Bullet Journals: Why it’s worth it and Where to Start

Bullet journaling is the only thing which I have maintained in the transition from school to university. I find it really fun and relaxing, and it is something I do depend on a lot to keep me sane. If it something you have not heard of or you need help getting started, here is how

What is bullet journaling?

A bullet journal is a journal which, broadly, is not used for writing full sentences or paragraphs like a journal normally would. Most of your content would contain bullet points, hence bullet journal. The idea is that you have a blank notebook. It may contain lines, grids, or be completely blank. It is often used for organisation purposes, though you can do basically whatever you want in it. It could be used to record things, put your calendar in there, writing lists, it’s all yours.

Some people like to decorate the inside and use it as a scrapbook. They may make their headers all pretty, while others may just keep it simple and jot down things. Basically, there are no rules to bullet journaling.

What’s the hype?

Firstly, you can be really flexible in your bullet journal. As helpful as the daily journals which contain an outline of where everything should do are, a bullet journal allows you to change up your days if you find a system doesn’t work for you. Rather than have a rigid structure in your journal you can make it work for you. Life can have busy stages and more relaxed stages, and a bullet journal can be catered for these different times.

Secondly, everything is in one place! I tend not to publicly call my bullet journal a “bullet journal” but usually my “everything journal” because that is actually what it acts as. Within it I have my calendars, my to do lists, habit trackers, my passwords, my schedule for the term, reading lists, a page for a project, all sorts. Everything is kept in one place and it is really helpful. If asks me if I am free, I can have my calendar and my objectives all in my little journal in my bag.

Thirdly, it is a really relaxing (and kind of fun) thing to do. Having a bullet journal allows me to dedicate time to organise myself. The drawing out of everything may seem like a drag, but I find it a calming experience, and also an optimistic one. I tend to spend most time on it if I am drawing out a whole calendar month on a page, but this makes me feel excited, as well as in control about the future.

Where do I start?

As I say, bullet journals are all about using them for whatever works for you. There are thousands of photos online where we can all get some inspo, and there is no shame in that. Here some ideas I adopted and found most useful/interesting!

Keep an Index

If you are going to do it like me and keep everything in your bullet journal you are probably going to need this. It really helps and is not hard to do. Just give all the pages page number (as you go rather than all at once at the beginning in case you tear any of them out) and summarise the contents of the page at the beginning.

Habit Trackers

What’s a habit tracker? You line up all the days at the top, a column a day. Then on the rows you list all your goals (e.g “drinking two bottles of water a day” or “went for a swim”) or “anti-goals” (e.g “drank alcohol” or “bought coffee”). If you did it that day you dot it. For example, if you went for a swim on Monday 3rd March, you would find the day column, and put a dot at the place which says “went for a swim”.

Two reasons I can benefit from this. First being I have something to maintain keep up with. I will more likely drink 2 bottles of water if I set myself the challenge to do so. Secondly, I can see how some things have impacted my lifestyle, and how to avoid things in the future. For example, I could see if I go to bed after midnight, I could see if there is a link between that and buying a coffee the next day. I the could act on this see if going to bed earlier could prevent me from splashing out at Starbucks.

It’s just a good way to keep track of your health as well as how much money you spend. It can be pretty interesting seeing how frequently you do things.

A Term Grid

OK this is something I made myself, I am sure others have done something very similar. Basically, I would have all my future weeks of that term laid out in front of me. Each table would be a week, and I would have a gap for every hour of the week.  Anything fixed such as lectures, work shifts, society stuff or meeting up with people is documented.

This is great because it means I can see how much time in the days I have to complete the tasks I need to complete. It is also really handy for making plans with people when I want to see when I am free.

Symbols for To-Do Lists

I like to fill in to do lists the night before so I wake up and I can get on with the things I need to do, rather than spend a few minutes planning my day in the morning. Bullet journals are a great place to put your to do lists. Of course, not all to do list tasks get completed but I make sure I they do not get left never done by using symbols to track the necessity of the task.

Symbols Box – do it today Box ! – priority Filled in Box – complete Half Filled Box – started it but not complete Box crossed – cancelled, does not need to be done Box arrow through – you didn’t complete it today but do it another time bullet point or cross (basically no box) – this is an event triangle – something to remember (warning or “remember to smile today!”)

If you want things to look pretty

Beyond helping me stay organised, bullet journals can act as a scrapbook type of thing. Many people decorate theirs with pretty notes and highlighters. I personally love to cut things out of magazines. You can do as much or as little as your like here, this is just to make your bullet journal feel a little bit less like work.

Many people post their most tidy or aesthetically pleasing bullet journal pages online, but this is not something everyone needs to do at all. Honestly, they probably have some messy pages and only share their extra pretty ones. My point is, having a less than pretty bullet journal does not make it any less of a bullet journal.

So those are just ideas, and what I have found really useful, but there are so many different things to record and note for the future. Instagram and tumblr are full of photos and inspiration if you look at #bulletjournal or #bujo.

You will probably create your own system, which is brilliant because that is exactly the point of a bullet journal. It’s about having something which caters for the things which matter to you. It’s about making your bullet journal your own.