“Good order is the foundation of all things.”
I always had the best of intentions to get organized. Really I did. There was a grocery shopping list in my purse and a million to-do lists here, there, and everywhere. Other ones stored on my phone and infamous “agendas” saved on my computer. Well, enter the Bullet Journal. I’m going to explain what a Bullet Journal is and why it’s a game changer.
I spent a whopping $60 on a gorgeous planner that basically went to die in the planner graveyard on my desk. It was beautiful (maybe too beautiful because I was afraid to use it!) but oh so impractical for me.
I tried the digital route, too, by using project management apps on my phone and my iPhone calendar. The calendar on my phone was useful to keep me on top of appointments but it didn’t give me a place to do more.
You get the point. Sigh. Does this sound familiar?
By not sticking with a system things were slipping through the cracks
For some reason, I was just never able to consistently stick with one system to organize my madness. It was either too rigid, took too much time, or I just plain didn’t like it. I usually operated by memory but as life got busier that got harder. With a never-ending list of projects for family, kids, house, job, church, activities, events, volunteering, and commitments – it became more challenging to keep up with the ever-changing details of everything that I needed to manage. Not to mention all the brain space it was taking up to boot!
Things were slipping through the cracks. Also, with having notes here, there, and everywhere – just trying to keep track of my lists was a project in and of itself! Even if I was getting things done I was always feeling scattered and not on top of things.
By implementing a Bullet Journal practice it gave me one place to put all my stuff. It not only helped me be more productive and organized but it helped me in a whole lot of other unexpected ways, too. I’ll explain more.
The Bullet Journal made me more mindful
I was living small
When I really thought about it though it wasn’t even the fact of not being organized that bothered me so much. It was the fact that by being so stuck in getting the everyday, mundane things done, I was living small. I was so focused on checking off every little item on my never-ending list of things-to-do that it was keeping me from stepping back and seeing the wider picture. I was stuck in the minutia and it was keeping me from envisioning my bigger goals and dreams in life.
All the details of packing lunches, paying bills, keeping up with the house, and honoring commitments are necessary and important but my time and energy were being monopolized with these small things. I shouldn’t say that I didn’t think about my bigger dreams or goals at all. I just felt overwhelmed in the minutia of life and bigger dreams and goals at the time didn’t seem attainable.
I wasn’t spending enough time identifying my big dreams and goals
I wasn’t spending enough time analyzing my life and asking myself what I really wanted in life and making room for creating my dreams. By using the Bullet Journal, I finally got a grip on managing the small things. That allowed me room to start to think about what I want in my life and identify some larger goals. I had to start asking myself some important questions like – What are my big goals? When I think about my life – what do I really want to accomplish? Who do I want to spend my time with?
Once I was able to identify bigger objectives then the planner helped me break the goal into small, more actionable tasks. It was a whole process and I realized that those baby steps were really the key to achieving my goals.
The Bullet Journal helped clear my mind and increase creativity and productivity
The Bullet Journal System helped me because I finally had one place where I can do a brain dump and put everything down on paper. It cleared up the clutter in my mind and made room for me to think of other more important stuff. I can write down all the tasks and the little things I had to do quickly.
In addition to being able to have a place to put everything and be more productive and organized, it gave me a place to reflect. I had a place to write down my thoughts and feelings on things. It serves as a diary or journal of sorts where I can record special memories and thoughts. All these different features weave together to create a system where I can be more mindful because it gives me a place to not only plan, but a place to think, reflect, dream, and create.
Bullet Journaling Helped Me Be More Intentional With My Time
I also wanted to be more intentional with my life and mindful about spending my time. Time, after all, is our most finite resource. We only get so much of it and I want to be as conscious as I can about using it well and prioritizing what is important. It really helped me to be more efficient by having one place to put everything so I became a lot more productive and started to use my time more efficiently and try to identify and spend time on the things and people that are meaningful and important to me.
It Helped Me Do All of This With No Pressure
One of the best aspects of using the Bullet Journal is that there is no pressure. I think that’s why I stuck with it. As a busy mom and wife, I don’t have a lot of extra time on my hands. Although I would love to get creative and make fancy Bullet Journal pages every day, the truth is on most days that’s not realistic for me and that’s fine.
Because this system can be as involved or as simple as you need it or want it to be there is no pressure. On days where I do have more time or inspiration happens to strike then I can be more creative and involved.
In fact, my suggestion is to keep it simple at first and see how it works for you. You can always get more involved or incorporate more features as time goes on.
So What is a Bullet Journal Anyway?
So, now that you’ve heard the whole spiel about how Bullet Journaling helped me, what is a Bullet Journal anyway? I’m so glad you asked. I had heard of a Bullet Journal, too, but thought that it was a brand or type of journal that you had to buy. It turns out that it is not a brand but actually a method of journaling that uses rapid logging.
