My Bullet Journal: How to Get Started

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This is the second in a series of posts about My Bullet Journal Journey. I’ve sequenced the posts so that they chronicle my journey and are step-by-step guides for those of you considering starting your own. 

  • #1 – My Bullet Journal: Taking the Plunge
  • #2 – How to Get Started

I want to give BIG kudos for all my motivation and inspiration and efforts to Nereyda of Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist. She has done fabulous posts and was consistent with using, showing, and talking about her bullet journal.  Nereyda got her coblogger, Nick, into bullet journaling, and then I saw another blogger I adore (Karen @ Kissin Blue Karen) also starting one. I know there have been many bloggers who Nereyda convinced to start a bullet journal, but I am going to be straight up: I was on the Debate Train the entire time. The last two months of 2016 I argued and debated with myself about doing a bullet journal. In the last two years I haven’t been able to keep up with any of my planners, so how was I going to keep up with a bullet journal!?

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In the first post I talked about the supplies I bought, and these were the items I purchased and had from the beginning. I am ordering additional materials for more creative uses of my bujo.

Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, created the bullet journal. He has his own website, which I didn’t find particularly helpful. But there is a separate blog called The Bulletjournalist that has all the good stuff. I set up my bullet journal following Nereyda’s steps, and after I had done January and February I realized some mistakes I made. If you haven’t ever done a bullet journal before, I strongly point you in the direction of The Bulletjournalist.

TERMS

These are the most common terms that are associated with bullet journals. I work in the yearbook world, so pages, spreads, and mods are integrally familiar to me and I use them all the time when I talk to my yearbook students because that’s the language of yearbook. Bullet journals are strikingly similar to yearbook set up, and pretty much use the same terms. There is a big distinction between pages and spreads, and I know I will use the term “mod” quite a bit, so here are the terms you can expect to see:

page-and-spreadindex – page numbers and corresponding content, usually set up in the front of the text

log – yearly, monthly, weekly, daily logs (i.e. calendars and task lists)

collection – lists, project details, notes, etc. that have a

page – either the left or right side

spread – two pages that face one another in the book

mod – a box of information or content on any page or spread (i.e. weather tracker on a weekly log)

 

STEP ONE: Indexing 

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My journal came with a three-page index in the front already organized. All I had to do was record the page number and the title of page. My journal also came numbered. If you have a journal that is not numbered, you can number it or not. I know some people prefer not to number, that’s a personal choice. Just like when you open a textbook, the index serves to help you navigate your bujo quickly.

In your journal you’ll have your monthly logs with calendars, trackers, and weekly logs, and then other things called collections, like a list of books you want to read, movies you want to see, or projects you’re working on with all the tasks detailed out.

I went chronologically in my journal, which I realized when I started February was a mistake. The Bulletjournalist says not to plan your next month in advance because you don’t know how many pages you’ll need; they say wait until the end of the current month to set up the next month’s logs. I don’t agree.

You should know how many pages you’re using after you’ve done your first month for your calendar, your task list, trackers, and weekly logs. Some even choose to do daily logs. That’s way too much for me, and I’m starting to think weekly logs are, too. After your first month and as you go throughout the year, you might find you want to change how you do your logs, or find something else to make a log for. I still feel it is important to know how many spreads you will need for each month.

Here are the two things I realized I did wrong that correlate to the index: 

  1. 16406444_10154361584992643_9206858909223333852_nI set everything up in my bullet journal as I thought of them. Big mistake. I now have collections in the middle of my monthly logs. The collections I’ll use and reference and update all year long, but I’m not going to go back and work on or look at my monthly and weekly logs all that much except for referencing my habit and sleep trackers. But now my collections, like my Audiobook List, NetGalley Book List, and Series I Want to Start/Finish lists are smack in the middle of January and February because at some point after January started, I realized I wanted to make collection pages for those things. (This is why they are starred on my index.) Since you don’t know what collections you’re going to want to do throughout the year, you don’t know how many pages you’ll need. Instead, what I would have done was set up my Collections in the back of my bujo. I would burn the match at both ends, so to speak, and have all of my monthly logs starting from the front and all of my collections starting from the back. That is why I set up little washi tape tabs on the sides of pages. The glitter tabs are for all of my blog and reading related lists and projects, the stripes are for financial trackers I set up, and the lacy green tab is for movies and recipes.
  2. On my index I labeled everything. Ryder recommends not labeling your weekly or daily logs in the index. I haven’t done the math, but I do not believe their are enough spaces in my index for the number of pages in my book.

STEP TWO: KEY/LEGEND

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After you’ve squared away to index or not to index, the next thing is to set up a legend or a key for how you are going to annotate items in your bujo. This is what makes a bullet journal a bullet journal. Things are set up in three categories: tasks, events, and notes. Ryder’s original bullets and signifiers are very basic. I didn’t like the bullets, so I did boxes, which I find most bloggers have done as well. For all of your spreads throughout your bujo, these icons should notate every entry and distinguish the type of entry from one another.

I decided I needed my tasks set up with a task, a started note, a completed note, a cancelled note and a migrated note.

Then I have my events in open circles, and my appointments in open triangles. (Note: The man and I also use an open triangle to signify his shift change. You’ll see these on Sundays with no additional notation, so that’s what it means.)

