I recently embarked on a project to teach more people about the Bullet Journal Method, and I gave a presentation. Enjoy!
This is a step-by-step process of how to start your own BuJo practice from scratch! Just follow the steps, and you’re golden.
- What’s so great about it? A New York University article titled “Time Management” provided thirteen examples of how to manage time effectively, and eleven of those examples applied to the bullet journal. They are: spend time planning and organizing, set goals, prioritize, use a to-do list, be flexible, eliminate the urgent, practice the art of intelligent neglect, avoid being a perfectionist, conquer procrastination, learn to say ‘no,’ and reward yourself. That’s more than most Google Calendars do.
- Finding the right notebook for you. The notebook world can be a vast and terrifying place, especially if you’ve never explored the various options before. If you want cheap, I recommend the Artist’s Loft Dot Journals ($7). If you’d like to splurge on a little better quality, my first choice is always the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Dotted notebook ($20). Both options have several colors available and can be found online.
- Pens…? If you search “bullet journal” in Google or Pinterest, you’re sure to find thousands of notebooks filled with multicolored pages; however, I continuously adopt the philosophy that all you need is a black pen. Excellent choices include the Pentel RSVP, the Pentel Energel, and the Pilot Juice pen. Still wanting some extra color? A nice set of Muji gel ink pens or Staedtler Triplus Fineliners can come in handy, but fancy pens are not needed. Read that again. Brush pens are also common in the BuJo world.
- Embellishments. Yes, it’s fun to decorate our notebooks! Just remember. You don’t need a fancy notebook. The most valuable decoration tools for me are the pastel Zebra Mildliners (highlighters), which are fairly cheap and come in packs of five. They do smudge, so if you’re looking for a smudge-free highlighter, the Sharpie highlighters work wonders. Others might like to use colored pencils, markers, watercolors, washi tape, stickers… Some are more practical than others, so it depends on your personal style and preference.
- Do I need any other tools? Well, no. You could have stopped at the notebook and black pen. From experience, however, I recommend a pencil and clean eraser to make practice lines, a ruler (unless you can draw straight with the dot guides), and some whiteout (because mistakes are sometimes terribly frustrating). I also found the purchase of a protractor helpful, but this is unnecessary for many.
- Getting clarity. Often, beginners don’t know where to start or what collections to add. Set up a “mental inventory” (a phrase coined by Ryder Carroll, creator of the BuJo) that lists what you’re currently working on, what you should be working on, and what you want to be working on. From there, cross out anything you don’t think is useful or a valuable use of your time. These are the projects, habits, and goals you should add to your notebook. Really think about what matters here.
- Setting up. Perusing the bulletjournal.com website will be helpful here, but you’ll want to put in place the bare bones of the system: an index, a future log, a monthly log, and your daily or weekly log. The last item(s) on the list come(s) from a long-disputed question: daily or weekly? Ryder Carroll recommends the daily log, but others find it more helpful to have a structured week ahead. Pick your favorite. From there, you can add your top collections from the “mental inventory” page.
- Using it daily. Make time for 5 minutes of morning reflection and 5 minutes of evening reflection; this is to make sure you didn’t miss any tasks, events, or notes. Fill out any habit tracker you might have, update any collections, and migrate what you didn’t get done to the next day (or a new month in the future log). Take it with you everywhere: take it to your morning coffee, your meeting at 10:15, and Wednesday night yoga class. When an idea hits or an event is added, you’ll have the means to remember it. It’s an “external brain,” Daniel Levitin’s term.
- Remember why the system works. The bullet journal is a way to keep contained every interest, idea, to-do list, grocery list, birthday party, packing list, dream board, post-it note… This tool helps even multipotentialities (as Emilie Wapnick calls people with multiple interests) and those who struggle with ADD (Ryder Carroll himself). In the words of Jan Eppingstall from @plannerphile on Instagram, the BuJo system is effective because “we’re able to write anything down in a single notebook and use a simple, but effective page numbering and index system so we can find information again quickly.”