For a long time I wanted to write a post about one big creative adventure in my life and that is bullet journaling.
It’s no secret that I love to make plans (for almost everything in my life! 😀 ) and also to try out different planners and planning systems – these things go hand in hand with my planning obsession.
I even created some printable planners for myself so I could test out how they work for me (now they’re all available in my Etsy shop), but my quest for the “perfect” planner that will meet all of my needs did not end there.
(because, let’s be honest, there are lot of needs and it’s hard to place them all together without the clutter and mess… 😀 however, I’m still not quitting! 😉 )
Having everything in mind, it was destined that sooner or later bullet journaling would come to my planner list where I could test its possibilities.
I’ll be honest with you – there are pros and cons, let there be no doubt, but overall it grew on me and I believe I’ll continue to use it in the future.
(probably with an additional planner or two, because I just can’t ignore all those amazing planner opportunities out there… 🙂 )
Anyhow, after using a bullet journal for a few years now, I’ve decided it’s time to share its basics with you, and maybe inspire you to start your own bullet journaling adventure.
As you will see, this method of writing things down is fully customizable and very flexible, and it’s maybe the best way to keep all the things you want and need from a planner in one place.
Ready? Here we go!
What is a bullet journal?
It’s a journal! It’s a planner! It’s a bullet journal!
(alluding to a well known beginning of a Superman 🙂 )
Because – well, it is.
A bullet journal can be both of these – a planner to organize your life and a journal for your creative side.
Or just a planner, or just a journal – whatever you like it to be.
Although nowadays you can find almost endless variations of a bullet journal, the original bullet journal method was developed by Ryder Carroll and on its website you can find many details about it.
Here’s a quote from the author that summarizes the benefits of a bullet journal method in a nutshell:
Track the past, order the present, design the futureRyder Carroll
Sounds great, right?
So let’s get down to the details…
Who can use the bullet journaling method?
In short – a bullet journal method is absolutely for everyone!
Since there is no “right way” to make and keep a bullet journal, you can fully customize it to your wants and needs and use it any way you like.
The most important thing worth mentioning here is that there are no strict rules.
You can find many bullet journal guides (including this one you’re reading now), but you don’t have to follow through to the letter each one of them.
Or neither one of them, as a matter of fact.
You can freely grab the bits and pieces that you like from all different sources, add some of your own on top of it, and in the end you’ll be still able to proudly say “This is my bullet journal!”
Don’t let anybody else tell you differently – as long as it works for you, no matter how you’ve set it up, it’s PERFECT!
In the next paragraphs you’ll see some of the possibilities that are available and you can freely mix and choose whatever you desire to create your own version of a bullet journal.
What you need to start bullet journaling
There are some essentials when creating a bullet journal.
The two minimums are a notebook and a pen/pencil.
Simple as that!
Oh, and a good will and positive attitude are also welcomed! 🙂
Here are a few words about each of these essentials and some tips, as well.
Truth been told, any notebook can be good to start with.
With one exception that I learned along the way!
DO NOT use notebooks that have glued pages. Do not.
As you’ll see, bullet journaling involves many writing, drawing, and page flipping, and if you get a notebook with pages glued to the spine, you’ll soon discover that pages will tear and start to fall out of your beloved bujo.
Not a thing you’ll be happy about, believe me.
This sad event happened to me and I was really bummed by it.
(and once you start with your bullet journal you’ll better understand the emotions attached to it 😀 )
Although I’ve tried to glue the pages back together, it just didn’t work and so I abandoned that notebook – without even getting to the middle of it.
The moral of the story – whatever notebook you choose, use any other than glued one!
Here are some other tips regarding notebooks.
Although you can choose any type you want – blank, lined, squared, maybe the most functional one is a dotted notebook, and that’s the one I like the most.
Well, the dots are small enough to give an impression of a blank page so you can create whatever you want without seeing other lines in places where you don’t want them to see.
