Learn how to create your first bullet journal setup. This bullet journal setup will work for you even if you are not artistic! Starting a bullet journal was the best thing I did for productivity and self improvement.
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Bullet Journal: My Planner Of Choice
After years of searching for the perfect planner to fit my needs, I found it and it is one that I get to create myself every day! When creating a bullet journal setup, I get to make it work for my needs rather than fitting my needs into something already created.
When I first saw the bullet journal, I immediately told myself it wasn’t for me. It looked like you had to be really artistic to bullet journal since all of the bullet journals on Instagram look so amazing.
Yet, failed planner after failed planner told me it was time for me to try. The things that I didn’t like about past planners were:
- Dated pages: When I skipped a day, the empty page would drive me nuts. This would result in my ultimately giving up on the planner because I didn’t want the huge gap of empty pages.
- Timed spreads: In most planners, the day is laid out according to times, resulting in the page being primarily a schedule. This didn’t really work for what I need. I tried to do things like cover up the times with stickers, but that also didn’t end up working.
- Crappy paper: I want to use fountain pens, highlighters, and markers. I don’t want to worry about pens leaking through the paper. I want to love writing in my planner.
- Not enough room for to do lists: I need to write things down or I will forget them.
- No room for notes: Along with to do lists, I need a place to keep track of things I learn and want to implement for my blog.
- No room for collections: I’ve always loved keeping a reading journal, yet that was always something I kept at home. I wished to have this in my every day journal so I could write down books to be read if I heard of a good one.
I’ve tried a ton of different planners. The ones I like the most are the Erin Condren planner and the Passion Planner. I no longer use the Passion Planner, though I do use the Erin Condren to keep track of monthly goals and if I’m completely honest I use it mostly just to decorate with stickers. My main planning goes into my bullet journals.
What Is a Bullet Journal?
A bullet journal is a notebook you setup as a self made planner. It was created by Ryder Carroll over at bulletjournal.com as a way to keep track of lots of stuff without getting overwhelmed.
The idea behind the bullet journal is to keep things all in one place in a simple, quick way. The creator calls this “rapid logging.”
Rapid logging means writing just a few words about something so you can get it in your planner quickly. This is great because in most cases you don’t have time to sit an do an entire journal entry during the day when you have other things going on, am I right?
What Supplies Do I Need For a Bullet Journal Starter Kit?
Going into a new project, you usually worry about what all the supplies are you’ll need to purchase. But in this case, all you need is a notebook and something to write with!
For real, that’s it.
It doesn’t even need to be something fancy. I’ve seen people online bullet journaling in a regular old Mead notebook that you get when the back to school sales have ten notebooks for a dollar!
Now, that wouldn’t work for me given that I want to play with my fountain pens, but it is doable.
Many bullet journalers use a dotted notebook for bullet journaling. This is what I prefer as well.
The most popular notebook I see being used online is the Leuchtturm and that’s the notebook I started out with. I love it actually. The paper is nice to write on and can hold most inks. It’s a bit off white but that works for its purpose. My favorite part about it is kind of weird and that is I like the way it lays open on my desk.
My current notebook is a Scribbles That Matter notebook. I wanted to try this one out next because the paper is thicker and white rather than off white. I also like the little doodles on the front and I am hoping they remind me to try doodling 🙂
You can use any pen or pencil for bullet journaling. I find I am more likely to stick with journaling if I use a pen I like. (See this post for more ideas on how to stay consistent with journaling). I really like the look of black ink, so the pen I choose to use in my bullet journal most of the time is the Tombow Mono Drawing pen in size 03. I also like to use other similar pens such as the Sharpie pen, the Microns, and of course my fountain pens.
I have to admit I am a pen addict though, so if you want to keep up to date with what I am using in my journal, check out my Amazon Bullet Journal Supplies Store.
Although there are a ton more supplies you could use, I will stick with these for now. I will tell you what I’ve used in my pages throughout this post in case you want to get a bit more creative.
Pages of a Bullet Journal Setup
There are several parts that can make up a bullet journal. I will start with the skeleton and then show you some other things you can create for your bullet journal setup. Note: the whole point of this is to create something that is useful for you, so if you find you don’t need some of these pages, don’t make them!
The index is the table of contents of your notebook and helps you to be able to quickly go back to something in your journal as well as to look at what is in your journal at a glance.
YAY because that would be kind of a pain otherwise.
The index may also include a key to show what different symbols mean in your bullet journal. In the picture, you can see in my bullet journal a bullet means task, a “o” means event, a “>” means migrated, a “*” means important, and a “-” means note. Some people also use color coding for their entries.
