Have you ever heard of a bullet journal, or bujo, as they are often called?
A bullet journal is a powerful tool that can change your life for the better. Really. No kidding.
The other day, talking about making a to-do list that works, I mentioned using a planner.
Now I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word, “planner”.
Maybe lots of cutesy stuff and stickers.
Or maybe you think of a business person with some sort of leather bound journal they carry around. Very official.
A bullet journal is nothing like either of those things.
Well, I guess it could be, if you wanted it to. But it doesn’t have to be.
So What Is It?
A bullet journal, at its simplest, is just a notebook.
It could be a spiral notebook, like kids use at school, a bound one with perforated pages (also a school type item), or most commonly, it’s a bound notebook with pages sewn in and a hard cover.
Here are some examples:
They’re usually smaller than a typical spiral notebook: 5″ wide by 8.25″ tall. A spiral notebook is 8.5″ wide and 11″ tall.
They also have a few features inside of them that make them very useful.
In addition to the elastic band closure, they will often have a pocket in the back for storing a few papers or maybe some stickers. They also come with a ribbon or two attached that can be used as a bookmark.
The best ones have numbered pages and an index and key in front. (More on that later.) And good quality paper is a must.
You can often choose between lined, dotted, or grid paper. I prefer dots.
The dots are small and light, laid out in a grid sort of pattern, and allow me to use them as lines to write on or as a guide for drawing a line or box.
I buy mine on Amazon. The ones I get are under $10 and work just fine.
What Makes it So Special?
The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can make it anything you choose, to fit your own needs. And you can change it anytime you want.
Have you ever bought a planner that had all of these pages that you just weren’t going to use? And then you felt sort of cheated, because you paid for things that you don’t need.
A bullet journal is blank. It’s yours to design the way you want.
But don’t let that intimidate you.
You’re not going to design the whole thing the minute you get it. And maybe design is the wrong word. There’s no art involved, unless you like art and want to add some.
The other cool thing about a bullet journal is that you can use it for more than just a planner.
A planner keeps track of your appointments and to-dos. You might have a section for meal planning or shopping or just notes.
You can have all of that in a bullet journal and a lot more:
- Track your weight, sleep, water – any and all of it
- Write down random notes
- Keep track of your spending or your account balance
- Write down books to read, movies to watch, recipes to try
There’s no limit to what you can put in it, other than the number of pages you have.
How Do You Start?
The idea of designing a whole notebook from scratch can sound intimidating, but it’s really not.
That’s because you create each page when you need it.
If you’re using your bullet journal as a planner, you’ll probably want a calendar to begin with.
On the following page, you might want to add some goals for the month. You could include your task list or brain dump here as well. Take as many pages as you need.
I usually divide my monthly goals by personal, work, and home, but you can do yours however you like.
After that, maybe you would like to do the first week’s spread. Most pages you create in a bullet journal (or bujo) are called spreads.
You can decide if you want the days to go horizontally or vertically. This will take two pages, so be sure you have two empty pages together. If you need some inspiration, check out Pinterest.
I like to do my days going down the page. So Monday – Thursday are four equal boxes under each other on one page and then on the facing page I have Friday – Sunday plus an extra for notes.
Index and a Key?
The beginning pages of most bullet journals contain a key and a few pages for an index.
The key refers to the symbols you will use to indicate if tasks are in progress, complete, migrated (added to a different day, usually because they weren’t done), delegated, and more.
The key is for your use and you can decide what symbols you want to use or even if you want to. Do what’s easy for you.
Usually if I’m writing a list of things to do, each line is a thing. I don’t need anything to tell me that. Sometimes I might put a little dot in front of it to make it stand out.
If I decide not to do something, I cross it off.
If it’s done, it gets a checkmark.
And if I didn’t get it done and have to move it to another day – usually the next one – I put this > next to it.
I don’t need a key and don’t use one.
The index, however, is gold.
Basically you just write whatever is on the page in the index. If this week’s meal plan is on page 15, then put meal plan and maybe the date in the index for that page number.
Maybe you want to keep some passwords and logins in your bullet journal. You can do that; it’s your journal. Just note the page number in your index.
What happens if you fill up a page with some information (like passwords) and then you need to add more, but you’ve used the pages in between?
For instance, you listed your passwords on page 17 and filled it up. But now you have more and you’re on page 36.
Simple! In your index, write Passwords 17, 36. And if you filled up pages 16, 17, and 18, just write Passwords 16-18.
How Does This Make My Life Better?
A bullet journal can make your life better in so many ways.
- It’s cheap and easy to get started. Grab a notebook you have laying around and a pen and you can try it for free.
- You can put anything and everything in it, no matter what.
- You only store what you want and need.
- Everything is easy to find because you have an index.
- Tasks don’t fall through the cracks because you’re listing them and then crossing them off when they’re done. The ones that you keep moving instead of completing tell you that you need to think about that. Is it important? Why don’t you want to do it?
- You can add doodles, stickers, glue things in – do whatever makes you happy.
- Need to switch gears fast? Have a great idea for something while you’re working on a different thing? Just turn the page and add it.
- A bullet journal gives you freedom and structure at the same time.
- You can carry one portable book around with you and use it for everything. Make notes at work, add an inspirational quote, create a cute doodle, add a reminder to send your friend a card. They’re all appropriate for a bullet journal!
Have I convinced you yet?
I have two pieces of advice for you:
- Grab a notebook and try it for a week.
- Check out Pinterest and all of the ideas. Don’t be intimidated by all of the art. That’s great if you have the time and talent, but not necessary.
What do you think? Would you try a bullet journal?
Leave a comment and let me know!