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