Stickers on the Index and Key page of my bullet journal are from the following shops:
The Future Log
The next spread in the bullet journal is typically the future log. The purpose of a future log is to show you a few months in advance so that if you have upcoming appointments or other things to remember. In the bullet journal you typically create either a day or a week at a time, which doesn’t leave room for future appointments.
The future log takes care of this by showing you a few months in advance. Here is an example of the future log I created today. As you can see, it shows a period of six months. I used stickers from Erin Condren to show the months with the dates on them. You could draw those yourself if you wish to, or you could choose not to have that at all if you don’t need them.
I started to draw the calendars myself but didn’t like how they looked so I slapped stickers over them. It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes knowing there are options to fix your mistakes. Or you could just leave them!
The Bullet Journal Monthly Spread
After the future log comes the monthly spread. This is a page that shows the days of the month along with anything you need to do during the month. Since you don’t plan ahead far in your bullet journal, it’s nice to have your month at a glance.
Here is the example I created for you using the system created by bulletjournal.com:
As you can see, I wrote all of the days and dates for the month in a vertical column. Then I put some future appointments or things to remember by the date. I tend to only put important things to remember in a monthly spread.
There are many other options for doing a monthly spread. You could draw your spread similar to what you would see on a regular month calendar for instance. You could also use a sticker like I did in the future log. Your own creativity is the limit here.
I could see skipping this page altogether and just putting these important dates on the future log since I don’t have a ton of extra special appointments to keep track of each month. Also I find the act of planning my week every week keeps these things front and center.
Many people also put a task list related to their monthly spread in this section. What I’ve done in the past is put my huge to do list altogether in this section and then when I prioritize my tasks for the day I migrate tasks from the overall list over to my dailies. I will talk about migrating in the next section.
Bullet Journal Dailies
Your daily spreads are where you work in real time on your day. As you can see, I only did yesterday and today in my new journal. When doing a bullet journal, you create it as you go because you don’t know how much space each page will need.
Dailies show your plan for the day and can include things like tasks, events, and notes. In fact, the bullet journal system has different bullet marks for each of these.
- A bullet is equal to a task
- A “o” is used for events or appointments.
- A “-” is used to indicate a note
These can be broken down or signified further by using a signifier. To simplify this, a signifier is just an alert to pay attention to something about a bullet entry. For instance, a “*” could be used to show that something is important or that it takes priority. A “!” could indicate inspiration. A drawing of an eye could indicate something needs to be looked into further. (These symbols are the ones used at bulletjournal.com).
You could also use colors. I often use a highlighter to highlight the most important tasks on my list to alert me to what I need to be working on.
I’ve found this system to be incredible in helping me to stay on task with my goals and to follow my Essentialism (book) practice during the day.
The simple system of putting a symbol by items (most of mine are bullets so are tasks I need to complete) helps me to weed through things easily.
It is super satisfying when you complete a task and get to X out that dot. You turn your little dot into an X when you are done with a task. LOVE THIS PART.
What If There Are Leftover Tasks In My Bullet Journal?
So I mentioned you turn your bullet into an X when you are done with a task, but what happens to the other things still left on your list?
One of beautiful things about bullet journaling is that it forces you to be mindful of your tasks and goals because if you are going into a new week or month you will want to review all of the things that are not complete and migrate the ones you still need to do and cross out the ones that are no longer relevant or important.
I love that the original bullet journal website states if you don’t feel it is important enough even to write down again, cross it out! You don’t need to do that one.
So, if you find something is no longer important you cross it out including crossing out the bullet. You draw a line through the entire line.
If you need to move or migrate it to your new list you use “>” which acts as an arrow showing you the task was moved forward.
I love this method of reviewing tasks. It feels very intentional to review in this way.
That said, I do not migrate from day to day. If I can still see it, I just go back to that day and do the task from there. If I am turning a page, I migrate.
Bullet Journal Collections and Lists
Now comes the fun part and something that is missing from most other planners.
You see, since there’s no structure, you get to decide what is in your bullet journal. You can add collections and lists of whatever you feel like keeping in there. A couple of examples I started in my new bullet journal are a line a day where I write one line about each day and “I’m grateful” in which I write two things every day I am grateful for.
Collections can also be things like books to read, movies to watch, things you enjoy. Lists could be favorite recipes, keywords to use in blogging, etc. The sky really is the limit. Here are 145 ideas for collections and lists you can add to your bullet journal!
I hope you will try out a bullet journal. It has been life changing for me. That is not an exaggeration. For the first time in my life I feel organized and as if I have everything I need to remember with me every day. It has also allowed me to be creative on a daily basis. I just love it. I hope you will feel the same. If you feel a little overwhelmed, you could start with this Bullet Planner, which is like a premade bullet journal. It has some pages already made and you just fill them in.
Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.