Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably recently run across tidbits of information online about a crazy little thing called the Bullet Journal. I was living under a rock until August 2016, when I did some research online and discovered that I couldn't possibly live another day without creating a Bullet Journal for myself.
Was it worth it? Holy gravy, YES! This fun little book has changed my life in so many ways, and all for the better.
In my own short and sweet explanation: a Bullet Journal is a hybrid analog method that combines planning with journaling. And you can do about a million things to make it awesome, made just for you! You really can start with something as simple as a notebook and a pen that you love. With these two tools, you can transform your life by tracking things like never before.
If you're also thinking about starting your own (and you should), then here are some suggestions to consider using in your Bullet Journal.
Mine is currently blank. I've decided that waiting until my journal is filled, and then coming back to enter my entire Index all at once, is going to be the easiest method for me. But lots of people like filling in the Index as they go. Think about what your best method would be for an Index, if you even decide to have one at all, and go to town!
A Legend or Key
The Legend or Key is a cheat sheet towards the front of your notebook for keeping track of how you log things in your Bullet Journal. This is a great page to reference in case you've forgotten, for example, that you always mark Wednesdays in pink. You certainly don't have to color-code things, but it has made everything so much easier for me. And the colors are one of my favorite parts of my Bullet Journal!
This might be a good place to mention what the little boxes mean in my Bullet Journal. I've made modifications from the Original Bullet Journal to fit my life, but the bulk of my Tasks are represented by an open box. If I don't get to it that day, it gets an arrow through it to show that Task migrated to the next day. If something gets cancelled, I put a small "X" inside the box. Appointments or scheduled meetings are shown with a circle, Church stuff is represented by a triangle, and dates or important events with my Manly Man are shown with a heart. As each of these Tasks gets finished, I fill them in with a color-coded marker to show them completed.
I can't even tell you how wonderful it feels to have a bunch of filled-in Tasks each day!
A giant part of the Bullet Journal is to be able to plan out your life, and this can be done on a broad scale using some sort of Future Log. There are lots of fun options to show best how you want to track upcoming dates and events. I started with little calendars next to lines, like above.
Another way to track what's coming up is by using a Calendex, which I learned from the wonderful Kara at Boho Berry.
Dates and reminders can be added here, and then you can refer back to this page when planning each month, week, and day. It's kind of nice to have a one-page snapshot to capture all of the important stuff coming up in your life.
Monthly Log and Spreads
1) MONTHLY CALENDAR
Now that you have decided on a way to track the future, we can break it down into the monthly logging of your life!
I begin each month with a calendar of what that month holds. The outer ring shows all of my appointments or special dates coming up. I like seeing which days of the week go with which date, so I write in the days of the week in the middle ring. This is also where I show all the birthdays and anniversaries I need to remember throughout the month (shown in purple). The very inner ring tracks things like overnights we have my step-son (green with a "K") and business trips (gray pen) with my Manly Man.
As you can see, I now also use this page to add a gigantic Master To-do List for my month. These are things that I want to accomplish through the next four-five weeks of the month. I always flip back to this page to find Tasks that can be added to my Weekly To-do List, then into each Daily Spread when I have time for a project! I come back to this page to fill these in with the day of the week's color after completing a task.
I currently use a giant circle stencil to make my entire month layout, which my little Type A brain appreciates.
2) DAILY DOING
The second page in my Monthly Spread is my Daily Doing page. This is a one-page shot of everything that went on for my month! I write one to two lines each evening of what happened that day. It's an awesome way to see what I accomplished. And this is where the "journaling" aspect really comes into play.
3) MONTHLY MEMORIES SPREAD
After I have the month drawn out in calendar-form, I love seeing a page full of doodles showing how my month went down and when.
These are some of my favorite pages in my Bullet Journal. They feel so personalized and fun! I leave it blank after drawing it as part of my Monthly Spread. When the month is over, I come back in to fill in little doodles showing what happened all month!
This is such a happy way to see what took place all month long.
4) DAILY HABIT TRACKER
The fourth and probably most life-changing page in my Monthly Spread is the Daily Habit Tracker. This page has blown me away and helped me improve every aspect of my life!
First, I draw out the days of the month. I then fill my column to the left with goodies that I want to track and do better. Each day that I do that item, I get to fill it in with a color-coded pen.
A cool pattern starts to emerge if I fill in the boxes! Talk about motivation to get them done each day!
I usually fill in my boxes each morning to keep me even more accountable to get it done! Sometimes, however, something happens that prevents me from getting that task completed (I'm talking to you, cupcakes at a birthday party). On those occasions, I use a small arrow to show that item migrating to the next day. And then I better darn-well do it the next day!
I'm not exaggerating: THE DAILY HABIT TRACKER WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
My face has NEVER been this clean and moisturized! And did you know I try to shower and put makeup on every.single.day? This tracker is a must-have for your Monthly Spread.
