A few years ago, I was hauling around three separate notebooks everywhere because there was no space for everything I wanted to write in one single book. Diaries that came with predetermined boxes for monthly and daily notes weren’t utilised properly because there are days when I’ll fill them up and other days where I wouldn’t have anything on. And there weren’t enough pages for when I wanted to just journal my thoughts, and it annoyed me that I had to keep flipping to a separate section whenever I wanted to do that. I was watching some YouTube videos on journaling earlier this year to look for inspiration when I stumbled upon one titled: “Bullet Journal Flip Through” by Boho Berry.
For those not in the know, a bullet journal, a system designed by Ryder Caroll, a digital designer living in New York, is basically a diary, sketchbook, to-do list, and journal, all combined into one notebook that’s incredibly customisable, according to the needs by each individual. It’s a system that’s forgiving and flexible, but it can also be pretty daunting when you’ve no idea where to begin. My first mistake was to look up all the gorgeous layouts of bullet journalists on the web and to realise that there was no way I’d be able to sketch an intricately detailed flower or have the patience to draw more than a couple of header styles. However, all you need to start a bullet journal is a notebook and a pen.
You’ll find a plethora of Instagrams dedicated to the aesthetics of a bullet journal, as well as the many supplies needed to create those beautiful pages. However, those aren’t exactly necessary. You can definitely experiment with brushes and pens, but only if you want to. If what you’re looking for is just a place to note down your to-dos and keep track of events, just stick to that. The first thing you’ll need is a notebook, and they can be lined, blank, dot grid or squared. I’m currently using a squared grid notebook and it fits my purpose completely, but again, totally up to you. You’ll also a need a pen to write down the entries, of course.
The Key and Index
Pretty much any bullet journal will have these two pages at the beginning, because they’re essential elements that allow you to keep track of what you put inside of your bullet journal. The Key is a list of symbols that you use to mark an event or a task, as well as what you’ve done with them. For example, I use a box to depict a task, and colour it in when it’s completed. On the other hand, the Index is what you’ll use to track the entries in your bullet journal, which means you’ll have to number the pages.
A monthly log is where you’ll have a layout of what’s happening for the month; events, goals as well as other things you want to keep a track of on a monthly basis can go in here. I also like to keep a section for upcoming events in the next month handy, and a space where I note down my major expenses for the month, like bills and things I’m planning on buying.
Hack: if you’ve made a mistake and want to cover it up, grab a blank piece of paper and some washi tape, like how I’ve done my small calendar at the top left side. It’s simple and aesthetically pleasing as well.
This is where you can start to really get into detail about organising your day to day tasks. If you find that a monthly log doesn’t hold enough space, a daily log is a great way to expand on what you plan to do daily, especially if you find it easier to manage all the things in one place. This is also where the Key comes in handy, as it’ll help you to separate tasks and make sure they’ve been completed, cancelled or moved forward to a different date.
One of the main things you’ll see in a bullet journal is a tracker, and I have two big ones: A Gratitude Tracker and a Habit Tracker, done on a monthly basis. They don’t go into my Monthly Log because they take up too much space and I like having them on a separate layout as well. A Gratitude Tracker is my way of remembering of simple joys or blessings on a daily basis, and it reminds me to be more thankful for the things I have in life. A Habit Tracker, on the other hand, is how I keep track of habits that I want to make more regular, like reading more and drinking water.
This is where I keep my journal entries. My reflections, reviews and aspirations go in here, and it’s where I allow myself to write freely. You can choose to have this in your bullet journal or in a separate notebook if you’re afraid of your privacy being potentially invaded. For myself, I enjoy the idea of being able to flip back between all the serious tasks I have to complete to fun, random thoughts about my day in one single bullet journal.
As I’ve mentioned, each bullet journal should be reflective of its owner. If you love to doodle and sketch, by all means go ahead. If you’re more of a minimalist and prefer to keep your bullet journal neat, there’s no harm at all in sticking to a simple layout for your entries. I myself enjoy a happy medium of both, as I like to think of mine as fun and functional. There’s no right and wrong in a bullet journal, and that’s its own beauty.