You are probably excited to get started with your bullet journal, but it helps to first understand a little more about what it is, how it works, and how it can be useful for you.
The more information you have to start with, the better your bullet journal will be.
One thing to remember as you go through these five chapters is that the bullet journal is customized for YOUR needs. Every decision you make it based on what will work best for you. Get inspiration from others, and use printables of layouts that work for different sections, but don’t feel pressured to make it look or feel just like someone else’s.
Let’s get started.
What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is a calendar, planner, and journal all rolled into one. It becomes whatever you make of it, allowing you to keep track of your past events, help you organize the current events and activities, and to make plans for the future. It gives you a number of ways to create your journal and offers an easy way to make all of your ideas and plans work in harmony.
In the pages coming up, you will learn everything there is to know about a bullet journal, why it is beneficial, and how best to use it. As you will see, there is a lot to learn about bullet journals, from how it is set up, to the types of collections and pages you want to include.
All you need to begin is a blank journal or notebook and a pen.
A Brief Introduction to the Main Aspects of a Bullet Journal
As you will soon see – a bullet journal has a lot to it, but every single page and collection included is customizable for your needs. However, it does help to understand the basics first.
Here are some of the main pages that will be included in the bullet journal:
The first page you will have in your bullet journal is the index. This works similar to an index in a book you are reading, providing a list of pages and sections in the bullet journal, and letting you know what page number each section is located on. It works in conjunction with your bullet journal sections, collections, and pages, making it easier to locate something instantly.
The index is more efficient when it is located on the first two open pages in your bullet journal, so it is easy to find and has adequate space within your journal to keep track of all pages and sections.
You will return to these two pages often, as you list the pages you create. More importantly, you will use your Index in the future to easily find the page of any number of journal entries that you need by adding the page numbers at the bottom of the page and entering them into the Index.
The next part of the bullet journal is going to be your future log. The future log is a great way to plan for the near and distant future. It is meant to give you insight into the month coming up, including events or birthdays, weekend plans, work or school tasks, household errands, and everything else going on in your life.
To create this page, turn to the next two blank pages after the index, and write Future Log at the top of each. Divide both pages into three even horizontal sections. Use these as a six-month Future Log and enter the name of six consecutive months at the top of each of the six divisions. Add the page numbers at the bottom of the page and enter them into the Index.
The calendar spreads are a big part of the bullet journal, starting with the monthly spread. There are many ways to customize the monthly spread, starting with a monthly log. Many people choose to place this after the Future Log in the bullet journal. Take a look at different templates to see how these spreads are set up.
Monthly Task List
For the monthly calendar spread, you can also have a task list, which may be on the right side of the calendar spread, or on a completely separate page. On this page, write a list of all the things you need to accomplish in this month. In front of each task, add a task bullet or a simple dot. As with the other pages, when you have finished with these two pages, add the page numbers at the bottom and log them into the Index.
Weekly Calendar Spread
Don’t forget about the weekly calendar spread! This is going to provide larger spaces for you to write appointments, events, and tasks for each day of the week. It is great for work, school, and personal commitments. Just like in a planner, the order usually goes monthly calendar, weekly calendar, then daily calendar.
If you want even more space to write what you are doing each day of the month, include a daily spread or daily log as well. Begin the next blank page by writing a date at the top, then begin to write down all of the things you need to get done on that day.
Each one of these items will go into one of three groups: tasks, events and notes. These groups will have their own unique bullet style. For example, Tasks will be bulleted by a single dot; Events by an open circle and Notes with a dash. Obviously, you are free to use any type of bullet that helps you keep your journal in order.
If a task is very important, you should add an asterisk next to the bullet to indicate that it needs to be given special attention at some point in that day. These special bullets, like the asterisk, are known as ‘signifiers’, as they add priority to the bullet.
If you have notes that you may need for a bigger project and other tasks related to it, you can create a Collection on the next blank page. Collections are a good way to keep certain pieces of information together, or on-going projects or class information. As always, jot the page number at the bottom and Index your Collection.
