Bullet Journaling is an optimized way of storing and marking your notes created by Ryder Carroll (Bullet Journal® or BuJo® for short). The flexible structure can be tailored to your individual needs, and all you need to get started is a notebook and pen.
The system of marking tasks as complete or rescheduled is efficient and easy to wrap your head around, so it’s no surprise the term is used as generically as Band-Aid or Kleenex. Bullet Journalists are a community of productivity and organization fiends who use common language to describe and share their planners on sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. Some keep a minimalist notebook while others draw and color every page. My journal falls somewhere in between.
This Instructable describes the common elements and popular supplies for Bullet Journaling, infused with my personal experience and illustrated by my journal pages. You'll also find links to supplies/products and some of my favorite sources of online inspiration.
Step 1: Daily Log
I’ve been organizing my notes in Bullet Journal form since the beginning of March, and for me it’s been all about the Daily Log. This is what sits open on my desk all week, helping me keep track of everyday todos, meetings, and events. This part of my Bullet Journal is most similar to the way I've kept my notebooks in the past, but with so much more color and flair thanks to online inspiration and a fetish for art supplies.
I was on vacation for most of this week in March.
This is the same spread, before and after the week played out.
I got excited about blending brush pen colors and circular plant motifs for this week in April. I made a mistake on the right page and covered the dates up with new badges cut from my sketchbook.
I had a busy week in May but didn't manage to capture much in my journal. The circular moon motif took hardly any time to draw.
Blending the brush pens again, I created this quick and colorful spread for this week in June. I highlighted the text with a bit of Uni-Ball Signo White Gel Pen.
Step 2: Indexing & Future Log
An index at the start of your bullet journal helps you find important pages, now and forever. My Maker’s Notebook has page numbers and a page up front for indexing the contents, but you can number your own pages if your notebook is blank. Every month (at least) I make sure to index the new content of my bullet journal, so the task never takes more than a few minutes. Indexing is the sloggiest part of this system for me, but if I could go back in time I'd make myself do this for every notebook I've ever written because I can never find anything quickly when I go back to look for an old sketch or notes.
Since you compose the bullet journal as you go (instead of writing out each month and week ahead of time), it becomes necessary to have a place to store important events and tasks that will take place further in the future than your notebook currently extends. The future log is a place to store future events and tasks until you've reached the appropriate time to create those notebook pages describing the pertinent month and week. Since I use an online calendar, particularly for far-away events like business travel, I find the future log only mildly useful. I do like having a redundant information system for those times I can't get to a device fast enough, either for capture or reference.
Step 3: Monthly Spreads
At the start of each month, a lot of youtubers I’ve been watching do a monthly spread, so I’ve been trying it out. Many cite the opportunity to get artistic on this single page or two-page spread. Some folks create a calendar view or list of days in the month to visualize events, but since I use Google Calendar for a monthly overview of my events already, I don't find the need.
This month I combined the month intro with a doodle page.
If not for the drawing opportunity, this page can also be used as a separator by applying a piece of tape along it's edge, serving as a marking tab. This way you can easily open the notebook to each month. More on tape and stickers in another step...
Step 4: Collections
Dedicated spreads will vary based on your interests. For me that means keeping track of project brainstorm lists and notes related to individual events or projects. Here are some ideas for collections you might try:
- Recipes to try
- Movies to watch
- Gratitude journal
- Places to visit
- Yearly goals
Step 5: Trackers
Another popular thing to try is a little at-home dataviz by tracking your daily habits and activities. I’ve been refining the list of things I track, but generally fall off from marking at all towards the end of each month. Here are some ideas for habits/tasks to track:
- Water intake
- Eating habits
- Social media posts
Step 6: Doodle Pages
Doodle pages are where I blow off some steam. I'll draw, color, and write when I'm feeling stressed or trying to mentally work through solving a problem. Rumination while drawing keeps my mind on track.
Step 7: Sketches & Notes
If you're in school, you might take notes in class or during homework research in your bullet journal. I use mine as a sketchbook for project ideas but also for video notes when I'm talking to camera or composing a script.
Step 8: Supplies
I’ve been picking a limited color scheme of markers to use each month, and bingeing on YouTube videos about color blending and hand lettering. You really don't need anything but a notebook and a pen to journal, but part of the fun for me is the artfulness of it all. My growing collection of supplies:
- Maker's Notebook
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens for brush lettering and coloring/blending
- Staedtler Triplus Fineliners
- Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
- Uni-Ball Signo White Gel Pen
- Small ruler
- Palomino Blackwing pencils
- Homemade pencil case
Supplies I see other folks using (but don't personally own):
Step 9: Stickers
I see a connection between art journalling and scrapbooking, especially when it comes to stickers. I generally print out images from the internet (find all mine on my Pinterest Board) and paste them into my notebook. The Goldilocks metric of sticker-making breaks down thusly:
- Papa bear: Xyron sticker maker
- Mama bear: Tombow MONO Permanent Adhesive Applicator
- Baby bear: Glue stick
The odd character out, or Goldilocks herself, is washi tape, which is just another name for decorative masking tape. I like the super skinny kind for creating dividers, but you'll be spoiled for choice searching on Amazon or Etsy.
Step 10: Putting It Together
My journal motivates me to keep track of my tasks and goals because it’s fun to draw I’m a visual person. Everybody’s notebook will look different; I use a larger graphical style that really helps me navigate between my todo list and current project sketch easily. I love the community and online inspiration aspect of bullet journaling. Follow my Pinterest board on the topic, and check out these sources of inspiration:
- Official Bullet Journal site
- #BulletJournal on Instagram and Pinterest
- Peter Draws
- Cheyenne Barton
- Boho Berry
- Danica Sills
I’m curious how y’all organize your creative and administrative tasks, and would love to hear about it in the comments.