I’ve been bullet journaling since May 2016 and even in that short time it’s been amazing to see the community grow (thanks mostly to Buzzfeed and Pinterest). I’ve put together a shortish guide for those of you who want to begin but are overwhelmed by the beauty of the planners you see on Instagram.
Firstly, if you haven’t already, take a look at bulletjournal.com, which is the original system by Ryder Caroll. The website is a little difficult to navigate in my brutally honest opinion and it can be hard to find the content you want but, if nothing else, watch the original video! You will probably find it a little simplistic (or maybe not, it may be exactly what you want) but it’s important you learn how the basics work.
Secondly, remember that the bullet journal system is very fluid and you can use it how you want. You can add decoration or keep it minimalist. You can track everything in your bullet journal or just use it for daily planning. You can have several journals or stick with one. Personally, I have one journal for 99% of things I need to keep on top of and then another planner system for my blog and YouTube channel.
Okay, let’s get into things.
KEY & INDEX
The Key is an important part of the system is it’s a quick way to know what various tasks mean and whether you’ve finished them or not. I use a revised version of the original system, as you can see by the picture. You could also make your key fold-out for easy reference, simplify it or create your own for your own needs! The Index makes it easy for you to find your spreads (as long as your pages are numbered!). If you don’t want to number your pages – if they aren’t already – then you could use washi tape, tabs, paperclips or bookmarks to highlight important pages that you want to flip to quickly.
Everyone always has plans for future months, such as appointments, birthdays, weddings, and so on. I created a calendar at-a-glance as well as three pages (four months per page) for writing down future events and birthdays, which then get transferred to my monthly pages when I get round to them. In my next bullet journal I’m planning to ditch the future planning spread and washi-tape in actual calendars at the back instead for keeping track of what’s happening in the year, then transferring it to my monthly pages once it reaches that month. You can be as creative as you want to be. For example, you could create a birthdays/anniversaries spread and a have a running log of appointments instead.
This isn’t something in the original system but I feel like it’s fairly important. You may just want to go straight onto your dailies and weekly spreads but if you prefer to split the year up then you’ll want to have monthlies. In my journal, I have a list of goals for the month and space to review them at the end of the month, a ‘master task list’ for to-dos that don’t have a specific deadline, a ‘waiting on’ list for online orders, letters, emails, etc., an instagram schedule, memories from the month, whatever challenge I’m doing that month, the month at a glance (this is the spread I’d use when transferring from my future plans) my budget/expenditure and then I’d get into my weekly/daily spreads. Again, you don’t have to do any of this or you can add in anything you want, such as a weight tracker for the month, exercise plan, habit trackers and whatever else you can think of.
There are so many ways to do your weekly or daily spreads. Some people don’t have weekly spreads and just go day-to-day with dailies. Some people don’t have dailies and just have a double page spread split up into seven for the week. I’ve tried a number of methods and still haven’t really found my comfort zone, but I’ve been planning a lot, ready to try some new ideas in my next bullet journal! Currently I have a single page for my weekly spread and then single pages for each weekday and weekend. On my weekly spread I track my meals for the week, my weight, my instagram/blog followers. I also have five weekly goals, a to-do list for the week and space for doodling. On my dailies I have my to-do list, including all the social media stuff I need to do that day, a food log, a water counter, space for journaling and writing notes and then a space for whatever challenge I’m doing. In August I did the #PTLDoodles challenge which you’ll find on Instagram. But you can track whatever you find useful. Don’t bother tracking something if you never use it, or it becomes a chore to do! You want your bullet journal to organise and simplify your life!
TRACKERS & SPREADS
There are so many ‘collections’ you could do. Check out my post about spread ideas for some, well, spread ideas! You could track/note down your savings, ideas, dreams, wishlist, weight, pet info, passwords, books to read, bucket list, exercise challenges, and so on. You could also add any decoration and artwork if you’re the creative sort.
So, that’s it for the basics! Make sure your bullet journal is perfect for you – don’t worry about anyone else’s or what you feel like you should be doing. Check out instagrams and pinterest boards for ideas and join some bullet journal groups on Facebook for support and ideas as well.