Self Organization

Could a Bullet Journal Solve All Your Planning Problems?

Have you heard of a bullet journal?  Maybe you’ve seen images of them floating around on Pinterest or you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned mine a few times here on the blog.  Maybe you have one of your own or you’re wondering what all the fuss is about.  Well, let me tell you about how my bullet journal has made my life happier and more organized!

For some reason, I have a love for all things planning.  When I taught, I enjoyed planning units much more than actually teaching them.  Planning new projects for this blog are fun for me.  The beginning of a new year, month, week or even a new day are exciting because I can write down my plan of action.  And don’t even get me started on list-making!  Yes, I am a giant dork.

But there was a slight problem- I tend to be a planner junkie and I would buy one or two (or more!) planners each year, never finding just what I was looking for.  There wasn’t enough space to write out my daily tasks.  I didn’t like the way the calendar was set up.  I needed more pages to write down other tasks and lists that I wanted to keep together.  Ultimately, I would get frustrated with my planner and quit using it.

Enter the bullet journal.

Simple daily page for a bullet journal

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What is a bullet journal?

Watch this video to get an idea of what the original intent of the bullet journal is.

Ryder Carroll developed the system and people flocked to the idea.  I remember I started seeing bullet journal “spreads” popping up on Pinterest and I thought they looked cool and so many are very creative, but initially I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid.  Many of the spreads (conjoining pages in an open journal) I saw were super fancy with beautiful doodles and handwriting and immaculate schedules and lists.  Artsy has never been a word that describes me, so I just moved on thinking that bullet journaling wasn’t for me.

But those silly pins just kept appearing in my Pinterest feed until one day I decided to investigate further.  And what do you know?  Within a week I had started my own bullet journal (or BuJo to many in the bullet journal community).

One pretty awesome thing about a bullet journal is that you can start it whenever you want!  When I started my first journal, it was in the middle of the week in September.  You don’t have to wait for the beginning of a year or month to start- just start where you’re at!

Weekly spread for a bullet journal

Who should bullet journal? 

As I researched more (see that planner in me coming out?) I discovered that you don’t have to be super artsy to use a bullet journal.  You can have chicken scratch writing and the artistic abilities of a 1st grader like me and still have a functional, fun bullet journal.  Or you can up your creativity game, get brave and try something new.

The main goal of a bullet journal is to have a flexible system in place for organizing and planning your life.  Like I said before, many pre-made planners just didn’t give me what I was looking for when planning out my months and weeks.  I wanted more space to write and didn’t need some of the features that came in my planners.  With a bullet journal, I can have the exact planner I want.

Bullet journaling is for anyone that wants to plan and organize their life and wants to do it on their own terms.  No longer do you have to fit inside a pre-made planner box, you are free to plan the way you want!  Can I get an “Amen!”?

The most freeing thing for me was to realize that you don’t have to be a certain type of person to bullet journal.  You can spend as much or as little time as you want on your journal each day.  For some, their journal is their creative outlet and they enjoy creating elaborate pages.  Others just like the functionality of a bullet journal and theirs are very simple.  I do a little bit of both, depending on my mood.  The beauty of bullet journaling is that it’s your journal and you can be yourself.

Daily spread for bullet journal

What do you need to start a bullet journal?

Now you might think all that sounds like fun, but the pictures of bullet journals you’ve seen on Pinterest and Instagram look pretty intense.  That can’t be cheap, right?

With the bullet journal, you can spend as little or as much on it as you’d like!  When I started my first journal, I pulled out an old lined notebook that I hadn’t used before and some pens I had lying around my house.  I knew that I have a tendency to start things and not see them through, so I wasn’t willing to spend money on a fancy journal or pens just to quit a few weeks in.

In fact, even after I realized that bullet journaling was going to stick around in my life, I made myself work to get the supplies I really wanted.  As one of my weight loss goals, I made myself lose 10 pounds before I could buy my Leuchtturm 1917 dotted notebook and a pack of Sharpie pens.  Still, several months later, those are the only real supplies I’ve purchased for my journal.  Every once in a while I will use colored pencils, but I already had those, so they weren’t an added expense.  Another must-have that you probably already have in your house is a ruler.  Unless you can draw a perfect straight line freehand.

I’m pretty basic in my bullet journaling, but others add in Washi tape, stickers, stamps, watercolors, fountain pens and other fancy pens to their journals.  I say if that’s the direction you want to go, go for it!  Like I’ve said before, this is YOUR journal, so do you!

Monthly habit tracker for a bullet journal.

What should you put in a bullet journal?

With a bullet journal, it’s a blank book so you decide what you want to put in it.  Many people start with calendars.  I never knew there were so many different ways to make a calendar until I started journaling!  You can have yearly calendars, monthly calendars, a weekly spread showing appointments and errands for the week and daily pages with tasks for each day.  Personally, I focus on a monthly calendar, a weekly spread and a daily spread.  I have a yearly calendar in the front of my journal and I really haven’t ever used it, but that’s just me.

In addition to my monthly, weekly and daily pages, each month I add in pages to track my habits, my exercise and triathlon training, my weight and measurements, prayer requests and gratitude.  Those are my monthly staples.  I’ve stuck with them for a few months, and for now, that’s what I like to plan and keep track of.  And since nothing is set in stone in a bullet journal, I could change it all next month if I wanted to without any hassle.

Another popular piece of the bullet journal are collections.  Collections are pages dedicated to whatever you want them to be.  You might have a list of movies you want to see, books you want to read, family birthdays you don’t want to forget, gift lists.  I could keep going, but really, just search “bullet journal collections” on Pinterest or Google and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.

Personally, I’ve taken my time with collections since moving into my new journal.  I have a few collections dedicated to blogging and stats, a spread with our debt snowball and Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, books I want to read, and my weight loss journey.  In my old journal I made a page to track my Couch to 5K training, which was fun.

Financial spread using Dave Ramsey's debt snowball and baby steps for a bullet journal

Where to find bullet journal resources

There are many places you can look for information and inspiration when it comes to bullet journaling.  When I first started out, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and Instagram getting ideas.  I also found some bloggers that share fantastic ideas on their blogs.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite resources.

BulletJournal.com is the official headquarters of bullet journaling and where it all started.  Look here for Ryder Carroll’s “no frills” bullet journal ideas.

I found Kara from Boho Berry on Pinterest and she has some fantastic information about how to start a bullet journal and make it your own.  She was the inspiration behind much of my early journaling.

The Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group was a big help, especially when I first started.  The group moves fast and I’ve since hidden it from my newsfeed, but it is a great resource full of helpful people and ideas for spreads.

Pinterest is the promised land for all things bullet journaling.  My suggestion is to search “bullet journal” and then choose “Boards” to find some of the best in the bullet journaling community.  You’ll never run out of ideas, that’s for sure!  You can also follow my Pinterest bullet journal board.  I’m always adding to it!

Instagram also has an active BuJo community.  Try searching the hashtags #bulletjournal #bujo #planwithmechallenge and #wearebujo just for starters.

So there you have my intro to bullet journaling!  What do you think?  Is this something you might like to try?  Are you already journaling?  I would love to hear what you’re doing and see your pictures!  Leave a comment or head over to my Facebook page and show me your journal!

Do you want to get (and stay) organized but can't find the right planner? Click to learn about the bullet journal.

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