How They All Work Together
As a new month is approaching, create the pages for the next monthly log just like before, remembering to enter the new pages into the Index. Go through the ending month’s daily log and review the tasks. If you haven’t done so already, cross out the items that you’ve completed.
For those tasks that remain, decide if they still need to be done. If not, you can cross through them. If they can be done in the upcoming month, turn the bullet into a Right-Arrow, then copy the sentence into the new monthly log. If the task or project isn’t due for several months, turn the bullet point into a Left-Arrow and log the information into the month that the work should be done in the future log. This is called Migration.
That’s all you need to do to set up your Bullet Journal.
The bullet journal is there to help you plan and organize your life and activities. It will keep the to-do list for next week or next month in the same location as your schedule for tomorrow. All of your plans are located in one place, easy to find and use whenever you need it.
Benefits of Using a Bullet Journal
Now that you know the basics of what is included in your bullet journal, it helps to understand what the benefits are. There are many different styles of journals, from a daily journal to a gratitude journal, and many other specific topics. With a bullet journal, you can write in it like a regular journal, but the main concept is about organizing and planning your life with it.
As you know, the bullet journal works as a valuable analog asset in a digital world. It’s a way of briefly noting your thoughts, plans, events and other items of importance. It’s different than the traditional idea of a journal in that your thoughts can be jotted down on paper quickly. You’ll use just a few words and bullets (hence the name) and other symbols. No long paragraphs or flowery thoughts.
Some people use their bullet journals as to-do lists, planners, diaries — or a bit of all of those forms of helpful self-communication. No matter how you choose to use yours, here’s what you might gain from the experience.
Do you have an ongoing low-level suspicion that you’ve got things to do and you’re falling farther and farther behind? We all do. We’re constantly assailed with the need to get stuff done. But what? And when? And how? Your first step, with a bullet journal, is to simply get it all down in writing. See what you’re up against.
Your actions are constrained by the time you have to do them. But your life won’t seem so challenging if you know how to react efficiently to the hours and days and months ahead of you.
What you hope to accomplish might be something physical, emotional, or financial. It might be as simple as a daily to-do or shopping list or as ambitious and esoteric as a long-term dream. It’s up to you. But once you can set your tasks or goals or dreams in front of you and start to construct a realistic approach to getting where you need to be, you’ll waste less time and get more done.
Think about how good you’ll feel when you have a realistic plan of attack in front of you and it all looks doable. That’s what you get with a bullet journal entry — the sense that you’re moving logically forward.
You can see on a single page how realistic it is (or isn’t) to proceed according to plan within the period of time you’ve designated. How does your day or your life look now? Don’t you feel better?
You’re the president (or co-president) of your own small operation — your family. Your “employees” don’t always pitch it and can be occasionally disgruntled. Sometimes there’s even disagreement within the management team. The operating budget is never sufficient, and your forecasts of future earnings are often off.
A bullet journal will help you plan your days, schedule play dates, school activities and away games, consider a job change and even plan and budget vacations or a new home purchase and move.
Setting and Meeting Goals
It’s easy to say that you’re going to build a garage, generate new streams of revenue for your business or plan your community’s party. But those are just big blocks of dreams. With a bullet journal you can slice that block into manageable actions.
Take garage-building, for instance. Think of all that’s involved. For starters, you have to plan the size and design, estimate the costs involved and figure out where the money will come from. You need building permits and to interview and select contractors, find and price building materials and schedule time.
A bullet journal lets you calmly and dispassionately figure out all that’s involved, who will do what and the steps you must chronologically take to follow your timeline. You’ll proceed with confidence, constantly updating the job in your bullet journal to correct your plans for new realities.
Is it Right for You?
Will a bullet journal improve your life? The best way to find out is to simply start one. It is such an easy and useful productivity tool that you’ll be happy to make bullet journaling a part of your business or personal life.
In this technologically savvy world, you may be wondering, “Why go back to paper?” It’s a fair question. Apps are available to do most anything you need. But here are the benefits of using a paper journal:
Less Distractions – Less face it. You grab your phone to view your calendar or check your to-do list, and the next thing you know, you’re responding to text messages or viewing funny cat memes on Facebook. Paper eliminates these kinds of distractions.