Also, since the dots are evenly spaced they serve as handy markers when creating boxes and calculating distances when you want to create a layout for your page.
In the beginning, the thickness of notebook pages may not be important to you, but it could make a difference later on if you decide to get creative with colors.
(especially if you’re planning to use watercolors in your bullet journal)
For those purposes, go for thicker notebooks – those ranging from 100gsm paper weight and more.
However, all of this is something that is not important in the beginning.
Like I said, you can use any notebook when you’re starting out.
Over time, through testing and trying out different layouts and their designs, you’ll come to your own conclusion about what notebook works for you the best.
As with a notebook, the same goes for pen (or a pencil).
For a start, the one you have right now by your side will surely be sufficient enough to do the job.
Although I got to say, I’m not a fan of using pencils to write in a bullet journal.
(or any other planner, as a matter of fact)
Do you remember the school days when you wrote in your notebook with pencil?
Do you also remember how graphite lines transferred to previous pages of your notebook due to pressure you created when writing new stuff?
Although it may not matter as much when we were at school (because you learn those things and then move on), in bullet journal you’ll probably frequently flip pages and revisit certain ones often, and you’ll certainly wouldn’t want the information you’re looking for to be blurred or randomly crossed with lines.
That’s why my vote goes to pens.
However, I do use a pencil for bullet journaling, but only in a phase when I plan out the layouts of the pages, in case I need to correct a thing or two.
Overall, as for writing tools, pick the one that you like to use at this very moment, and you’re good to go!
Although this one wasn’t on my absolute must list of necessities, consider adding a ruler by your side for bullet journaling.
If you don’t have a steady and skilled hand to draw straight lines, a ruler will help you out when it comes to making boxes and lines.
(and depending on the style of a bullet journal, there might be a need for a lot of straight lines!)
Unless you’re cool with wiggly lines – in that case, freely skip it. 😉
Some other items that I will not discuss in detail here (however, I do plan a post about them in the future) can be colored pens, markers, calligraphy pens, watercolors, washi-tape, stencils, stamps, stickers, bookmarkers, paper clips… all depending on how deep you want to dive into your bullet journal.
(factor in the time element as well, because all of these extras can easily pull you into a world of endless creative possibilities – so don’t say I haven’t warned you! 😉 )
To summarize this chapter – what you really need for a start is a notebook, a pen, and of course – good will & enthusiasm! 🙂
The pages of your bullet journal
Now that you have all that it takes to start bullet journaling, the next step is to begin filling up the pages.
But, what pages (also called “spreads”) do you need?
Again, it depends on what you want your bullet journal to be.
A planner, a journal, or both?
Here’s a list of pages that people use most often along with their short description, and you’ll decide whether these pages will also be your choice.
Consider this page as a “contents” page of any book.
If you decide to use it, you should have the pages in your notebook numbered.
The index helps when you search for specific information in your bullet journal.
Even if the pieces of information are spread throughout your journal, you can easily find all of them by adding the numbers of reference pages to your index page.
Here’s an example of what I mean by it.
You can add an entry “my goals” to your index page, and write down, say, number 6.
(imagine you’re writing about your goals on the 6th page)
Later on, when you again create a page that’s about your goals in a bullet journal (either for reviewing your goals or setting new ones) you simply go to your index page and add the number of this newly created page to “my goals” entry.
This is a page where you will place descriptions of the symbols you will use throughout your bullet journal.
It can also be the place where you will keep color-coding information, if it’s a method you plan to use as well.
(and I have an extensive guide on color-coding that you should check out – you can find some great tips there, even if you’re an already experienced user)
I’ve decided to name the next group of pages as “planner” pages because planners mostly consist of these types of pages.
A yearly overview page(s) – also called “future log”. You can create it as a year on one page or on multiple pages, depending on the size of the box (month) you need.
Monthly page(s) – usually made as a month on one or two pages, again depending on the space you need for each day to plan out your month in a glance.
