What is Bullet Journaling? (And How to Start One!)

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If you are reading this article, then you have probably heard of bullet journaling but you’re not too sure exactly what it is or how to start one. After all, in a world of smartphones, syncing, and cloud storage, how can an old-fashioned notebook help you?

I’m going to make every clear for you and explain what is bullet journaling and how to start one!

There are numerous ways to make your life easier. One important way is planning and there are many ways through which you can plan your day, week or even month. But, if there is something that has been trending in popularity lately, it is the bullet journal – and for good reason.

This is something that is relatively new to a lot of people although it has been around for quite some time now. I’ve been using a bullet journal since 2016 and I couldn’t be without it!

For people who want to start planning and managing their time better, a bullet journal can do the trick. But, before you can get started you will need to know what it is bullet journaling.

What is Bullet Journaling?

The idea behind bullet journaling was originally developed by Ryder Carrol. He wanted a simple way to stay organized, focused and productive. After years of trial and error he came up with the bullet journal method that is so popular today!

What is bullet journaling?

A bullet journal is an organization system that is very easy to customize. There is no limitation to what you can include in your bullet journal. You can track your habits, organize your finances, motivate yourself to lose weight… oh, and keep track of your appointments and to-do list!

The absolute best thing about bullet journaling is that you can make your bullet journal anything that you want. You can choose to make it any one of the following (or all of them!):

  • To do List – This a list of the tasks you wish to do on a particular day. These tasks are usually organized in the order of their priority. This means that the most important task comes first.
  • Sketchbook – This is something that you can use to exercise your creativity. You can use your bullet journal to sketch and draw anything that you want.
  • Notebook – Maybe you have some very important notes that you would like to write down for future reference. A bullet journal can come in handy on this one too.
  • Diary – This is what the majority of people know as a chronicle or a memoir. This is a book that you will use to keep your daily record of experiences and events.

Benefits of a Bullet Journal

As you can see there are a number of ways through which you can use a bullet journal to plan your day or even keep a record of your daily events. But, why should you choose a bullet journal over all the other available methods? To answer this question, you need to learn about the benefits of a bullet journal.

There is a good reason why bullet journaling is so popular (and why you’re decided to find out what is a bullet journal), and that’s because it’s truly a custom way to stay organized. Some of the many benefits of a bullet journal are:

No Boundaries

While other planners will force you to stick with a specific layout or procedure for you to fill out your daily events or plans, a bullet journal lets you do it the way you want. This gives you flexibility.

A bullet journal is not structured. In most cases, a typical bullet journal will only be formatted with bullet points. This allows you to format your plans the way you want. You can play with your text sizes, writing styles and everything.

Help in Relieving Stress

A bullet journal being versatile offers you a chance to be creative and organized at the same time!

One way that your bullet journal will help you in relieving stress is by offering you a place to sketch. In the majority of the cases, you will be stressed because you are thinking too much and you have too much on your mind.

When you use your journal to sketch or draw something, you stop the cycle of thoughts that are causing the stress. You don’t need to be a talented artist in order to use art as therapy.

Use an Index

Everyone forgets. Especially when a lot of time has passed. If you decided to start a regular journal at the beginning of a new year, you will probably have 365 pages worth of diaries when the year ends. Sometimes, you will need to read a specific thought that you had recorded on a specific date.

Chances are that you will have forgotten the particular page on which you recorded that thought. Skimming through all the 365 pages can be time-consuming. This is where a bullet journal comes in handy. With a bullet journal, you have the ability to create an index at the beginning.

Creating this index is easy. You can use this page to record the pages in which you write down specific thoughts. When you want to refer to any thought later, the only thing that you need to do is check the page number for the specific topic on your index.

Be Creative

What is a bullet journal?

Other journals usually offer restrictions in terms of how you can use them. With a bullet journal, this is not the case. A bullet journal offers you a chance to make every page 100% yours. This means you have the ability to put your creative hat on.

If you feel like drawing is your thing on a particular day, then, you are free to do so. If you feel like arranging some picture snapshots on a particular page, a bullet journal allows you to do this. The major reason as to why bullet journals exist is so that they can allow you to do a lot more with less.

Be Minimalist

While we are on the subject of “less is more”. One of the great benefits of a bujo is minimalism.

Other planners available in the market will often bother you with a lot of things that you have to fill out on a particular page. This can be particularly frustrating. You may find that you don’t have any interest in filling out all these details or you may find them being totally irrelevant. Maybe you already drink 8+ glasses of water a day, but your fancy planner still makes you track your water consumption each day.

A bullet journal, on the other hand, presents you with a blank page. You are the one to choose what you would like to put on that page. This means that you have the ability to write as much as you like or as little as you would like.

What to track your spending? No problem! Want to record your steps? Go fo it! Don’t need an hour-by-hour agenda? Just don’t include one!

A bullet journal will allow you to log your thoughts or write your notes without pressing you for too many details or things that just aren’t important to you.

