Bullet journaling: what it is and why it's so popular

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It's Sunday, February 14th as I write this post. I'm 33 weeks pregnant and I'm laid out on the couch recovering from yet another cold, because little Nolan took all of my immune system strength. It's okay. This future momma can handle it.

Especially when it gives me time to research and learn about something that I've wanted to research and learn about for a very long time.

Simply, bullet journaling is a productivity and planning tool created by Ryder Carroll, a NY-based digital product designer.

Bullet Journaling 101: What is it, and why do it?

It took me longer than I care to admit to get it. I hope this post helps you decipher the productivity system!

Note: This post was originally published on my personal blog, but I've since realized it's probably pretty darn applicable to Hello Brio content, since a lot of bullet journaling has to do with creativity and hand lettering. I'd love to know what you think of this bullet journal post and subsequent “bujo” posts! Don't be shy—tell me in the comments or email me!

Bullet Journaling: What Is It?

You start with a blank notebook. Preferably one that is sturdy enough to be schlepped around all year. Also preferably one that has good paper quality, pre-numbered pages (I think this was one of my mental hurdles with bullet journaling to begin with), and probably dotted or gridded paper (though you can use lined paper notebooks).

The most confusing part about a bullet journal is: it is what you want it to be.

Do you want to have a:

  • Daily task log
  • Monthly goal planner
  • Weekly planner
  • List of movies you've seen or want to see
  • Habit tracker
  • Monthly reflection list
  • Gratitude list
  • Waiting for list
  • Shipment tracking list

Or do you want to have one of the above, a combination of the above, or all of the above?

Again, a bullet journal is what you make it.

Probably the most basic way to use a bullet journal is to use it as a daily log, where you start each entry with the day (Monday, February 15th), and then you make a list of the tasks you wish to complete, and check them off when you're done.

Power-up your daily log by including

  • Tasks
  • Completed tasks
  • Migrated tasks (ones you didn't get to today, but that you've forwarded onto another day)
  • Events
  • Notes
  • Thoughts

Each of which can be denoted by a different symbol. Traditionally, the task is a dot. A completed task is a dot with an X over it. A migrated task is a dot with a greater-than symbol written over it. An event is an open circle, and notes or thoughts are a dash marks.

Why to bullet journal, as I understand it today

Keep in mind that my Leuchtturm1917 Notebook was just ordered a few hours ago and I'm sitting here waiting for it.

Why did I decide to go down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling, as my dear friend Jessica of Pretty Prints & Paper so lovingly calls it?

Because even though I'm getting a lot of stuff done lately (I've launched an e-book about brush lettering, I started a graphic design membership subscription (that I since took down), I've doubled my Instagram following in the past month, I started a quickly-growing hand lettering group, and I'm growing a human being inside of me, to name a few things)—even though I've done a lot of stuff lately, I still feel wildly unorganized.

I wait to the last minute to plan what blog post is going to be published tomorrow. I don't have a comprehensive plan for any of my social media channels. I have a vague idea that I want to teach another Skillshare class soon. I don't wake up every day with a solid plan, and I feel like most of the stuff I get done is reactionary to the emails I get that morning. Yuck. Not living intentionally by any means. Oh, and then I zone out by watching hours of crappy TV (I have an addiction, I know I do).

But wait, Jenn, don't you at least have to-do lists coming out the wazoo? Yes. To-do lists upon to-do lists upon multiple Google calendars upon stacks of digital Evernote notebooks. But the biggest problem I'm seeing: if it's not in sight, I forget about it.

The most impressive change I've noticed in myself lately is when I decide to put a 3x3" sticky note on my monitor in my office for things I want to accomplish that month. January's is still hanging strong, even though it's now mid-February.

Also, I recently spent $1 on a 2-year monthly planner while I was at Target. Seeing everything mapped out for the month instantly cooled my brain. I also relished in jotting down eight or so blog post ideas for the coming months in the back of said $1 planner.

My half-baked plans and sticky notes that were working better for me than Reminders, Google Calendars, and Evernote notebooks

My half-baked plans and sticky notes that were working better for me than Reminders, Google Calendars, and Evernote notebooks

Through some self-reflection, it's clear to me that digital planning ain't my forté. I need the experience of paper. Of carefully written notes to past-Jenn and future-Jenn. A place to keep all of my daily happenings for my personal life and blog life.

You may feel the same way: paper is the missing link in the age where our iPhones are attached to our palms.

Once I realized this, I did exactly what Jessica suggested would happen: I went down the rabbit hole. Just today I've done more research on bullet journaling than I ever have in the past.

Links and videos to help you understand what bullet journaling is and can be

Like I mentioned before, the complexity and flexibility of bullet journaling completely confused me. I felt like I needed more structure and more direction. Turns out I just needed an afternoon laid out on the couch to figure it out a little.

Here are some great links and videos that helped me really understand what bullet journaling, or bujo for short, is, and can be.

Bloggers and blog posts all about bullet journaling

YouTube videos about bullet journaling

I'm an extremely visual person, and when I'm trying to learn something new I do it best by watching others in action. Here are the videos that really helped me understand what bullet journaling is and how it can be customized.

Spreads I want to incorporate when I receive my blank bullet journal

Tick tock, my Leuchtturm1917 Notebook will arrive today, supposedly. In order to make sure I didn't forget what I wanted to do when the notebook got here, I made some quick sketches on what I want to make sure to include.

I cleaned these up so they'd be more helpful to you. Don't forget to Pin :)

Sample bullet journal spreads - hellobrio.com

Once I have my new dot-grid notebook in my hot little hands, I plan on setting it up as such:

  • Index (which is a given in Leuchtturm1917 Notebooks)
  • Recurring spread to help me get a harness on things that happen every month, week, day, specific day, etc, so I can plan ahead each next day accordingly
  • Monthly spread so I can see the month at a glance and also get a good monthly goals list going on the right-hand side
  • Monthly tracker so I can get a hold on how I'm performing on the habits I wish to do daily, or so I can also catch milestones like how many e-books I'm selling every day, etc
  • Monthly memories/reflections - a cute way to capsulize the month's achievements in illustrated form
  • Weekly spread to be made at the beginning of each week; not 100% sure how I'll use this yet but I want to at least give it a shot
  • Daily logs, to include the regular tasks and events, but also to start keeping track of gratitude points and meals, and eventually Nolan-related stuff

I want to keep the rest of my brainstorming in the back. So things like:

  • Blog post list
  • Video idea lists
  • A blog post share log, to make sure I'm following up with marketing
  • Social media milestones
  • Books I want to read/books I've read
  • Movies I want to see/movies I've seen
  • References, like a list of blog categories and tags I use, as well as things like common screen resolutions for digital art I create for my design subscription
  • Etc, etc.

I plan to post about my bullet journal experience here, in addition to regular content. Let me know what you think—is this up your alley?

Tell me: Are you a bullet journaling fiend? Are you curious to get started? Tell me your experience with bullet journaling in the comments below!