Monday, 5 December 2016

The "Bullet Journal" system: an introduction and overview of my first BuJo

It feels like you can't go anywhere these days without coming across the Bullet Journal, but from the outside it can seem like a very strange thing. What is the Bullet Journal? Well, as described by the official website, "The Bullet Journal is a customisation and forgiving organisation system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less." In the age of digital everything, it's an analogue system. Now, of course, this system will not work for everybody. But if you're someone that thrives on physically writing things down and is hopeless with digital planners or calendars, this is a system worth trying. Additionally, the high flexibility of the system is its major advantage. Hands up if you have spent an exorbitant amount of money on fancy and pretty planners or diaries, and then finished the year with them mostly empty - I know I have!

All you need to Bullet Journal is a notebook and a pen. Don't let the Instagram posts fool you: you don't need beautiful handwriting, the ability to artfully doodle or fancy layouts. In its original form, the name makes perfect sense: it's a journal in bullet points. Whether it's something you need to do, somewhere you need to go or a note you want to write down, it all gets jotted down in a list of bullet points as you go. Simple. This system is called Rapid Logging and is the basis of the Bullet Journal.

In addition to Rapid Logging on a daily basis, there are a few more elements to the Bullet Journal. You start off with an Index, so you can find anything you want. This means that you can just fill out your journal as you go along, no "saving pages" for something or trying to put everything in order. Just put things you want to find in the Index and you'll always know where they are. At the beginning, add a Future Log, basically a "year at a glance". You use this to write down anything you have to do in the future. Each month also starts with a Monthly Log, again, as an overview of the month or where you can write down anything non-date specific.

Want to see how the Bullet Journal started? Check out this video from the creator:


Maybe that seems a little complicated and a lot of effort, but I promise it is way way easy! Now, as I said earlier, the great advantage of this system is it's flexibility. Want to keep it simple? Do it. Love doodles, hand-lettering or fancy layouts? Do it. Want to do one this week and change next week? You got it. Additionally, the Bullet Journal (or BuJo - not BJ for obvious reasons!) community has tweaked the system and added to it.

To start off this series of blog posts on the Bullet Journal, here are a few photos of my first BuJo. To start off, because I wasn't sure if I would like the system, I used a thin notebook that I had at home already. (This one was actually bought at Masquerade in Franschoek.)

bullet journal getting started supplies

On the first page, I have the key of bullet symbols that I used. The original system uses simple bullet dots for tasks but I really like check-boxes as they just feel so damn satisfying to cross off! I also used circle bullets for events, appointments or meetings and the plain bullet dot for notes. Completed tasks or events got crossed off, cancelled things got struck out. If I hadn't done a task yesterday, once I had added it to today's list it got a > mark, indicating it had been migrated to a new day.

bullet journal key symbols

Here's a peak at my index. You'll notice that I actually started this BuJo on 16 July: midway through a month in the middle of the year! You never have to wait for the "right time" to start!

bullet journal index

Here are a few examples of what my monthly logs looked like. On the left hand side, I did the traditional BuJo calendar, on the right I had a page for monthly goals (as this was when I was writing my thesis).

bullet journal monthly log goals traditional

bullet journal monthly log goals traditional   bullet journal monthly log goals traditional

Now, to keep it simple, I divided my daily pages like you would a week-at-a-view diary as it was the simplest layout that could be done quickly and allowed me to plan a few days in advance, handy for my busy thesis-writing time. Obviously, you could just do this a day at a time, using as much space as you need each day (you'll see I have some wasted space in spots.) Maybe some days you just need a few lines, maybe other days you need a half a page, or a whole page. Because you do this as you go along, there's no wasted space, and you don't need to be confined to the amount of space allocated in a bought diary. Maybe you don't feel like planning and take some time off? When you get back, just carry on from where you left off, no blank pages left to judge you! I will be showing you some alternative layouts later in the week.

As you can see, some weeks I kept things monochrome, sometimes I used coloured pencils or fineliners to add some colour, sometimes I even used watercolour. Of course, it's entirely up to you if you want to decorate your BuJo or not. I quite liked having something new to look at each week!

In these logs (click the pictures to expand them) you can see how I used my task and event bullets. One thing I also did each day was record the weather, because I'm a nerd like that. In addition to the things I did, sometimes I also added notes, maybe about my energy, my mental health that day, a little anecdote. (Clearly, I also wasn't above using a gold star sticker when I achieved a big goal!)

bullet journal daily log weekly

bullet journal daily log weekly

bullet journal daily log weekly

bullet journal daily log weekly

bullet journal daily log weekly

One thing I also loved adding to my BuJo was a monthly habit tracker. I found this helped a lot with keeping my mental health on track and helping me keep healthy habits, from not oversleeping, to drinking enough water, not eating too much, trying to get my steps in or meeting my thesis goals for the day. I played around with colour but ultimately found it easier to stick to plain black.


bullet journal habit tracker

bullet journal habit tracker

bullet journal habit tracker

bullet journal habit tracker

(Spot that productive final month when I was up at 5 am every day!)

Another great thing I like about the Bullet Journal is that you can add random things whenever you want. Here, for example, I dedicated a whole page to keeping track of the packing and moving process last month.

bullet journal

Another thing I liked to add for a bit of fun was a bookshelf: in the beginning I drew a bunch of book outlines, and then every time I finished reading a book I wrote the title in on one (note a lot of really cheesy, kinda shitty chick-lit that I used as a mental cleanser from all the thesis writing!)

bullet journal


Interested in starting your own Bullet Journal? Come back tomorrow and I'll show you how I've started to set up my new journal! Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below and I will do my best to answer them.

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