Bullet Journal 101: What is a Bullet Journal?

“Tiffany, you keep posting about bullet journals and what yours looks like…but what IS a bullet journal exactly?”

Well, to put it simply, it is a planner, diary, journal, agenda, and to-do list all in one. Now that is only naming a few of its functions. It is a concept that is easy to use but feels impossible to explain to someone, so let us start with the original bullet journal system history.

Ryder Carroll developed the bullet journal system as an analog system that was flexible enough to handle whatever he wanted to put into it and help keep track of everything he needed. While we live in a digital age and have plenty of apps for organization, there is rarely a single app that can do everything we are looking for. This is how the bullet journal (or BuJo for short) became so popular.

While the video that is provided on the Bullet Journal website is informational, it may be confusing to people who do not already understand the language or jargon of bullet journaling. A bullet journal is a journal that uses bullet points as its main signifier for quick planning and logging. It may be tempting to start scrolling down Pinterest or the bullet journal tag on Instagram for inspiration, but start small and understand the basics structure of bullet journaling first before moving on to more creative and elaborate spreads to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the process. Let me break it down for you and start from the beginning.

pinterest-bullet-journal-tag

#1: Supplies

All you need is a notebook of your choice, a pen you like to use, and possibly a ruler. Nothing fancy is required. In the bullet journal community, high praises are sung for brands such as Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, and Rhodia. While these notebooks are of good quality, any notebook found in your house can be used. I find that there are many people who start off with a large, inexpensive notebook found at the dollar store to try out bullet journaling before buying a more expensive notebook to commit to.

supplies-throw

#2: Index

The index is your bullet journal’s table of contents. This is for you to be able to quickly find what you are looking for. You either love the index function because it is useful to you, or you don’t really use it at all. If you are using an index, you will want to number your pages so you can put a corresponding page number to an index entry. There are some notebooks that come pre-numbered, such as the Leuchtturm1917 and the Personal-Planner notebooks. Others are not numbered and you will need to number them yourself (I usually number 10-20 pages at a time rather than all at once).

index

#3: Future Log

I know, it’s a “fancy” term. It just means a way of planning ahead for the future, usually consisting of an overview of the next couple of months, or however many months you choose. This is where you put in events that are happening in the future and you refer back to it when making your monthly or weekly spreads.

key-future-log

Your Bullet Journal Key is where you keep track of your symbols. These can change whenever you want them to. They can also be whatever you want them to be. Whatever works for you.

future-log-2

#4: Monthly Log

An overview of the upcoming month. In its simplest form, the monthly log consists of a monthly calendar and a monthly to-do or task list (you can see a glimpse of mine at the bottom of the July monthly calendar. Many people have come to add things such as gratitude logs (keeping track of thing you are grateful/thankful for) and habit trackers (exactly what it sounds like). Those are not necessary or required, but are fun and interesting to have to journal with for the month.

july-monthlygratitude-logjuly-habit-tracker

#5: Daily Log or Weekly Log

Ryder Carroll’s original system only had daily logs. These are lists, daily tasks, or events for the day and is to be used day-to-day. The idea is to make these every day as you would making lists every day on a sticky note. You rapid log (read: quickly write down) what you need to do, events you need to be at, and any miscellaneous notes for the day.

Eventually, people have adapted it to create Weekly Logs. These are for the people who like to have a full overview of their week. You can mix and match what works for you. I personally don’t use monthlies that often and would prefer a weekly and dailies.

july-weeklysept-weekly-dailysept-weekly

#6: Collections

Lastly, there are collections. This is what would be considered anything you want to put in your bullet journal. Some ideas range from books to be read, homework assignments, favourite songs, course syllabi, etc. These collections can simply be in list form, or you can make them into works of art. That is all up to your own preference. There is literally no wrong way to bullet journal.

collection-weekly

Bullet journaling can seem overwhelming. The whole concept of it may seem like it takes hours upon hours, defeating the purpose of it being helpful. In reality, once you get over the initial shock of information overload, it becomes quite easy. Let me put this into perspective: it takes me maybe an hour once a month to set up my monthly spread, 30 minutes once a week to set up the next week, and 5 minutes each day to list out my daily tasks. Unless you are spending hours testing out different spreads, it should not take you an insane amount of time to maintain. Once you find what works for you, stick to it until you feel like it is time for a change.

There is no wrong way to bullet journal. Make it your own, make it work for you, and don’t worry if it isn’t as pretty as everyone else’s. Everything on the Internet has been curated and filtered to only show the best. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Happy Bullet Journaling!

tiffany sign off

Bullet Journal For School

School was drawing near so I decided to turn my new Personal Planner notebook into my school bullet journal. I have now completed my set up and can share it with all of you! I’ve mentioned before that my previous bullet journal was being re-purposed to keep all my collections in there, and so, this new notebook was going to be my every day planner/school bullet journal. I absolutely love this inspirational notebook cover. As someone who is constantly stressed out and anxious about school, it is a good reminder that no matter what is going on in my life, I can still be capable of accomplishing what I came here to do.

personal-planner

I set up my bullet journal like any other bullet journal, starting with an index page and a goals page. My index page differs from most index pages because I have split it into two columns: Calendars and Collections. Since the majority of my collections are in my Moleskine, the collections in this journal are all school-based. The goals I have chosen for my goals page are all goals that I want to reach by the end of this next school year. They range from school related goals, to financial, to blogging and extracurricular goals.

index-goals2

Failures are only failures when we don’t learn from them…because when we learn from them, they become LESSONS. – Jay Shetty

calendex2

This next page is my Fall Semester Calendex. This layout was inspired by Carrie Crista on YouTube. She has been one of my biggest inspirations for bujo layouts and learning about how to begin bullet journaling. I love her videos and when she posted a video on how to use your bullet journal for school, I knew this was the method I wanted to try out for the next semester.

