If you’ve only heard of a Bullet Journal but have not yet tried them, you’re in for a treat. It has totally revolutionized the way that I organize my life. I’ll do my best to explain what a bullet journal is and show you how to start a bullet journal the right way.
I don’t have any random paper lists and I don’t feel encumbered anymore by a big yearly planner with areas someone else is telling me I need to fill out.
A Bullet Journal is customized entirely, completely, uniquely to you.
- If you love one clean, open page for each day’s tasks, then that’s what you’ll have.
- If you’re the type of person that loves task boxes and tables of icons that differentiate each individual category of task then that’s what you’ll get.
- Or if you’re the creative type that loves the idea that a hand drawn spray of flowers might interrupt your to-do list then so be it.
Bullet Journals are a planner suitable for one, single person on the planet, YOU. Because let’s be real, that fancy, pre-printed planner will more than likely be half empty by the end of the year.
In contrast, every single page of my Bullet Journal is filled with tasks and information that I refer to on a regular basis. And I can start it at any point in the year!
“So why paper?”
You might be thinking: “I’ve got a really expensive phone with all sorts of calendars and task tracking apps that sync to all my other stuff”.
If that works for you, go for it. But as sweet as tech is, it’s got it’s drawbacks.
Phones are expensive. They get stolen. Apps crash. Software has to be updated. And the whole thing requires constant power and usually internet access. When all the pieces work its a beautiful thing but if one element sticks, the whole system can go down.
And there’s just something satisfying about paper and pen.
There’s no mysteriously loosing data in a book.
It’s technology that’s stood the test of time. You can knock it off the counter and know that when you pick it up it will still work. And if you decide to replace or update your system you can know it won’t cost a week’s pay to do it. Pencil and paper work when you’re out in the boonies or when the power’s out or on the subway.
Bullet Journals work whenever you do.
In this post, I’ve list five essential supplies to start your Bullet Journal effectively, but first, I post the video that started it all to give you an overall idea of the system.
This guy is definitely one of the “separate icon for each category of task” kind of guy but there are many more videos on YouTube with wonderful creative suggestions for setting up your Journal. Keep in mind, it’s a self directed system.
While using it, eventually you’ll discover what works best for you.
BUJOs keep your goals in front of you.
I’d also encourage you to set aside an extra page or two near the beginning of your BUJO to list your major long terms goals. Strangely enough that’s not something that’s mentioned in some of these videos. But if you’re trying to keep a clearer mind or trying to be more effective it’s a good idea to consider occasionally what all that clear headed, effective work is supposed to be moving you towards.
The major goals should direct the monthly goals which should ultimately direct the daily goals.
BUJOs are also a fantastic place to keep reference information.
- Do you do business in a couple time zones but can never remember exactly where the borders are? Paste a map into your BUJO.
- Struggle to remember the name of the part-time Teacher’s Assistant in your kids class? BUJO!
- Need to recall the settings for the different blades for your Cricut? BUJO!
1 – Best Notebooks to start a Bullet Journal
It goes without saying that you need some kind of notebook to start a Bullet Journal. But what kind of notebook is best?
My understanding is that the Rhodia Journal has thicker pages than the Leuchtturm, but I’ve not used it yet.
And then there’s the whole argument between choosing blank pages or pages with dots, squares, or lines.
My first bullet Journal was Leuchtturm with lines. I quickly realized that I really wanted squares. Mostly because if you want to draw straight up and down lines, having squares makes that process a breeze.
So I now use an A5 Leuchtturm 1917 with squares. I love it because of the size (it fits in my purse), the quality, the extra pocket in the back, and the pre-printed index in the front.
You’ll find quickly that the ability to make an index in the front of your bullet Journal as you go will help you find critical information later on.
Ultimately there’s no need to use fancy journals. I have seen plenty of people use composition notebooks or inexpensive journals they may have been found at the stationary store. I wouldn’t personally use a Journal that was entirely blank because I’d have to hand draw all the lines and headings but if that sounds exciting to you, enjoy.
So you decide how big, how colorful, how artsy or how practical yours will be.
2 – Printable Monthly Calendar
I know we all love the calendar in our phones, the one that reminds us automatically of upcoming birthdays and appointments. But seeing a whole month at a glance on paper is still something very powerful.
Because Bullet Journals are not yearly agendas, you need to create your own calendar each month. I personally don’t have time to sit and draw a calendar every single month and I wasn’t fond of the simple calendar showed in the video above, so I made myself printable calendars that fit perfectly in the regular A5 journals.
I paste my monthly printable calendar into my BUJO at the beginning of each month and go through my phone to add all the major events. The grid design is big enough to list several events in one day.
I use the space left over to write down a list of meals that I want to make that month.
The idea is to paste a new calendar into your BUJO and the beginning of each month so there are no wasted pages in your Journal.
I have 3 beautiful printable calendar designs in my shop but a free monthly calendar is also available on my blog.
A lot of BUJO enthusiasts like to add a habit tracker every month. It really helps to develop some good habits. Just write the habits you want to acquire at the top and check or fill in the box for each day you actually do it. It’s great for tracking exercise, flossing your teeth, or practicing for that killer, solo kazoo concert you dreamed up.
Check boxes just cry to be filled in and that desire may give you the extra push to do the work to create new habits.
3 – Pens For Bullet Journals that Make Writing a Pleasure
You can call me a Bullet Journal snob when it comes to pens. I’ve tried many, from the regular ballpoint pens to the fancier ones. I also sometimes use a mechanical pencil.
My husband asked why I needed such a fancy pen. I responded that if I was going to write a bunch of tasks that I’d prefer not to do, I’d at least want to have a pleasant experience doing it.
Not only do they glide on the page like soft butter on toast, but they also last for a long time.
They also come in a variety of colors, which is perfect for my creative mind. I love to write in purple, but I switch to blue, black, green, or red as the mood dictates.
You could be a lot more analytical and write different items in different colors. Let’s say you could write important items in red, inspirational quotes could be written in green, journaling could be done in blue, task lists in black etc…
And since the pen’s exterior are an orangey-yellow and they’re not widely available in stores the U.S., they’re easily identifiable as yours, should some shifty character want to swipe one.
4 – Pen Holders for Those Fancy Pens
There’s no use in having fancy pens if you can’t locate them when you need them. I have for years just used the pen loops that you can glue to the back of your Journal. It works fine but it only holds 1 pen, and as I have already mentioned I really like to have different colors at my disposal. You’ll find some Bujo lovers with extensive colored pen collections and big zip up pen organizers. They’re usually the more creative of the bunch.
But I try to stay a little more practical and know that I can only carry one big item at a time.
So I came up with these elastic band pen holders. They’re great to carry 2-3 pens on your journal and they’re also really easy to make. I encourage you to check out my 5 minute DIY and make yourself a couple (soon to come).
5 – Fun Stencils and Doodles for your Bullet Journal
Okay, it’s not really an essential, but it’s really fun to have pretty designs in your journal. It makes the listing of a bunch of dull tasks way more pleasant.
I must admit that I don’t own any stencils for my Bullet Journal, but I have been tempted many times. They not only make drawing easier but also faster and they definitely beautify your Journal.
I’ve come up with some easy to draw doodles that I like to use and I have a step-by-step DIY post you can follow. Trust me, if I can draw these so can you. Here are some banners but there’s much more in my “12 Doodles How To for Bullet Journals” post.
I hope this list helped you in your Bullet Journal journey. I sincerely hope you’ll give this self directed, analog way of organizing your life a try.