Bite the Bullet (Journal)
There are plenty of posts out there explaining the basics of bullet journaling, how and why you should start and what huge array of tools you might need for your newfound system. But I’d like to keep it simple here. I’ve posted on my own blog a few good reasons to start journaling in any form and I could find many more to entice you. For now we’re just going to focus on what the nuts and bolts of a Bullet Journal (or BuJo, if you’re down with the kids) actually are, where it came from and how you can get started.
If you’ve heard of the Bullet Journal, chances are you think it’s a hugely artistic craft involving hours upon hours of your precious time and if it doesn’t result in something truly ‘insta-worthy’ then you’re doing it wrong. It might surprise you, then, to learn that the practice was born to simplify life, combine notes and to do lists you have floating around in different areas, and provide a space to journal and capture thoughts, habits or goals, all in one convenient place. You can read more about the birth of the journal from the creator himself, Mr Ryder Carroll.
Since then the BuJo has evolved. Grown legs and arms. And…various heads and tentacles. It can be a fantastic creative outlet if that’s what you want it to be. And therein lies the genius – it can be anything YOU want it to be.
All you actually need to get started is a notebook and pen of your choice. Dot grid pages are, most usually, the popular go-to and make for the cleanest and easy to read spreads, which is the terminology for your page layout. (Oxford Press could actually publish an entire dictionary to capture the phraseology associated with journaling, but I’ll mention the basics here and explain them if their meaning is not obvious.)
Most commonly, the Bullet Journal starts with an “Index” section, acting as a contents page which you populate as your journal grows, a “Future Log” which can take many forms but in the simplest sense is a space to capture an entire year of events or to-do’s at a glance, and a “Key” which allows you to set icons or customised bullet points (getting it now?) to indicate what your scribbles and doodles mean.
Beyond that it’s as simple as creating space for your monthly, weekly and daily lists or “spreads” and moving (or migrating to use the bujo term) tasks and events to the relevant pages. Beyond this you can expand into “collections” such as goals and habits, recording books you want to read, films you’d like to watch, hobbies to try… You get the idea.
And the journal really is your oyster!
It’s taken me almost 3 years of journaling to find my own groove, leave behind the pointless pursuit of the perfectly painted, picturesque pages that I peruse on Pinterest, and truly settle into a functional form of recording my entire life within a few loved leaves. I generally keep my spreads monochromatic, simple and purposeful. Albeit neatness and minimalism is essential for me, but more as a motivator to be productive than for aesthetic reasons – I’m far more likely to actually use a Journal I find satisfying to flip through.
If you’re considering dipping your toe into a Journal but haven’t a clue where to start, I’d encourage you to make a few notes on exactly what you want from the practice. Are you disorganised and forgetful and need a reliable prompt? Perhaps you’re the practiced procrastinator and need a proverbial stick with which to prod oneself. It might be that you are drawn in by the arty spreads, colourful designs and intricate themes and want an outlet for your own artistic impulses. Or perhaps all of the above. In which case, Bullet Journaling is absolutely for you. It can be all, nothing or something in between and the fluidity of the blank page is so much more freeing compared to the rigidity of a planner.
I can hand on heart say I am far more productive and focused since I’ve mastered my own version of the Bujo. Tracking to-do’s and habits alongside mood and daily gratitude’s is enlightening and useful and I look forward to opening those pages daily to plan a project or simply note down a book recommendation.
I’ve hardly even scratched the surface within this post, but for the complete novice it really is enough to be getting started with. A quick search on YouTube for beginners spreads will give you some layout ideas, but you really don’t need anything fancier than a list format to capture the essence.