How to Start a Bullet Journal
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I’m not even kidding when I say that I have spent over 100 dollars in planners over the last 6 months, trying to find one that would work for me in this season of life. Each one has been used faithfully for 2-3 days and then ended up in a drawer of my desk or in the trash. It’s been so frustrating for me, not only because I kept spending money on planners, but also because I needed a flexible system to keep my life and my blog organized. Since I’m not in school and work from home, having a pre-printed planner just wasn’t working for me. I’m in control of my own schedule and my schedule looks a little different depending on the day.
Thankfully, though, I found bullet journaling and all of my planner woes have finally been put to rest. I’ve been using this system for 2 months now and it is everything I could have wanted in a planner for my lifestyle: flexible, inspiring, and memorable. Because it literally has been life changing, I wanted to share it with anyone who may be in a similar situation as me!
What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is a customizable planner system that works on two ends: it allows you to organize your life and to journal memories. The concept was originally created by Ryder Carroll, who, like me, needed something quick, easy and customizable to organize his life. And, that’s the absolute beauty of bullet journaling! Because is a customizable system, it can be whatever you want or need. It can be to-do lists, calendars, routines, sketchbook or diary. For most, it is a combination of all of those things!
Bullet Journal Terminology:
Spread: the name given to a specific page layout (aka monthly spread or daily gratitude spread)
Index: the table of contents that organizes where different spreads are throughout your journal
Topics & Collections: Different from planning spreads, where you can list or collect different ideas or materials (ie. favorite quotes or books to read)
You only need two essential things to start you bullet journal: a notebook and colored pens. I have found that using a spiral notebook is the best because I can completely open and fold it over when writing. The notebook I’ve been using has lines, but for my next journal, I will try to find one that either has graphing paper or is completely blank. I think it will be a little easier for me to lay out my spreads without competing with lines.
The pens I use for bullet journaling are my favorite pens (and Dustin’s. He specifically has requested these pens for his work and school classes for as long as I can remember.) They are the Pilot G2 pens, specifically the Pilot G2 07 Pens that come in the 12 pack in a variety of colors. Since my bullet journal is my lifeline, I want to use the most reliable pens and the G2 pens have never failed me. Pilot G2 pens come in 4 point sizes and 15 different colors, smooth gel ink and a comfortable writing grip. Pilot G2 pens have been proven to last longer than all other gel brands, so I never have to worry about my pens running dry when planning out my day/week/month/life.
You can pick up Pilot G2 pens at your local Target during your weekly Target run (no judging, I’m there weekly, too.) Plus, I’ve got a great coupon to help you save $0.75 on any ONE 4-pack (or larger) of G2 Gel Ink pens, so you can snag an extra pack for your kids going back to school!
Other (but not necessary materials): washi tape, stickers, ruler, post-it notes
How to Set Up your Bullet Journal:
First, set up your Index/Key: First, you are going to want to open up to the first page and write in your contact information on the inside, because if you will want your journal returned to you if it gets lost! Then, you are going to want to set up your index and key! Your index is your table of contents; it will list out where all your spreads are. Basically, just label it INDEX and come back and fill it in after getting your spreads set up.
Next, design your Future Spreads: The next few pages can be used to fill in future spreads. These spreads can be customizable to you, but basically, have to do with things pertaining to events coming up. Some future spread ideas are A Year at a Glance, a list of everyone’s birthdays or New Year’s Resolutions. Since I started my Bullet Journal in the middle of the year, I opted to skip out on the Yearly Calendar and just listed out my Yearly Goals!
Monthly Spreads: After getting your future spreads down, it’s time to move on to the current month and create your monthly spread. Like I mentioned before, this can include any kinds of information or be laid out however you want. You can list all of the important dates/appointments/birthdays, along with any vacation plans or big to-do lists you have.
For the month of August, I decided to dedicate one page to my August Goals and another page to my August Memories. My August Memories page is one of my favorite spreads yet! I drew out an August calendar and every day, I write down a memory or event from that day. So, when I look back at the calendar, I can see all of the fun things that happened to make the month so memorable!
Third, create your Weekly Spreads: After the monthly spreads comes the weekly spread! This spread helps you break down your actual week to keep things more organized. Some people don’t use weekly spreads, others only use a half page for their weekly spreads, etc. It’s whatever you want! I use one page for my weekly spread, and it includes any major appointments or events for the week, my meal plan and my top to-do’s for the week.
Fourth-Daily Spread: You guessed it; time to create your daily spread next! The daily spread is your specific to-do list for the day and can be altered to also journal little memories or moments as well! (remember, it’s whatever YOU want or need it to be!) I use a WHOLE page for my daily spread because I dedicate half of it to my regular life and the other half to my blogging to-do list. I really need the space, but others can fit all 7 days in two pages!
My daily spread includes things like the weather forecast in the corner, my personal to-do list, my appointments/events for the day and my blogging to-do list. At the end of the day, I try to write down one sentence about the day. Sometimes it’s as simple as: “I binge-watched Netflix for 5 hours” and other times it’s a bit more lengthy, detailing an adventure Dustin and I might have had!
Lastly, set up a few collections/topics: Flipping to the back of your journal (starting from about 20 pages from the back, at least) use a little piece of washi tape to bookmark the page. This is where you can create your collection and topic pages. These pages don’t have to do with your daily planning or organizing but are things you want to keep remember. I personally have a Makeup Wishlist spread, a Books to Read spread and a Weekly Cleaning Schedule Spread in the back of my Bullet Journal.
Other collection/topic ideas include:
Future Project/DIY lists
5 Year Plan/Goal tracker
101 in 1001 List
Family Goals/Chore Chart
Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
Movies to Watch
Netflix Shows to Binge
Healthy Snack Idea List
Blogging Social Media Strategy
Blog Post Ideas
Travel Packing Lists
Countries Visited/To Visit
So, like I said, the bullet journal can be completely customizable and be built into whatever you want or need!
Bullet Journal Tips:
– Before starting your bullet journal, spend some time browsing through Pinterest and looking at different spread set-ups and ideas. I have a private Pinterest board dedicated to Bullet Journal Spreads and used them to create the ones I have now.
– It can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to start, so remember that you don’t have to fill your pages with every daily spread or collection list all at the beginning. Just start with your basics, like the Index, Future Spreads and the current month/week/daily spread and move from there. Your Bullet Journal is designed to grow with you, so you can add new collections, topics, lists, sketches as you go!
– Bullet Journals are meant to evolve with you. If you try a spread for the week that you don’t like, it’s okay to change it up for the next week!
– Bullet Journals do not HAVE to be pretty! I got really overwhelmed when looking at different spreads and seeing all the cute sketches and doodles and fancy handwriting. I’m not super artistic and don’t often have the time to write my daily to-do lists in fancy hand lettering. I spend some time on my journaling spreads (like my memories calendar) but mainly use stickers and washi tape to jazz my pages up.
– Invest in good, reliable pens! I already shared my favorites above (the Pilot G2, in case you missed it) but I want to reiterate this point! Get Pilot Pens and you’ll never run out of ink when using your bullet journal!
Whew. This post got a little lengthy, but I really hope it was helpful and inspiring to those who are looking for a flexible organizational system! Let me know below if you’ve tried my trusty Pilot G2 Pens before and what kind of planner system you use!