An Introduction to Bullet Journaling

BULLET JOURNAL INDEX : KNOW WHERE YOUR PAGES ARE.

Tips and experience with keeping an Index :

  1. Avoid recording every page separately. If you plan for a month in your bullet journal rather than recording the page numbers for each week on a new line, group the pages together (for example “May 2017” can be recorded as pages 20-26). This saves much more space and works just as well. If you decide you want to record only “important” page numbers, I would recommend doing so. This saves space in your index and makes finding relevant and frequently used pages much easier (for example an “Expense Tracker” you reference regularly).
  2. Number your pages. Many people find it bothersome to have to number the pages. The book I use has numbers on each page, which means I don’t have to do any extra work. If your book doesn’t have page numbers, and you don’t think you will use an index, then page numbering isn’t necessary. I tend to keep any frequently used pages in the front of my book rather than sporadically throughout. Because of this, I don’t use an index as much as other people may.

KEY : USE DIFFERENT SYMBOLS AND COLORS TO HELP IDENTIFY WHAT THINGS WITHIN YOUR JOURNAL MEAN.

Tips and experience with using a Key:

Bullet Journal Index
(Georgia Fitzsimons)
Bullet Journal Index
(Georgia Fitzsimons)
  1. Try using a color key. A color key makes it easy to visually see what is “going on” throughout the year (or months). I use the color key on my yearly calendar to highlight certain dates, for example, birthdays will be gray or events will be yellow. By looking at the calendar, I can see which weeks are full of important dates or which are empty. I can visually see my year. It’s good to have different colors for different categories, but try to limit the number of colors you use. I’ve seen keys that are almost 10 colors, which for me is way too much. Think about how many colors you actually need to use; if you’re not sure, start with a few and then add more as you go.
  2. Use a symbol key that works for you. The original bullet journal (which you can learn more about here) has a set key which includes different symbols relating to task organization. That key is a great starting point for new bullet journalers. I started off using that key and it worked quite well. It’s beneficial to start with a set key in the beginning, especially if you are unsure how you want to use your journal. However, making changes to suit your own personal style is what makes using the bullet journal more customizable.

YEAR OVERVIEW (AS PICTURED ABOVE): HAVE A VISUAL OVERVIEW OF THE YEAR.

Tips and experience with making a Year Overview:

  1. Printouts make things much easier! If you can use a printout or sticker I would definitely recommend doing so. Writing the days can be extremely boring and time-consuming and if your handwriting is large, you might find it to be annoying. A printout can look just as nice and save you time.
  2. Use your key to highlight important days. When I look at my calendar and see something highlighted in blue, I know I have a test that day; it makes it more efficient. I like placing my key on the page next to the calendar so it’s easier to remember the colors I use.

FUTURE LOG : HAVE A WRITTEN OVERVIEW OF THE YEAR.

Bullet Journal Future Log
Georgia Fitzsimons

The Future Log is an easy way to see your events or task on a monthly basis. In my experience, having both a written and visual understanding of when important dates are coming up, or even have passed, helps me better prepare for upcoming assignments or events. I will look at the calendar and write on this page what is “going on” for that day. If I had highlighted May 4th in blue, I will go to the Future Log (next to the calendar/key) and write it in. This written overview of the year makes things easier for creating monthly spreads. I can move those dates to the new page and keep track of them more easily.

MONTHLY SPREADS : SET YOURSELF UP FOR UPCOMING WEEKS.

Bullet Journal Monthly Spread
(Georgia Fitzsimons)
Bullet Journal Monthly Spreads
(Georgia Fitzsimons)

In setting up for a monthly spread, I rely heavily on the previous parts of my journal. I use the overview calendar to see what the month looks like and the future log to keep track of important dates. Other than those two things, my monthly spreads are relatively simple. I will set goals or add photos if I feel like spending a little more time on the page.

WEEKLY SPREADS : KEEP TRACK OF TASKS THAT YOU NEED TO COMPLETE DAILY.

Bullet Journal Weekly Spreads
(Georgia Fitzsimons)
Bullet Journal Monthly Spreads
(Georgia Fitzsimons)

I think that Weekly Spreads are the most similar to a typical planner or agenda. I outline tasks that I need to complete and look at my week as a whole (due dates and whatnot). They usually take me quite a bit of time to arrange as I like being creative with the layout.

Tips and experience with making a Weekly Spread:

1. Decide whether you want to “free-plan” or “pre-plan”

At the beginning of every week, I sit down and write in the days Monday through Sunday. I leave enough space to fill in tasks underneath. This gives me structure for the week but allows me to choose how much space I need for each day. If I know that Wednesday will be a busy day, I will allot more space for that day.

