I’ve always kept a journal. And a spiral bound planner. And a notebook just for daily to do lists. Oh, and if I have a special project going on, I have a notebook for that as well. The chaos of keeping three to four books going at all times was causing tons of confusion. I had no way of knowing what was where inside each book. I couldn’t carry all those books with me all the time. My kids tried to show me how to use my phone for everything, but no. I have to write things down. That’s the way I old school roll.
Forever behind the times, I started fooling around with the concept of the bullet journal last October. See, I’m on this mission to get my shit together. I figure a big part of that is being organized- better organized than I was with all those notebooks.
So, what’s a bullet journal? If you strip it down to bare bones, the bullet journal is just a really good planner you build for yourself. Now, most bullet journals function as a planner, diary, list keeper, sketch book, and so much more. Again, all designed by the individual, so it’s extremely customized to suit your needs and so, so forgiving. No rigid pages like those found in store bought planners that you don’t need or feel compelled to fill.
The bullet journal (bujo) is the brain child of Ryder Carroll. He figured out the basic concept. All you need is any old notebook and a pen. It consists of four components: topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets. That’s it. Sounds simple on accounta it is. Ryder uses these little symbols beside each task.
- X = Task Complete
- > = Task Migrated
- < = Task Scheduled
Yeah, I don’t do it like that, but every bujo is different, right?
Remember, you can use whatever kind of notebook or pen you want. You can make it as fancy or plain as you want to make it. This baby is all up to you. If you’re feeling stressed about how to make this thing, you gotta chill. The whole point is to help you get your shit together, not to stress you out. And a word of caution: If you Google “bullet journal,” you’re gonna find examples of bujos that are legit works of art created by people with incredible penmanship and mad organizational skills. They are expert level doodlers with unlimited funds for the most expensive pens and leather bound notebooks on the market. Let those bujos inspire you, but don’t let them deter you from creating your own bullet journal.
I practiced using a bujo at the end of 2016. I wanted to get my feet wet, see if it would work for me. I was surprised and delighted by the changes I experienced almost immediately with this new method of organization.
I started a new bujo for 2017. I like to doodle. I like to make my bujo super personal. It’s soothing. Seriously. I have specific needs for my bujo- just like anyone who keeps one does. This is how my bujo evolved for the beginning of 2017 and here are the supplies I used to make it.
Nothing too fancy- leftover paper from my scrapbooking days, a ruler, a glue stick, a composition notebook, my favorite ink pen, and color pencils.
I’m gonna walk you through how I set up my bujo. This is what works for me right now. It might not work for you and that’s cool. You’ll figure that out on your own!
I used a composition notebook. I have stacks of these suckers on accounta I still keep an old school journal in them (and have since I was super young). I made the cover with scrap paper, a post it note, glue stick, and ink pad (to smudge the edges of the post it note). You don’t have to do any of that, friends. You can just grab whatever notebook you want and go!
No matter how you fill your bullet journal, you’re gonna want to have an index in the very beginning of the book. You’ll number each of the pages and go back to your index and fill in which pages hold what information. For example:
page one- my truth for 2017
page two- goals for 2017
page three and four- monthly calendar
Every bujo is different. I started mine with these two pages because I want to be reminded of my truth and my goals all throughout the year. If I have new goals and new truths, I’ll make new pages (or spreads) for them.
Next is my yearly spread. I only went to October. I dunno if I’ll have enough room in this one notebook to get through the spring, but I’ll have to be able to plan dates. I’ve left a reusable sticky tab up on the top right hand corner, because I’ve been referencing back to this spread as I fill in dates from my old calendar.
Some folks like to keep a monthly spread as well. I found in my trial period, I didn’t need that step. I transfer dates easily from the yearly calendar to my weekly calendar. Some folks like to have a page per day. I like a two page spread per week. This works best for me, because I can see my week at a glance. The left hand side is for notes and encouragement. The right hand side is divided into days of the week. Sunday is on the top and isn’t as big as the other days of the week. That’s because my goal is to take Sunday off every week. No work, no email, no to do lists, no writing. We’ll see how that goes.
