a guide to bullet journalling

Recently I've been mentioning a bit more that I'm enjoying bullet journalling and a few people have asked some questions. First of all, what exactly is bullet journalling? What does it do? Does it have to be all pretty? I thought rather than write out answers to these questions separately, I'd do a blog post on it, explaining the benefits of it and how it's the perfect combination of organisation and creativity. This is going to be a very detailed and photo heavy post, but hopefully it all helps and makes sense!

What is a Bullet Journal? 

"The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less." - bulletjournal.com

That was lifted directly from the Bullet Journal website, which was the first place I visited when I was interested in starting one. It goes over the basics of what to include in a Bullet Journal, how to use one and how to keep it going. From my experience, I started with the basics described on the Bullet Journal website and then developed it into my own system. For starters though, I'd probably recommend starting with the basics.

What is included in a Bullet Journal?  ▼

There are many things included in a Bullet Journal and it all comes down to how you want to use it. Everyone has different things in their journal and that's one of the main benefits, because it's not written and sectioned for you, you have the freedom to make it specific to your needs. For example, I use mine to track money, fitness, meals, blog stuff, sleep, things I'm grateful for etc. It's totally personal.

There are some things that everyone generally includes in their journal which help it have just a little bit of structure.

1. Index - A reference for all pages in your journal. As the journal is not laid out in any manner, you're literally making it up as you go along it means that finding things in it can sometimes be difficult. The index allows you to write down each section and the corresponding page number, like a table of contents. It really helps, especially if you start a new collection halfway through your journal. Every time you put something new into your journal, write the page number and a description of what it is in your index so you can find it again at a later date.

2. Key - This is usually just one page indicating the different types of bullets in your journal. Generally, this is a dot for a task (which is then crossed out when completed), a circle for an event and a small line for a note. There is also a forward facing arrow indicating the task has been migrated forward to a future date or a backwards facing arrow indicating the task has been migrated back to the Future Log.

3. Future Log - The Future Log is sort of an overview of the month or year. Here is where you would put general tasks you would like to get done but don't have any specific time or date you'd like to get the task completed. This means when you do finally decide to complete the task you can put the date and page number next to the entry in your Future Log for reference. It also means if you don't complete a task in your daily pages you can simply migrate it backwards to the Future Log for another time.

4. Monthly Pages - This is as simple as it sounds, a monthly spread that shows you the days of the month. Most people like to put the numbers of the month down the left side of the page and then next to it the letter of the day that falls on. This means they can quickly see the dates in the month and the days too. I've also seen others that actually draw out the calendar as it would normally look with all the boxes and stuff. This is where you would generally things that already have specific dates, birthdays, appointments etc. I also like to include my bills in this spread as it makes it easier to know when money is coming out of my bank.

5. Lists/Collections - These pages are where you can go nuts with creativity. You can literally make up your own things to track from here. The most common things to have in Lists or Collections is a habit tracker, money tracker, fitness pages, meal tracker, goals, gratitude journal, etc. The possibility is endless. I've even seen some people have Doodle a Day pages, which is so fun and interesting to see. All you have to do is write out a list or make a page of whatever you want and make sure to reference it back to your index, that way you can find it quickly if you need to.

6. Daily Pages - This is where you actually schedule out your days and to do's. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is you don't have a set amount of space per day, as you're writing it as you go. Some people like to map out their week and draw out weekly layouts but generally you can do whatever works best for you. You write out the day and date, then underneath start writing out your daily tasks using the bullets (dot for task, circle for appointment etc) and then as the day goes on you can either cross them off if you've completed them, migrate them to a new day if you won't complete it or migrate it back to the future log if you want to give yourself a bit more time to finish it. It's that simple. When the day is over, simply start your new day underneath by writing the new date or by drawing a line to separate the days for a bit more definition.

Once you have these sections you can feel free to add your own lists, drawings, pages, whatever you want. My advice is remember the index as it will help you find things you've put in your journal and remember that mistakes are there to be made!

