bullet journal | a guide to getting started

I’ve always been a Filofax girl, so when I first came across the concept of “bullet journaling”, I was sceptical. The whole thing just seemed a bit too gimmicky.

In case you’re not familiar, BulletJournal.com advocates using “a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”

More with less. Okay. You’re talking my language. Go on . . .

Bullet Journaling lives at the intersection between mindfulness and productivity. A system that adapts to your life every single day.”  

So basically, I just keep my calendar, musings, meal plan, to do list, dreams, goals, aspirations, and doodles all in one notebook. What’s so groundbreaking about that?

It wasn’t until I began experimenting with my own bullet journal that I  started to get what all of the fuss was about.

Choosing a journal

Although the original bullet journal is a special edition leuchtturm1917, you can really use any notebook you like. Just consider how you’ll be using it beforehand.

I chose a to use a large, soft cover Moleskine notebook with dots. The “large” size isn’t really that large – it’s the perfect size for writing and is small enough to keep in my bag all day long. I always prefer soft cover because I like to completely fold over the front cover. I opted for dots because I could use them to create my own sections, lines, diagrams, etc.

Choosing a pen

Trust me, you’ll spend a lot of time writing once you get stared, so pick a pen you love. I’m a huge fan of Pilot Frixion medium tip erasable pens (I use black, but they come in lots of colours) because I’m slightly OCD and like to correct my mistakes. They also make highlighters and markers which I use for drawing lines and marking off sections. I tried out lots of erasables, and these are definitely the best. They leave no marks or scuffs, and you can erase again and again. They also write very smoothly.

Choosing a format

There are lots of ideas online on how to format your journal. There are no rules, but it’s generally helpful to include a(n):

  •  index – or table of contents
  • future log – a sort of bird’s-eye view of the year ahead
  • monthly log – you guessed it; a monthly reference calendar
  • daily log – your day: appointments, tasks, to-dos, reviews, thoughts. You can stick with the original format, or come up with your own like I did!
  • collections – all the other stuff

Keys and systems

Lots of people employ complex (and often beautiful) keys/symbols in order to define categories or types of tasks. I decided to keep it simple. I did not colour code, but I did choose a very basic system for identifying and managing my notes.

Collections

Here are a few “collections” or pages that I decided to include in my own journal.

Personal collections
  • Books to read
  • Films to watch
  • Audiobooks/podcasts/music to download
  • Theatre/Exhibits/Events to attend
  • Monthly/weekly/daily chore chart
  • Car  – registration, insurance, tax due, MOT, breakdown/recovery info, mechanic’s contact info, mileage, oil change
  • Health – prescriptions, allergies, doctor/dental/out of hours/emergency phone numbers, upcoming tests/appointments/results. Weight tracker.
  •  Gym & Fitness – gym schedule, training plan, running times,
  • Day-trip and rainy day ideas
  • Packing Lists – Day bag, minibreak, overseas, beach, camping, gym, etc
  • Travel – documents, insurance, contacts
  • Trip Pages – for each destination. I currently have a “Roadtrip: Switzerland & Italian Lakes” page where I dump ideas, confirmation numbers, flight prices, etc
  • Capsule Wardrobe planner and wish list
  • Consumables – names/brand/numbers of favourite things that I often need to replenish or replace like a particular shade of makeup or brand of unscented detergent so I don’t forget and buy the wrong version
  • Security info and passwords – I don’t actually write out passwords or personal details. Instead I write clues to usernames and keys to jog my memory.
  • Food essentials & weekly prep
  • Favourite combos for quick smoothies/salads/sandwiches/soups
  • Recipe bank – recipes to try, favourite meals, inspiration
  • Favourite restaurants
  • Monthly budget and savings plan
  • Travel Scattegories – homemade game lists so I can play anywhere. I’ll never be bored on a train again!
  • Habit tracker
  • Postcodes and addresses
  • Birthday tracker and Christmas list
  • Knitting notes – stitch counting, patterns
Professional collections
  • Venue contacts
  • Gig bag and equipment inventory
  • Distribution and sales info
  • Online and social media update schedule
  • Songs to learn (requests, songs I hear on the radio, etc)
  • Setlists
  • Lyrics – free writing/idea pages
  • Litestyle blog ideas and deadlines

Yup. That all fits into one notebook. You can find lots of other ideas for collections from popular bullet journalists on Pinterest, or just use your imagination.

The simple solution

I’ve been journaling for three months, and I love it.

I’ve always kept a work diary/calendar, but this is different. I have a place to log miscellaneaous things which, until now, I didn’t bother to express or record: reviews of campsites I might return to, restaurants to try, favourite quotes from books I’m reading,  and general musings.

I used to have a hundred apps for managing different lists and ideas – now everything is in one place and always on hand.

The opportunity to scribble and doodle with pen and paper comes as welcome break from screens and keyboards.

And while I’m not a hoarder of physical souvenirs, I like that I now have one tidy little book of my everyday adventures, thoughts, and feelings to look back on and reminisce.

My bullet journal is simultaneously a practical tool and an emotional keepsake which has quickly become one of my most treasured possessions.

How would you use a bullet journal? What collections would you include?

ashley

Products Featured

Original BuJo Notebook
Moleskine Large Dotted Notebook
Pilot Frixion Eraseable Pens

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