The Bullet Journal was created by digital product designer and author, Ryder Carroll, who developed a method of productivity conducive to his way of learning. You can see his video tutorial here and find his website here. It’s a flexible and efficient method to record the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. It’s basically a combination of a to-do list, a planner, a diary, and a sketchbook that can be completely customized to your specific needs. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is in its simplicity and flexibility. You can customize it to your own specific needs and make it as simple or as involved as you’d like. It’s completely up to you!
Who is a Bullet Journal good for?
Bullet Journals can really be used by people who have:
- The need to be more organized
- Lots of lists or like to-do lists
- The need to use their creative streak and are looking for an outlet
- Limited time but want to have one place to keep tasks
- Limited time, lots of time, or anywhere in between
- Want one place for everything – notes, trackers, thoughts, stories, doodling, or whatever their heart desires
- A love for stationery, pens, scrapbooking
So how do you create a Bullet Journal?
There is really no right or wrong way to create a Bullet Journal. Below is a list of some of the main features of a Bullet Journal. As you become more familiar with the method there are endless features you can create and incorporate into your journal. You can even come up with some of your own.
So What is this Rapid Logging System?
The premise of the Bullet Journal Method uses a Rapid Logging System to log each entry. This is a series of symbols designating what type of entry it is – whether it be notes, to-do, events, etc.
The entries are kept short and concise. Also, entries are not logged in any particular order. Just get it down on the paper. That is huge for me! Depending on if the task is completed, still pending, scheduled or needs to be migrated to the next month there are another set of symbols. There are also additional symbols you could also add for emphasis next to the logged task like an asterisk or star to designate priority and exclamation point for something inspirational.
My personal rapid logging code is below but there are many choices or you can take the liberty to create your own.
Bullet Journal Notebook Requirements
It is suggested but not required to use a notebook that has graph paper in it or one that has dot grids so it gives you flexibility but still gives guidance so you can keep things tidy. This is suggested but not required. Also, it does help if the pages are numbered. You obviously can number pages yourself if you’d like but you can also buy a notebook with the numbers printed on it for convenience. It’s also suggested that you use a notebook that is not too big or too small. If it’s too big you may not carry it around and one that is too small doesn’t have enough room for content. The truth though is really any notebook could become a Bullet Journal.
Bullet Journal Index
The next step is to leave a few pages for your Index. This is the place where as you go along you can list the pages where important contents are located. (Please note how perfectly imperfect my journal is. It’s cute and colorful but far from perfect.)
Bullet Journal Yearly Calendar
Now you can create your yearly calendar. I did a very simple version of this by creating columns for each day of the week marked by their first letter and put the corresponding number dates in sequence. I did this for all the remaining months. There are really infinite ways that you can do this depending on your needs.
Bullet Journal Monthly Calendar
There are so many different layouts to create a monthly calendar that works for you. The one I show below is just an example of how I do my own. I do a monthly spread with one horizontal page with a grid of the month and another page just listing different items that I need to do that month.
Bullet Journal Daily Log
This is really the meat and the workhorse of the Bullet Journal. This is where you can use rapid logging to quickly input everything you have to do for the day. I also write notes about interesting things that happened on a particular day, thoughts or ideas come to mind, interesting quotes that I like, or anything else I wish to note.
Bullet Journal Trackers
There are an infinite amount of trackers that you can incorporate into your Bullet Journal: Daily Trackers for Habits, Budget Tracking for Finances, Gratitude List, Meal Planning, and Food Tracking. The list is endless. I personally like to leave pages also for inspiring quotes that I come across, a list of memories that I want to remember, and a list of books that I have read. Some people like to put the trackers in the back of the notebook. That way they can add more as they see fit. Then eventually the logs and the trackers meet in the middle.
That’s why this system is so great because whatever it is important and necessary for you can be incorporated into the Bullet Journal.
Bullet Journal Future Log
The one drawback that people find to using a Bullet Journal as opposed to a traditional pre-made planner is that you can not record items for specific future dates that have not yet been created. The solution for this in the Bullet Journal is the “Future Log.” It’s where you list anything in the future that’s coming up. Once the corresponding month and day have been created you can migrate the entry there. So far it has not posed a problem for me.
The Options Are Endless
There really are endless options for your Bullet Journal. That’s what makes it so great – you completely adapt it to your needs. Also, nothing is set in stone so if something isn’t working for you – change it! You need something else – add it!
In my own personal Bullet Journal journey, I like to keep things fun but rather simple. I use different colored gel pens to add some color but keep the layouts simple and do the logging quickly. Although at heart I’m a very artsy kind of gal, at this stage in life I just don’t have the time to dedicate to making every page a work of art. When I do have time or just get a sudden rush of inspiration I do take a little more time to be creative.
So go ahead and give it a try! It might just change your life as it did mine. Happy Journaling!