Does the journal have to look pretty/decorated?

Once you've gotten the basics set up it's literally just a case of using it and learning as you go. When I first started I was more concerned about making it look pretty with washi tape and doodles and less about how it would help me stay organised. I drew out everything in pencil and then went over with pen, which was taking double the time to write anything out. I quickly realised that another benefit of the Bullet journal is about learning from your mistakes. The first time I drew out a monthly spread or meal tracker it looked awful. It wasn't positioned right, some days were bigger than others and I put washi tape all over it meaning I had very little room to actually write anything.

The following month I simply drew a grid and filled it in as I went. No decoration and no washi tape and I honestly preferred it. It meant it worked for me and I realised that whilst it's fine to decorate it also needs to still perform a purpose. If your purpose is to have a journal that's more like a sketchbook/journal then go right ahead, but if like me you need it for organisation, I'd start with how it works for you and less of what it looks like. You can also go back and decorate a later date, which is what I've been doing. Filling in any gaps with drawings or stickers, but only when I realise I won't need that space for anything else. Function first, then decoration.

Where do you get a Bullet Journal? 

One of the many benefits of the Bullet Journal is you don't have to use anything specific for it, you can simply grab a notebook you have lying around and turn it into a Bullet Journal. You can however buy the official Bullet Journal which gives you the key and an index that's already laid out for you. I've found that most people tend to either use the official Bullet Journal, a Moleskine (which is what I use) or a Leuchtturm1917 as they have either squared or dotted pages and the paper quality is really good. They are quite expensive, but in comparison to a lot of other planners they fall in around the cheaper end of the spectrum. Alternatively, you can also use a normal notebook/jotter that you already have and start from there if you don't want to spend a bit more on one of the more common notebooks used.

A look into my Bullet Journal 

I thought I'd show you an overview of my Bullet Journal. Now keep in mind that I'm still learning and quite often make mistakes when drawing things out. I've taken quite a few photos of the general set up and some of the pages that I plan to use for November. The only pages I haven't taken photos of are the daily pages, simply because these have some personal information in them! I haven't filled out anything in November yet as it's still coming towards the end of October, but I'm looking forward to filling them in as I go!

The outside of my Bullet Journal. I taped down this cute little cat image, which I loved as it's like Joy Division's album Unknown Pleasures. So Cute!

This is my Index, literally the simplest way to write out a table of contents. Pages numbers on the left, descriptions on the right. I've also highlighted the months, so I can find them easier.

This is a very simple Key, just to give you an idea of what it generally looks like.

This is my Future Log. I have the pages split into two months per page. I don't have much in them yet, I'm still figuring out what I want to include in these pages.

This is start of my November pages. I just wrote out the big November and drew a floral circle around it and stuck some washi tape to the top and bottom of the pages. Quick and simple, only took me around twenty minutes or so.

This is my monthly overview. As you can see there is quite a lot in here. I have the days of the week down the left hand side along with the corresponding day of the week. I also have a section further across that page for my monthly bills, which means I can track when money is also coming out of my bank on the same spread, saving space. On the next page is a daily money tracker. Each day I can write out what I spent that day and on what, write the total in the next column and then keep a running total on the right. Underneath is a wish list, so I can write down things I want vs things I actually need. This helps because it lets me prioritise things I need over things I think I actually want.

Next is my goals page and gratitude tracker, which I've labelled as 'happy things'. I always have a goals section as I like to write things down that I want to accomplish. I find it keeps me motivated when I know I can look back at the previous month and see how much I actually accomplished for my goals. It's not even huge things, sometimes it's little things like go a full week without any fizzy juice. Even little goals feel good to cross off once I've reached them.

I also always have a gratitude section. I love looking back at the end of the month and re-reading all the things that have made me happy that month. I try to write out at least one thing per day. Even if I've had a pretty bad day I'll always try and write out at least one thing that made me smile. Usually this revolves around something Craig said or did, cute animal things I've seen or read or just the fact that someone texted me first. You know, little things!

