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Everything You Should Know Before You Start Your Bullet Journal
(Otherwise Known as ‘My First Two Weeks of Bullet Journaling’)
I am a planner failure.
Let me explain. I’m actually really good at planning things out. I like to plan events. I plan our school curriculum. I often plan my day in great detail. But those bulky planners at the home office store filled with blank calendar months, weekly and daily charts…I’m no good at those. I buy them, use them for a week, and then forget where I put them.
The problem with those planners is that there’s simultaneously too many pages of schedules that I’m never going to use and not enough room to plan for things the way I really want to. So instead I resort to carrying around a paper calendar and using random notebooks. To-do list…random notebook. Grocery list…random notebook. Planning an event…random notebook. And you guessed it…more often than I’d like to admit….I forget where I put the notebooks.
So when I was scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago and started seeing all these Bullet Journal posts pop up, I was intrigued.
What is a Bullet Journal?
Bulletjournal.com calls the Bullet Journal “the analog system for the the digital age”. It says, “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”
And undoubtedly, it seems that it started much more simply then what Pinterest posters have grown it to today.
In short, it’s a way that I can combine my calendar and all of my random notebook lists into one place. Mamas, I have to tell you, I like this kind of simplicity and productivity.
A List of Materials
These are the things I would consider your Bullet Journal Basics…all you really need to get started.
- A dot or grid journal. A blank or lined journal would probably work fine, but I really like the dot/grid format. The dots/grid are light enough to make it easy to draw/sketch freely, but also help to keep your writing straight. It also acts as a guideline when I’m adding any type of hand lettering. After reading reviews, I decided to go with the Essentials Grid-Lined Notebook. The price point was pretty low, I love how it lays flat open, and the pages are decently thick. (I have experienced some bleed-through, but not so much that it’s overly distracting to me.)
- Something to write/draw with. I went with the Huhuhero Fineliner Color Pen Set. Again, I thought it was a good price point for drawing pens and I liked the color choices. If you aren’t concerned about how your Bullet Journal looks visually, like you’re only going to be making lists and not drawing, you could get away with any kind of pen. My husband has been using a simple bullet journal and could care less about colored pens!
- A Ruler. But more specifically this Westcott Stainless Steel Office Ruler. It’s the most amazing ruler I’ve ever owned! It’s small enough to literally use as a bookmark in my Bullet Journal. It’s stainless steel, so not at all flimsy. And it has a thin strip of cork on the back side to keep it from slipping! And just to be clear, I’ll still like you if you don’t think you need a ruler when making lists and charts. I just don’t understand you.
Washi Tape is Life
Oh my word, y’all! (My Kentucky comes out when I get excited.) Where has washi tape been all my life? I consider myself a crafty person and I’ve certainly heard of washi tape. I just had. no. idea.
Here’s what happened. I’m watching a YouTube video about Bullet Journaling …don’t judge me… and I notice that she used washi tape not only to add decoration to her Bullet Journal, but also to fix mistakes. Wrote something wrong…no biggie, just put washi tape over it and it looks adorable! So I think, Ok, I’ll just pop over to Amazon and order me some of this washi tape. And I ordered this really pretty Set of 12 Custom Made Washi Tape.
But then two days come and go and still no washi tape. I check Amazon and they clearly sent it to me immediately. However, I get a notification that there’s somehow been some sort of delay with the postal carrier. Sigh! So a couple of my girls and I head up to the local craft store.
Oh. my. washi tape.
I came home with two tubes of 8 rolls and this bad boy with 45 rolls!
And now I’m hooked. I’ve got washi tape all over my Bullet Journal, it’s going in my bible, I used it for a craft project with the kids. I definitely think it’s amazing, but if you’re going about this journal business frugally…then I would definitely recommend ordering online. If you find yourself walking down the washi tape aisle at the craft store, it’s going to be all over. I’m just saying.
I also ordered Creative Lettering and Beyond. This is the book you see in the above picture. This is definitely a non-essential, but a fun “extra”. It’s got some really great tips and examples of hand lettering. I have a chalkboard that I like to do hand lettering on, so I’ll use this book for that as well.
Pinterest is Your Friend
There are sooooo many posts online to give you examples of layouts that you might use for your Bullet Journal. To get your started, I created a Bullet Journaling Mommy board. You’re welcome to click over and follow, if you’d like!
Pinterest is Your Enemy
I’m not going to lie to you. I seriously spent the first 4 days just looking at Pinterest boards about Bullet Journaling. There were so many options, I didn’t know where to start. And when I finally did start…my pages were nothing to brag about. I had already figured that I would be writing a Bullet Journal article, but at this point, I was thinking it was going to be one of those Pinterest FAIL articles. So at the risk of hurting my pride a little, I’m going to show some of my beginning pages so that you can see that the best thing is to just dive in. I’m also going to highlight the pages that you should just go ahead and start with, taking the decision work out of it for you, so you’re not terrified to start like I was.
Start with an Index Page or 2.
As mentioned in the video. This is really what makes your Bullet Journal easy to use. You don’t have to put your pages in any certain order. You can have a calendar page on one page, a grocery list on the next, then a weight loss chart, and another calendar page. Just number your pages, and every time you create a new entry, add it to the index in the front so you know where to find it.
Next, add a Bullet Journal Key
Once you start making to-do lists in your monthly, weekly, or daily pages you will want some sort of key to keep track of your tasks and events. In the video, they talk about how this key will help you to “rapid log” and keep track of your tasks. I really like this method!
A Future Log to Note Important Events
This was definitely one of my Pinterest Fail pages in terms of ‘prettiness’. I kind of think this page is a mess. But it’s actually a very useful page in terms of keeping track of important upcoming events like birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. I can quickly see what’s happening and add notes for the next six months. Since I know I’ll refer to this page a lot, I folded over a piece of washi tape in the top corner of the page for easy referencing.
A Monthly Page Layout
I’m actually really happy with the way this layout turned out and I just wanted to encourage you that your layouts and handwriting will improve with practice, so try not to be discouraged if they don’t look perfect at first. I struggled to decide if I needed a Monthly Page layout since I already had the Future Log. But I finally decided to make one knowing that I’ve always used a monthly calendar and I really like to make and track goals monthly. I will flesh out my monthly calendar here. I’ll add work, family, and fitness goals in the goals section. I know it’s hard to see, but my Habit tracker includes Quiet Time, Walk/Run, CrossFit, Track Food, Sleep by 12, Special Book, and Blog Post.
Now, Increase Your Productivity!
This is really the whole reason I wanted to try to the Bullet Journal in the first place… I really wanted a place that I could easily and quickly organize my thoughts and tasks to get more done. So far it’s working really well! I literally take five minutes or less, first thing in the morning, to jot down the really important things I need to do that day and move over anything I didn’t get to do the day before. It’s a quick process, but it keeps me focused on what I need to make sure happens that day.
Bullet Journal Event Planning
If I need to plan out an event I simply turn to a blank page and create a plan. Then I add it to my index. Here are a few of the other pages I’ve created to track things that are important to me…
Bullet Journal Yearly Goals
Bullet Journal Book List
Bullet Journal Weightlifting/CrossFit Personal Record Chart
Bullet Journal Summer Bucket List
By the way, if you’re wondering… I’ve yet to forget where I put my Bullet Journal! I’m using it so often, that it’s always close by. I plan to keep this up and update you all in about a month to let you know if I’m still finding Bullet journaling to be a productive use of my time.
I’d love to see pics of your Bullet Journals if you decide to start one! Post them on the It’s A Wonderful Mom Life facebook page!
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