At this point, you've either done your research and dream in dots or grids and are in more than one Bullet Journaling FB group (hi), or you have no idea what this bullet journal thing is even all about. I've been trying to write this for two weeks, days come and go and Quartz runs a story, Buzzfeed buzzes, Hello Giggles chimes in. They're all doing it better than me, yet here we are. Minimal editing, lots of links (alternate title: How Many Links Can She Throw In One Blog Post?), stupid humor because I had coffee for dinner.
So. Square one. What is a bullet journal? It is part planner, part journal, part to-do list. I was originally drawn to it because I think and operate in lists. Check out the bullet journal website. You can find out exactly how the creator, Ryder Carroll, executes his journal, using dots, x's, lines, dashes, as well as 'modules' (sections), and 'spreads' (pages) to organize his life.
"Claire. What the heck. This is the most minimal thing in the world and you just posted a spread last week with dENIM WASHI TAPE THAT IS LIKE THE ANTITHESIS OF WHAT TH-"
I know. Read this post, it's the most succinct thing I've come across (by the Father of Bullet Journaling himself, no less.) You have the ability to run with it. This is my why: I disliked the inflexibility of my past planners. I would buy a new one every year, and become frustrated three months in because the layout wasn't fitting my style or I just plain wasn't using it. I love to journal, but would interrupt some serious soul-talk with a list of what I needed to get at Target the next day. I love to explore new ways to express my creativity every once in awhile, and for whatever reason, this hit some sort of sweet spot. It fulfills all three of those needs for me. The beauty of the system is that it really is all about what works for you.
Here are some reasons why I love what I created with my bujo (please note, not stylized as BJ, thankful for that)
- I focus more on doing good/important things, and not all the things (vague. try it. you'll see)
- I can dedicate four pages to one day, then take a break for a week and not feel like I wasted 1/52nd of my money and space!
- FLEXIBILITY. so much flexibility. Wow. *Insert 'get you a journal that can do both!' meme here*
And here are some of the things in my bullet journal:
- Dailies! (schedule. and more journal-y, for when my feelings are so extra)
- Weeklys! (a quick overview of important things that need to be done that week)
- Monthlies! Monthleys? Monthlys. (You get the idea)
- Devotional! Scripture I want to memorize! Inspiring quotes!
- Fitness/weight loss/food tracker! (If I'm feeling up to it. Getting too into this can be a bit much at times, you probably feel me.)
- WASHI TAPE! (Awwwww don't do it. ohmygawd.)
- Important syllabus info + spreads dedicated to major concepts in my classes!
- Encouraging words! (new spread every month because I know some pretty cool people who should really consider inspirational speaking!)
- The Fake and Totally Non-Serious List of Characteristics Any Future Mr. Lilbabydonut Should Possess by Lilbabydonut (me)! (my cousin read it, can confirm she laughed, probably out of pity, but it's fine)
- CliffsNotes versions of articles I find online that I find to be extra life-giving!
- WHATEVER THE HECK I WANT BECAUSE IT IS HONESTLY JUST A NOTEBOOK
"What do I need?"
Level One: Paper. And a pen. That's it. You can try out the layout in an old notebook hangin' around your house to see if you even like it.
Level Two: If you're in the 'dreaming in dots' camp, I would like to take this time to recommend a Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted hardcover notebook. Grid works too. I like dotted, personal preference. You can find them here or here. They've been selling out, but certain colors have been restocked periodically (Amazon works too. Didn't have a great experience the first time. But if the price is right, go for it). My favorite pen to use is a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen (S). They're three or four bucks but they last. I buy mine at Hobby Lobby.
Level Three: I add color by using Staedtler fineliner pens. I have the twenty-pack, the case turns into a little stand so they can chill with you on your desk in the cutest way, for maximum pen-grabbing action. I picked them up at Target and I'm pumped about it. I have a few rolls of washi tape too, definitely not required but so fun.
And now, the question and answer section. The bell doesn't dismiss you, I do.
Q: [sends picture] Am I bulleting right?
A: Is it working for you? CHECK YES OR NO
Q: I have a calendar, I use my iPhone notes, I have a day planner ... why do I need a bujo?
A: Listen. I don't know if it's my job to convince you. If what's working for you is currently working - GREAT! Personally, I wasn't loving my planner situation, and I love having something analog so I never really messed with iCal or the like. I will say this. I love it. It is my pet. If you are feeling unfulfilled in the journal or planner department, come with me, child.
Q: You put so much information in there in a wacky order - how do you find it later?
A: Bullet Journaling 101 - INDEXING! So exciting. The video on the website explains it. The journal I have has an index on the first few pages, but you can definitely make your own. (Just make sure to number your pages!) There's also something called 'threading' which is like indexing on speed. I haven't tried it yet but I will report back.
Q: How much time per day do you spend bulleting?
A: Most days, less than fifteen minutes. Once or twice a week, usually weekends, I 'set up' the next week and dedicate a bit more time (an hour? two?) to the spreads. It is designed for optimal productivity; all the extra time and effort I put into it is just a personal preference. In a major way, it's an outlet. I started it when I was in a really weird place. It carried me through a breakup and a move and a funk and feelings of unworthiness and incapability. Yes. A journal did this. "Key to success. I promise u" - DJ Khlaired
Q: What do you do if you mess up? I wouldn't be able to do this. I'd probably throw it away if I made one mistake.
A: Not gonna lie, I stared at my journal for a good day and a half before I did anything with it. But on the very first page, I traced a mug, made it look like a vine, and threw that Steinbeck quote in the middle: "Now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good". So true. This is like the foundation of bullet journaling. I mess up all the time. Sometimes I'll cover my mistake with a picture or postcard or washi. I have ripped out one page. Not a proud moment and I have resolved to never do that again. I have taped a page (perforated pages in the back of LT1917s!! Just found this out last week! So exciting) on top of a mess-up page. But most of the time, I just roll with it. Happy accidents. Don't let THIS be the reason you decide not to try it.
Q: How do you decide on a layout? Does it correspond to the week's activities? Is layout inspo a thing?
A: I love these questions (thanks Kelli!!). Every week, I dedicate either one or two pages to my 'weekly spread' which is just like your typical planner page (usually a chunk of lines or a box for every day of the week, with room for notes and a grocery list, something like that). Then, as ideas come to me that week, I'll set aside pages for random things, like a list of books I want to read or, recently, a spread dedicated to every item of clothing I own and a color-coded key to illustrate whether or not the item brings me joy. WADDUP MARIE KONDO. (This was helpful by the way. Tedious, perhaps. Helpful all the same.)
I decide on layouts from stalking tumblr, pinterest, and facebook. I make up my own sometimes, but I pull inspiration from others very frequently! So yes, layout inspo is most definitely a thing. I would say out of all my spreads, about half have been adapted from someone else. That's why they share them, and that's why I have been sharing mine! There are some really amazing ones out there.
Q: What are some of your favorite places on the internet to grab inspiration or ideas?
A: Now is a perfect time to talk about the Mothers / First Ladies of Bujo, Kim (Tiny Ray of Sunshine) and Kara (Boho Berry). They're amazing. Kara's youtube videos especially got me hooked on this less 'conventional', more creative side of bullet journaling. They both host handwriting challenges, which are pretty great. I've been sitting on the sidelines for months now but I think I'll jump in for July! I also love the 'studyblr' community on tumblr. This is geared more towards students, but you can adapt some of these major ideas towards work projects or personal development for sure.
There you have it. Slight sassiness aside, I am happy to answer any questions you have about my personal experience or - thought I'm not one of the experts - bullet journaling in general. Happy weekending!!!