Bullet Journal Quick Start Guide

BuJo QSG

After writing yesterday’s post on the importance of using a Bullet Journal, I felt like it was time to write a Quick Start Up Guide.

What is a Bullet Journal?

A lot of people have heard of the Bullet Journal by now, and most people still want to know: is it a calendar, a journal, or a planner? The answer is: yes. This system sounds sleek and fancy, but it really is super simple. So simple that you could look around your house and find everything you need to get started right now.

The system is a method of keeping your life contained in one journal. So, your calendar gets written in here, your grocery list, the notes from last week’s seminar, your plans and dreams for the future – all of it. Just turn to the next page, title it, and start writing.

Sound too random to really work for you? Maybe at first. It might take a couple weeks to fully transition to the method, but I guarantee that the writing part of it all will be so rewarding that it will far outweigh your original feelings of skepticism.

How does it work?

There are four main pillars of the system: a spread, the index, migration, and future logs.

Most importantly, before you give this method a try, you will need to abandon any notion of doing it “right or wrong.” This is your journal, do what makes sense to you. The only essential piece to the success of your journal is to just keep writing.

Now, for pillar #1: A Spread

This is the next open page in your journal. What goes on the new spread is totally up to you.

Spread = the next blank page

Spread = the next blank page

A spread could be:

  • Your daily agenda
  • The current month’s events and dates to remember
  • A grocery list
  • You name it – whatever is going on in your life can be written down on a spread

#2: The Index

This is the only organization piece of the Bullet Journal system. It’s simple, easy, and streamlined. It’s commonly what people want to skip in using the system, but trust me when I tell you that this index will serve as a valuable record once you’re well into the middle and end of your journal.

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How to index:

  1. Section off the first 4 pages of your blank journal and dedicate these pages as the INDEX. (If you choose to use the Lechtturm journal – recommended below – the Index is included as the first 4 pages.)
  2. Title each new spread. (Keep it simple! And use shorthand. See picture above for example.)
  3. Write a page number at the bottom of each spread.
  4. Record the page number and title on your index page.

#3: Migration

Sometimes when I write a to do list, I include everything I must do and everything I want to do. When the want-to-dos don’t get done, the mark of their true importance is whether I want to move them to the next day’s spread and list them again. This is the process of migration.

Benefits of migration:

  • Rewriting tasks takes intention
  • Intention fuels productivity
  • Conversely, rewriting a task multiple times reveals that the task may be irrelevant

Threading is also nice when migrating tasks or thoughts to a new spread. To remember where in your journal you first wrote a specific plan or idea, just write that page number at the bottom of the new page next to the current page number.

It would look similar to this: 45 | 62

The “45” is the first page a topic was written down, and the “62” is the current page you are on.

#4 Future Logs

A future log is usually a collection of plans, dates, and events for the future. Since the point of the system is to remain in a daily mindset and not write plans in advance, the future log is a place to jot down future events that need to be remembered.

So, if you are currently in the month of January, then you would write out the whole month in dates and days on the first of the month for reference. Every day in the month of January would then get a fresh spread. (You can combine days and write more than one day on a spread.)

May 2016 166

To create a future log:

  1. Open a spread and section it into months of the year
  2. Label the months
  3. Jot down dates and events you’re already aware of
  4. Include the page number and record this log in the index 

Can I customize it?

Yes! One of the beauties of this system is how unique it is to the user. Some prefer to go all out and buy tons of scrapbooking extras and others work best by using a simple spiral notebook with no bells and whistles.

I created a Budget Bullet Journal for keeping track of our ledger. I keep this in a separate notebook which is technically a breaking of the Bullet Journal rules.

Thou shalt not keep separate calendars, notebooks, or planners.

But I’m okay with that. I’ve been with the system long enough to know what encourages me to write and keep the system going and what discourages me and leave me staring at blank pages.

Do what works for you in order to just keep writing.

What makes this system different than other packaged systems?

For those who struggle with fear of failure, this system is golden because you simply can’t fail at it. Each new day is a blank page. Start fresh.

For the creative types, there isn’t a box you have to fit your ideas into. Live it up, the Bullet Journal is your muse.

For the rebels and control freaks, you are in complete charge of where your Bullet Journal goes. You can be as ordered, organized, and OCD as you need to be.

What do I need to get started?

