Tips to Create Your First Bullet Journal

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 Thinking of starting a bullet journal? You’ve come to the right place! Here you’ll learn what a bullet journal is, why you need one and some cool ideas to be creative and adjust your bullet journal to your needs!

What is a bullet journal?

Thanks to Instagram — and mounting stress levels — millions of people have ditched their basic planners for a bullet journal and consider this method the best way to plan, reflect, and meditate. And while for some people this is just a journal full of confusing symbols and shorthand, it’s actually a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.

Equal parts day planner, diary, and written meditation, bullet journaling turns the chaos of coordinating your life into a streamlined system that helps you be more productive and reach your personal and professional goals. With sections to log your daily to-do’s, monthly calendar, notes, long-term wants and more, your bullet journal is customized to your life and your needs.

By updating it daily, you learn how to get rid of things that are distracting you and add things you care about. But it’s really built with you in mind: the only thing that the bullet journal needs to be is effective, and how it can best serve its author is entirely up to them. Customize your bullet journal by selecting symbols that are easy for you to understand and creating sections (called “collections”) that align with your long and short-term goals such as a fertility tracker, fitness log, diary, and more.

And for everyone who’s panicking about their art skills, a bullet journal is always about function over form. And to be very clear about that, form can mean sloppy or beautiful. It doesn’t matter what your bullet journal looks like. It’s about how it makes you feel, and how effective it is in moving you towards the things that matter to you.

That’s where the mindfulness connection comes in. Unlike traditional organizers and planners, this method encourages authors to examine how their goals, tasks, and responsibilities make them feel. Instead of a standard checklist, bullet journaling requires daily, monthly, and yearly reflections along with bullet points and asterisks galore.

A bullet journal is good for…

  • People who have a million little to-do lists floating around
  • People who like pen and paper to-do lists
  • People who are into goal-setting and habit tracking
  • People who like stationery, journaling, scrapbooking, beautiful pens, etc.
  • People who really love planners
  • People who want to really love planners, or who want to be more organized
  • People who would really like to keep a journal/diary but are having trouble sticking with the habit

What tools do I need?

  • An A5 dotted notebook
  • Pen (Micron fineliners)
  • Fine point markets
  • Calendar stickers
  • Washi tape sets
  • Stencil sets

How do I start bullet journaling?

Ask yourself: what do you want the bullet journal to do for you? Once you have a general idea, build a system that suits your needs and art skills. If you’re overwhelmed about the flexible format, start with a monthly log where you can prioritize responsibilities to meet monthly goals. From there, flesh it out with a daily log.

Index:

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This section is at the front of your notebook and serves as a table of contents with page numbers to different collections and a symbol key that you update as you go.


Future Log:

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This four-page spread is a year-at-a-glance calendar with future events, goals, and long-term tasks. Add birthdays, travel plans, and major holidays.


Monthly Log:

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This two-page spread includes a calendar with a bird’s-eye view of the month and a task page with things you want to tackle during the month. You can also add other monthly tracking pages (“modules”) including a food, fitness, finance, or book log.

Many bullet journalers have at least two pages devoted to the big-picture view of each month: a monthly calendar page, and a monthly tasks page:

Calendar Page: Use this to write down your events and/or add a note of what happened. The calendar is laid out this way to give you enough space to write a short snippet of events you may have going on and also to note anything you may wish to remember. This will allow you to get a snapshot of what happened.

Task Page: This list consists of tasks you want to get done this month and tasks from last month that you migrated.


Daily Log:

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This is your day-to-day to-do list.


Which other collections can  I create?

Collections are a group of related ideas. Every single page in the Bullet Journal is by definition considered a collection. This includes the monthly log, daily log, future log, and any page you give a topic to. You can make a list of anything! Here are some suggestions.

List of things you like:

It can be, for example, a list of songs you like. If you recall, in the Daily Log there are these songs with a Note Bullet, that were then migrated to a Collection to keep them in one place, as per the Bullet Journal guidelines when you find yourself writing down the same kind of idea over and again in your Daily Logs.

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Gratitude Log:

Collections can be logs of some kind. Here is a gratitude log to write down 3 things you are thankful for each night, seeing them all in one place makes my heart happy.

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Log & Tracker:

Another idea for a collection can be a log & tracker – to write down, for example, notes about how you feel after your daily run.

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Goal Plans:

Goal plans are fun to create with a bullet journal. You can write about your plan, including your motivation, S.M.A.R.T. game plan, and color-code it to connect the ideas on how you would follow-through.

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Tracker:

You can also create a tracker as a system to help you reach your goals and complement your plan. A tracker is the perfect thing to help you reach your aims! Here’s a week-by-week tracker related to the goal plan from the last photo.

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Sketches:

Sometimes you just want to turn the page and sketch. Simply make an entry in your index called, “Sketches: 22, 45-49,…” and add to it to keep track of your collections that span across several pages.

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There are many, many other forms and types of collections I’m sure you could come up with! It’s a notebook, first and foremost, and the blank page is a canvas to create anything you wish!


Bullets and Signifiers in Bullet Journaling

While you should create a key that fits your needs, you can use the following symbols as an example to create consistency:

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Of course you can choose to create your own Bullets and Signifiers as you see fit. It’s your call!


Putting the pieces together

  • When you create a collection, you add it to the index;
  • You use bullets & signifiers to the left of the bullet points as needed;
  • You migrate tasks between collections as needed on a monthly basis. At the end of the month, look over through all of your collections (this includes the monthly and daily logs) to assess whether they are worth doing. If they are worth doing, Migrate them to the new Monthly Log. If they are not worth doing then cross them out, remove the noise. If they are worth doing, but at some other point in time, schedule them in the future log (either in a specific month or in a blank future log page).

Design Ideas for your Bullet Journal Collections

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Check other posts about other projects in the DIY Projects section of my blog

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