Toward the end of March, I discovered Bullet Journaling. I had never heard of the concept before until I stumbled across a recommended YouTube video. Don’t you find it scary too how well that little imp can, sometimes, guess what we are going to love?
I have been trying it out since and can say: I really do love it. It filled a void I’ve been latently aware of for a while but never took the time to deliberately tackle. When I saw the Bullet Journal, I instantly knew that this might be something.
What is a Bullet Journal?
If, like me, you have been living under a rock for the past year, you’ll probably wonder what a Bullet Journal is. Basically, it is a note taking system developed by New York-based digital product designer Ryder Carroll. He shares his concept on his website www.bulletjournal.com. The author himself calls it “The analogue system for the digital age.”
The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that, basically, it can be everything you want and need it to be: calendar, to-do list, notebook, journal, planner, etc. You can include whatever works for you and simply leave out what doesn’t.
The basic concept is to use bullet points to list your tasks for the day and then add some other symbols to mark what state the task is in. E.g. when you have completed the task, you cross out the bullet with an x, when you didn’t get to it and copy it to the next day, you use an arrow, and so on.
If you would like to get an overview what others are doing with their Bullet Journals, there are plenty of ideas on the web. I specifically recommend Kara’s videos on her channel Boho Berry because she has really beautiful layouts and some very good ideas, but there are many more awesome ones out there, of course.
Bullet Journal Supplies
Another beauty, I find, of the Bullet Journal system is that you don’t necessarily need fancy supplies. You can start out with a composition notebook from the dollar store and a ballpoint pen, if you like. Of course, if you would like your journal to be a little more artistic and pretty, you can spend quite some money on it. But you don’t have to. It completely depends on how you would like to do it and what your budget is.
After watching a number of videos and reading a little on the topic, I was all keen to get started and ordered some supplies. Popular notebooks in the Bullet Journal community seem to be ones by Leuchtturm and Moleskine. To be honest, I’m sure they are great and have an awesome quality, but I’m just not willing to spend 15-20+ Euros for one notebook. There are cheaper alternatives, which, I might add, I have been very satisfied with so far.
As I still had in mind that I might take this along, I went for a convenient A5-sized one.
Since I was so enthused by Kara’s layouts (all the while knowing that mine would never look like that), I took her advice and spent a little more on going for the PITT artist pens by Farber-Castell. They are definitely worth the money.
I got a package containing four black ones with different nibs (S, F, M, B). I must say I favor F for writing and the B for headings and hardly use the others. I also got a pink one size B to add a little color.
I also got a correction roller because I’m a little nitpicky and wanted to be able to correct blunders. I was glad I had it from the start because for some reason my brain thought it was November when I was doing the set up for April. Repeatedly! 😉
As I was using my Bullet Journal for a while, it became clear that I was not going to take it along. I rather wanted to track my creative work that I did at home with a pretty layout and less the menial to-dos I have during the week. But I need something for that as well. So when I browsed a stationary store during my lunch break and saw this smaller A6 notebook, I thought this might be a good addition.
The notebooks I now use cost between 5-7 EUR. And I find they are still awesome. There is little shadowing on the back of the page, which is quite important to many Bullet Journalers. They both have a pretty and durable cover, a pocket in the back, elastic band closure, and a bookmark. And they both have graph paper, which I personally find very handy for Bullet Journaling.
My Bullet Journal Layout
I enjoy adapting new methods and techniques I come across to make them my own, to find out how I can use them in exactly the way that is the most useful to me. From the start I knew that some elements people usually include in their Bullet Journals would not go into mine. Some I found very appealing.
Daily Planning/To-do Lists
My main reason for wanting to try out the Bullet Journal (on top of all the other systems I’m already using) was that I wasn’t happy with my daily planning. I’m a to-do list person and like to write everything down that I have to do. I have to think of so many things these days that I just need to get them out of my head, otherwise I forget or get stressed out trying to remember everything. But I hate having little sheets of paper flying around with half the items crossed out that are tedious to look through for what else has to be done.
I’ve been trying to do my daily and monthly planning with apps on my iPad. I don’t have anything against using apps, they do have their advantages, but it is just not working for me.
It appealed to me that Bullet Journaling is basically a day-to-day planning. You concentrate on one day and when that is over you turn to the next.