Simple Start – you probably already have what you need. A simple spiral notebook like this one and something to write with works fine.

Better Start – I have used a spiral notebook, a plain Moleskine (no lines or grid), a dotted Lechtturm 1917 (dots are my favorite – plus the pages are already numbered for you!), and an Official Bullet Journal.

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The Official BuJo doesn’t add any value for the added price (and it’s often “out of stock”) so my top recommendation for starting out is to get a dotted Lechtturm.

Optional accessories:

  • Specific pens, these are fun but these are my favorite
  • Page flags, I’ve used these in the past to mark months
  • Washi tape, YouTube videos abound on how to dress up your journal – I do not recommend this (I tried it, and it proved to just slow me down and make me feel obligated to make a system out of the colors of tape). Some people really enjoy adding this flare, so to each their own!
  • Pen holder attachment for a Lechtturm, there are many options to choose from – none are necessary

What’s in the name?

Bullet Journal comes from the creator of the system who recommends writing your lists using a “bullet” mark. Once the task is complete, you mark an “X” through the bullet. I personally prefer to use the “Dash-Plus+” system. Again, their’s freedom and beauty in the uniqueness of using the Bullet Journal system.

So. What are you waiting for? Get writing!

Want to learn even more? I share even more tips and challenges in the Accountability emails. Click here to get started and make sure to mark “Yes!” to get motivation in your mailbox.

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Day 14 – How I set up my Bullet Journal. #Back2School in #31Days

July 2015 Recap 2

If you're looking for my Bullet Journal: Quick Start Guide - click here.

There’s a huge difference between:

Reality #1: Going to bed and feeling like your brain spills all over the pillow with ideas not yet realized, plans not yet formalized, and appointments not yet attended (and the fear of being late – or worse, forgetting appointments altogether).

And:

Reality #2: Going to bed with the feeling that everything is as organized and planned as it can be. The feeling that life is in a good rhythm and routine. Records are kept and memories made.

The first reality was me for a very long time – and if I don’t write, it becomes my reality again quickly.

The second reality is possible – I’ve actually felt this way for myself on my own – without having to buy anything with money back guarantees.

How is this possible?

Bullet journaling.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the fact that this method has worked for me over every other method I’ve tried.

Why?

Because it is simple to use, even though it may seem complicated to learn.

The reason I felt a bit overwhelmed when starting to learn about the Bullet Journal was due to learning from someone’s unique style of the Bullet Journal.

Let me explain.

For instance, I don’t use the “bullets” as described on the official website because when I first read about it and watched the fast video it didn’t feel like something I would use.

My friend who first introduced me to the Bullet Journal also told me about her dash/plus system and that’s what I’ve used because it makes sense. (I’ll explain dashplus below.)

So before I get ahead of myself anymore, let’s talk about how to set up a Bullet Journal.

Setting up my Bullet Journal:

Index

Every page in the journal needs to be numbered. That’s why this journal is recommended on the official Bullet Journal website (I also recommend using the Dotted versus the Squared because it’s the best of everything and not overstimulating visually.)

I wasn’t able to get my Leuchtturm1917 Dotted journal in the mail by the time I wanted to start planning (it did come a whole week earlier than the first possible date expected though). In the meantime, I settled for a blank, no lines or grids Moleskine and numbered the pages by hand in advance to boost my index usage.

Numbering your own pages may sound complicated, but when taken a day at a time, it really isn’t a chore to write a simple “1” at the bottom right hand corner of the page. Or better yet, trust me that this journal is worth it – it already has numbered pages. Watch this video to see it for yourself.

Every page also gets a title. Nothing complicated just simple like – the date, the month or goals for the week of:. Here’s another opportunity for you to make your Bullet Journal unique.

Again, unique doesn’t mean complex. The secret to making the Bullet Journal easier is: just start writing.

Save the front few pages of whatever journal you’re using and designate them as an Index. This is where everything gets filed. Writing the page numbers and the titles in one place helps to reference days, ideas, plans, etc. for later. Nothing gets lost, no loose paper, and no need to track down 4 separate notebooks.

It’s a beautiful system. Like I said, I had almost been doing the system for a while when my friend introduced me to the official guide. Since then I’ve filled in 2 more journals using this system and I’m hooked.

After the Index: Start your future and current month logs.

