It's been roughly a year now since I first starting bullet journaling, so I thought I'd share my experiences.
Bullet journaling is a way of keeping track of your day to day activities, a way to plan for the future and to remember and learn from the past. But it's also a way of slowing down life, of living more meaningfully and removing clutter and stress.
Tools and materials
You start with a Bullet Journal, or Bujo as it is commonly called in Bullet Journaling circles. This can really be any type of pad or book that you can write in although it may be a good idea to choose one with dotted paper as it gives you a helpful grid system while not being as restrictive as squared grid. Also, if you're going to be using something like a fountain pen or marker pens it might be a good idea to chose a paper that can handle those without bleeding. Two of the more popular brands for bullet journaling are Moleskine and Leuchtturm.
My first Bujo was a notebook made by the italian company Appeel. The paper is actually made from apples, and bound in artificial leather. It looks pretty cool, and has held up nicely over the year I've spent filling it up. My biggest problem though with this book is how easily ink bleeds through the pages. So that was my first criteria when I started looking for my next bujo - better paper quality.
The book I eventually went for was the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted, in orange. A few things that make this book especially well suited for journaling is:
- It has an index, so you don't have to set up your own.
- All pages are numbered (which was a hassle doing in my old Appeel).
- The paper is dotted.
- Handles ink much better than the Appeel.
Setting up your bujo
The first thing to set up in your bujo is an index. The index uses page numbers, so if your bujo is not already numbered, you'll need to do that. Whenever you make new content you can update your index with it. I've elected to make new rows in my index when I make a new future plan, monthly spread or a new collection.
Future planning is a way to plan ahead and a place to keep todo:s and notes about events and appointments that are perhaps further away than your nearest future. This can be a good place to keep track of birthdays, vacations and other things that you know far in advance.
Monthly and weekly spreads
The monthly spread is where you set up your month. I follow the standard setup created by the inventor of Bullet Journaling, Ryder Carroll, which is a left side with all the days of the month and a right side with tasks to be performed that month. When the month is over, if there are unfinished tasks on this month, I decide whether to cross out the task or to migrate it to the next month. Migration is also used in this way on the weekly spreads.
A few months ago I introduced Trackers in my bujo. This is a simple way to keep a log of things I've done, how healthy I've been, or how active I've been. This can work both as a way to push you to accomplish goals so you get to tick those boxes, but it is also a good way of reviewing your life to see what's working and what's not.
My weekly spreads are probably the most colorful part of my bujo. This is where most of my updates happen. You can also have a daily spread, but for me I don't see the purpose of that. In periods however, I'll have a seperate section where I write more in a diary style.
If you have seperate lists, like shopping lists, travel plans, blog ideas, or anything at all really, you can create a collection. For example, I have a collection where I keep ideas for places and things to photographs. When you create a collection you simply make an entry in the index to easily find it later. I had more collections in my old bujo, but some of them had lived out their uses, and two of them I merged into one when migrating to a new book.
Reviewing my first bujo year
Now that I've been using a bujo for a year, I can look back and evaluate my time with it.
In the beginning I only used my bujo sparingly, and would forget all about it for long periods of time. I think I first started to get the hang of things when I introduced a collection of photography gear that I wanted to get. It came into even more use when I started using it for planning vactions and making lists of what to pack, and then later for journaling the vacations days. From there on I experimented on different layouts (which I continue to do), but kept pretty much consistently updating it.
As it came to be more of a standard thing I did every day, I started playing a bit more with the layout and designing it, and finding more ways it could be useful. Keeping track of your habits and ups and down can be a great tool in improving various aspects of your life. For someone who enjoys making things, and has a need to create and be creative every day, keeping a bullet journal has really been a great tool to help me do that.
For me, sitting down with my bujo for a little while in the evening is like taking a step away from any stress I may be having and just taking a top-down look at my life. It is indeed very calming. But it is also a way of keeping memories, of journaling my life and being able to look back and see who I was and who I am now.
For me, bullet journaling has become a great tool in my day to day life. So why not try it out yourself, and maybe you'll like it just as much as I do!