Ever feel stressed and tired? Worn out from trying to keep track of all you need to get accomplished, and feeling as if you have no time to reflect on and work towards personal goals? Wondering how to do all the many things you have due dates for in a timely manner? Unfortunately, this is a common feeling amongst anyone who is burdened with responsibility, but don’t underestimate the power of a few simple tasks that might help set everything back into perspective.
When we write, we are practicing a form of organization that is easy to translate into a therapeutic technique. Journaling, in any form, is particularly helpful and can help you make sense of all you need to do and work towards what you want to do. If you have been considering starting a bullet journal, now has never been a better time. Below, we explore exactly what this technique is and how it can be best applied to your own needs.
What is a Bullet Journal?
A Bullet Journal, known as a BUJO in some circles, is an analog system created by a New York Designer to help you live a more organized and productive life. It is a way to help keep track of past events, stay on top of current plans, and help you meet goals for the future in a way that makes sense to you, the creator. It can serve as a calendar, task manager, quote catcher, reflective space, sketchbook, or anything else that helps you reflect your thoughts and needs.
The idea behind journaling, in general, is to help turn the chaos of everyday life into a coordinated, streamlined system. Specific areas of organization can help you keep track of a wide variety of things to help reduce stress and allow you to reflect to improve your own personal productivity.
Unlike more traditional journaling methods, Bullet Journaling methods are specific in encouraging the creator to reflect on how they feel about their goals and tasks. These reflections provide you a way to track your own thoughts through various times of your life, which is therapeutic as it is happening, and allows you to reflect back in the future.
Benefits of Bullet Journaling
You don’t have to be a writer to reap the benefits of this practice. The word journal may bring to mind hours of writing while you pour out your soul into the blank page of a book, but this isn’t middle school, and while keeping a diary of your deepest, darkest secrets and concerns is a helpful mental process, it might not help with keeping track of what needs to be taken care of.
Putting things down on paper allows us to declutter our minds, see tasks in a new manner, keep track of goals, and process responsibilities in a different way. The following are all the benefits you may experience when you begin this process:
Keeps Things Organized
Keeping track, physically, of what matters can help clear clutter from your mind, help remind you of what is important, and allows you to stay focused. Allowing yourself to create a visual of your week and month in advance also helps you see where you can be most productive, and it doesn’t take long to get efficient at how you use your time.
Encourages You to Complete Tasks
Many times we forget about tasks we need or want to complete simply because we ran out of time or moved onto something we felt was more important at the moment. Getting started on a task and providing documentation of the time spent and the time needed can allow you to stay focused when you are able.
Encourages You to Set Goals
Everyone keeps those unfocused goals floating around in the back of their mind, often making excuses about the time they don’t have, or forgetting their objective when they do. A journal allows you to make headway of these types of focuses to visualize what steps are needed to get started.
Helps Declutter Your Mind
The simple act of writing down your past, current, and future events allow you to release stress and anxiety you may not even know you may be carrying. Reflecting on past events helps you clarify their importance or move on, keeping track of current and future events keep you from having to try and remember and the worry of forgetting something can be let go.
Inspires Critical Thinking
The entire process of writing and writing an organization increases critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This translates across your studies and involvements to help make you a more efficient learner.
Your journal is your own. Everything from the intro pages to every entry you make should be reflective of who you are. Even if you don’t feel like you are creative, how you lay things out to make sense to you, the colors you use, the space you write within- all are reflective of your own preferences.
Is Customizable to Your Needs
Although this article covers a lot of information and suggestions, a bullet journal is totally customizable. You only need to pick and choose what you feel is important, and you can always add, or take out, what isn’t working for you.
What’s Included in a Bullet Journal?
Most journals include a title page, index, and a series of ‘collections’ that help organize your daily, months, and future plans and goals. They may include a legend for your own reference points, poems, quotes, drawings, graphic organizers, notes, tasks, or anything else you can think of to personalize your own work.
What is important to note is that these are designed to help you organize yourself and should be personal and flow with your needs. You don’t have to adhere to any specific style or organization, but rather take what makes sense and leave the rest.
Essential Journal Page Ideas
The following ideas are mentioned to help you consider what needs you might want to be addressed and included in your own creation. These were very helpful to me when I started to research the differences between bullet journaling and regular diary, or journal keeping.
- Title Page
- Daily Tasks and Notes
- Weekly and/or Monthly Plans
- Meal Planning
- Lists (Books to Read, Subjects to Learn, etc…)
- Wish Lists
- Habit Creator
- Progress Charts
- Weight Trackers
- Monthly Review
- Trip or Special Occasion Planning
- Chore Charts
- Learning Lists
- Things to Buy
How Do You Get Started?
Other than the obvious, such as a blank journal, pens or pencils, and maybe some sticky notes or index tabs, you should start with your own mindset of the process. These journals act as a guide to help become more organized and allow you to keep focus in this hectic, crazy world. Although they may not be for everyone, the great thing is that you can take or leave any suggestions and apply them where you feel it is needed.
You want to first determine what this journal is going to do for you; namely, what is its purpose? Ask yourself some specific questions to help you narrow down your expectations for this process. Such as:
- What do I want this to do for me?