I use an “O” beside each task and check it if I complete the task or an X it if I don’t. I carry it over to the next day if I didn’t do it. Depending on how many days a task may get bumped, I’ll make it a priority by using an asterisk (*) and get that shiz done! I highlight important events or appointments. If I need to reference a list to complete a task, I make a note of it. The back few pages of my bujo are where I dump different lists that may pop up. For example: I have several thank you cards to write, so instead of listing all the names by that task on Monday, I refer myself to the list I made as I received gifts over the holidays.
Monday through Friday, I remind myself to perform a 30 minute tidy around my house. With the timer set, I clean my house, whirling dervish style. What gets done, gets done. What doesn’t, doesn’t. I’m not a housekeeper. I’m a writer. I also make a note to check my email. I only do this once a day. And I only do these tasks five days a week. Saturday and Sunday are not for email and the 30 minute tidy. I also note what I’m planning to fix for supper daily, so I can do whatever needs doing. We save so.much.money by planning ahead.
This is next week’s spread. I’ve filled in a couple of things and have the left side to make notes, doodle, encourage myself, or brain dump. Many bujo aficionados recommend creating your next week’s spread the night before you need it. I tried that during my trial run, while I was exploring what I liked and what I didn’t like. For the month of January, my weekly spreads look like this. I’ve already made a spread for each week. If I find this doesn’t work, I’ll switch it up in February. Note that each page has a number in the bottom corner. I can find these pages easily using the index.
This is spread designed just for me. The page on the left is something I want to be mindful of as I write my novel. The page on the right is a self care tracker for January. I have 17 things I keep track of each day. Some of them are on this list because I need the reminder to do them (take medication). Some are present because I feel better when I do them (make my bed). Some are present so I can track them and make notes as patterns emerge (mood swings, suicidal ideation, healthy food behaviors). The one thing I forgot about my self care tracker is to leave the opposite page blank for notes. I’m using the next page for that and, in February, I’ll be sure to make self care a two page spread.
The self care tracker has been an unexpected addition to my mental health care tool kit. I can see trends over weeks and months. For example: I tend to have less productive days when I don’t make my bed. My moods are more erratic during my Phantom Menace. You know, some of y’all have Shark Week? I’m peri-menopausal and have no period, but all the fun associated with one! This handy dandy chart helps me keep tabs on what’s what.
Here’s another example of a spread (or a collection). The page on the left is a place for me to jot down books I want to read, movies and television shows I want to watch, or musicians and artists I’d like to experience. The page on the right is where I keep track of any written correspondence I send to friends and family. I write lots of notes and letters. I send cards. I have a bad memory, so keeping this list is essential or someone’s gonna get back to back letters from me.
This is the beauty of the bujo. Whatever collection you want to add to your bujo is doable. You wanna keep track of what size clothes your kids wear? Make a collection for that. You wanna jot down the beers you wanna try or the wines you drink? Do that. You wanna keep track of your spending, your time, your habits, quotes to motivate you? Yep, you can do that. This book is here to serve your needs, to fit your life.
Another personalized spread at the back of my bullet journal is for writing prompts. I have a few collections related to writing in this year’s bujo.
You can find instructions for making your own envelopes online. I glued a manilla envelope on the inside back cover of my journal. It works just fine for me. I keep stamps and loose notes in it. I glued a 2017/2018 calendar on it for reference.
That’s it, y’all. I get to be as creative or as strictly functional as I want to be. I gotta point out though- the planning and playing around with how pages look are extremely cathartic for me. I feel like I get in the zone when I’m making my bujo! If you want tons of inspiration, check out my Pinterest board here.
Hope this helps you decide if creating a bullet journal is right for you, friends. I adore mine! Big love from Lil’ Nashvegas, B.