Nearly three years ago, when Amy first introduced me to the traveler's notebook / planner / bullet journal world, I thought, "Huh?" Yet today, thanks to my journal, I'm able to aptly manage three (yes, three!) small businesses, two children, three pets, a .husband, and a house. However, like many others, I seriously struggled with HOW to incorporate this awesomeness into my life. It took well over a year and a lot of experimentation with different systems, books, sizes and styles to finally find my fit: but now I've found it, and it's marvelous. So, I thought I'd share with you the EXACT RIGHT WAY TO BULLET JOURNAL.
Ha, ha, ha. No. Really, I've come to believe there's no one right way to journal, except for the way that ends up working for you. But what I will share is what worked (and what didn't) for me and why, and maybe it will help some of you along too.
You don't need to go out and drop $20 on a bound book, or a fancy Traveler's Notebook cover and inserts, or a binder/planner at your local craft store. Eventually, once you've found your groove, you can treat yourself to something nice if you want. But in the beginning, all you really need is a basic composition notebook, and a pen. A ruler can help too, but isn't essential. We're not going for perfection here. Who cares if every line isn't straight? Consider this your practice journal. Use it daily, Use it in different ways, experiment with how you most naturally and productively record information, Journal, in fact, like nobody's watching. Because nobody is. Your journal is yours. Sharing pics online is not a prerequisite. If you start in something forgiving, you'll avoid the intimidation of "ruining" something you spent a chunk of money on and instead enjoy the process learning how to journal.
Where do I start?
Work with the end goal in mind. The point of journaling is to have all things recorded in one place. All. The. Things. So your planner/calendar, thought journal, sketchbook, receipts, lists of movies/books/podcasts, meeting/class notes, contacts, every post-it on your desk, gift ideas, etc. all portable; all organized; with you at all times. My advice is start with your calendar because the more you habitually go to your journal to find out where you're supposed to be or whether you're available when scheduling something new, the more you'll make sure to take it everywhere and start recording the other types of information in it too.
Planner layouts or spreads [A layout takes up one side of a page. A spread takes up two pages that face one another.]
There are lots of examples of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily layouts online. Try making and using a variety to see what fits your lifestyle needs. You don't have to use them all - for example some simply start with a yearly for reference and then make 52 weekly spreads and that's all they need to record their appointments and tasks. Others commit to a yearly followed by 365 daily layouts so that, in addition to appointments and tasks, they have room for decorating or journaling their thoughts or feelings. Some throw in a monthly spread every so often so they can see the most important information at a glance and plan accordingly. Really, you just have to try them all and see what works for you.
Keys & Indexes
The traditional approach to Bullet Journaling, presented by Ryder Carroll, proposes that we all use the same system of symbols [called a Key] to visually differentiate a task from an event from an idea, etc. Have a look at it and try it out. If you find that it takes a whole lot of effort to remember which symbol means what, requires that you write them down somewhere in your journal, and then flip back and fourth to look at it, it's okay to use a modified, much simpler version instead. Really.
The traditional Bullet Journal method also suggests the use of an index; a table of contents if you will, that notes where in your book something occurs. Every page then needs to be numbered, of course, so that you can reference the page number when you add a new item to your index. It's okay to use tabs, pieces of folded over washi tape, markered page edges, separate inserts if you're using a Traveler's Notebook system, etc. to create sections for different types of information within your journal. You don't have to use an index.
Trackers, Lists, Collections, etc.
After your calendar/planner is in place, the rest of your notebook can contain other things like those mentioned above; collections, trackers, creative brainstorms, notes, lists, etc. There are also lots and lots of examples of these types of spreads as well. Google something like, 'journal house cleaning tracker' and you'll see there's no reason to reinvent the wheel. Fabulously creative people have already explored a variety of ways to plan out the space on a page and do what you're aiming to do. All you have to do is copy it and try using it. If it fails to work well for you, try a different variation and see if that works better. Not everyone's brain works the same, so it makes sense that different people need to organize information in different ways.
Bullet Journaling & Planner Accessories
Once you find your groove, are using your journal daily, and are amazed at how much more productive you are for it, you can add on another level of enjoyment with accessories. Things like washi tape, stencils, stamps, bookmarks, pockets, dashboards, colored pens, and more can help you create the layouts you like faster, add decoration and a creative touch to your spreads, help you organize specific information even more efficiently, or make your setup more visually appealing so that you enjoy this fabulous tool even more. Using your journal for a little bit of creative expression can be a great way to relieve stress check in with yourself about how you spend your time, set goals, celebrate accomplishments, etc. There are many, many artists and small businesses on etsy who research and develop product just for the journaling community. Overall, enjoy the journey.
Check Out the MoxieDori MoxieBox Beginner Journaling Kit
We Wrote a Quick & Easy Guide Just For Those New To Bullet Journaling & Put It In a Box With All Sorts of Starter Goodies!