Even since I “officially” started Bullet Journaling in May it seems like the BuJo has swept the nation! A lot of folks are starting their journey and finding their own version of peace with a system that will help them get shit done. There’s a lot of stuff out there – how do we start? I talk a little bit about this in a previous post, but this is for Bullet Journaling specifically. If you’re looking for specific, step by step, I talk about that here as I set up a work bullet journal.
MY ADVICE FOR BULLET JOURNAL BEGINNERS
Why am I doing this? The power of purpose shouldn’t be underestimated, and in this case, centering yourself always on the reason why you’re planning in the first place. It is SO easy to get swept up in all the crazy stuff that’s out there, endless articles, Pins, Instagram accounts… so it’s important to know why YOU are doing this. I personally don’t plan just to plan, I plan in order to:
- Free up mind-space to tackle big creative problems by not worrying about little tasks
- Honor the commitments I’ve made personally and professionally by making sure I’m on track and don’t lose small tasks
- Maximize time that I do have to be efficient in things that should be – errands, small tasks, insurance-y things
- Above all, create intention about how I’m spending my time, making time for people I care about
Often I need this reminder when I get swept up in how BEAUTIFUL people’s layouts are, how neat someone’s handwriting is, or how creative someone’s list is… I’m not personally planning to get stuck in all that – so I need to let go of trying to be someone I’m not in my planner.
Focus on the “how/why” and less on the “stuff”. As with any other industry, it’s easy to feel like what we have is inadequate – we don’t have the “It” notebook, the right pens, the best traveler’s notebook, bag…. it gets. insane. This economy THRIVES on our sense of inadequacy and we need to remember what marketers wish you didn’t know – you are ENOUGH, your supplies are ENOUGH, and … buying this stuff won’t make you organized just like buying that workout top won’t give you abs. You have to make the changes in your habits, using these supplies, in order to see the results you want.
- Start cheap to test it out. Target has great dot grid notebooks, Moleskine Cahier notebooks are widely available, your ballpoint pen will work to start out. I’ve wasted too much money on expensive planners or fancy pens before really giving it a go to see if I even liked them or used them.
- Buy pens individually instead of diving in with an entire pack – test it out before you commit to the whole box! Don’t spend 15 bucks to discover you hate the Staedtler pens.
- This may stir some of you but I believe we CAN have too much stuff. No, just because you “like” it doesn’t mean you are justified in purchasing your 19083th roll of washi tape. Excess stuff distracts from the purpose of what you’re doing, it takes up physical and mental space, it costs a lot of money as well as time in maintaining and sorting it. Be ruthless in your standards for your things.
- Note: * Some of the above links may be affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy something I receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for your support! (Learn more here)
Take the time to reflect on what works. A lot of new folks will come to a decision point of “should I use dot grid or grid?” “hard cover or soft cover?” “which pens?” asking for others to tell them what to do. This has always seemed crazy to me. I can’t tell you what to do – I don’t know your life, how you want to use this stuff, or your personal preferences – you have to do the work of figuring that out. Then, make the decision and take ownership over that, failure or triumph! We can certainly give you pros and cons but we can’t choose for you.
- Think about what you need the stuff to do and how you will actually use it. See how I reflected on what notebooks to use to see what I mean. This is unglamorous work and will save you a ton of time and money later.
- What do you want to track and have in front of you? Weather? Meals? Journaling? Social media? Exercise? Moods? Be picky!
- Grids and dot grids are helpful because you can line up boxes more easily than in ruled – my preference.
- A big decision is weekly or a daily – I definitely use a weekly.
- See that photo up there? That highlights many stages of my bullet journal as I refined and refined week after week on what worked for me. Through this I keep the focus of the planner as a TOOL that serves my needs and I can change it however I want to or need to.
- I change my layouts regularly – see what I did for October, October experiments, November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July as examples of how I adjusted the layout to work better for me in that moment.
- When you think about what collections or lists to have in your Bullet Journal, just add whatever you want. Don’t add lists just because other people have them, add them because you’ll ACTUALLY reference them or use them. Here are a few of mine.
Check out this video to see what I mean by “I didn’t get here overnight” – I flip through ALL of my bullet journals from last May 2015 to March 2016 and show you how I had to do a lot of work to figure out what works for ME – I hope you go through a similar process! There is so much joy in becoming.
My other less philosophical advice:
- There are a lot of terms. Here is a list of quite a few of them with their definitions.
- The original system is done in any ol’ notebook. But other options can be disc-bound, binders, Happy Planners, or Traveler’s Notebooks too.
- Washi tape is massively useful in your planner
- Fine tip pens (I’ve loved the Pilot Juice gel pens, Faber Castell marker tips, and Pilot Hi-Tec Coleto) help my writing look neater
- If you mess up, turn the page, don’t tear it out!!
- Bulldog clips keep the pages open in notebooks that don’t lay flat – I keep my planner open all day so I keep reminding myself of what I need to do
- I like adding the things I accomplished outside of my original list – it gives me a more accurate idea of what I did that day. Instead of a task box I just add a checkmark
- Just DO THE WORK! Nothing will replace that step – which is too bad because I was hoping my papers would grade themselves if I just wrote it down…
What about you? What do you suggest?