And then at the bottom of my list I have my signifiers: birthdays, deadlines, important, inspiration, and financial. I think I might add a little magnifying glass for research, but I might hold off on that just yet.

I did a very simple layout for my legend, but there are all kinds of layout ideas and bullets and signifiers out there. Decide what you want for your tasks and what signifiers you will need for your bujo. Leave space at the bottom for signifiers you might want to come back and add later.

STEP THREE: The Future Log

True bullet journaling recommends creating a Future Log, which is like your annual calendar. It is intended for tasks, projects, and events that you’ve already scheduled in advance (birthdays, appointments, trips, etc.) or you know you want to work on in a specific month (harvest festival planning, purging the closets before school starts, finish the quilt, etc.) The most simplistic way to do this is to use the first two spreads in your bujo. Divide each spread equally into threes and draw two equally-spaced horizontal lines all the way across both pages. You’ll end up with a six-month set-up for the things you already know are happening, and space still for things to come.

I didn’t do this in my bujo. As I’ve said, I largely followed what Nereyda had shared in her posts.

STEP FOUR: The Monthly Logs

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with this, so I in large part borrowed from Nereyda’s first monthly layout.

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I have a calendar on the left page. This is where you get to use all of your legend icons. In January, you can see my bills due, birthdays, and other important events or tasks.  and a group of mods on the right. You’ll notice I used a box (signifying a task) for almost everything but $ and birthdays. That was a mistake on my part – some of them should have been a circle or triangle. When it has been finished, I filled them in, except for birthdays. Designing the calendar was actually pretty easy, just a matter of knowing I needed a 7×5 table and equal spacing. I want to keep this format, but I found a new way to put the month in.

On the rights side I set up my four mods. I decided I wanted to keep a monthly track of my books. I liked what Nereyda did with setting up the bookshelf, so I did the same. The book shelf mod is the thing that took the longest in my entire bujo to make to date. As you can see, I filled in the books when I finished reading and gave it a title. I decided this wasn’t worth the time and I would never fill up all those book spines until summer, so I discontinued it after January. I might come back to it for the summer and December.

Below the bookshelf mod, I set up my monthly to-do list, goals, and notes (again, which I didn’t use the appropriate legend icons to notate). I was pretty proud of myself that I finished all of my to-do’s and almost all of my goals. I always set such lofty reading goals. Because Type A overachiever, that’s why.

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On the spread following my monthly calendar log, I set up a monthly task list. I break it into four sections across the page. On the far left I have the days of the month, a large column for general tasks or notes, a smaller column for bills, another large column for blog posts, and a skinny column with my goals and to do list repeated as a reminder. I’ve contemplated putting a previous and next month mini calendar in the far right skinny column.

jan-sleep jan-tracker

On the spread following my monthly task list, I set up my monthly sleep tracker and monthly habit tracker. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to track, and I’m still not really sure. I should probably revisit my 2017 do betters list and regroup. You can see when I started my bullet journal by my sleep tracker. I get below minimal sleep during the week, and catch up on the weekends.

For January I tracked only a handful of things, but I’ve seen people track all of their different workouts and all manner of things. I was horrible at taking my vitamins in January. Also horrible at drinking my water. From these two trackers I realized I want to change my sleep tracker to show when I got to bed and get up, not just the number of hours of sleep. I’ll do this in a bar graph set up for March since I’ve already created my February tracker. For habits, I also added a few to the list for February.

 

STEP FIVE: The Weekly Logs

Weekly and daily logs are optional. A daily log stresses me out. HOW do folks have time to break down their day in 15 and 30 minute increments? Just thinking about it stresses me out. I’m only doing monthly and weekly, and I’ve used the same basic layout for all my January weeks. I kept the same layout for my February spreads, but I want to make some changes. I think I might need to use only one page for each week, and just squish two weeks together on a spread. As you can see, I don’t use all the space in my weeklies, and I don’t have enough time to find creativity to fill the rest of the space. This will also cut down on the number of pages I’m using in my journal for each month by two spreads. Right now I’ve only laid out to the first week of March and I already am at pages 58-59.

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STEP SIX: Migrating

migrating_ink_liMigrating content or tasks in your bujo is important. Go back to your Future Log. Migrate any tasks for your new month onto that month’s logs and task list.

You can see in my weekly spreads I migrated my task of writing a review for Mistletoe at Moonglow a bunch of times. And no, I still don’t have it accomplished (as of the time this post was written).  :/  I will keep migrating it until it gets done, but I think I should put a max on how many times I can migrate something. I also left other tasks incomplete (open) because I did not complete them on that day (like reading X% of a book). By now, I’ve accomplished those tasks. My question is do I go back and fill them in because they are now completed? Or leave them as is?

According to Ryder’s website:

“It may seem like a lot of effort to rewrite items over and over, but that’s intentional. This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t worth the effort to rewrite, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it. The purpose of Migrating is to distill the things that are truly worth the effort, so we can become aware of our own patterns and habits, and to separate the signal from the noise.”


 Thanks for reading! What monthly and weekly layouts do you like best?

Check back for my next post in the BUJO series about My Collections. 

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3 thoughts on “My Bullet Journal: How to Get Started

  1. I know I’d love doing this but for now I just use a desk top calendar and a spiral notebook. Works okay but sure can get confusing when I forget where I wrote something.

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