Bullet Journalling for Beginners

Have you heard of bullet journalling?  Originally I thought it was just some mad hipster trend (maybe it is) but I’m pretty well hooked.  I want to talk today about the basics of bullet journalling, and tomorrow I’ll go into more detail about how it can help with endometriosis.

I’m a naturally chaotic person.  I forget things that aren’t written down.  I find setting reminders in my phone to be clunky and awkward, and I never check it when I do, so I’m always surprised to see a notification popping up and leaving me no time to prepare.  I need a diary, a planner.  At the same time, though, I want an actual journal with room to write down thoughts and feelings as well as my to-dos and events.  I want blank space to doodle if I’m feeling creative or want to plan out a new layout for my fish tank.

Enter the bullet journal, a system that serves as all of the above.

The Symbols

The way a bullet journal works is through the use of coded symbols to denote what is what.  It uses six main symbols.  I’ll show you an example of how a weekly schedule could look:-

Monday

  • Call doctor

< Pick up dry cleaning

Tuesday

O French class, 7pm

>  Call Anna

Wednesday

  • Pick up dry cleaning

–  Had coffee with Daniel, talked about trip next week

X Call Anna

From that example you can see we have the symbols:

X

>

<

O

Each of them signifies a different type of thing that you are putting in the journal.

  • A task that needs to be completed

X  A task that has been completed

>  A task that I didn’t complete today, so I’m shifting it to tomorrow to try again (aka “migrating”, in the official bullet journal parlance)

< A task that I can’t to today, so I am scheduling to do on a particular date in the future when I know I’ll get to it

O  An event

–  A note

In my own journal, I’ve added in a heart for things I’m grateful for and a star for things I’ve achieved.  The idea is that you write out all these symbols in a key in the front of your journal so you can always check what’s what.  You may find you don’t use all of them.  Personally I almost never use the “schedule” symbol because I just end up migrating stuff to the next day to see if I can do it then.

The Pages

In addition to your key, your standard bullet journal needs a couple of other pages to make it super useful.  First is the future log.  This is an overview of the entire year.  Here you can jot down dates that you know will be coming up, such as birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays, or events that get planned months in advance.

Next is the monthly log.  It’s basically the same as the future log, but only for one month, and can be more detailed.  I find that writing something in the future log at the beginning of the year and then checking it and re-writing things in my monthly log also helps remind me that they are coming up.

Then, you have the daily log, where you put your tasks, notes and events for that day go.

Last (although I perhaps should have mentioned it first) is the index.  It typically goes at the front of the journal and you fill it in as you go.  For instance, your future log may be on pages 5-9.  Wack that in.  You can put in whatever pages you want to be able to find quickly and list them in your index.

In a nutshell, that’s the original bullet journal concept.  However, the great thing about this journal is that you can turn it into whatever you want.

The Style

Want your daily logs to be prepared and only take up a certain amount of room per day?  Can do.  Prefer more of a go-with-the-flow approach and are happy to let days spill over as little or as much space as they need?  It’s your journal and you can make it how you like.

Prefer your monthlies to take a calendar format?  Here you are.  Would rather just a list?  That’s fine too.

Enjoy hugely elaborate spreads?  Boy, has Pinterest got some suggestions for you.

Dobby Weekly by Raphaela Winterhalter, elas_bullet_journey.jpg
Incredibly themed weekly spread by Raphaela Winterhalter.  For more of these incredible designs follow @elas_bullet_journey on instagram.  This gorgeous spread let its creator do a bit of art, demonstrate a love of Harry Potter, and still have room for daily tasks and events.  Used with permission.

Prefer a minimalist approach?  Pinterest and Instagram has you covered for those too.

Weekly Spread Rocio Muniz minimalistbujoist.jpg
Rocio Munez’s pretty spread is probably much more within the realms of possibility for most of us, utilising cute succulent stickers and some highlighters to get a neat, functional but still attractive layout.  Follow Rocio on instagram: @minimalbujoist

Many journallers will also use their bullet journal to track things – periods, sleep, weather, their moods, their habits, their spending, how much they’ve paid off their bills, their weight or measurements, their schedule for chores, or their school, uni or work timetables.  You can list what books you want to read this year, and what movies you aim to see.  You can summarise your year or your month, keep a gratitude log, set goals for yourself, or even just use it as a traditional diary and journal about your thoughts and feelings.  It is whatever you want to make it.

I’ve played around a fair bit with mine.  I started keeping one in January 2017, and used only black and green ink (green for headings, black for everything else).  I stuck to a very basic format and didn’t lay out my weeks in advance.

This year I’ve been a lot more experimental and included a lot more pages.  I’ve gone wild with colour.  Unfortunately, I’ve found I don’t have the time to keep up with elaborate spreads and have moved back to more basic ones.  However, I do like laying out my week in advance as it lets me schedule tasks better, and I can keep a separate page at the end of each month for journalling.

The equipment

What do you actually need to make a bullet journal?  Really, just a journal and a pen.  Dotted journals are the most used and are what were intended to go along with the original idea.  My favourites are the Leuchtturm 1917, but Scribbles That Matter and Moleskine are also very popular.  I’d also get a pencil, eraser and ruler to help map things out before you commit it to pen.

If you want to get a bit fancier, have a look at brush pens, calligraphy pens, stamps, washi tape and stencils.  All of these can jazz up a page, and thankfully stamps and stencils require literally no skill to use.  AliExpress is a source of cheap bullet journal accessories, but you are probably more assured of an ethical buy from independent shops such as those on Etsy.  I like Stampin’ Up for inks and stamps, but they do tend to suck you in with their gorgeous matchy colour schemes so you feel like you need all of them.

Super cute bookshelf washi tape from Washi Wednesday on Etsy.    This would be perfect to decorate a list of books to read for the year.

That covers the basics of bullet journalling (the very basics).  For more information I recommend the original Bullet Journal site or this Buzzfeed post.  If you are looking for inspiration, Pinterest and Instagram have heaps, but don’t be put off by the picture-perfect journal spreads on there – most of us have far more mundane, less instagrammable journals.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about how bullet journalling can be useful for people with endo specifically.  In the meantime, do you keep a journal?  Have you tried bullet journalling?  What’s your style?  Share your pictures in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Bullet Journalling for Beginners

  1. love all the tips. I have been so intrigued with the idea of starting a bullet journal, but at the same time overwhelmed with the thought. lol. maybe I will ease into it by the first of the year.

    1. It does seem like a lot of work at first! I originally dismissed the idea because of that. There also feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make it super perfect because of the instagram-journals out there, but the more I played around with it the easier it got to accept my errors and imperfections in journalling. I tell myself that all my journals will be practice until I make one perfect one :p

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