Easier To-Do Lists

You are probably getting a good idea about what is bullet journaling. But one of the best features is how easy it is to use.

A bullet journal allows you to use bullet points to create the list of items that you would like to do. Every time you complete a task, you can use another symbol to mark this task as done.

For example, you can use an “X” to mark the tasks that you have already completed. You can use a “<” to indicate that you are already working on that particular task. When you didn’t have time to do a particular task, you can easily use a “>” to remind you of it.

So a bullet journal just gives you greater control over your to-do list. No more having to remember if you’ve started a task or how far through it you are.

Increase Your Productivity

Life is busy! We all have a million things to do each day (well, maybe not a million, but it can feel like that!). So being as productive as possible is important. We don’t want to be working for every hour of every day.

It is easy to skip through tasks that you have to do just because you don’t feel like doing them. This is something that lowers your productivity. With a bullet journal, you will have to mark every completed task in a different way once it is done.

One thing which makes people skip doing something is because they don’t have something to remind them of these things. Your bullet journal will always remind you of the tasks that you have not yet done and hence forcing you to do these tasks.

The Ability to Track Goals

Tracking your goals is a major step towards achieving them. When you don’t track these goals, you will tend to lose focus and forget about them.

With a bullet journal, you can create a section where you will be recording the progress that you are having with the goals that you have set for yourself.

It doesn’t matter what your goals are either. Sure, you can buy a fitness journal or a budgeting planner. But what if you want to track both your health and your finances? Two planners? Nope! Just use your bullet journal instead!

How to Get Started With Bullet Journaling

Getting started with your bullet journal is not as complicated as you think. In fact, it is much easier than all the other planners that you may have used before.

You may have already seen various pictures on social media showing some very complicated-looking bullet journals. This should not be a cause for worry though. Your bullet journal will look the way you want it to look. You can make it as complicated as you want or you may choose to keep it as simple as you want. That is the secret of what is bullet journaling and how it will help your life!

Usually, when you are considering diving into a new activity that you have never done before, knowing what to expect and the steps that you may need to follow always prove to be helpful. So, what are the steps that you need to follow in order to start bullet journaling successfully?

For a detailed post on exactly how to set-up your bullet journal and what you need to include, check out my Beginners Guide to Starting a Bullet Journal.

Step #1: Pre-Planning

It is true that it can prove a lot easier to go to social media websites where the majority of bullet journaling experts post their bullet journal pictures and just copy what they are doing. However, you might find this working against you. It is okay to go to these social media websites to gain inspiration, but, on the other hand, it is not okay to copy them because people are different. What you saw working for someone else on social media might prove frustrating for you.

A bullet journal is supposed to be flexible. This means that you have the ability to make it fit your life. So, why would you want to borrow what has fitted into someone’s life while you can easily tailor your bullet journal to fit yours?

Why is Pre-Planning Important?

When you pre-plan your bullet journal, it will help you with 3 things. These include:

  • You will have the ability to gain clarity.
  • You will get to answer the question about why you want to do bullet journaling.
  • When you preplan anything, you get a chance to start off on the right foot.

So, what does pre-planning really involve?

Brainstorming

Brainstorming will allow you to know why you really need to start bullet journaling. The process of brainstorming involves you putting down all the ideas that you have about how you will use your bullet journal on a piece of paper.

Try not to think about your preconceived ideas about what is bullet journaling, and instead think about how it can help you in your life.

While you write down these ideas, don’t try to organize them. Just write everything that comes to your mind. To do this successfully, you will need to ask yourself some specific questions. To give you some ideas, you can consider starting with the following questions:

  • What do you need to plan for or what do you need to track? The answer that you provide to this question will give you a clear picture as to why you want to start bullet journaling. Some of the answers which you might provide for this question include work projects, your habits, and if you are a student, you might consider including school assignments as a possible answer.
  • Which kind of notebook will suit your needs? There are different types of notebooks available in the market that you can use for your bullet journaling purposes. Not all of these will fit your needs though. Before you head out to the market and acquire one, you need to know that for sure it will have the ability to solve your problems. Some bullet journals can get pretty expensive, but you can find cheap alternatives or even use a standard school notebook!
  • Which areas of your life need the goal setting? A bullet journal can be used to track big goals that you set in your life. This question lets you have a clear picture of the big goals that you will be tracking in your journal. Examples of the answers that you might provide to this question include career goals, health goals, and finances.
  • Will you include recurring events in your bullet journal? Some of the activities you do on different days are similar. For example, your work schedule will most likely be the same throughout the week. The same thing happens to your class schedule in case you are a student. Noting these activities will allow you to know how to plan your bullet journal in a more efficient way.

Step #2: Getting the supplies

In this step, you don’t have to stress about the supplies. This is to tell you that you don’t have to break your bank account acquiring what you need in order to get started.

