How to Start and Use a Bullet Journal

As a busy graphic designer, virtual assistant, photographer, and let's just be real here: human, I've tried many things to get and stay organizes. I love my Reminders list and iCal, don't get me wrong! But there is something special about putting pen to paper and planning out my days the good ol’ fashioned way.

I’m not immune to the lure of pretty planners and printables out there, and have spent lots of money on these in the past, only to have them sit on my desk or shelf unused. But in July of last year I stumbled on something that has completely changed the flow of my life and how I plan and organize. I don’t remember if it was on Pinterest or Instagram or what, but I’m so grateful that I found Bullet Journaling!

How to start and use a bullet journal for creative entrepreneurs to organize, plan and track "all the things" -

What is bullet journaling? Well, I think the inventor of the Bullet Journal said it best:

“The Bullet Journal is an analog system designed to track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” – Ryder Carroll

This system of tracking, organizing and planning is made up of 4 key elements: The Index, Collections, Rapid-Logging and Migration. I didn’t understand how it all worked when I saw the first few images of bullet journals online, so I went right to the source. Here is a video from that explain all the components and how they work together.

Kinda mind-blowing, right? Here’s a bit of a breakdown of the different things that go into setting up your bullet journal:

  • INDEX: This is the backbone of your Bullet Journal. As your journal grows with plans and notes you always make reference to what pages you can find those specific notes on in your Index. This makes finding exactly what you need that you just knew you wrote down super easy.
  • COLLECTIONS: These are how your days and tasks are organized. The 3 core collections are: Future Log – where you write down things that will happen in the future (not the month you’re in), Monthly Log – where you write out events on a Calendar page and tasks you want to get done on your Task page, Daily Log – This is what you use every day to keep track of events, tasks and make notes. Then you have other Collections – where you open to a blank spread in your journal and collect notes and thoughts about a specific topic, like books you want to read, or goals.
  • RAPID – LOGGING: This is the short-form notes that you use throughout your collections, known as bullets. These are short sentences to help you remember your tasks, events and other important things for that day and/or collection.
  • MIGRATION: This is the part of Bullet Journaling that can be life-changing, because you’ll be analyzing and prioritizing like never before. You will migrate tasks from your Daily Log into your new Monthly Log that you still want to get accomplished and cross out the things you don’t need any more.

The graphic above is how I like to describe the bullet journal. Its a true mix of all these things, and such a powerful tool for creative entrepreneurs. You don't have to match your planning style to anything pre-designed, you just start with a blank journal (the dotted Leuchtturm1917 is my favorite) and create the spreads you need as you need them. Here are some of the pages I've got in my bullet journal as an example. 

These are my Index and Future Log pages. SUPER SIMPLE. You can decorate however you want to (which I'll talk about in a bit) but function is the most important part. 

Here are a couple examples of what my monthly intro pages look like. I write my business goals and personal goals on this main page.

And here are a few of my Collections throughout my bujo. I keep track of my client timelines for design projects, invoices, communications and brainstorming in collections too. There are endless ways to use this tool!

Bullet Journaling has become a really personal way for me to keep track of what has happened, live more fully in the moment during my days, and plan for the future. This has become an invaluable tool for my business. For now I’m keeping my pages and collections really simple, but there are so many tips, products, doodling and decorating ideas out there, I promise you will never get bored with your Bullet Journal. Here are a couple examples from my Bullet Journal Pinterest board that I just love. Also be sure to check out the Bullet Journal Junkies FB Group and the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram for more inspiration!

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So are you ready to give it a try? I’ve got some links for you to find supplies to get you started. These are the things I use currently and links to where you can find them on Amazon, my go-to place for bujo supplies.

  1. A notebook. I started with a journal I had laying around the house to get comfortable with before investing in one of these special journals, but I love the bright pink Leuchtturm1917 I use now (can you say brand colors?!) It comes with dotted paper inside, which is really helpful for drawing your lines and organizing. You can also purchase directly from the Bullet Journal creator, and a lot of people love the Moleskin notebooks too.
  2. Pens. Every day I use my Pentel EnerGel pen in black ink and my pink and turquoise Stabilo Fineliner pens. My best advice for choosing a pen is try a bunch and stick with what works best for you. Something important to me is if the ink ghosts much or not (shows up on the other side of the page). Test a bunch and go with what you like the best. 
  3. Washi Tape. This isn't essential, but there are TONS of fun colors and patterns available to spice up your pages. You can use tape to decorate or even add memorabilia to your pages. 
  4. Stamps and Ink. I've got 2 types of stamps that I use consistently in my bujo - clear stamps that you use with an acrylic block (I love the ones from Studio L2E), and rolling date stamps. You can use stamps to decorate or for functionality within your journal. And I use these chalk inks, which come in so many great colors and don't bleed through the page. 
  5. A ruler. The perfect tool for getting all your lines straight when building out your calendars and trackers. I love this little one I got because it will fit in the pouch in the back of my journal. 

So, what do you think? Will you give bullet journaling a try? Have you heard of this type of planning/journaling before? I've fallen in love with it and I'm glad its a part of my everyday life. 

PS. For those of you who are always missing a pen, here is a quick guide to how I keep my pen and bullet journal together. Enjoy! 

Keep your pen attached to your Bullet Journal with this simple trick.