A How-To Guide to Bullet Journaling

I have a love/hate relationship with planners. On the one hand, there are few better feelings than buying a brand new planner and flipping through the pages, imagining how organized you are going to be (because this is the semester you get your shit together, for real this time). On the other hand, flash forward three months and half of the supposed-to-be used pages are empty and what’s there is kind of a mess. My assignment for English on November 3rd is running into November 4th, my schedule is scribbled into the margins, and the Notes section in the back is filled with a combination of song lyrics, Her Campus pitches, and a mile long to-do list. No matter how hard I tried, I could never find a planner that was aesthetically pleasing, functional for what I needed, and motivated me to actually fill it out.  This is when I found bullet journaling.

A bullet journal, as described on the official website, is “ a customizable and forgiving organization 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.” This was exactly what I needed. Bullet journaling basically allows you to create your own planner. The system was introduced by digital product designer Ryder Carroll back in 2014 and has since taken the organizational world by storm. There are a million bullet journaling how-tos out there, including one by Ryder Carroll himself. I’ve included links to some of my favorites down below. However, in this article, I’m going to walk you through some of the main components of a bullet journal, with lots of examples of how you can customize it for your own needs. Prepare yourself for some drool-layouts. Also, remember that nothing is mandatory in a bullet journal, and everything is customizable!

Note: You don’t have to be artistic to bullet journal. My artistic abilities are mostly composed of drawing stick figures and filling in coloring sheets, but I still love to bullet journal. You can make it as more or less artistic as you want. Just don’t be intimidated by some of the picture examples to follow! It is also worth noting that you can use this system with any notebook you want. The most popular one (and the one I personally use) is an A5-sized  Leuchtturm 1917. Moleskines are quite popular as well. Now, let’s get journaling!

 

How-To

Here are a few really helpful How-To’s, if you wish to start bullet journaling: Bulletjournal.com, The Lazy Genius Collective, and the blog Tiny Ray of Sunshine are great resources as you embark on this creative journey.

 

Future Planning/Yearly Layout

A future planner layout usually has every month of the current year and used by filling in important dates months in advance. There are several ways to do this. My personal favorite is having a small calendar drawing of the month at the top and then a numerical list of the dates of that month (1-31 for January for example), next to which you would write any important future notes for that day. You could also just draw a large calendar for each, or just write a numerical list of dates and include the initial of the day of the week next to it for clarity.  For space reasons, I usually try and fit at least two months to a page in my yearly.

Example One

 

Example Two

 

Example Three

 

Monthly Layout

This layout goes more in depth and can usually be filled out more extensively than a yearly layout. You can do the same layout as a yearly but fill it in with things like essay due dates and changes in work schedule as you go through the month. My preferred layout is an enlarged, one-page version of the calendar drawing and numerical list yearly layout on one page and a monthly habit tracker (examples under additional pages) on the other. That way you can see your month clearly laid out and pinpoint any busy or potentially problematic weeks.

Example One

 

Example Two

 

Example Three

 

Weekly Layout

Personally, I don’t do a weekly layout. I opt for an in-depth daily instead because I find this works better for academic purposes such as writing out assignments and things. However, a lot of people do weekly layouts. Some people write the days of the week in a chart and put certain scheduling and to-dos inside of it. Others list the days of the week spaced out and fill out their schedule and to-dos for that week as the week goes on. Some people put habit trackers here and track things on a weekly instead of monthly basis. There are a million different layout options for weeklies, these examples included!

Example One

 

Example Two

 

Example Three

Daily Layout

There are three primary ways to do a daily page: schedule-based, to-do/assignment based, or a combination of both. No matter which way you choose to set it up, a daily should be a layout of your day. I personally have a typical daily schedule for every day of my week at the very beginning of my journal, so the only scheduling notes I make on my daily are abnormal things like meetings or events. The rest of the page is dedicated to my assignments and to-do list. I also usually include my food and exercise log, which I have examples of under additional pages. I use a full page for my daily because I feel like I have so much to write, but some people use a half a page, or even a third of a page. Some people don’t use dailies and just stick with weekly layouts. It’s all up to you! Like weeklies, there are a million different layouts to choose from, so here are some more examples.

Example One

 

Example Two

 

 

Example Three

 

Additional Pages

Want to start tracking your habits (food, exercise, nap time, etc.)? Consider creating a habit tracker for your bullet journal!

 

Want to keep up on how many books you’ve read for—or outside of—class? Make a reading list!

 

Maybe you’re not into books, but you really like TV shows. No fear, you can also create your own TV show tracker. No more missing episodes of your favorite series!

 

Keeping up a food journal will help you keep track of your eating habits. This could be really helpful if you’re trying to go vegetarian, vegan, or simply trying to incorporate more of a certain kind of food into your diet.

 

Let’s face it, very few of us make it to the KAC on a consistent basis. But if you’re trying to make exercising more of a daily habit, consider creating an exercise log. Keep track of how many minutes it took you to run a mile, or how much weight you lifted on a certain lift. You’ve got this!

 

My bullet journal motivates me to stay organized. If I take the time to make a layout, I am compelled to fill it in. I am much more on top of things that are important to me, like school assignments, eating well and exercising. A bullet journal isn’t just a school planner, it’s a life planner. It changed the way I organized my life, and I hope it can do that for you too!

Image credits: Bulletjournal.com, The Lazy Genius Collective,  Tiny Ray of Sunshine