When I started my bullet journal, I had no idea what I was getting in to. I saw a few pretty “notebook” spreads on Pinterest and was enthusiastic to try it myself. It wasn’t until I did a little more research that I realized there is a whole chunk of the Internet dedicated to just bullet journaling.
This hunk of internet is dedicated to creative, beautiful, and debatably impressive journal spreads designed in high quality notebooks and with the most expensive of pens. Bloggers, writers, and journalists convey words of promise that bullet journaling will change your life for the better. They’re talented, artistic, maybe a little obsessed, but you learn from their experiences the “correct” way to journal.
But in reality, there is no “correct” way to journal. Some of these websites and Pinterest-posters are intimidating and ruthless. They may be trying to help, but in reality, they may not be offering the most manageable, healthy, and cost-effective advice.
While I’m no know-it-all (definitely NOT), I’m here to offer just a smidgen of my own easy peasy, “bullet journaling for dummies” advice. I have been bullet journaling since June of 2018 and have LOVED it ever since. And here’s how you can too!
Understand what bullet journaling is and what journaling can do for you. But don’t do any more research than that.
Bullet journaling is a form of writing and organization, often done on dotted notebooks. Dotted notebooks give you the illusion of a blank slate, but include small faded dots to help you create straight lines…by literally connecting the dots. Bullet journaling allows you to create your own planner, your own lists, and so much more!
Utilizing a bullet journal to its fullest can help you keep your calendar, planner, notebooks, and post-it notes all one place –– truly the epitome of organization. BUT, that’s all you need to know. Put down Pinterest and get off the internet. You now understand what a bullet journal is and are free to go about starting your own.
Get something to journal on but don’t worry about what it is.
Real, high quality bullet journals can be Expensive, with a capital E. If you’re worried about price, grab an old notebook or buy a cheap dot-less journal from your local dollar store. Tie a few pieces of loose leaf paper together with a shoe lace, if that’s what is available to you. But don’t feel the pressure to break the bank, especially if you’re not sure you’ll love it.
However, if you’re sure you’ll love it or you want to make it your goal to try, a sturdy bullet journal may be able to support you. Rule of thumb, think about you much money you usually spend on your annual planner or house-hold calendar and set that amount aside for a bullet journal instead. (Pro Tip: Your local Walmart might have an impressive and cost efficient selection.)
Think about what you want to use your bullet journal for but give yourself grace if you can’t do it consistently.
Maybe you want to use your bullet journal to replace your planner. Don’t try to write out a year’s worth of spreads right away, but also forgive yourself if you start each week a little later than you wanted.
Maybe you want to use your bullet journal to track your running stats. Make columns for every stat you want to keep track of, but don’t create a running “schedule” that you’ll never follow.
Your journal should be what you need it to be and when. Think about what you want to put in your bullet journal, but lose all expectation of what it will look like when you’re using it.
Grab a pen and nothing else (for now!)
Again, bullet journaling should not break the bank. Pick up a pen (or pencil) of your choosing and get to work. To fight off your urges to run to Target and purchase something unnecessary, I’m not even going to tell you my favorite products in this post. Now, put your teeth away already. JEEZ.
Get creative but don’t waste time.
Bullet journaling allows you to do more with your space and can be a source of joy and freedom as a creative outlet. Feel free to draw or doodle in the space where a traditional planner may have included a cheesy quote, or add lots of photos that bring you joy.
But if you’ve never been interested in doodling or design, don’t waste your time making your bullet journal look too artistic. If you plan to draw a map of London on a page you’ll only use for one week, maybe it’s time to lower your expectations (I know you hated art class. Don’t start now.)
Lose your constant need to be a perfectionist.
Whether your bullet journal will be the most recent addition to the Louvre Museum or not, get rid of your need to make it perfect. Bullet journals are meant to be of service to you, and stress and anxiety are not the way to go. This includes if a page doesn’t “look right” or you forget to track your habits for a week. You don’t always need to be on top of your game and life truly will go on. Maybe you put in some overtime at work or had a friend who needed your help. Whatever got in the way of you bullet journaling in that moment was 100% more important.
Stay off social media.
While you’re figuring out this bullet journal thing for yourself, don’t worry about what other journal-users are saying. You are welcome to look for inspiration or read up on the latest tips and tricks, but don’t let it lead you astray from the real reason you started journaling. If you started journaling to track your medications, don’t feel pressured to draw a bajillion flowers next to your check boxes (as you can tell, I’m a firm believer in ugly bullet journals).
Remember, you can stop and start whenever you like.
And finally, the most amazing benefit of using a bullet journal is that you can stop and start whenever you like. If you stop using for a few months and come back to it, it will always be there with a fresh page. You’ll never need to worry about throwing away another bound book with the wrong year on it ever again (bye bye planners!)
Got a question about bullet journaling? Ask me and I’ll address it in my next post!