The Bullet Journal, who hasn’t heard of it by now? If you didn’t, get out of your hiding cave, 😉 and let me explain it to you: bullet journaling is a way of planning that requires a journal and lets you make lists with bullets. Of course there’s more to it than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular. The planning system revolves around a few basic elements, but the good thing is that it is also very adaptable to your own needs and planning habits. That’s why everyone uses it in a different way and that’s why it’s so interesting to read about journaling experiences and ideas of others. I can’t for the life of me remember who suggested this blogpost topic to me, I’m so sorry! If it was you, let me know and I’ll link you asap. But yes, today I’ll talk you through the basic elements of my Bullet Journal.
Starting a Bullet Journal
To start Bullet Journaling, you’ll only need a notebook (preferably dotted or squared, but lined or blank will work as well) and a pen (preferably two, a black fineliner and a regular blue ballpoint pen). With that, you’re totally ready to go set up the basic spreads that form the framework of your Bullet Journal. You can design these spreads in whatever way you like. Pinterest is full of inspiration in that regard, but to be honest, keeping it simple often works best. Anyway, below I listed the spreads you’ll need and I’ll show you how I use them. Before you start, definitely check out this brilliant and clear video of Ryder Carroll, the developer of the system. There’s no way I can explain it better!
The Bullet Journal’s basic spreads
Index: a list of all the spreads your adding, with page numbers for reference.
Future log: serving as a long-term planning, agenda or calendar, you can list all your future deadlines due months from now. How many months you include is up to you!
Monthly log: this spread serves essentially as a calendar / daily-reference kind of thing. It lists all the days of the months with all the corresponding deadlines, dates, tasks, activities, etc.
Daily logs: on the basis of your monthly log you can now make task lists of what you’re gonna do per day. You can plan this in advance, setting up what can actually be referred to as a weekly log, filling in the days of that week with tasks and activities. You can also do it day by day. At the end of each day, week or month (whatever you prefer), you’ll check which tasks haven’t been done. If they should be done next month, write it down in your next monthly log. If it can wait longer, write it down somewhere in your future log. That’s how the spreads interact!
Collections: these are spreads that organize related tasks. A list of groceries could be a collection, for example. And my Chain Twenty tasks are organized as a collection. Since they can be used for all kinds of tasks and activities, collections are the most diverse. They are also more difficult to set up and develop so that they’ll fit your needs and planning habits. Therefore, I’ll go into my Chain Twenty planning in a future blogpost.
Again, the video explains all of this much clearer. I’ve seen it a million times by now and I still find it a joy to watch, haha! (That actually says weird things about me, but I suppose if you’re reading this, you’re kinda weird too.)
Through my index you’ll get a rough idea of the spreads I’m using. Besides a future log at the beginning, I also keep a separate birthday calendar. I suck at birthdays, so that needs a bit more of attention, ha! The months include both monthly logs and daily logs and I highlighted them to be able to quickly find what I’m looking for. I found my index got really cluttered with all kinds of spreads. As you can see, I keep lots of collections: for cleaning, groceries, expenses, etc. Those collections usually contain data for a particular month, so highlighting the months in my index keeps those collections linked to the months they’re referring to. If that makes any sense. 😀 This doesn’t account for all collections (like the reading challenge 2017 under July), but it works well enough for me.
My previous Bullet Journal had a six-month future log, but that turned out not to be enough to fill my entire notebook. So this time, I set up an eight-month one, and I may even switch to a whole year in my next journal (just to be complete), we’ll see. By setting it up vertically rather than horizontally, there is more space for tasks, as well as for a calendar-kind-of-overview of the month with weeks, days and dates. This is actually very handy for setting up monthly logs or other types of collections, where you’ll often need this info again.
I started highlighting and circling important dates, but find that’s not at all necessary. In the end, I’m only reviewing the future log when I set up a new monthly log. Then I copy all tasks to the monthly log so there’s no chance I’ll forget one. Tasks or activities that are listed here include holiday dates, important dates for other people (that I feel like I should be in touch with them about), when I have to treat the cats against fleas (haha), those kinds of things. I imagine that people who are actually studying or working have a lot more deadlines to add here. 😉 I’ve added birthdays as well, but that wasn’t necessary since having a separate birthday calendar / collection.
I’ve been updating and adapting this format over the last few months now and I finally feel like I found the layout that works best for me. The left (and half of the right) page covers the actual calendar with days and dates. Here, I’ve created a small space for notes and their corresponding non-time-specific tasks (like calling people for birthdays or holidays). The rest of the space is divided by hours (9am to 10pm) and lists all the time-specific activities and deadlines per day. That way, it functions like an agenda. Tasks that have to be done that month, but aren’t time- or day-specific are listed on the right.
I create a new daily log every morning instead of making a weekly overview of daily logs. That prevents my brain from being clouded by all kinds of tasks I’m planning for days ahead. I’m in a really luxurious position where I don’t have many deadlines or important things to do, so I imagine it would be different if I had. But anyway, this is how it works for me right now. Every morning, I scan my monthly log for time-specific tasks and activities and list those in my daily log. Depending on how much time I expect there to be left, I scan my non time-specific task list and add the most urgent ones to my daily log as well. Done! What I don’t get done that particular day will be migrated to the next day. And if I’m not available to do it the next day, I’ll leave it open. On quiet days, I review those open tasks and try to get all of them done.
Many of you have in the past commented on my Bullet Journal Instagram stories, so I hope this was any helpful or interesting to read! I started Bullet Journaling about a year ago and have slowly but surely let go of any other types of planners or calendars. I take this little thing with me anywhere and I feel lost and unorganized without it. There’s still a lot to improve, especially when it comes to the collections, which is why I’ll write about that another time. Please let me know your experiences, thoughts, tips and tricks with regards to Bullet Journaling, I’d love to hear!