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.


#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.


#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).


#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.


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.


#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.


#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.


#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.


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


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