A simple notebook and a pen will do the trick. You need to watch out for the quality. Getting high-quality supplies will ensure that you don’t go to the market every now and then to replace a faulty supply.

Bullet journaling supplies

Step #3: Overcoming the Fear of Bullet Journaling

For anyone who is starting out on bullet journaling, it can be a scary experience. Heading out to social media sites such as Instagram or Pinterest and observing all the bullet journal pictures posted there can be quite intimidating too.

These bullet journals usually consist of very creative layouts and high-quality sketches which can make you doubt whether you have the ability to even create a simple bullet journal.

During the preplanning step, you brainstormed and decided on the reasons as to why you want to start bullet journaling. Focus on making your bujo work for YOU and not on making it look pretty just to copy other people.

The second thing that you should avoid is comparing your skills with those that you find anywhere else. What you need to do is to relax because your bullet journal doesn’t need to measure up to any of those you see on social media.

Practicing can also allow you to improve your skills before you start using your new bullet journal. One big concern that the majority of people who are discovering what is bullet journaling have is that they will end up messing their new journal. When you do some rough work and practice elsewhere, you will gain some of the experience that you need in order for you to get started. You can even have a few pages at the back of your journal to practice your doodles or lettering.

Step #4: Start Bullet Journaling

As you would expect, this is the final step. But, you can’t just pick your new notebook and start writing on it without a specific organization. So, how do you organize your bullet journal?

What is Bullet Journaling and how to start a bullet journal
  • The index page. This is your starting point. The index page helps you in organizing all your collections and entries in such a way that it is easy for you to locate them in the future. You need to index everything that is important to you. Numbering your pages will come in handy when you are indexing all the logs and events that you have put in your bullet journal.
  • The future log. You will probably need to log appointments and activities which will probably take place in the future. Keeping a future log in your bullet journal will allow you to just add the future activities to your bullet journal as they come up without too much of a struggle.
  • The monthly log. Everybody has monthly activities that they need to keep track of. You can keep track of all these events and activities in this monthly log section. Creating a monthly log is as easy as writing all the dates and days of the week on the left-hand side of your bullet journal and then filling your month’s activities as they come up on the right-hand side.
  • The Daily Log. This is what most people prefer to call the dailies. To keep these as interesting as possible, you will need to use some specific formatting which allows you to differentiate between your notes, events or appointments, and your tasks.
    Bullets are usually used to represent all the tasks that you need to accomplish in a certain day, circles are used to represent events and appointments, while you will use dashes for your notes.
  • Collections. If you have anything else that you need to add to your bullet journal, it goes in the collections section. Examples of things that you may include in your collections section include your projects and lists.

For a detailed post on exactly how to set-up your bullet journal and what you need to include, check out my Beginners Guide to Starting a Bullet Journal.

Enhancing Your Bullet Journaling Experience

Bullet journaling is not only useful but it’s fun too! But you can quickly get overwhelmed or fed up with your bujo. But these tips should help you stay on track and keep using it! (Also check out my Easy Bullet Journal Hacks to make your bujo even more practical!)

Rapid Logging

When it comes to enhancing your rate of rapid logging, several rules have to be observed. These include:

  • Always use short sentences. Aim at keeping these sentences straight to the point and concise.
  • Make sure that you always add page numbers. These will come in handy during indexing.
  • Make use of bullet points to enhance the organization in your entries.
  • Use descriptive titles but at the same time make them brief.

Identifying Your Entries

A bullet journal is very flexible. This means that you have the ability to use it to record different items. But, how can you differentiate the different things you record? Use the following tips:

  • Tasks – When you are recording your tasks, always use bullet points. When you complete a task, mark it with an “X” symbol. If you weren’t able to complete a specific task and you decide to migrate it to another day, mark the task using a greater than sign (>). For tasks that are already in progress, mark them with a less than sign (<).
  • Events – To mark events, make use of a circle (O). Events are usually identified as the date-specific items that you have in your bullet journal.
  • Notes – When you record ideas that you would like to remember in the future, mark these using a dash (-).

Categorizing Your Entries

You will probably have items in your bullet journal which are more important than others. To ensure that you differentiate all these items, you can use the following methods:

  • For important tasks denote these using an asterisk (*).
  • If you have some items on your bullet journal that are supposed to act as inspiration, use an exclamation mark (!) for these items.
  • If some of the items need you to conduct some research, maybe use an eye as a signifier.

What is a bullet journal and bullet journaling?

Although bullet journaling might be new to you, getting started is very easy. The most important thing that can help you avoid the fear of starting is avoiding the comparison. You can look at what other people are doing, but, use this as inspiration to create a bullet journal that suits you.

If you haven’t used a planner before and you would like to start, a bullet journaling is a perfect starting point. If you have been using other planners and you think it is time for a change, bullet journaling is the best choice since it will offer you a lot of flexibility as compared to all the other methods of planning available.

Hopefully, now you understand what is bullet journaling and how it will help you. Why not jump in and give it a try!

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