The next few pages will generally be for lots of reference – I don’t start into daily pages (see below) right away. I’ll start with a Future Log like described on the Bullet Journal site – creating a 6 month spread across 2 pages. Leaving room for at least 4 lines per month to write major events per line which references roughly one week.

The current month then is written in “bullet” form (see video below) by simply writing the number and first letter of the day of the week down the left hand side of the page. The key to a good Monthly Log is summary. This journal is for you – write the least amount of words possible in order for it to stick in your memory and still make sense for referring to later.

Rapid Logging

I didn’t follow the guidelines of rapid logging and the index at first in my journals. I just liked the idea of using my journal for everything and added my planning pages and month spreads into what I was already doing.

And it worked.

Until I needed to reference an idea I had and I didn’t know how to find it quickly.

The rapid logging for daily spreads and the index is truly an important piece to the system because it encourages use of the index and it gets the words out in a more efficient way. The ability to do something important quickly is valuable. Rapid logging will increase your productivity and the worth of your journaling process. Productivity produces the feeling of success which will keep you logging daily – making this system the most beneficial one compared to systems that are set up by someone else to their unique style.

Journaling

This is where the freedom of the Bullet Journal system is best displayed. You can write whatever you want. The only “rule” to follow is to index the page(s) for reference later. How many times have I taken notes on a lecture or podcast that I want to remember later only to flip through a notebook and come up empty? So write whatever you want, but use the system for your sanity later.

Daily lists and thoughts go in Bullet Journal. When I first started using the Bullet Journal system I was writing in a large, blank, sketch notebook and I could fill the page with 4 different categories of thoughts. Lists, schedules, plans, etc. which was nice for seeing how everything interacted in my mind, but it was difficult to use the index.

I like the smaller journal I’m using now better because it creates better boundaries.

One way this system saves me from planner failure is that I’m not supposed to write ahead. Daily pages just mean what I need to write down in a single day. It’s tempting – especially when I’m feeling efficient – to go ahead and plan out the next 4-7 days in a schedule grid to see how every event needs to play out. This doesn’t work, and it will only complicate things.

Flags, tabs, and other helpful tools

I’m using washi tape color-coding for easy access to necessary information: organizing lesson plans, goals, monthly spreads, and blog spreads.

I also have Post-It tabs for additional easy access to: months, homeschool spreads, and blog spreads.

These Staedtler pens are my favorite. You’ll see in my pictures and videos that I have the colorful 10 pack of 0.3 mm felt tips, but I do not color-code with pens. I use multiple colors to see new things. So for instance, if I write in my daily spread originally in green (just because I felt like green) then later in the day if I’m adding to the spread I’ll use a different color to see the changes. The reason I don’t color-code entries for categories, events, or kids is so that in case I’m without my pens I can add whatever content I need to write freely without feeling like I’m “breaking my rules.”

Creating a key for my bullets

I also use part of the dashplus system. Where I write a dash “ – “ for a task and when it is completed I turn it into a plus “ + “ and if I need to carry the task forward to the next day the dash is turned into an arrow “ -> “ and that’s it.

“It may seem like a lot of effort to have to rewrite items over and over, but that’s intentional. This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it.” – Migration: BulletJournal.com

I’ve added the asterisk to the system to signify something important. And I’m considering adding letters too (see the link to Emily Freeman’s post for an example, below).

While learning the Bullet Journal system, following the original videos, reading posts like mine, or watching videos of Bullet Journals is important to gain an understanding of what you need to do – I believe it’s more important to just start writing.

Remember: this is not complicated, just unique.

There are 2 items that don’t get written into my Bullet Journal:

  1. Major events and appointments go into my Google calendar. My husband and I share calendars and invite one another to events that require the other’s attention. This skeleton calendar helps me stay on track for planning my daily things which of course go into the Bullet Journal.
  2. A sample week is written on our chalkboard – semipermanently. I’ve included: anchors and commitments, extracurricular activities, daily/weekly subjects, chores, and anything repeating. Because anything too redundant is too much work.

Can a Bullet Journal be used as a home school planner? I intend to find out.

In the next posts on Bullet Journaling, I’ll show you how I’m setting up my Home School spreads and how I’m taking notebooking for kids to the Bullet Journal level.

More Bullet Journal Info:

This is Day 14 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.

My favorite eCourse is going on sale again soon! Check it out now for more information: Click here for details.

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