether it’s a shopping list or a weekly log, it’s the basic unit of the BuJo.

There are only two “compulsory” spreads:

The Index

Because the BuJo is free-form, it’s really helpful to find a way of indexing your content. I’ve tried the traditional index on the front page, and a Japanese version involving marks on the edges of pages. I prefer the traditional front-page index.

I really need to update my index page.
I really need to update my index page.

The Key

Pretty self-explanatory. The Key page is where you track the icons you’re going to use to represent different kinds of bullet items in your BuJo:

BuJoKey

Yeah, I’m not so good with using these icons. I really need to improve on that.

Recommended Spreads

The Future Log

This is a very high-level look at the upcoming X months. You can do a whole year in one Future Log, or six months, it’s entirely up to you.

Future Log example from sarahschapter.co.uk
Future Log example from sarahschapter.co.uk

I’d recommend that you put things into your Future Log that you need to know about a few months in advance. Important birthdays, a friend’s wedding, the appointment with that specialist you had to book 4 months in advance.

The Monthly Log

I like to put a Monthly Log right at the beginning of each month. Again, this is to keep track of things I need to be prepared for during that month. Birthdays, holidays, doctor’s appointments, school events, anniversaries, etc.

BuJoMonthly

The Weekly Log

This is a more fine-grained version of the task logs above, which I use for to-do lists, weekly goals, and tracking daily meals and other things I want to be aware of. This is highly customisable, you can make it super basic like the bulletjournal.com example I shared at the top of the post, or more elaborate than mine. It’s entirely up to you. Your BuJo not only helps you keep track of your life, but it can also be an expression of your creativity. I experimented quite a lot with this spread until I found the layout below which I find works best for me.

BuJoWeekly

The Habit Tracker

As the name suggests, you might have good (or bad) habits that you want to track so that you can figure out how much of your time you’re spending on any one task. I think this is a really powerful spread because it can give you so much insight into your daily habits. Personally, I want to write more and spend less time playing computer games. So I keep track of my habits here. At the end of the month I can see exactly how many days I got my writing done, and when I didn’t.

Also, my daughter goes to play school on a casual basis, so I track the days she attended school here and can make sure I’m being invoiced correctly at the end of the month (this saves me a lot of money).

BuJoHabitTracker

 

Optional Spreads I Use

As I said earlier, the BuJo is incredibly powerful because it gives you a way to track any thing you can think of, from your daily to-do list, to your shopping list. The possibilities are endless. There are a lot of great resources online where other BuJo-ers share their favorite spreads, you can find them on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and many other places. These are some of the optional spreads I’ve found most helpful since I started my BuJo:

The Budget and Spending Log

BuJoBudget

The Weight Loss Tracker

BuJoWeightLoss

The Grocery List

One of my favorite spreads! I always forget to take my shopping lists to the grocery store with me when they’re scribbled on scraps of paper. This way I just take my BuJo and it’s always there. I make a pencil mark next to the groceries I need, use a little sticky note if I need to add specific details to anything, and have a section for misc stuff I can pencil in and erase when I’ve got it.

BuJoGrocery

The Reading List

I’m forever adding more books to my “TBR” pile, this list is super handy for when I want to go shopping for books!

BuJoBooks

 

BuJoBooksToRead

This last one needs a complete re-think! I love the bookshelf idea, but I can’t keep up with my reading habits.

Well, that’s all there is to it really, I hope you find some inspiration, and organisation in this post. Happy BuJoing!

Please feel free to make any suggestions, or ask any questions you might have in the comments.

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