What is a Bullet Journal?
You may have heard or seen the term bullet journal or bujo lately. Bullet journals have become very popular in the past few years.
Will a bullet journal work for you? We’ll look at the pros and cons, and maybe start with an explanation of what is contained in a bullet journal. For the full, official guide to bullet journaling, you need to go to the source: Ryder Carroll, author of The Bullet Journal Method.
Right now, I’ll give you the short version: a bullet journal is a notebook that lets you keep track of anything that you want to do or remember, sort of like a planner.
- You use bullet points for your entries.
- There are a series of things that you can change the bullet point into to indicate things such as whether a task was completed, if you’re waiting for a response from someone, etc. For instance, turning your bullet point into this > means that you are moving the task to another day.
- There is a “code” for these symbols, but you could just as easily make up your own.
- There is an index in the first few pages (that you create) that tells you what entry is on what page. Sort of a table of contents. Of course, you need to number your pages. There are also journals you can buy already set up for this.
- The bullet journal is meant to be short, concise, and simple.
- The “pretty” setups you see online, with drawings and elaborate designs, are not in keeping with the original intent of the bullet journal, but again, it’s your journal to make what you wish.
How Do You Begin?
Most people recommend a simple notebook – maybe one you have around the house, even if it’s partly filled. Leave a few pages between whatever is in there and your first entry, so you can start your index (or table of contents).
The notebook suggestion is a good one. It lets you try the idea of a bullet journal without an investment of any kind. Add a pen, and you’re ready to go.
Some people begin with what is called “future planning”. Think of it as the yearly calendar at the front of many planners. If you’re like me, you already have plans or appointments for the new year. I have a doctor’s appointment in March, and our dog is due for her checkup in January. This future planning section is where you would put those reminders.
The easiest way to do this is to divide your page into three columns and then number down the page to 31. Depending on the size of your notebook, you may not be able to use a line per number, so give that some consideration before you begin. And of course, you’ll need two pages, front and back, for the whole year.
Now you’re ready for your first, real entry! You may want to draw or paste in a monthly calendar here, or you could divide a page or two into a weekly spread, or just start with one day. I have a small rubber stamp that I got on Etsy that’s about 1.5″ x 1.5″ and has a blank month. I can do a weekly spread, then use that stamp to fill in the month.
So What Do You Put in a Bujo?
You can put anything you want into a bullet journal! It’s yours, and while there are rules, you still get to make up your own. What you’re basically doing is making a planner that works for you. Awesome, right?
Let’s say one week you put the whole week on two sheets, and you didn’t have enough room. Or you did have enough room, but next week is going to be extra busy. So next week, maybe you do a page per day. Or maybe the week is OK except for one day. You can put part of the week on one page, then do a whole page for the busy day, and then finish the week with the rest on another page. Make sense?
And it’s not just to-do lists and appointments, either. You could journal in your bujo. Go ahead – it’s yours. You can paint and draw, paste in pictures, whatever. Add a grocery list. Or make a whole page or two of books you want to read, movies you want to see, crafts you want to make.
If you or someone you care for has a health issue, you could use part of your journal to track symptoms. Lots of people do this. Or if you have a child on medications, you could keep track of that.
What can’t you put in a bullet journal?
Nothing. There is nothing that you can’t put in a bujo.
Let’s Look at the Pros of a Bullet Journal
I’m sure you’ve already come up with a few pros just from reading this. Let’s take a look:
- You make it the way you want it.
- If you don’t like it, you can change it anytime.
- Dates aren’t a problem. Start whenever you want.
- If you slack off for a month or two, you can pick up where you left off.
- You can put anything and everything in it.
- It can be any size you want.
- There is an abundance of information out there if you need it. I think my Pinterest board on bullet journals is the largest one I have.
I could go on and on, but for now, let’s take a look at the cons of bullet journaling.
Bullet Journaling: The Cons
As you might have guessed, I used a bullet journal for several months this year. One thing I absolutely loved about it was the size. I bought a journal on Amazon that was made for bullet journaling and it was perfect! That link leads to the exact one – even the color – my favorite! And just so you know, that’s just a link. I don’t make any money from any link I put on my site.
So, the cons:
- One of the best things about the bullet journal – you can make it whatever you want – is also the worst. There is no structure. You have to create it.
- While drawing skills are not necessary, you do need a way to add some sort of form to your pages if you are dividing them into spaces for months, weeks, or other time periods. That can be a hassle, measuring and dividing off your page and trying to make everything even and still with enough space to write.
- It’s easy to slack off. If you’re at the end of a busy week and you need to add the next one to your bujo, you might be tempted to let it slide.
- All of the drawing and decorating (just like traditional planners with stickers and washi tape) can distract you from the real purpose of the journal. On the other hand, it might make you more inclined to use it.
The lack of structure was the final straw for me. I missed paying 3 separate bills over the course of a few months and that was it. I was done. Completely forgetting to pay a bill just isn’t me. (I once called the utility company because their website wasn’t letting me pay my bill. The lady was very nice and explained that I had already paid it twice, and they weren’t going to let me pay it a third time!)
So is a Bullet Journal for You?
Still interested in giving a bullet journal a try? As I said, it’s easy and inexpensive to begin. You could even start with a few sheets of paper stapled or paper-clipped together.