How to use a bullet journal

In recent years, the bullet journal method has inspired a thriving community of planners and organisers throughout the Internet and social media.

This article will show you how to use a bullet journal - outlining the benefits of this revolutionary method and providing inspiration and ideas for your own bullet journal.

What is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal (or 'bujo') is a personal planning system developed by Ryder Carroll. Dubbed 'the analog method for the digital age', a bullet journal typically contains a series of handwritten daily and monthly task lists, events and notes. The method aims to maximise productivity and help individuals track the past, whilst planning for the future.

Why use a bullet journal?

There are numerous bullet journal benefits. Whilst prominent members of the online bujo community provide individual tips and tricks, almost all of them mention the same advantages of keeping a bullet journal:

  • Productivity. Ryder Carroll states that the tool is a "mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity tool". By writing out daily and monthly goals, practitioners of the bullet journal system are able to see which tasks need to be completed - and perhaps more importantly, which ones aren't important.
  • Creativity. The bujo Instagram community is awash with colourful displays and visually impressive designs. Many bloggers offer sticker packs and other tips to improve the aesthetics of a bullet journal - if you enjoy artistic endeavours, the bullet journal is definitely for you.
  • Mindfulness. The aim of the bullet journal method is to help its users live "intentional lives" - in other words, practising self-care and living a productive and meaningful life. Many bloggers remark on the positive impact bullet journaling has had on their mental health.
  • Customisable. Once you master the key tenets of the method, it is easy to individualise your bullet journal by adding in your own designs or tweaking the system to suit your requirements. With a variety of free resources available on the Internet, you can create a beautiful bullet journal without needing to spend a lot of money.
  • Organisation. A bullet journal keeps all your notes, tasks and events in one place. In our modern-day society, in which our lives have become increasingly hectic, your bullet journal can be a safe haven which helps you to declutter your mind and organise your life.

In short, if you're looking for an effective way to keep yourself organised which boosts creativity and encourages mindfulness, the bullet journal method could be for you.

How to set up your bullet journal

One of the great things about the bullet journal is that it is such a simple method to learn. As with any new activity, it will take time until it becomes second nature - but practice makes perfect.

Ryder Carroll's tutorial video is a helpful introduction to the bullet journal method. He works from the principle of "tracking the past, organise the present and plan for the future". The steps are relatively simple - this process can act as a bullet journal cheat sheet - and can be adapted for your own journal. To set up your bullet journal for the first time, follow the steps below:

Step 1

In the first page of your bullet journal, set up your Index. This will effectively act as a table of contents for you to easily locate your entries as you populate your journal.

Step 2

Turn to a fresh double-page and set up your Future Log. Divide these pages into equal sections - usually six sections across a double page spread - and then add the month into the top left-hand corner of each section.

On the Index page, enter the appropriate page numbers for the Future Log.

Step 3

Set up your Monthly Log on the next available blank double-page.

On the left-hand page, write each of the dates (e.g. for April, write 1, 2, 3...down to 30) on the left of the page. Add the first letter of each day of the week next to the date. This is your Calendar Page, providing you with a high-level view of the month.

On the right-hand page, write your list of tasks and events to be completed for the month. Use a bullet journal key to help differentiate between tasks and events (here are some ideas for creating the perfect bullet journal key). This is your Task Page.

Go back to the Index page and enter the appropriate page numbers for the Monthly Log.

Step 4

Set up your Daily Log on the next available blank double-page.

Enter the date in the top left-hand corner of the page. Throughout the day, use the daily log to record completed tasks, events and any notes - ensuring you use your bullet journal key. Use short bullet points (Carroll refers to this as Rapid Logging) to make your entries, keeping them as concise as possible. Repeat this process for the next day, and then each day until the end of the month.

Step 5

At the end of each month, repeat the process to set up your Monthly Log for the next month.

At this stage, review the daily tasks you logged in the previous month. If there are any outstanding tasks, determine if these still require completion - if they don't, then put a line through them.

If the tasks are still important and need to be completed, then decide if they need to be done in the short-term or the long-term. Short-term tasks can be added to your next Monthly Log. Longer-term tasks - or things that can wait for future months - should be added to your Future Log.

Step 6

You can also organise related tasks and items in Collections.

This is for a selection of related tasks that fit under one category. Simply add a title (e.g. Books to Read, Recipe List, etc.) to a blank page, and then list the relevant entries or notes. Add the page numbers for each Collection in your Index so you can easily refer back to it later.

Following these steps, you'll have no trouble in setting up and using your bullet journal to improve your productivity and efficiency.

Getting started

Before you start, you will need to ensure you have a few essential bullet journal supplies to hand:

  • Journal. Make sure you pick a journal you're going to want to write in every single day (we have a beautiful range of journals at Paper Republic which you can even personalise with your initials).
  • Ruler. To keep the lines in your bullet journal neat and tidy - and most importantly, straight - you'll want to ensure you have a durable ruler available.
  • Pen/Drawing Pencils. At the minimum, you will need a sturdy, comfortable pen to write with. Depending on your artistic ambition, you may need coloured pens or drawing pencils for hand lettering.
  • Printables. There are so many resources available online - ranging from planners to stickers - to help spruce up your bullet journal.
  • Washi Tape. Available in seemingly unlimited colours, textures and sizes, you can express your creative side by adorning your journal with washi tape.

Bullet journal ideas

Once you've mastered the basics, the only limit to your bullet journal use is your imagination. You can use your bullet journal for any number of things:

  • Meal planning/tracking
  • Fitness tracking
  • Financial planning
  • Goals and rewards
  • Affirmation log
  • Habit tracker
  • Recipe list
  • Books to read
  • Gratitude log
  • Movies to watch

 

These bullet journal ideas are just the tip of the iceberg - the beauty is that you can set it up so it works for you! There are endless possibilities, and every bullet journal is unique.

Start your bullet journal today

In this article, we've shown you how to use a bullet journal and the positive impact this can have on living more productively. We've also given you some inspiration as you become accustomed to the bullet journal process.

If you're still looking for the perfect journal, we have an exceptional selection of high-quality leather journals available.