Many scientific studies indicate that handwriting your content will help you remember things better, as technology can have a distancing effect. Writing and actually forming letters makes you feel more connected to them and the content they convey. Writing stimulates the portion of your brain that makes you sit up and pay attention. You’ve experienced the dulling effect of browsing Facebook or even watching TV.
You can do those things with half your mind engaged. However, don’t feel like you must totally abandon technology. Technology and paper systems can complement each other. So, if you are used to managing your calendar electronically, there’s no need to stop. The Bullet Journal has many more uses you can take advantage of.
Who it is Good For
You have most likely seen these journals on a friend’s desk, online in YouTube videos, on social media, or even in your local bookstore. You might have opened up this notebook to see what this hype is all about and upon opening the book, seeing a bunch of geometric dots all over the page, being extremely overwhelmed, confused, just to shut the book and continue on with your daily life.
Curious if it might be for you? Here are some people that the bullet journal is perfect for.
People whose minds wander and have a LOT of to-do lists:
There are a lot of people who are content with making a to-do list on a daily basis and checking off their responsibilities in a monotonous manner. However, some people are overwhelmed if they can’t keep track of almost everything in their life, they are always planning in advance. These people will have lists for everything, today to-do lists, tomorrow to-do lists, this month to-do lists, event lists, goal lists.
If you are one of those people who is not satisfied with one list and need a better organization system in your planning life, a bullet journal would work for you. The Bullet Journal gives you the flexibility to write all the things on your mind in an organized fashion.
There are no lines in the notebook, like the usual journals, just dots. And it allows you to create short lists, calendars, you name it. It will organize and separate all the things that are important to you without getting them disheveled and mixed together.
People who are creative and enjoy journaling, scrapbooking, and other artistic projects:
The great thing about bullet journaling is that it is a technique more than a product. Sure, the notebook is filled with symbols, boxes, and intricate layouts, but for the most part, the bullet journal is empty and gives you enough room to design your journal in a creative fashion.
You are given a blank canvas to which you can start organizing your entire life, stay on top of things, keep track of important dates and events, and have fun with it. When adding colorful scraps and additions to your bullet journal, you don’t interrupt any intended process that the bullet journal means.
This type of journal is not restrictive in any way and allows you to add your own creative flair without losing any productivity. Other agendas and calendar journals are super restrictive; they have set planning box sizes and dates and uses a format that you are restricted to sticking to. This can become boring and make the routine of logging and planning tiresome; making many lose interest all together.
People who have tried to get organized, but have failed using normal agendas:
Many people really have a yearning to get organized, productive and aware of their daily planning. However, they have bought tons and tons of notebooks, agendas and journals and time and time again, have stopped using them after a few weeks. If the standard journals, the ones that resemble the ones we have all grown up with since receiving them in middle school, have failed you every single time, it might be time to bullet journal.
You have tried the basics, now it’s time to try something totally different and take journaling into your own hands instead of following and using the strategies and books everyone else is using.
The traditional journals are often too basic and might not accommodate the complications and disorganized thoughts in your head. The bullet journal allows you to address every single issue you have had with Journaling and lets your deal with them in your own way, with no restrictions and only minor guidance. If you have the final say in how you organize your life in the bullet journal, you are more likely to keep up the habit of using a Journal.
There are no specific requirements for a person to use a bullet journal. The main goal is organization in an individualistic manner. Anybody who has interest in this might benefit from trying a bullet journal. Even if you never had a major journaling or planning phase, the experience of trying out a bullet journal is one that is worth the try for any person of any age. It is definitely worth the time and effort you put into it.
While there are definitely some situations where you might be better suited for a bullet journal than someone else, it can undoubtedly benefit everyone. From the busy working mom who is trying to get everything done, to the entrepreneur with dozens of lists and tasks to get done, you can find a way to benefit from it no matter who you are or what your current lifestyle.