As you can see, the months are vertically displayed and the horizontal lines indicate when a week has ended. I started my weeks on the Monday to stay consistent with the way school is structured. On the right corner of the page, I have a small section for goals for the first semester. Underneath that is the key for all my symbols. Each course has its own colour so when there is an exam for the blue History course, I write in my calendex an E in blue. It is pretty self-explanatory but if you still do not understand it, check out Carrie’s video because she does a great job of explaining how to use a Calendex, especially for school.

schedule-program-planner

The next spread I have is my class schedule for the school year. I feel like that explains itself hahah. You basically take the schedule that your school has already generated out for you and copy it into your bullet journal. Simple enough right?

On the right, I have a program planning spread. I am aiming to finish with a Honors Specialization in Psychology. There are so many classes and requirements we need to take that trying to remember which courses you have taken and which ones you want to take can get a little daunting. On your university website, there should be a section that tells you what courses you need to complete your degree. If you can’t find it, talk to an academic counselor and they can help you figure out what you need to complete your degree. I wrote out all the courses that I was interested in taking (or in this case, the courses that I have already taken). To ensure that I didn’t miss any courses, I highlighted the course and the corresponding requirement in the same colour. On the (blurred) right hand column, I wrote down the grade I finished the course with in order to quickly calculate my average. On the next page, I repeated the same method for tracking the courses I needed to take for my History Minor.

program-planner-course-syllabus

After my two program planning spreads, I wrote down the lecture schedules for each of my 5 courses this semester. Starting with the course code and course name at the top, I added the class information and the information for contacting or meeting my prof below it. I included the course breakdown and any important dates. Then I copied the lecture schedule for the course syllabus so I would be able to easily refer back to this page when searching for the required reading for each week. If there was still room at the bottom of the page, I would include a grade tracker so I can see what grades I was receiving and how I need to improve for the final exam.

history-2181

Lastly, I created a spread for my daily breakdown and study plan. While I will not be using the daily breakdown every day, it is a quick reference for me to see my day at a glance. I can quickly figure out when I am usually free and schedule in appointments where appropriate. Since this is just an overview of my week based on my school schedule, it was not meant to be a daily planner. I plan on using this spread as a reference when I make my weeklies for things such as scheduling times when I can go to the gym, or when I have time to make food. The study plan spread shows me which days are dedicated to studying for which courses. This way I can stay on top of my readings and notes without feeling too overwhelmed. While this may not be a permanent study plan, it is a good start for me to organize and give myself enough time to prepare for the following week.

study-plan

I have a couple other spreads that I have not currently made yet since school is only beginning. Those include an essay planning spread and an assignment check-list. If you would like to see those spreads, leave a comment or like this post and I will make a part two for this post. Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires you for using your bullet journal for school!

tiffany sign off

Plan With Me: September

September came way too quickly but I cannot wait for school to start! This month I set up my planner (or my bullet journal) to accommodate for school and for work. I moved out of my A5 Moleskine into a Personal Planner because the cream pages of the Moleskine were triggers for too many of my headaches. I still love my Moleskine and will likely keep it for collections and blog planning, however, I opted for the white pages found in the Personal Planner. I love this new notebook because it is open for customization and the paper is so nice and smooth to write on. There’s a lot of pages, yet doesn’t feel heavy. Not going to lie…I ordered a second one and it arrived today and I couldn’t be happier!

september-set-up

Starting with my monthly overview, I created a page on the left as a September title page with a mini calendar because I find that my brain still needs an overview of the monthly calendar to stay organized and know where in the month I am.

On the right, I created a spread using a modified Calendex method, splitting it up into two sections: academic and others. While the original Calendex uses symbols that are referred to on another page, I simply write in the event or deadline on that day. If there are more than two things on a certain date, I will stick it in my notes so I don’t forget. The To-Do section is for monthly to dos and/or goals I want to accomplish this month.

On the bottom is a monthly income and a monthly expenses box. Monthly expenses is based on my credit card billing cycle so I’m hoping this section will help me realize how much I spend and if I make enough income to cover my expenses. And lastly, an S sticker for the month of September that I found from a really old scrapbook sticker set!

september-week-1

For my weekly, I created a one page spread on the left and saved room on the right for my daily tasks. I like to choose one colour scheme and stick to it for the week; this week was Aqua! On the left, I have a weekly overview, a habit tracker, a to do box, a meal planning box, a box at the bottom for upcoming events, and a monthly calendar. Previously, I had tested out using a monthly tracker but found that I didn’t always go back to it and fill it out, especially as I got busier.

Upon weekly reflection, I realized that the meal planning box was not working for me and so for next week, I am probably going to scrap that section and replace it with a homework and readings section for my classes. Everything else will stay the same.

On the right I write my dailies in a condensed form. The line down the middle is just a pencil marking to mark off two columns to fit all seven daily task lists as the week progresses. As the page fills up, I will go back and erase the pencil mark to give a clean look. I really like this method of writing dailies and plan on keeping it, along with my weekly overview spread, for the rest of the month.

Stationery used:

  • BIC Intensity Fine (Black)
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (Aqua)
  • Zebra Mildliner (Aqua)
  • Scotch Expressions Washi Tape (Aqua)
  • Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen

Leave a comment down below if you would like to see more of my bullet journal!

tiffany sign off