How to start a Bullet Journal

I am a member of several groups on Facebook about bullet journaling and one of the most asked questions is how to start. Followed probably by how to you get them to look so pretty.

I think we need to stop right there and pause for a second. I do not believe a bullet journal should be about making it pretty. It is first and foremost a functional tool. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be both functional and pretty. Yet, often there are comments on forums about how people have started, made it overly complicated and then find they are not sticking to it. You need to make a bullet journal work for you. If you then have five minutes to spare where you want to add decoration to it that is fine also.

This blog is intended to be a step by step guide to how to start a bullet journal.

  1. Pick up a bullet journal, if you have an old notebook lying around use that for now. Dotted is a popular choice, but I personally prefer grid. Lined works well to and you can always just a ruler to insert squares into a lined journal until you find a method you prefer.
  2. First watch the original bullet journal video!
    It will help you understand what it is.
  3. You can also check out the webpage: bulletjournal.com
  4. Start with your future log, count the number of squares on your page, divide by three. Draw lines and equally divide the page into thirds. Once done, repeat so all 12 months are covered. Next label them and add any events you already have for the months.
  5. Then start with your month. List all the days of the month in and then the corresponding initial of the day of the week. Write tasks in.
  6. Now on the next page write your monthly tasks.
    Note: This is where I differ slightly from the original. I don’t have a monthly task list.
  7. Next, either on a new page or underneath your monthly task list write today’s date.
    Fill out any appointments you have to do that day, any tasks, maybe some notes from your day. You can also journal. This is where you personalise it to your heart’s content. Maybe you are really bad at house cleaning and want to be motivated to do it more – write it down. It’s very satisfying to tick them off. When you have a task you need to do, write it straight away in your journal, otherwise you may forget. It’s handy to always have it open on the desk. If you are really bad at checking your planner try setting an alarm or a reminder to force you to check. It’ll become habit with time. At the end of the day tick off all the tasks you’ve done (you can do this as you do them too).
  8. Writing out the next day. Now this is completely up to you – you can do it first thing in the morning or last thing the night before. I tend to do it in the morning, unless I have an appointment. If I have an appointment I like to prep the night before, make sure I have the right details, know where I am going, maybe confirm the appointment is still on. Then proceed to the next day. A really important point to make is that if you have tasks from the previous day, don’t migrate them over to your new day. Just look back through your planner and see the open tasks you need to do. Then complete them. If you have a stressful day and really just want to focus on a simple list you must complete for the day – then I recommend writing down tasks again, and migrating them to today’s list. This will keep you focused and on task for the day.
  9. After your first month you can access how the bullet journal worked for you. Maybe dailies are really you thing and you would like to migrate to a weekly view, then you can start creating weekly layouts in your journal. Maybe you find you have tasks that repeat themselves almost daily, and rather than rewrite it out each day you could have a weekly tracker at the start of your week. Maybe you find some gift ideas you’ve randomly dotted in your lists could actually go on a separate page – in which case create a collection.
  10. That’s basically the basics of a bullet journal. The most fancy I get is changing out the ink in my fountain pen to a new colour every month. If you want to be more creative and use washi tape or colour in things – great go for it, but remember to stick to the basics of a journal. Sometimes journals can be great for when you are battling with depression. I didn’t always have places to go or people to see – but I could complete basic tasks, even if it was just brushing my teeth, making lunch and washing my hair. Baby steps helped me to become more human and work my way back into a normal routine. Maybe you use your for a photo diary and print a photo off everyday and journal a bit about your day. Use it to plan your dream holiday, your wedding, you academic studies. The trick is to find a way to make it work for you. But in doing that process don’t look at other people’s pages and feel intimidated.

Finally, the most important process I cannot stress enough is just use your planner. It doesn’t have to be perfect – life is not perfect. So you smudge your ink or you miss something off, you spell something wrong. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean your journal is suddenly terribly. I know that some people have OCD and a desire to be perfect but it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things – you make a mistake but tomorrow or the next day you’ll flip the page over and probably never see it again. There is a Japanese concept called Wabi-sabi, which encourages people to see the imperfections in life and to celebrate them. Imperfections make things unique and special. Maybe writing February wrong one month will give you a bit of a laugh in a few months time. Maybe your toddler took a pen to your page and ruined it – or maybe they left you a little picture you will cherish in a few years time. Embrace these things and have fun.

 

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