If you free plan, you might feel more comfortable writing tasks as they come up day by day. This less structured way works better for some, and the free-form bullet journal allows you to decide which style is best for you. If you tend to pre-plan your weeks, you may want to think about how far ahead you want to plan. Do you like to have two weeks set up in your bullet journal? Do you want to set up a whole month at one time? See what works best for you.

2. Look at your week as a whole.

Something I prioritize within my journal is being able to look at my year, then look by month, then by week, then by day. The ability to have a large scale and small scale view of things I need to get done help me prepare for upcoming events and tasks. On each weekly spread, along with the daily tasks, I create a week overview. I will write the days of the week and jot down any due dates or events for both the current week, and the next week. Although that information can be found on the monthly spread (and even in the year at a glance) it helps me to repeat that in my weeklies. This way, I am more likely to remember those upcoming dates, and remain productive and efficient with my work while keeping them in mind.

3. Experiment with a habit tracker.

A habit tracker is used for exactly what it sounds like – tracking your habits. You can see how often you are doing things or accomplishing goals. Some people prefer to do trackers on a monthly basis (a large tracker as part of a monthly spread). I prefer to do things weekly as it’s a good way to fill space (I like when my spreads look full whether that’s with photos or little notes) and seems less intimidating that way. You can track anything you want: water intake, productivity, exercise, or even brushing your teeth.

4. Add anything!

Something I love about the bullet journal is the amount of freedom you have to use pages in whatever way you want. I’ve used space on weekly spreads to plan out essays or to write vocabulary words. So long as what you put on your pages is organized and accessible, the pages can be used for whatever reason you like. Having the space to put lists in the same place as my weekly view helps me stay organized and keep information together, making it easier to find when I need it.

BRAIN DUMPS AND COLLECTIONS

Bullet Journal Brain Dumps and Collections
(Georgia Fitzsimons)

Having the space to stray from a structured planner is what makes the bullet journal unique. You have freedom to use pages for whatever you want. Brain Dumps and Collections are less task oriented pages that allow you to take advantage of the “listing” style of bullet journal. You can make lists for whatever you want: a playlist, a grocery list, a “Top 10 Movies” list, a “Places I Want to Visit” list, a New Year’s Resolutions list.

PEN TEST : KNOW WHAT YOUR SUPPLIES LOOK LIKE ON PAPER.

Bullet Journal Pen Test
(Georgia Fitzsimons)

DON’T STRESS ABOUT HOW THINGS LOOK!

In the beginning, it can be difficult to accept how your journal looks. I looked at tons of inspiration posts and was super excited to start my own journal. I saw what other people were doing and said “yes, I would like to do this too ” or “no, I’m not sure that will work for me.” I had a good idea of what I wanted to be doing.

Inspiration is very beneficial, especially if you’re doing something new. However, when you look at other people’s work, you tend to compare what they are doing to what you are doing, which can lead to disappointment. The truth is: the bullet journal is customizable and made to fit YOUR needs, making it special. If something that works for someone else works for you, that’s great. If something that works for someone else doesn’t work for you, move on. Find something else that works for you whether it’s something else you saw someone else do or something you came up with yourself.

YOU WILL IMPROVE!

Practice really does make perfect. In the beginning, I wasn’t super upset with how my journal looked, in fact, I thought it looked pretty good. I didn’t necessarily set out to improve my handwriting or my ability to arrange a spread. Looking back, half a year later, it’s clear to how I’ve changed (my journaling and reaching goals I set). My handwriting has improved. I can keep track of tasks better, achieve goals, and organize my assignments. I am more creative with my planning and doodle more. Now, I experiment more with spreads and change layout to make them my own. Being able to see how I have improved makes me happier and encourages me to continue being productive.

BE CREATIVE!

Get inspiration and make things your own. These days I definitely experiment more with my spreads. I started by adding one picture onto a page. Then, I continued to print more photos and use stickers or tape to add color and dimension to my pages. I will write song lyrics or little quotes to fill up space as well. Even if you aren’t interested in art or don’t feel creative, I recommend trying to add something to your journal. When I see that my week is busy, I have an outlet to get rid of that stress.

The point of the bullet journal is to fill pages with whatever you choose, however you choose. Fill your journal with only photos and stickers, actual journal entries as a diary, or with school assignments and use it as a planner. Make the bullet journal work for you. If there is something you want to change, change it! Take advantage of the bullet journaling system.


More of Georgia’s bullet journal posts can be found on Instagram @georgiasdesk or on http://www.georgiasdesk.tumblr.com.

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