What the heck is a bullet journal?

I’ll tell you what it is: it’s a method I swear by to stay organized.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is to watch YouTube videos about makeup and fashion. I’ve actually been inspired by a number of YouTubers when I get dressed for work each day – some more than others. (I’m most inspired by the casual ones, lol!) It’s usually how I decompress, and I have a channel subscription list I swear by that gets played before I go to bed on Sunday nights. It inspires me to do more for the rest of the week, and gets me energized to do all the stuff I need to get done. Case in point: I am posting a lot more now to this blog than I was two months ago!

Like one generally does when they get bored of their usual fare, they try to find more inspiration. I was looking for a few new YouTubers to subscribe to, when one named Miss Louie came up in my suggestions. I love her! Her style is practical, fun, and polished, and she comes from a business background and is taking on YouTube full time! (I could never leave radio on my own accord to do what she is doing; I love it too much.)

I took a look at her videos, one of which tackled “bullet journaling.” I was absolutely intrigued. Her video is below.

This is actually not the original bullet journal method; that was developed by Ryder Carroll, who is a digital product designer. (Funny, because this whole thing is analog!) He came up with the first video about three years ago, but after sticking to this system, he’s refined it a few more times. Below is his most recent video.

What I’ve learned about the bullet journal, or “bujo” for short, is that you can get creative with your markings – as Miss Louie has often done. After watching both of their videos, I was sold. I wrote everything important down from my old planner, put it aside, and stashed the old book.

I’ve actually always had a love/hate relationship with my older planner, because I’ve felt it is and isn’t mine. I’ve always tried to find a cover that I like, a layout that works, and a system that allows me to get things done. My days run at light speed, so I need a way to look at everything quickly, yet tangibly. Jon is great with his calendar on his phone; me, I need to write down the event to actually absorb what’s coming up. (He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s actually asked me about the same event many times with me quick to tell him when it is and whether or not he’s going – I attribute that to my writing down upcoming events.) I was hoping starting my own bujo would get me motivated and allow me to complete 100 per cent of my tasks, as opposed to my 80 per cent or 90 per cent I’d generally hit.

Getting started

There is actually a particular kind of book that bujo enthusiasts strongly recommend using, but I wanted to actually try the system and see if I liked it. Fortunately being a journalist means there are always notebooks lying around the house. I had a three-pack of Moleskine soft-cover notebooks I’d been hoarding (I actually collect stationery and LOVE Moleskines), so I opened one up and decided to use that as my sandbox.

This is the soft cover Moleskine that I’m using.

Back to the enthusiasts: they generally recommend using a leuchtturm (don’t even get me to say this) journal. The most common one for bullet journaling is the leuchtturm1917. Fun fact: this company is actually celebrating its 100th birthday this year. It’s also Danish, and they big time specialize in all kinds of different books (so be very, very careful if you’re an office supply enthusiast like me, because you’ll get sucked in). This includes the dotted journal, which comes in various sizes. The serious bujos use the medium or the large; when I finish marking up my Moleskine (I have about 36 pages to go!) I will be purchasing the medium version in lemon, which you can view here. 

Next, I figured out writing instruments. I am all about coloured pens and bold ink, and I didn’t want to skimp. Again, I was experimenting with the medium, so I didn’t want to go crazy, and grabbed a pack of ten coloured pens from Daiso the following day.

Divide and conquer

The next thing I did was divide everything up. The first thing I did was set up an index. This allowed to me to figure out what was where. I find that I actually don’t use the index very much,

The final look of my index. I’d originally gone for very minimalist styling, but I ended up going a little bonkers with the colour. I still like it.

but it was fun to put together. I’ve actually been using page flags to denote what you can find where, and in the leuchttrum1917 notebooks, there are three braided bookmarks you can use to go back to your usual pages. I’ll probably carry on with the index in the future, just in case I want to use the number system.

After the index, I set up my year-at-a-glance, which is called a future log. It includes all the months of the year, and is the area where you can put down things you know are happening in advance.  You’ll see why this part of the journal is important in just a second.

The next sections I set up were my goal pages. They include my goals for 2017, my goals for my internet pages, books to read, and my big-ticket shopping list. I haven’t really been looking all that much at my general goals page, but I love the internet page and look at it frequently – and have been following my plans for each platform. My favourite page is the big-ticket shopping list, because I have actually been shopping less. My rule of thumb: if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it. And I don’t just add it to the list: I’ve actually taken the time to think about whether or not I really need the item – and 90 per cent of the time it doesn’t make it on there.

I’ve also set up a finance list and payment schedule section – which you can set up whichever way you want. I also added a list of clothing and makeup brands that I love, just so I’m not scrambling to figure out favourite products when I’m out and about. The next section is for food, including ingredients for some of the experimental things Jon has cooked for us, and a quotes section (which hasn’t been getting all that full). Finally, I threw in a two-page ‘thoughts and ideas’ section, which I really like for scribbling crap down – and have been utilizing moving forward.

Calendar

These can be set up however you want, but I actually like the method I used for May, which is really close to the standard bullet journal method. I originally created a calendar to look at, but found it too time-consuming and defeated the purpose of keeping a bujo. Plus – there is also a massive calendar to look at at home, since we have a dry-erase calendar we use for general stuff.

Some of my legend – these are the main symbols used when you’re marking things down in your bullet journal.

The cool thing about the bujo is how custom it can be: you use what you like, and ignore the stuff you don’t. This is why people who bullet journal are encouraged to build their layouts before the start of every week. I draw mine out on Sundays; I take about one or two hours to do it, and it is super therapeutic. I use different kinds of bullets to denote the importance of something: an empty box is for a task, a dash is a note about that task (or just a general note), an asterisk (*) is for something that is super duper important. I use hearts to note if something is for ‘me’ time, and I use a dollar sign ($) to make note of bills.

Since I’ve been doing this – it’s been more than a month now – I’ve actually been more efficient getting my stuff done. I’m motivated by the fact that by the end of the week, if I have boxes that aren’t filled in (meaning that the task didn’t get done) then I’m super bummed and try harder the week following. Last week I filled in about 90 per cent of the boxes, which felt good! But bullet journaling has also allowed me to figure out what is and isn’t worth my time. I look forward to keeping up with the practice!

So, what do you think? Are you already bullet journaling? Are you interested? Does it seem like a lot of work? Let me know what you think in the comments. Moving forward, I’m hoping to show you my monthly spreads in blog posts, so hopefully you’ll stay tuned for that!

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