Bullet Journaling 101

Bullet Journaling 101

First off, Bullet Journaling is an analog system that is part planner, diary, and filing system. It can help you become more productive, complete your goals, and keep you from forgetting that Netflix show your friend recommended to you.

The original Bullet Journal system was created by Ryder Carroll about 5 or 6 years ago and since then has morphed into users creating beautiful spreads using everything from ballpoint pens to watercolor paints.

Unfortunately, a lot of the original functionality has been pushed to the back burner, leaving loads of potential BuJoists lost and frustrated.

So while there are only about 1000 websites out there that break it down and link to the original video, I thought that since I’ve taught a couple classes on Bullet Journaling, that I’d throw my thoughts into the mix.


Where to Start?


2.  Grab a pen
3.  Watch the video:


It makes a bit of sense, but what exactly is a collection? Do you need to leave space? What about people with kids and not a lot of time?

So, the beauty of Bullet Journaling is that the system is completely customizable and you don’t have to leave space for anything. You work through it page by page and the most important things you write the page number of for reference later.

Basic Set Up:

Open your journal, on the very first page write your name and contact info in case your journal gets lost. Turn to the next two page spread.

On these two pages write “Index” at top of them. This is where you will log the most important pages in your journal so that you can reference them quickly. If your journal didn’t come with page numbers, go ahead and write those in now, at least for the first 20 or so pages. Turn to the next two page spread and do the same that you have a total of 4 Index pages.


Year Overview, Month, and Week Pages.

These pages are where you’ll set up the planning aspect of your journal. These pages and all pages following can be designed anyway you like and in any way that best motivates you to use the system.

I recommend keeping things simple at first and then later doing more ‘creative’ style pages. The reason I suggest that is because creative spreads can be time consuming and when you’re first starting out things that take time may be a deterrent to using the system.

The first planning spread we’re going to create is the year overview.


Turn to the next available, blank, two page spread. At the top, title this page something that denotes the next year like, ‘Future Log’ or ‘2019’.  There are a variety of ways to lay this spread out, but for the sake of simplicity, just each split each page into equal thirds. In each third, write the name of a month, starting with the current one. (You don’t need to start in January!) This way, a total of 6 months can be seen across a two page spread.

Do the same for the next 6 months.

Once you’ve got your year overview finished, turn to - you guessed it - your next two page spread. Put the name of the current month at the top and along the outward facing edge, write the numbers 1-30/31/28 down the page. These are the days of the month! Add the letter of the day of the week next to it. For example: 1 W - which would be Wednesday the 1st.

Turn to your next two page spread and write the current week at the top. For example: Week of September 23rd- 29th. Split the left page in to three, title each section Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and on the right page, split it into three, and the bottom third in half. This will give you space for Thursday and Friday, with Saturday and Sunday sharing the bottom third.

Cool, I made a planner - now what?


Now for the fun part: emptying your brain onto paper. On the next two page spread we’re going to do what’s called a ‘brain dump’. Which, by the way, I hate the name of. I usually call this my ‘getting things done list’. On these pages, in whatever form or fashion you’d like, write down everything you’ve currently got floating around in your head that you want to remember, want to do someday, want to buy, need to check out, or have to do right now. 

For example:

•  Call grandma
•  Drink more water
•  Start Keto
•  Read book club book
•  Watch Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon
•  Watch What Happened, Miss Simone? On Netflix
•  Go to yoga 3x/week
•  Check out intermittent fasting
•  Get Amanda a birthday present
•  Doctor’s Appointment on Thursday
•  Hair appointment on 25th
•  Go grocery shopping
•  Clean out hall closet
•  Organize craft supplies
•  Start a YouTube Channel
•  Visit London again

Looking over your list, a few main categories should pop out to you - things you need to do in the short term, things you need to do in the long term, future things you’d like to do, media you’d like to check out such as books, shows, music, etc, and things you want to learn more about. 

With that in mind, create a key for each category. A key should be something you can quickly draw because as you go throughout each day you’ll be using these keys to rapidly identify the things you’ve written in your bullet journal for later organization:

Tasks  - short term, one step with no research needed. Ex: Call Grandma, Read  book club book, appointments
Goals - Ex: Drink more water, Go to yoga 3x/week
Projects - Ex: Go grocery shopping, clean out hall closet, organize craft supplies, check out intermittent fasting, get Amanda a birthday present
Maybe/Someday - things with no defined timeline. Ex: Start a YouTube channel, Visit London again
Media - Ex: Watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Watch What Happened, Miss Simone?

Go back through your list and key each item. For tasks, schedule them. For ‘Maybe / Somedays’ flip to the next blank page and write at the top of it ‘Maybe / Someday’ and list all of those items. 

Now you’re left with Projects, Goals, and Media. (These are things that would fall under ‘collections’ in the original system.) The easiest of these to organize is media - simply title a blank page as ‘books to read’ or ‘movies to watch’ and migrate items from your getting things done list to your media pages. 

Projects are just single focus getting things done lists in that you start with a basic outline of all the things you want to do, need to research, have to buy, etc - and then organize them. 

For me, ‘go grocery shopping’ is a project and not just a task because a. Tasks are only one step, and b. Because I have to make a list of all the things I need, research recipes I want to try, and check my schedule to see if we have friends coming over that I’ll need to buy extra food for. Basically, projects are anything on your list that requires you to do more than one step and/or research parts of it before you take any further actions. 

The last thing is goals. For goals that have timelines, simply schedule them. ‘Yoga 3x/Week’ is easily written on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. But for goals that are a little more vague, like ‘drink more water’,  you may want to create a habit tracker or incorporate them into your weekly overview’s design. I highly recommend checking out Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration on habit trackers and going for simple designs first.


Tying It All Together - Review


The initial brain dump is the best way to jumpstart your bullet journal, but 15 minutes from now you may remember you need to take your pet to get their shots. Where should you put this reminder?

Assuming you’ve incorporated today’s date into your weekly overview, you’d simply add it as a task to today. You’ll continue adding new tasks, projects, goals, and media throughout any given day.

For example, let’s say today is Monday and I realize that my car needs an oil change, so I’m going to open my journal and on today’s date in my weekly overview I’m going to write:


Schedule car maintenance. 

And then later in the day, someone suggests I check out Japanology on YouTube, so I’d write:

Japanology on YouTube

Writing that down makes me think I should go to Japan some day so I’d also write down:

Visit Japan

Which inspires me to: 

Learn basic Japanese

At the end of the day I’ll migrate ‘Schedule Car Maintenance’ to tomorrow if I didn’t get it done today (or next week if I’m feelin’ lazy.)  I’ll write ‘Japanology on YouTube’ on my shows I want to watch media page, and write ‘visit Japan’ on my Maybe/Someday page. 

Once I've actually finished scheduling my car maintenance I'll check off the box or run a line through the task noting it as finished.

So that's it! Basically!







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