- What do I want to accomplish?
- What are my journaling expectations?
- How am I going to make this experience effective?
Going in with some expectations in advance can help you get yourself organized from the start to be efficient in your journaling use, and get the most out of it from day to day.
Getting started isn’t at all difficult, but does require a little bit of forethought. I will admit I was a little overwhelmed with getting my own started, but inline tutorials like this were very helpful. Setting up the beginning pages and deciding what I wanted included and what I wanted it all to look like took some trial and error. It also can become a bit tedious if you are trying to do a lot at once, so I suggest breaking things into sections. I more or less organized mine by seasons, although I didn’t even really know I was doing that until I started creating my index.
How to Start a Bullet Journal: A Step by Step Guide
What I found when creating my own journal was the setup is tedious. I looked at a bunch of online examples and despite being a pretty creative person, my own looked nothing like these professional bloggers. And then I remembered these were photo set-ups and are most likely not reflecting a well-used journal.
Keep in mind what you are creating is supposed to be well used. That means that you may jot things down on the run, may not have time to make perfect lines, may include writing in the margins, and may not be color-coded or look ‘pretty’! Do not compare YOUR journal to another’s, and you will be much happier.
What You Need
Truly all you need is a pen and a notebook to get started, but if you already have something of a vision of what you want, these are the things I had handy when I decided to give this a goal. This allowed me to start personalizing my pages from the start and kept supplies near at hand so I didn’t have to go looking for them.
A blank journal or sketchbook
There are journals made specifically for bullet journaling that have guidelines on the page to help you with organization. I don’t like pre-made lines on a page, so I picked up a small pack of three sketchbooks. I also don’t want to carry around a large journal, and these were a perfect size to tuck into my purse.
Markers, pens, pencils
Color is my thing and I decided to have a good selection handy for titling my pages and creating a personalized touch.
Sticky notes, sticky tabs
I’m a sticky note type of girl and being able to make note of something and put it in the journal so I remember to complete a task or pick up something from the store is a great way to avoid their loss. And then once the task is complete I can just toss it!
A ruler, scissors, glue
Basic necessities like a ruler, scissors, and glue will definitely come in handy while you start organizing and making your journal your own.
Paperclips are a great way to make a fast and easy tab for specific page readiness. They also come in handy to clip together pages you might be done with, or are no longer using.
Step 1: Create Your Title Page
You don’t have to do this, but seriously, if you have gotten this far you know you want to create something. In my case, my title page became a doodling work in progress due to an unfortunate inkblot. The beginning pages are there to help guide you through the rest of the process, so don’t worry if you find you are wanting to change it, add to it, or get rid of it altogether.
Step 2: Create Your Index
I suggest designating the first few pages to your index but don’t fill it out until the rest of your journal begins to take form. I had plans and ideas and they all changed the minute I started to organize the pages. I also suggest you leave room for future additions!
Step 3: Number Your Pages
Numbering your pages may be tedious, but getting this chore out of the way gives you a good idea of the amount of space you have to work with. As I started designating sections to certain collections I found I wanted less or more room than what I originally had decided upon.
Step 4: Create Your Collections
Remember, these are personal, but you will want to provide room for daily and future plans. I printed small calendars to allow me to have a month at a glance for important dates and then broke down space for more detailed day to day information.
Start by making a list of what you want included and then sort according to what makes sense and importance. I placed my monthly and daily planning towards the front and then followed up with other collections. This is where tabs or paperclips can come in hand for easy page-turning.
I also choose a collection that works with future goals, ideas for meals, travel, exercises such as yoga and running, savings, etc… You may want to create a remembrance page for funny things that happened, or milestones your children have made.
Step 5: Organize Your Collections and Update Index
Once you have your collections in order you can start designating pages, labeling, and updating your index. Don’t worry if you are learning as you go along- you may find that you want things organized differently the next time, or feel like you could have new or different selections. It doesn’t hurt to leave room in the journal for adding new stuff or expanding certain collections.
Step 6: Optional Legend Page
Some people like to create a legend or systematic color coding to help designate the importance of specific things- such as events, due dates, goals, etc… This is entirely up to you and you may find that it is an appealing idea as the journal takes shape.
Step 7: Utilize!
You don’t even need to be completely done with your journal set up to start using it. I brainstormed ideas and left room for new collections and sections all while using my planner sections to get me through a busy holiday season.
If you have been wondering how to make or organize a bullet journal, hopefully, this article has explained the process behind the entire idea. The best advice I read when researching this was to take what I wanted and leave the rest, and so I leave you with this through as well: this journal is your creation, for you to use, and for you to see. It is NOT for anyone else and unless you are creating a photo-op for payment, it isn’t supposed to be perfect.
As you can see, mine is a well-used tool, mistakes, doodles, sloppy handwriting, and quick notes included. I am still learning and feel that once you get past the initial hesitation of how to organize and what to include it begins to come together nicely.
You may visit here for additional bullet journaling tips and tricks.
If you have any questions, or tips to share, please do so below. And, as always, please share our ideas!