Also, I’ve had this thought for a while that it might be nice to write down some highlights of the day and do some journaling, but I never got around to do that in my notebook because that would just have taken too much time. And I need a good tracking system.
Since the daily planning was the most important aspect for me, I came up with my own daily key to remind myself what I’d like to include (if it fit) every day.
First of all, of course, my goals (or tasks) for the day. But since I tend to write down one thing and then do other things that are not on the list, I’m often frustrated because then nothing gets crossed off and it looks like nothing got done. So I added a part for things that were also done or done instead.
It seems quite typical in the Bullet Journal community to note down three things per day that you are grateful for. That didn’t particularly appeal to me, but I’ve been thinking about doing something else that I heard about a while ago: A success journal. This might be the ideal place to finally start with that. I also wanted to quickly note down when I discovered something new. My first entry here was “Bullet Journal.” 😉
And last but not least, a space for some journaling. I haven’t done that very often yet, though.
Calendar and Planner
I already have some good systems in place to plan on a broader scale. It was clear for me right away, for example, that I didn’t need my Bullet Journal as a calendar and would never enter any dates. Neither would I use it to do weekly planning. That’s what my DIY Notebook Calendar is for and much better suited at. I need to be able to note down dates months ahead, and I need enough space for entering appointments. No way could the Bullet Journal take that over any better.
However, I’m also not happy with my monthly to-do planning. That might find a place in here, although it hasn’t worked so well this first month. What works way better is the brain dump that I added later.
I also included a monthly tracker. At some point I stopped using it, but I’ll start fresh and try it again in the next month. It worked quite well at the beginning.
One idea I got from Kara that I completely love is the “Monthly Memories” page. That’s a lot of fun!
Another strength of the Bullet Journal is that it includes a lot of reflecting. Whenever a task is migrated to the next day, you can think about whether you still want to do this task or why some things did not get done the previous day.
I’m also planning to include an end-of-the-year report and a list with tasks that I would like to get done before the new year starts.
I really like looking at my daily key at the end of a day and think about whether something interesting occurred today.
The details I will still plan in my notebook, but the Bullet Journal might be good for holiday planning: meal plan, invites, shopping list etc. This might be better suited in here than in my planner.
I also included a few pages with tasks that recur yearly, weekly, and monthly so I don’t forget to include them.
Since I’m doing a photobook for each year, I usually make a list toward the end of the year what events I took pictures of. That’s usually an annoying piece of work and I frequently overlook stuff.
So I thought I could start a list in the Bullet Journal that I constantly update throughout the year.
I haven’t used the index yet aside from writing new points into it. But I’m holding on to it because I’m sure it will be useful once there is more in my journal and in case I’d like to refer back to it later.
Some people find numbering the pages tedious. I’d probably feel the same if I had set out to number the whole journal through in one go. But it works well for me to number every new page as I turn to it. This way, it takes only a split second and then I can go on.
A6 Bullet Journal
(Or: One for the Road 😉 )
As mentioned above, after using the Bullet Journal for half a month, I added a smaller A6 notebook to my system that I could take along when I was out. For this one, I use much simpler layouts. The focus is more on organizing my to-dos for the menial every-day tasks.
I find the Bullet Journal system very useful here as well. So far, there isn’t much in there. I included a brain dump, some notes, and, of course, my daily planning.
My Conclusion So Far
What I love about the Bullet Journal is the simplicity of it. While I love taking notes and writing down my thoughts in my notebook, I often simply don’t have the time for that. The Bullet Journal allows me to take quick notes and get a good overview over what I have to do. It also allows me to quickly and simply mark what has been done, what has to be migrated etc. It is simple and quick and still covers all you might possibly need. And if you need to write more at some point, you just do. It’s completely flexible and adaptable to what you need at any one moment.
I also like that you can try out different sections and different layouts and can ditch or change what doesn’t work or only include what is needed. It is very good that you don’t have to include every day but only those where stuff is happening without leaving any blank pages.
The concept is so simple and yet so ingenious!
While the concept works fine without it, I love giving some thought to my layouts. I am, however, still too much in my old mindset of putting as much as possible on a page. I’d like to take some more space for the daily entries and be creative. I’d also like to do some more drawing, doodling, and calligraphy.