I was trolling Facebook not that long ago, and a seemingly innocuous post crept up in one of my groups. In this post, my friend, Tami (who’s guest posted before!) posted a really great picture of how she prepares for the week, and she used a technique that I had read about but never really given much thought to. It was way too customized, way too labor-intensive… it was a bullet journal. Why bullet journal? I asked myself. All of these companies already make great planners.
Yeah, do you know where those planners sit?
In recycling bins.
Because I use them for maybe a week or so, get frustrated with the layout, abandon all hope ye who plan here, and neglect it.
Until it’s too late to use it again and it’s too late to sell it to someone else so… in the recycling bin, it goes.
Hmm. I thought. Why bullet journal? Why not bullet journal?
Admittedly, I went on a supply purchasing frenzy! I bought the Leuchtturm1917 dotted journal. I bought way too many markers, but I totally fell in love with Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens. I bought a few more things, which I’m honestly still testing out a bit, and went to work.
To be honest, I was in heaven.
In high school, I took a number of design classes. At the outset, we learned the basics of design and a lot of its technicalities. In a lot of ways, it felt very similar to entry level engineering classes (note: I am not mathematically inclined enough to be in engineering classes so I’m just going to pretend this is an accurate statement… please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong!). I would graph and calculate and plot. And in these early stages, a lot of my designs were very rigid and linear. They felt a little hard and precise. As my fellow classmates were able to progress beyond straight edges and lines, I found comfort in sharp corners.
Why bullet journal? Because it allows me to have my sharp corners.
So many planners that I’ve bought have been to artsy and flowery. I can appreciate their aesthetic, but they’re not, well, me. They are gorgeous and colorful, and when I used them, I felt like I was trying to put my sharp square pegs into their ornate round holes. And that’s probably why I got a little frustrated. Even in attempting to organize my life, I was trying to do something I’m not.
And that’s a pretty good reason why I bullet journal. Because each page is an expression and experiment. Each page has pencil notches in it as I count the squares to make my next line. Each weekly layout is an attempt to find the one that best speaks to me. Each habit tracker hunts for the best way to keep me on course.
All of the pages are blank, so none of them are wasted.
If you find yourself asking the same questions I did – Why bullet journal? Isn’t the blankness overwhelming? – have no fear! Below, I’m going to help break down some key elements that go into your bullet journal!
Why Bullet Journal? You can get comfortable with the aesthetic!
Fair warning: if your curiosity is piqued and you run to Pinterest and search why bullet journal, you will likely find thousands of gorgeous, creative bullet journals. And if you’re like me, you may feel a little dismayed by the artistry.
Don’t fall for it.
Yes, the blank canvas of a bullet journal leads for so many options, as simple or as fancy as you please! But I really want you to consider whether you’re going to get caught up in the flair and feel despair. When starting a bullet journal, I strongly recommend keeping it simple and clean and adding to it as you get more and more comfortable with your vibe.
Besides! You can always leave sections for doodles on your layouts as you grow more confident in your bullet journaling capabilities.
Hold up. Wait a tic. Sections for doodles? What are you talking about?
Right, right, right. The key elements!
Bullet Journal Key Element 1: Index
Think of your chemistry textbook from high school. You would flip to the back and try to find where you could find midichlorians. You’d try to think of what subject it might fall under or try to find it listed individually… so I want you to take that example but actually make it useful!
The index for your bullet journal is just a running list of pages that you put in your journal as you add them. So it’s chronological. Boom. Easy.
As you add more spreads and pages, flip to your index and note where they are. Now, you’d probably drive yourself nuts if you did that for every weekly or daily spread so use your best judgment in laying out separate months because you know your weekly and daily spreads will fall behind that.
Or they should.
I mean, it’s your bullet journal so you can kinda do what you want, right?
Bullet Journal Key Element 2: Future Log
This is a summarized calendar of future events, your life at a glance if you will. I like to have 6 months to a 2-page spread and write out important dates that are coming up: birthdays, anniversaries, school start dates, etc.
Please note that this is not the place in your bullet journal to keep every instance of Little Timmy’s lunch schedule or soccer games. You will clutter that Future Log up faster than my kids’ Goldfish crumbs in the back seat of my car (read: this is faster than the speed of a tantruming toddler hopped up on Nutella in a toy store). The future log for your bullet journal should really just be the highlights.
Bullet Journal Key Elements 3 & 4 & 5: Monthly/Weekly/Daily Logs
This is where it can really get fun! This is where you can start to customize what you want your bullet journal to be for you!
- The Monthly Log – This helps you to keep a running list of major events for the month along with deadlines and tasks. On my monthly log, I like to keep birthdays, registration deadlines, coaching calls, etc. I’ll also try to identify the goals and habits I want to track in my monthly log.
- Weekly Log – Similar to the above, and it’s actually shown in my picture from Instagram! Right up there! I started sketching out what I needed to do when (and could associate times).
- Daily Log – Kinda sorta goes along with the weekly log. Some people view the daily log as the central function, the heart if you will. Each day gets a list of tasks that you’d like to accomplish and any notes you might want to record.
Bullet Journal Key Element 6(ish): Collections
One of the things that frustrated me about traditional planners was that if I ever had an aha moment or identified something that I might want to do later, I didn’t really have a good place to put it. The Notes section for October? Wait, I put my grocery list there. Maybe I can jump ahead? No, that’s where I started planning out Christmas gifts…
No longer necessary!
Collections are categorized lists of anything you’d like to track. Let me say that again because it bears repeating. Bullet journal collections are categorized lists of AN. Y. THING. you’d like to track. Books, movies, songs, pool boys, establishments with clean bathrooms… anything. I promise.
Still looking for a little help with how this all comes together? Don’t worry! This great video from Buzzfeed was really helpful for me when I was getting started with my bullet journal:
Do you bullet journal? Tell me below!