This is my blogging section. It's pretty straightforward and simple. On the left I have the days of the month so I can write out when my blog posts are going live and see them in advance. I've been trying to schedule more posts now so I can keep on top of my content. Next to that is my Bloglovin tracker. My following has been going up and down recently in spikes and I can't figure out why, so I'm using this to track it daily to see if I can notice any pattern.

At the top of the next page is a social media tracker, so I can write my stats in weekly and see if they're increasing or decreasing. Under that is a section for any blog to do's I might have and if I get any ideas for posts or social media content.

I've also started tracking my meals properly so this is a very simple meal tracker. I'm just going to write what I had to eat that day and monitor it throughout the month. I've also given myself little rules for the month, such as cut down on fizzy juice, no snacking on crisps/chocolate etc. (We'll see how long that one lasts, I love crisps!)

On the next page is a monthly cleaning schedule, which shows me things I should be doing on a daily basis, a weekly basis and a monthly basis. I sometimes find that I go through crazy cleaning periods where I literally gut the flat over a day and then I go a few days where I don't do anything. I want to use this to keep myself in check and to keep the flat tidy all the time.

The sleep tracker is a new thing. I've sort of fallen out of a sleeping pattern which is so annoying as some nights I can go to bed at 10pm and others I don't feel tired until 3am, which is really messing with me and giving me some pretty serious headaches. I've got a few columns, one for what time I went to bed, if I was on my phone in bed and for how long, how many hours I slept and what I dreamt that night. Sometimes I find that if I have pretty horrible dreams I wake up with such a horrible pain behind my eyes, so I'm monitoring my dreams too.

Next is a thirty day fitness challenge. Pretty self explanatory, each day has different exercises that increase in increments as the month goes on. I've never really stuck to a fitness tracker before but I'm hoping that now it's in my journal that I'll actually do it.

Then I have a to watch/read/listen section. This is where I write down everything I want to watch, to read or to listen to through November. Sometimes I'll think of a film or tv show and want to watch it again but then never remember to and then it'll bug me for ages because I'll have forgotten what it was I wanted to watch. It's the same with books or albums/podcasts. This way when I think of something I just write it down and come back to it later.

Lastly is my habit tracker. This is probably the most common thing found in a bullet journal. I use this to track good and bad habits as well as online habits I'm trying to embed in myself. It's just a little table with the habits down the left hand side, the dates along the top and then if I do a certain habit on that day I'll colour the box it. It's a great visual of things you want to track and highlights where and when you might be falling down on doing certain things.

What pens/stuff do you use in your Bullet Journal?  ▼

I use a few different types of pens in my journal. The pen I use to draw out my grids and actual layouts etc is a black Staedtler Triplus Fineliner in 0.3 which I got in a set of thirty with loads of other colours that I use to decorate. These pens are fantastic as they dry really quickly, I find they don't smudge and they don't bleed through the back of my pages. The pen I use to actually write with is a Pilot G-Tec-C4 0.4 in black. Again, this pen is really good because I find it doesn't smudge and it writes really well and doesn't bleed through the back of the pages.

I also use a few different types of highlighters. The main ones I use are the Pilot Frixion Highlighters and the Zebra Mildliners, both which I use to highlight certain things or important tasks I need to get done. I don't really have a colour code system, I sort of just highlight as I go. 

I also use washi tape as well as stickers and generally anything else I want to add to it to make it look little bit more personal.

So there you have it. A pretty extensive overview of Bullet Journalling and a look into what I include in mine. I hope this blog post helps and if you have any questions or anything related, please don't hesitate to ask. I'd also love to know if anyone uses a Bullet Journal and how they use it. Let me know if you do, I love having a nosey at other people's Bullet Journals!

thank you for reading!  
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