Eva and I set up The Ink Pot because we love bullet journaling, but it has become clear to me from conversations with friends that bullet journaling is still a relatively unknown concept in the UK and many people are put off by its apparent complexity. I'm going to explain here what bullet journaling is, how it can help you become more organised, how extremely simple it is to do and how to get started.
I'm show how adults and older children can use journals to help organise their lives and outline how younger children can benefit from them. They find journals enjoyable, for slightly different purposes and I deal with that below. Eva’s little sister loves journaling too but she is only nine so truthfully does not have much to plan in her life. Her journal is more about amusing or motivational quotes and making her pages beautiful and artistic (or snazzy as Amelia likes to say).
What is a Bullet Journal?
Bullet journals can help simplify your life. It's a planner/diary/log that you create to work for you. Just think of every diary you've ever had with pages of nonsense that are no use to you (bank holidays in Mexico or world time-zones), or the daily entries that are too small or too large, or there isn’t enough room for the notes you want to keep. Bullet journals resolve these problems because you can structure them any way you want. I know it sounds like a pain to set up, but I promise it's not, because you create it as you go along.
A bullet journal should replace the complex organisational system you are likely to be using currently. Are you one of those people who has lists and post-it notes everywhere, or ideas in your head, numerous email accounts for work and home and messages coming in texts, Whatsapp messages and on the phone? I was that person and truthfully I was ruthless with getting my work done but often late responding to personal matters like invitations, paying bills or requests for information.
A bullet journal should make your life EASIER as well as more organised. You may find the concept overwhelming and therefore off-putting but it can be as easy and simple as you want it to be. I suggest starting with the basics and adding more complex ideas only if you would find that useful. It's important to note that your bullet journal doesn't have to look good; it just needs to work for you!
At its most basic a bullet journal will include a list of future events/tasks (the Future Log), a monthly planner (the Monthly Log) and a daily and/or weekly planner (the Daily and Weekly Logs). But it can include so much more, if that would be useful to you. Just a few examples:
- Shopping list/meal planner
- Gift page
- Birthday list
- Shopping dreams
- Exercise Tracker
- Mood Tracker
- Gratitude log
- Professional development tasks/goals
YOU CAN START ANY TIME. This is not something to reserve for 1 January. If you think your life needs to be more organised, or you want to get everything onto paper instead of your screen, start now.
I would heartily recommend Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method if you want to learn about the original, structured method for bullet journaling. His system is a little more complicated than I like to use – I find some of the symbols too much – but it has transformed many lives (indeed is very useful for people with ADD for example) and is perfect for people who like a very structured system.
First things first: get the kit you need. Despite the fact that we sell a pile of bujo kit on here, there isn’t much that's essential. You can use ANY notebook and any basic old pen. Given you are going to be using this journal quite frequently we would recommend making it one that's beautiful and inspiring, as you'll be looking at it and using it daily, (like an Ink Pot journal …!) but you can use anything.
You don't need a journal with page numbers, as you can paginate as you go. We have not paginated our journals because some people don't like them. It's easier to put them in than take them out!
You don’t need fancy pens when you get started. We would recommend a simple pen.
Eva has done a video to explain her favourite pens for bullet journaling and you can find it here. More to follow...
Structure of Bullet Journal
I can’t be too prescriptive because you can do this any way you want – this has to work for YOU - but the general structure (which I broadly use) is as follows:
Index – obviously this comes first, right at the start. Your index will grow and grow as the content in your journal grows. You won’t need to put everything in your index; just the content of the journal which you will want to find again and again such as the future log and monthly logs (and additional content – see below). You do not need to put daily or weekly logs into the index because these will be easy to find after your monthly logs.
You can keep it very simple or jazz it up a bit. The design and layout is ALWAYS up to you:
Future Log – this comes right after the index and sets out each month of the year (from when you are starting your journal) and highlights the key tasks and events of the year. This helps to show, in one place, when the busy periods of the year are likely to be. You can take as many pages as you like to complete this, but probably best to use no more than four. Obviously things change and you can update the log - 2020 has not gone as planned, for example! – but I find it helpful to be able to see at a glance what the year looks like.
Again, you can keep it very simple...
... or make it more beautiful and elaborate if that is your thing:
Monthly Log – you then create a monthly log for each month, but you only need to do this as the year progresses. You just prepare as you go along and each time you prepare one you check what is in your future log which needs to be migrated to the monthly log (see Migration below).
The most basic structure involves a line or two for each day of the month on the left hand-side and a task/events list on the right, as follows:
But you can structure it differently and make it more interesting to look at:
Daily/Weekly Logs – some people have just monthly and daily logs, but personally I find it extremely useful to do weekly logs which list out the working days of the week on one page and a list for the week on the opposite page, as follows:
This is because so many jobs need to be done during the week, but don't need to be done on any particular day! This reduces the amount of repetition and you're not constantly writing lists of the same jobs because you failed to do them the day before!
You can decide how many pages to use for each day. The beauty of the system is that you do whatever is going to be most useful for you. You might find that you need many pages for each day and so just do a daily log at the beginning of each day, or at the end of the last day once you know when you are ready to move on.
Migration – this is the term used for moving items from one part of your journal to another. For example, you may have a job to do in three months (say July) which you have put in your future log and then when you come to prepare the July monthly log you can migrate the entry from the future log to the monthly log. It's a satisfying process and takes very little time. It's a good way to ensure you have captured the important tasks and events and don't forget about them when the time comes.
But it's also a way of getting rid of jobs that just don't need to be done. Regular reviewing is essential. Scratch out the jobs that are a waste of time; the ones that you thought you would do, but on reflection are pointless. As Ryder Carroll says: when you strike out a task from your bujo, enjoy the feeling of having reclaimed a portion of your time. Give yourself some credit; this is a win!
Migrating tasks may seem like a pain, but it doesn't take much time, is actually quite calming and is a critical way of ensuring you're only doing the jobs that need to be done and recording what needs to be recorded.
How to get even more out of your bullet journal
As stated above, there are numerous things you can record in your journal, such as shopping lists, meal plans, books to read, TV shows recommended to you, present ideas for friends and family, etc (known as Collections). You may also have a large project to do and want to keep a log or various logs to help with that.
Trackers (e.g. sleep, exercise or mood) could be created as part of your monthly spread like this:
Here are some other ideas....but we will be writing more about Collections shortly, so keep your eyes peeled!
- Meal planner
- Gratitude log
- Books recommended
- TV shows recommended
- Birthday log
Bullet Journaling for young children
You may have young children who want to organise their lives. I do not! My young daughter (who is nine) loves a bullet journal for lists of TV shows, birthdays and, her main thing, funny quotes which she finds on the internet. She adores using all her pens and Washi tape and can be entertained for hours doing this. I suspect she will graduate to using her journal for helping to organise her day as she gets older. We can hope...