(or: BJ 101, if ya nasty)
Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a Bullet Journal expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, I’m legit obsessed, so I’ve learned a fair bit in the three months I’ve been doing it. At the request of a few friends who were curious about the spreads I’ve been posting to my Instagram, I thought I’d put together a summary of what I’ve learned so far.
WTF is a Bullet Journal?
Bullet Journaling is a note-taking system created by Ryder Carroll. It uses different bullets to signify notes, tasks, and events so that you can (in Ryder’s words), “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”
Before you continue reading this post, I’d recommend watching this video from the official Bullet Journal website. The video lays out the basics of the system, including indexing, indicators (i.e., the three different bullet styles), and logs (e.g., monthly logs).
Why I Love Bullet Journaling
I’m someone who needs to-do lists to get anything done. Without them, my thoughts resemble a really messy yarn stash; everything is jumbled together, tangled, and overwhelming. I have a terrible memory (made worse in recent years as I recover from PTSD), so if i don’t write something down, it doesn’t happen.
Before I read about bullet journaling (BBJ, if you will), I was using a standard planner to track deadlines and to-do lists. My system included a large, lined post-it note with the week’s to-do list, which would then be sub-divided and written into the space for a specific day:
Although the method worked reasonably well, some days I needed a lot more space. I also hated my planner was separate from the rest of my notes, so I either had to carry two books around, or transfer items from one book to another after a meeting.
So when I first saw a post about the Bullet Journal system on Revelist, it was like a lightbulb moment for me. I loved that it was so flexible and that you could have everything in one place.
Bullet Journal Tools
The Bullet Journal system works with any notebook. I started out in a Moleskine grid notebook, figuring that the grid would help me with drawing some of the layouts I had in mind. I quickly found that the grid was too much for me and kind of overpowered anything I drew. I also (somewhat irrationally) hated having to number every page so that I could use the index.
I did a bit of reading and found out that the Leuchtturm 1917 dot-grid notebook seems to be the notebook of choice for many Bullet Journal enthusiasts. It comes with index pages and pre-numbered pages, and the dot-grid is a lot less intrusive than the standard grid in my Moleskine. After a few weeks of obsessing over it, I finally broke down and bought one, relegating my old Moleskine to a practice notebook that I use for getting the hang of new layouts.
Pen (also duh)
Pen-wise, I’d just been using whatever (black ink) pen was rolling around in the bottom of my bag, but it bothered me how a lot of them showed through the other side of the page or smudged really easily.
When I found out (via Kara over at Boho Berry) that the ink in the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist pens is waterproof, I was sold. I’m forever spilling water and coffee onto everything I own, so it was good to know that a water bottle mishap in a meeting wouldn’t ruin all of my hard work.
I’m partial to the S size, which is 0.3mm. I have three pens in that size: one that stays in my purse with my journal, one that stays in my desk at home, and one that stays in my desk at work. That way, I always have my preferred pen when I’m writing, no matter where I am.
Also, yes, I realize that does make me kind of insane.
My Bullet Journal Tips
Here are some tips from what I’ve learned so far:
- Always have spares of your favourite pen. See the Pen section above for a full description of my ridiculousness in this area.
- Practice your layouts in an old notebook. That’s what I use my Moleskine for now, and it’s really been helpful so that I don’t waste precious space in my Leuchtturm. It really helps me figure out exactly how much space I need.
- Learn from the experts. In particular, I really love the videos that Kara at Boho Berry posts. I sit and watch them while I eat breakfast, and I’m consistently amazed and inspired by her beautiful layouts.
- Figure out what works for you. It took me many, many iterations to figure out what worked for me:
- While I love looking at the beautiful, colourful layouts that other people make, I prefer to use black ink almost exclusively, and then just use color-coded bullets in my future log to keep track of birthdays, appointments, etc.
- I like my day-specific stuff in my weekly log to be on the left, with the time-specific on the right. Much like the date format preference, I have no explanation for why, other than that it makes more sense to me.
- I prefer the simple bullets from Ryder Carroll’s video to the checkboxes that I’ve seen in a lot of spreads. I feel like the X stands out more over the bullet than it does in the box.
- My daily logs are really plain, with the date at the top and then a task list below, often using the same spread for the entire week. I tried lots of different, more ornate things, but in the end, I found that this (admittedly boring) method gave me the most flexibility.
My Bullet Journal Spreads
You can see some of my spreads in the slideshow below. Most of them were inspired by or adapted from pages I’ve seen on Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. I’ve blurred out anything that’s overly personal or embarrassing, but hopefully they still give you some ideas:
If you decide to try any of my layouts or tips, definitely comment below or tag me on Instagram (bookhousegirl) or Twitter (juliempalmer). I’d love to see what you come up with!