It seems that finding the “perfect” planner is a part of my lifelong quest. Any other planner addicts out there? I’ve had some planners that were just for homeschooling or blogging or personal appointments. Seriously, I’ve tried lots of different planning methods. I guess you could call me a hybrid planner because it seems that it takes several of those combined just to make my systems work. Currently I’m trying out a homemade bullet journal as my latest experiment. It combines simple calendar planning with the more flexible style of journaling.
What is a Bullet Journal and How Do You Start One?
Are you looking for a simple and effective way to stay organized? Do you prefer a pen and paper organization system as opposed to digital methods? Are you unwilling to invest a lot of money into a fancy planner? If so, I might have the perfect solution for you: the bullet journal. You might have heard about this fairly new (yet crazy popular) journaling method yet still be a tad bit confused about what it is and/or how you can get started. Hopefully, the tips here will get you well on your way to starting your very own bullet journal.
So…What is a Bullet Journal?
Essentially, a bullet journal is a highly customizable organization system for…everything. It can be a place to:
- Track your to-do list
- Jot down your shopping list
- Make note of important appointments and meetings
- Make random doodles and sketches
- Keep track of all of those random (yet awesome) thoughts you have for new projects
- Track your calories
- Write your daily diary
- … and more!
Basically, it can be a safe haven for all of those things that you need and want to remember that you usually jot down in 50 other places (or, if you’re like me, forget to jot down at all).
What is the Goal of Bullet Journaling?
The goal is simple: to be able to take notes (or journal) without wasting a lot of time doing so.
Bullet journaling is a way to minimize your time while maximizing your effort. After all, no one wants to spend all of their time organizing their life instead of living it.
Ok, Lay it On Me…How Much Does This Cost?
For something this revolutionary, it must cost an arm and a leg…right?
Actually, to get started with bullet journaling, all you really need is a notebook and a pen. You read that right…just a notebook and a pen. Of course, some people do have their personal preference, but they can be whatever you want them to be. You can head to your local dollar store and pick up a cheap composition notebook and a pack of pens for a couple of bucks and be all set. Or you can pick up a more expensive journal and some fancy calligraphy pens and go to town. It’s really up to you, my friend.
How Do I Get Started?
Bullet journaling is predicated on the concept of rapid logging, which has four basic components:
- Page Numbers
- Short Sentences
That’s it! By using these four components, you can create a system that works perfectly for you.
Here is a quick rundown of each one:
Start out by writing a topic at the top of the page. It should be concise and descriptive. For example, your topic could be the date.
You should get into the habit of numbering each page (or buy a journal that is already numbered). This will help you to be able to find important entries more easily.
Brevity is your friend when it comes to bullet journaling. You should use short objective sentences.
Your short sentences should be accompanied by bullets. This enables you to not only jot things down quickly, but to be able to scan your notes quickly to find the information that you need.
The bullets that you use can help you to organize all of your journal contents into three main categories – tasks (actionable items), events (scheduled or completed), and notes (facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations that you need to remember but that are not things you need to do right away). You can create your own symbol key for your bullets that makes sense for you. For example:
• = Task
X = Task Complete
> = Task Migrated (moved to another date/entry)
< = Task Scheduled
○ = Event
– = Notes
* = Priority
! = Great ideas, quotes, motivation, insights
There are a few other components of the bullet journal that you will want to use.
The index is typically the first few pages of your journal. This is where keeping track of page numbers becomes important. The index is the equivalent of a table of contents. It is where you will make a note of where important entries in your journal are recorded. You should make a point to make note of important entries in your index so that you can easily find them when you need them.
This is where you will track those things that need to be scheduled well in advance such as vacations, conventions/conferences, big projects, etc. This can take up as few as two pages, depending on how much you need to plan out (6 months per page).
This is where you track things that are coming up within the next month. It is essentially a calendar and a to-do list. This can take up two pages: one page for your calendar (month at the top and a bulleted list of the days) and one for tasks that you need to accomplish that month.
This is where you get to the heart of your bullet journal. The daily log is where you will log your tasks, event, and notes. The topic for each day should be the date. You can start off your daily log the night before by jotting down things you need to attend to. Then you can simply add to it the next day as things come up. Some days you might have a long list of notes. Other days, not so much.
I mentioned this earlier, but wanted to explain what it means. Migration is when you have a task or event that was scheduled but that you didn’t get to. If it is still something that you need to take care of, you can migrate (or move) it to another entry. This can help you to figure out if you are either marking down things that really aren’t essential OR if you need to be more vigilant about getting things done (for example, if you find yourself migrating half of your to-do list on a regular basis). It is a pretty simple thing that can really help you to assess your habits and make a real change in your life.
Using the bullet journaling method, I have stopped writing notes on little scraps of paper everywhere and then losing them. I have some simple composition books and when one is full, I move on to the next one. It has helped me with both homeschooling and writing/blogging.
Have you ever used a bullet journal? Let me know in the comments!
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