Weekly page(s) – a place to plan out your weekly tasks and events, but you can also keep your weekly meal plan, cleaning routine, shopping list, or any other item that you consider it’s worth noting.
Daily page – dedicating a single page for a daily page is often quite enough, you can also place two or three days on a single page, like some people do. Again, this depends on how much information you need to write down for one day.
If you like to see what you’ve accomplished in one place, you can always add review pages in between and create, for example, an overview of the week or overview of the month page.
On top of these pages you can add goal page(s) as well – for the entire year, for quarters of the year, and/or for every month, depending on the way you like to plan out your goals.
Collection pages are themed pages where you write down your notes, plans, or ideas regarding a specific topic.
Unlike the “planner” pages that I mentioned before, a wide variety of options and possibilities are available for your collection pages. Some of them are:
Useful information pages – addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, passwords, info pages (medical, school…), calendar…
Tracker pages – there can be as many tracker pages as there are things you can track. The most commonly used ones are habit tracker, mood tracker, bill tracker, savings tracker, sleep tracker, period tracker, but you can have cleaning, shopping, weather, steps per day, water intake, behavior tracker (I got this one for my kids! 🙂 ), or anything else that might interest you – the possibilities are almost endless!
Pages for your hobbies and free time – like movies watched, books to read, music to listen, travel destinations, fun board games, project ideas, bucket list… anything you might think of for the cheerful side of life.
Of course, I must not forget to mention the possibility to keep “creative” pages in your bullet journal as well.
Although I could mention them in “hobbies and free time pages”, I believe they deserve to be placed in a special category.
As you’ll see, most of them have no greater purpose than to let your creativity run wild.
And they also make your bullet journal look prettier. 🙂
Examples of those pages are monthly cover pages, quotes pages, coloring pages, doodles pages…
As you can see, there are many pages that you can use when creating your bullet journal.
What pages will you choose to have will depend on what you want your bullet journal to be and what you will use it for.
If you’d like to instantly have the most commonly used bullet journal pages, I’ve created a bullet journal starter set page templates.
(this speeds up the process of making spreads and still offers enough possibilities by adding your unique extras on top)
Some useful bullet journaling tips
Lastly, I want to share a few useful tips and advice with you as well.
The most important one is to try out different pages and layouts so you can determine what suits you the most.
Don’t stress over your bullet journal. It is supposed to make your life easier, not complicated.
Your bullet journal doesn’t have to be perfect. Mistakes are a part of the learning and testing process. Just accept them and move on.
(and you will have occasional slip-ups even when you become an “experienced” user)
Depending on the style you’d like for your bullet journal, creating (or better say, decorating) your spreads might take some time.
(especially in the beginning until you get the hang of it)
However, if you would still like to have beautiful pages (like the ones you see on Pinterest or Instagram) despite the time crunch, there are “workarounds”.
You can use stencils, stamps, washi-tape, or complete template pages that you can insert to your bullet journal.
(I have some template pages in my Etsy shop, but you can find many others on the internet as well)
Be cool with “ghosting” and “bleeding” – you’ll find the right paper weight and pens for your bullet journal over time.
(and I’m not gonna lie, even then can this happen occasionally)
Since you now probably wonder about what part of a horror movie I’m talking about, allow me to explain.
“Ghosting” is when you see the line you drew on the other side of the page – but with a lesser intensity (like a ghost image, hence the name).
“Bleeding” is when a large amount of ink is placed on one spot so it transfers to the other side of a page (in its full capacity).
The bottom line, bullet journaling might have its ups and downs, but “ups” massively outweigh the “downs”, so focus on positive. 🙂
Now you have all that it takes to create your first bullet journal.
I hope this guide helped you to understand its basics and nudged you to start your bullet journaling adventure – you’ll see, you’re gonna love it! 🙂
Have fun and enjoy the process!