Sitting at the airport a few weeks ago, a lady beside me was bullet journaling. I recognized it immediately (and almost felt a tad green-eyed for not traveling with mine that trip). But, wait, what is a bullet journal, you ask, and why would someone be so
obsessed into it that they’d travel with one? Like journaling cards, bullet journaling can be a creative journaling method.
I’m going to break it down for you and share suggestions for starting one. So, let’s break down what is a bullet journal and what isn’t a bullet journal (because there seems to be some confusion out there lately), along with a few questions to help you decide if starting one is right for you and steps and resources to get started.
The term and basic concept, bullet journal (often shortened to bujo. I’ll be calling it bujo at times in this post) was created by Ryder Carrol, a designer who was looking for a way to be more ‘focused and productive’. There are a lot of bullet journal terms scattered throughout this post.
The simplest answer to what is a bullet journal
A bullet journal is a notebook you use to track, plan, and store information. Some people use a bullet journal to do all three of these, some just one or two. I’m going to share specific examples of tracking, planning, and storing coming up.
Though some people use specific notebooks for bullet journaling, you can use any notebook you’d like (more on that coming up in the supplies section below).
That was the simplest explanation. But bullet journaling can get a bit more complicated (or fun, actually).
In many ways, it’s a free-for-all. And that’s why I think it’s caught on so fast. People get to adjust it to their own needs. I certainly have.
Some people create bullet journals to track almost everything in their lives, some use them for planning projects, some use them to keep lists of things they need to remember. And many use them just to plan their weeks and months ahead.
There’s no one way to bullet journal.
The only commonality, I often notice, is using an indexing system, as Ryder Carrol intended. This is like creating a Table of Contents at the beginning of the bullet journal so you can quickly find your lists, trackers, whatever. Since it isn’t a structured planner/journal with tabs, the index helps you to quickly find things in your bullet journal.
Another commonality is there’s a specific way to mark tasks (completed, moved forward, etc) but I’ve noticed many bullet journalers don’t follow that system.
If you google bujo and go down the rabbit hole on Youtube and Instagram, like I did a thousand times when I first found the concept about 4 years ago, you’ll notice that most people are all doing it a little different.
And in many ways, that’s the beauty of it. Customizing your bullet journal is part of the fun and makes it easier for you to use.
What can you track in a bullet journal?
Anything you want. You can create what are called spreads or layouts, which are a page or more where you track something important to you.
Performance measured is performance improved. I live by that. It’s hard to see improvement in your life if you aren’t tracking. Especially for habits you are trying to change (such as exercise) and things you’re trying to become more aware of (such as your mood/eating/etc).
But before jumping on the bandwagon and tracking everything, take a few moments to do a little self-questioning. What do you really need to track?
Start simple. Maybe you want to track your different workouts or water drinking or sleep? What life habits or changes you want to make would be good to track? Pick one or two and start there.
Here’s an example of a tracking spread in a bujo:
What can you store in a bullet journal?
Again, anything you want. Items are stored in a bullet journal and labeled collections. For example, a list of books to read is called a collection.
Here are examples of collections I’ve had in a bullet journal:
- Lists of books to read
- Things to buy (a wish list, of sorts)
- Projects to start
- Blog posts to write
- Places to visit
- Meeting notes
- Course notes
And that’s just off the top of my head. You can store whatever you want in a bullet journal. That’s part of the beauty of it.
What can you plan in a bullet journal?
You guess it. Anything you want. Here’s what I’ve used my for:
- Weekly plans (these are called weekly spreads or weekly layouts in the bullet journal world)
- Monthly plans
A few of my personal favorites:
- Project plans
- Blog promotion plans
- blog post writing schedules
- book writing projects
- Journalettes™ to create
- Marketing plans
Bullet Journal (BuJo) as an expression of creativity
Remember that cherry on the cake I mentioned earlier?
Well, for some bullet journalers, the creative bits are more the cherry + icing + sprinkles + cream. There’s no end to how creative you can get with a bullet journal.
That’s also the reason why there are so many suggested supplies for bullet journaling.
It can be so.much.fun.
But! Also time consuming. Choose wisely.
Even if you think you’re not a ‘crafty’ or ‘artsy person, you can find simple ideas to spruce up your bullet journal if you’re into that kind of thing.
For example, hand lettering and bullet journaling go well together. See YouTuber, Shayda Campbell’s video below:
Should you start one?
If you’re already crushing it with your current planning and journaling system, why mess with it?
But if you want a kick-in-the-butt to get organized, give it a try. Start simple. You don’t have to use it to track and plan everything.
If you try doing that, you’ll likely get overwhelmed.
Just pick a few things you know you’d benefit from, and start there. You can always change things up as you go.
What bullet journal supplies do you need to get started?
You don’t need a special planner for a bujo, just any old notebook. That’s the simple answer.
This is where things can get a little outta hand. Okay, a lot outta hand. If you went down the bullet journal rabbit hold (I warned you), you’ll notice that there’s all manner of fanciness mixed with stationery addiction fueled creativity attached to bullet journaling.
There’s a never-ending supply list.
And an infinite number of ways to make your bullet journal ‘pretty’ with fancy pens and drawings and sticky things.
I get it. I have way too many pens, an abundance of washi tape (paper crafting tape), stickers, etc.
Until one day I realized I spent more time pretty-ing up my bujo than actually using it for what it is intended for: planning, storing, tracking of THINGS important things, like get out there and living an amazing life.
So I scaled back and now use a simplified version of a bujo. I can’t tell you what is best for you. Start small (I have links at the end of this post to the best resources for starting a bujo with just the basics).
Because you really only need two things to start a bullet journal:
- A notebook
- A pen
All the extra bits are, well, extra bits. They’re like ornaments or the cherry on a cake. Is a cake still delicious without the cherry? Yes!
Here are a few of my favorite supplies:
My favorite pens for journaling:
The best resource for getting started
I believe in tiny, purposeful habits. It’s easy to bounce around spending huge chunks of time looking at bullet journal spreads. You can do that if you choose, but I first suggest setting up your bullet journal by checking out the Bullet Journal creator’s detailed instructions for creating an index and examples of collections and layouts. You can find that here: Bullet Journal Core Index + Suggestions
So you know what a bullet journal is, how to start one, and if one is best for you.
If you do start one, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about it.