To whoever is reading this, thank you for your interest in my bullet journal! My intention with this blog post is to help you get started with your own. Every time I post a journal related photo on Instagram I am flooded with messages asking how I got started, what I use, how I plan layouts etc….
So I’m going to use this post mainly to answer those questions I’m frequently asked, as detailed as possible so that you all can have a reference if you’re interested in starting your own. I will preface this by saying, I am not the only resource out there! There is a huge amount of information online about bullet journaling as its recently become very mainstream. Pinterest is a great place to start. I will also say that I have a really in depth post about all the materials I use and the basics behind bullet journaling as well. You can find that post here.
Okay, let’s get started!
Q: How is bullet journaling different than regular journaling?
A: Bullet journaling is centered completely around bullets. There is a mark for every kind of task, event, appointment, etc. The best thing you can do when you start is to establish a key with different “bullets” or marks, to help you keep track of your tasks. See below –>
Q: What is a bullet journal and who uses them?
A: -People who have a million little to-do lists floating around
– People who like pen and paper to-do lists
– People who are into goal-setting and habit tracking
– People who like stationery, journaling, scrapbooking, beautiful pens, etc.
– People who really love planners
– People who want to really love planners, or who want to be more organized
– People who would really like to keep a journal/diary but are having trouble sticking with the habit
Obviously none of these are required to start bullet journaling but if any of these sound like you, definitely keep reading!
Q: How did you get started bullet journaling?
A: I’ve always kept journals since I was in middle school but I found I was never able to stay consistent, and sometimes writing my thoughts or general happenings didn’t satisfy my creative needs. I started bullet journaling in my junior year of college in a mini Field Notes notebook. I always kept a planner but I never felt like it was “enough” I was always scrawling in the margins trying to keep my thoughts in one place; having a journal, planner, and to-do lists floating around made me a little crazy. I saw all kinds of articles about bullet journaling on Pinterest and decided to try it. When I started I used it mainly for habit tracking and keeping track of due dates for school.
Q: What notebook do you use?
A: I use a Moleskine Dotted Softcover. It’s flexible, portable, and durable. I always opt for softcover notebooks as they’re lighter and easier to manipulate. The model I have can be found here.
Q: I feel like I don’t have enough “stuff” to put in my journal, any tips?
A: This is a question I probably get asked most often. I had the same issue starting out and the answer is two-fold:
- Write. Down. Everything. I mean it, every thing you have to do during the day. I’m talking, “eat breakfast” “make bed” “Walk dog” “Shower”. The productive emotions that come with crossing things off a list, no matter how small, will help you get a sense of what you want to keep organized and will in turn help you stay productive throughout the day.
- Don’t give up. My bullet journal did NOT start out where it is now. My routine with my journal has taken years to perfect (yes, years) and you get out what you put in. It takes a lot of trial and error to decide what you want your journal to be. A planner? A sketchbook? A set of to-do lists? All of the above? Use resources online to help you find inspiration! A lot of my spreads and ideas have been inspired by what others have done.
Q: When/how do you plan your spreads?
A: As you’ve probably seen on my Instagram, I do weekly and daily spreads. I work a full time job and don’t have to sit down in the mornings to plan every spread. I dedicate one night a week to plan ahead my spreads. I’ll leave them as empty templates and then fill them in throughout the week. Think of it as a “build-it-yourself” planner. I am a creative person so I need that outlet one way or another, so dedicating a couple hours a week is easy for me because it helps me relax. It took me a while to nail down what I include in my spreads but each spread should include a few key pieces: to-do list, calendar, upcoming dates, important memos, misc. This pretty much covers all the bases and even if it’s a little sparse you’ll get a good look at what you have coming up and can plan accordingly.
Q: I don’t understand your collections, what are they?
A: Collections are simply, a set of lists. More specifically, a chunk of your journal dedicated only to lists. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head all day I’ll randomly think of a great birthday present for someone whose birthday is six months away. And then when said birthday comes the thought has come and gone and I’m kicking myself for not writing down my idea. So I have a significant chunk of pages in the back of my notebook dedicated to these types of “ongoing” lists. Some examples: Gift ideas, playlists, books to read, shows/movies to watch, podcasts, and wishlist.
Q: How does habit tracking help you?
A: Habit tracking has immensely improved my life. Sounds dramatic but it’s true. When I moved I really needed to keep my habits in check so I could keep my brain happy. I started “unplugging” from technology for 20 mins a day and decided I wanted to track how many days per month I could do it for. It developed from there and now I keep track of all the habits I try to stick to every day! It’s a great way to start sticking to healthier habits like reading every day, making your bed, etc. I can also cross reference my habit tracker with my mood tracker; “I was having a stressful day this day, and I didn’t unplug, read, or do anything creative” – Note made.
Q: I’m not artistic/my handwriting is bad. Will my journal ever look like yours?
A: Simple answer: No! But that’s the best part! The biggest mistake I made starting out was that I wanted my journal to look EXACTLY like the beautiful ones I saw on Pinterest. I tried too hard to make them perfect, and I hated almost everything I did because it wasn’t just like the pictures. My real success came when I found my own flair and started doing my own spreads and curated my journal to what I needed. Not someone else’s example.
I hope this answers some of your burning questions! If there’s anything I missed please don’t hesitate to reach out to me so I can include more info, thanks for reading!
note: if this post was still not enough help, bullet journaling is perfectly broken down here. This is a great place to start with the absolute basics without being overwhelming. Good luck!