After my month is ready to go, I move on to my first Weekly Spread. This is just a single column, taking up half of the next page. I do a fun header for the month and week. Then I draw in a small calendar and highlight which week the following two pages represents. I also draw in trackers for my Daily Scripture Reading (I read every night and have a separate tracker for the nights my step-son is staying with us, since we read with him, too). When I read that day, I fill it in with the day's color and then write in the chapters studied.
Beneath the calendar and Scripture Reading Tracker is my Weight Tracker. I'm in the process of losing 45 pounds, and I weigh in every single morning to catch problems early on. If I'm doing things properly, this goes down every week! If sugar is involved, it usually goes up instead.
The next box is my Sleep Tracker. Thanks to my wonderful FitBit Charge 2, which I love like a chocolate bar, I can see exactly how much sleep I'm getting each night. I log it in this cute little graph for each night of the week. Apparently, I'm NOT getting eight hours every night, like I thought!
My third tracker for the Weekly Spread is a Water Tracker to make sure I'm drinking enough each day. My water bottles hold 600 ML each, so I'm drinking over a gallon of water per day if I get all seven bottles filled in!
The last part of my Weekly Spread is underneath my Sunday of each week. This is my To-do List! I put things here that I know need to get done this week, and I pull from my Master Monthly T-do List, seen above. Then I fill them in with the color of that day of the week when that Task gets completed! I love my To-do Lists! This is such an easy way to make sure I'm getting things done!
Since my Weekly Spread only takes up half of one page in my journal, I get into the Daily Spreads pretty quickly! This is where a lot of my life lives. I spent several months perfecting them to be just what I needed. It may take time to get yours just right for you.
I will definitely break down my Daily Spread into a more detailed post soon, but for a short description now, I have an Hourly Tracker at the top of each page that gets filled in with the color-coded Tasks as I complete them below. Then I track my food (Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack), the weather, my Instagram followers (eek!), Kyle Overnights (my step-son, whom we have half of each month), the city in which I'm sleeping, Daily Gratitude, Daily Activity (cardio, strength-training, and steps), fun reading, what I learned during scripture study, and finally, how I'm feeling emotionally and in my marriage that day.
I really, REALLY love my Daily Spreads. I love how much information can be tracked in just half a page. I draw out seven of these for each day of the week, and then I go to town filling everything in!
Another wonderful aspect of the Bullet Journal is the way it provides for you to keep Collections of things that matter to you.
I have Collections scattered through my Bullet Journal, ranging from my Mini Goals Tracker to Things I Love.
Many of my particular Collections are also trackers in their own right, but I love how I end up having a way to keep track of things that matter to me. My Cleaning Schedule Tracker has been a life-saver! I always clean my house, but now I can track when and what gets done. And I can give myself a high-five for all the great things getting finished!
Another example of a Collection spread is to have a Monthly Utility Bills Tracker to see at a glance how much is spent month-to-month.
Collections can include anything. I've seen spreads ranging from Favorite Songs to Want/Need Lists to Christmas Shopping Lists to Brain Dumps.
This can be a place to track all of the things that make you happy! Your Bullet Journal really can become a one-stop shop for all things filling up your mind at 2:00 AM.
The sky really is the limit with Collections. Just make sure your motives to make a Collection are for YOU.
In the longest blog post ever, that sums up What is a Bullet Journal! Here are a few quick tips and tricks from what I've learned during my Bullet Journal journey.
Tips and Tricks
1) Invest in a good notebook. You're going to spend hours and hours in this beautiful Bullet Journal. Why not invest in a high-quality journal that can handle all that love and attention? I love using the Leuchtturm1917 A5 Hardcover in Dotted Pages. The dots allow for a lot of flexibility in making every page exactly what you want. Amazon has beautiful colors for amazing prices!
2) Use good pens that won't bleed through. Going hand-in-hand with investing in a good notebook is having the right writing utensils to make it last! I use and love the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens and use sizes M, F, S, and XS the most. These pens are wonderful and don't bleed through (or even ghost!). Amazon has an awesome four-pack for a steal.
3) Start simple. Don't bite off more than you can chew so that you start avoid doing your journal at all! Start small and work your way up. You will get better and learn so much about yourself as you go! Maybe you don't need to track that! Maybe you want to see how many times you're walking to dog! Make it for you!
4) Embellishments can make your journal pretty, but they don't have to be there to make your Bullet Journal amazing. Lots of people use washi tape and stickers to decorate their pages. I just choose to use markers, colored pencils, and doodles to embellish my journal. Find what you love and run with it.
5) Maybe not everything will go in your Bullet Journal. I still use Google Keep (please please please start using Keep) for all of my Shopping Lists, etc,. I also keep track of pages I want to create in my Bullet Journal in Keep, instead of in my Bullet Journal.
Trial and error is the best way to find what you won't use in your Bullet Journal, so keep it up!
If you have any questions, comment away!
For more information, you can always check out the official Bullet Journal website. The idea was originally coined by Ryder Carroll, and his website has lots of information to explain what this whole Bullet-Journal thing truly is. This video is a quick way to catch up on all the hype, too.