Bullet Journaling 101

I’ve seen a lot of people in various groups say things like, “I’m really interested in bullet journaling, but where do I start?” It can seem daunting watching “The Greats” post pictures of their perfectly straight spreads with their beautiful drawings and mesmerizing calligraphy. But I’m going to tell you the secret to “getting started”

Step 1. Grab a notebook

Step 2. Grab a pen/pencil/marker

Step 3. Begin

I feel like it’s important to remind ourselves that 1. there are professional artists out there and 2. they became so amazing through practice. If you want to start an art journal and apply the bullet journal system to it, by all means go for it! But it is not necessary.

At its core, bullet journaling is a nothing more than an organizational system for any notebook. The mastermind behind the system, Ryder Carroll, first presented it as a sort of agenda or to-do list allowing you to both plan ahead and keep track of your daily…whatever. However, it’s always been and always will be a customizable system that can be applied to any aspect of any life that requires a notebook.

So let’s rewind a bit to my oversimplified checklist of how to start a bullet journal and pick up at Step 3 again. You should have some kind of idea of what you’re using a bullet journal for. Are you a mother of five trying to keep track of the lives of everyone around you? Are you a corporate worker with a lot of meetings? Are you a student? An artist? No one knows better than you do. Once you have that figured out, it’s a lot easier to decide what you might what to include in your bullet journal and what you might what to omit. Some of the most common spreads or collections are as follows:

  • The Index: used as any other index; a quick reference of where to find specific pages in your bullet journal.
    Example: Did some brainstorming about party planning a week or so ago? Check your index for the exact page!
  • The Future Log: used to plan ahead months in advance
    Example: It’s September, but you know you have a trip planned in November. Jot it down in your future log and it’ll be there as a reminder when November actually rolls around
  • The Monthly Log: used to go over the happenings of the current month you’re in whether that be for planning or reflecting or even both. Or maybe something else!
    Example: Perhaps today is the 3rd and you have an appointment on the 17th. Monthly log. Perhaps you fancy jotting down a daily memory. Monthly log.
  • The Daily Log: used for whatever you previously decided you need your bullet journal for on a daily basis. Or semi-daily. Or weekly. No pressure, really.
    Example: The possibilities are endless. To do lists. Notes to self. Sketches. Habit tracking. Goal or project management. It’s your life, buddy.
  • The Key: Sometimes found right in the front and sometimes found all the way in the back. The Key is a reference to how you intend to mark up your bullet journal. Assign some kind of signifier to tasks, events, appointments, notes, etc. Color code aspects of life like clients, classes, moods, etc.

I cannot stress enough how much the final product depends on you. For example, I hardly ever use my key or my index. Some people adjust the daily log concept to a weekly log (it definitely saves space). And then there are the other pages that have evolved from the community like the Level 10 Life, the Calendex, habit trackers, and so much more. Start small. Figure out what you need. Change your mind. The bullet journal doesn’t judge you. So grab your notebook, grab your pen, and just begin the journey.


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