People love journaling as much as they love exercise. It’s a love/hate relationship. You know it’s good for you, yet there are a million excuses as to why you won’t get to it today. There. I said it.
Here’s why you should do it. Do you ever hit repeat in your brain about a situation? Something that makes you cringe, or an issue you’re unclear about? You ever wonder how you keep making a decision that keeps repeating the same pattern? Is there something that excites you, but you don’t know why? Here lies the beauty of documentation. No matter how many human outlets you have, nothing rivals journaling. When you’re ready to start looking at your life objectively, it is time to instill this habit.
But baby steps. Make it fun, make it easy, and allow creativity to flow. Pull out a notebook, some comfy pens and start. If you’re the type that needs the structure, I’ve asked my dear friend and podcast guest, Alison Forsyth, to help us with bullet journaling. You can find her post below. I will tell you, I’ve been doing it with a black journal and a blue pen for years, and just tried out her method and love it.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, make it enjoyable so you want to do it. The best part about journaling, looking at how you’ve arrived at your best moments. When you can see the decisions you’ve made and how you’ve made them, it’s easier to make the necessary adjustments.
7 Easy Steps to Bullet Journaling
Author: Alison Forsyth
I’ll be honest.
Organization has never been one of my strong suits. Truthfully, for the majority of my life, I’ve felt like a bouncy ball bouncing from one thing to the next without much awareness as to what I might be forgetting along the way. I never mastered the art of paying parking tickets as I got them, doing assignments before the night they were due, or staying on top of a to-do list. Somehow I graduated college without truly confronting this issue head-on, but once I entered adulthood and the responsibilities of bills, utilities, credit card payments, and full-time work piled on, my anxiety tripled.
I eventually figured out that my procrastinating personality quirk was likely also tied to undiagnosed attention deficit disorder, but without money or proper insurance I couldn’t afford a medical diagnosis or therapy. I knew I needed to do something to help me manage my anxiety, stay on top of bills, to-do’s, chores, and track my many goals, but I didn’t know what. Fortunately, I stumbled across a post about bullet-journaling on social media, and I headed to a bookstore the next day to try it out.
I was initially drawn to bullet journaling, or “bu-jo”, by the flexibility that this journaling style offered, as you can tailor the pages to suit your specific needs and lifestyle. Additionally, as an artistically inclined individual, I found pleasure in brainstorming new creative ideas to decorate and design the different pages. However, for simplicity’s sake, I’ve stuck with the same weekly format for the past 8 months of journaling as it allows me to easily and quickly set up each week’s page. Before now, I’ve never managed to maintain a journal or planner for more than two months – however I’m still going strong with my bullet journal a full 8 months later and use it daily to track my tasks, events, and so much more.
How Do I Bullet Journal?
Find the right notebook.
To begin a bullet journal, one must find the right notebook. Many “bu-jo” artists tend to go for dotted notebooks over lined as it allows for greater creativity with the different spreads.
Create an index.
An index is essentially a “table of contents” that you will fill in as you create and number your journal pages. Leave a few pages for the index to expand as you use the journal, and remember to number your pages as you continue on your journal.
Make a future log.
The future log is a brief overview of the upcoming six months, where you write major upcoming events or tasks, such as vacations, holidays, birthdays, project deadlines, etc. This is accomplished easily by breaking up two pages into six equally spaced sections and writing the name of the next 6 months in the corner of each box.
Add a monthly log.
The next key component of a bullet journal is the overview of each month, where you can personalize the log to include upcoming birthdays, events, monthly tasks, goals, and or lists of things you want to remember. I write down each day of the month with a brief caption of what I have scheduled on that day, but I don’t worry about including too much info such as time or location as I will include that in the weekly log.
** Mood Tracker –
One of the most useful parts of my journal is my mood tracker, which I’ve personalized to track how my mood shifts each day. The mood’s I track range from “Sad” to “Anxious” to “Happy” and “Productive.” As someone that has struggled with anxiety and different mental health ailments, finding patterns and associations in my mood trackers has been immensely helpful in my journey towards emotional well-being.
** Habit Tracker –
Stacked right next to my mood tracker, I also track different daily habits that I strive to accomplish, from “Working Out” to “Sleep 7+ hours” to “Didn’t Spend Money.” This is one of the ways that a bullet journal helps you track and progress towards the goals you write down on your monthly spreads.
Start a weekly log.
If you google “bullet journal weekly spread” or look in Pinterest, you’ll see that there is a wide variety of formats to use for your weekly log. I’ve found a system that works for me, where I create a section for each day where I’ll write what events or meetings I have scheduled for that day, as well as any particular tasks I need to accomplish on that day. I also create boxes named “Personal To-Do’s”, “Work Tasks,” “Notes,” and “Next Week” which allow me to track different tasks or note important details as the week goes on. For example, I wrote “buy baby shower gift” in my personal to-do’s, and noted in my “Next Week” box that I have my friend’s baby shower coming up the following weekend.
Below is an example of the bare skeleton I use every week to set up my weekly log:
** Migrate Tasks and Cross Off When Complete:
If you were not able to get your oil changed this week, even though it was written down on your “To-Do’s” on the weekly spread – do not fear! Simply put an arrow or symbol next to the task that indicates you are transferring it to the next week, and make sure to write it down in the following week’s spread. This way you won’t lose track of different things you need to do, and you’re able to look back on what things you have completed or accomplished already.
Get creative with collections. Collections are lists or pages in your bullet journal that you use to track different information, anything from movies you want to see to goals that you have for the year. In my journal, I’ve written down the names of runs and hikes I want to do in my area as well as the different fitness and dietary goals I’ve laid out for each month.
For a long time, I struggled with my health and self-esteem issues, so my bullet journal was hugely important in my journey towards learning how to love myself and treat my body with respect. I wrote affirmations, reflections, words of wisdom from different professionals, and much more as a reminders in my journal to work on my relationship with my body.
The whole beauty of a bullet journal is your ability to be creative and flexible with it. Are you trying hard to eat more healthy or work out more often? Write about it. Create a collection of different healthy meal ideas, or write down your workout goals on your monthly log. If you’re not a particularly artistic person, that’s perfectly fine as well – simply stick with the basics and you’ll find that it’s so much easier to track what events you have coming up and what chores you need to do.
I’ve started to look forward to drawing out my monthly spread, as I like to set up on my couch with Netflix in the background and bring out my colored pencils and design different pages for each month. I’ve grown in confidence and ability the longer I’ve stuck with my journal, and I preach about its usefulness to my peers. There’s a plethora of information out on the internet (particularly Pinterest) for people looking for more advice and ideas for their own bullet journals, and a huge community of people who post about their “bu-jo’s” and what works for them.
I’m grateful to have finally found something that works for me. After decades of trying to remember just what it was that I was forgetting to do, I finally remember!
I hope you found this short guide on bullet journaling helpful. If you’re looking for more ideas, comment below or connect with us on social!