So You Want to Start a Bullet Journal…

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I get asked a lot about how to start a bullet journal.  People will say, ‘I want to start a bullet journal but:

  • I’m not creative
  • I can’t draw
  • I don’t have time to do all of the stuff you do in yours
  • Or (my personal favorite), If I spent the time drawing that every week, I wouldn’t have any time to do the things on my list!

My bullet journal is full of my drawings because that’s the way I want it, but that’s not what makes it a bullet journal.  Let’s talk about that…

What a bullet journal is and what it isn’t

First of all, I think it’s really important to understand what a bullet journal is and what it isn’t. As quoted from the official bullet journal site, a bullet journal “can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.”

What caught my attention most about a bullet journal is that you create and use it organically, rather than having it all set up ahead of time.  You’re not faced with a year’s worth of pre-printed pages to fill; just a beautiful, empty notebook with clean, fresh possibilities every time you turn a page. {Other office/art supply junkies know what I’m talking about, right??}

I was a planner junkie and have used many, many different planning systems over the years, only to be frustrated by the limitations of someone else’s design that didn’t work for my needs. More often than not, days or weeks would go by with empty pages and then I would be frustrated again by not having elements that I wanted.

I’ve also tried different apps on my computer and phone, but there’s definitely something satisfying about holding a physical planner in your hands.

**Important Note**
If that’s NOT something important to you, or if your planning app/Google Calendar/iCal is working just fine for all of your needs, then I’m not going to try to convince you that this is something you need to be doing. This is about doing what works for you!

However, if you decide you want to try a bullet journal, here is my NUMBER 1 TIP:
Learn the BASICS of bullet journaling on the BulletJournal.com site.  Watch the video, read the blog.  Start there.  Don’t go to Pinterest yet, don’t get overwhelmed on Instagram.

Start at the source.

  • Learn what an index, future log, monthly and daily logs are and how to use them
  • Learn about tasks, signifiers and a key
  • Learn about migration

Download the free bullet journal reference guide from tinyrayofsunshine.com

Then, you’re ready to create your bullet journal.

What you HAVE TO HAVE to get started

Any notebook and pen will do.

You don’t have to start with a fancy notebook, any particular tools or decorative elements. Colored pens, stickers and washi tape aren’t required.

I liked the idea of a dotted grid page so my first bullet journal was a Moleskine like this:

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Now, I’m using a Leuchtturm1917 with dotted grid pages and I really do love it.  It think the quality of the book and pages are worth it and I will continue to use them for my bullet journals until I see something better come along.

My New Bujo + August Set Up

But really, ANY notebook will do.  It’s not the notebook itself that makes it a bullet journal.  You can buy a graph composition book like this almost anywhere that sells notebooks:

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My favorite pens are Pigma Microns.  I use the 02 nib size for most of my journaling and drawing, but also use the 01 and 005 for smaller details.

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But again, ANY pen will do.  I started with a Sharpie pen fine point (NOT the permanent marker kind, they will bleed through your page!!).  Find what works for you in your notebook.

That’s it.  Those are all of the tools you need to start bullet journaling. Start with the basics, find a notebook and pen that you like, use the reference guide to set it up and just start.

But what about the washi tape, you ask? What about the colored pens and pencils and stickers and everything else to make it all pretty?  Not important.  Honestly.

It’s about the bullet journal system and figuring out how you’re going to use it first.  THEN you can add the stuff to make it pretty.

I draw in my bullet journal because it makes me happy to draw.  Because I like lots of color.  And because, a lot of the time, I can’t find existing graphics (stickers, etc) to fit how I want it to look.  So I make it up.

I’ve also experimented on what kind of planning spread works for me. I don’t do dailies because I use a different bullet journal at work.

My personal bullet journal doesn’t need dailies, so I have found that a weekly to-do list works better for me. You may not have the same needs as I do, so you will need to experiment for yourself to see what works.

If you want color in yours, by all means, use the washi tape and stickers and whatever else you want to color it up.

If you don’t care about color in yours, then don’t do it.  But don’t think you can’t start a bullet journal just because you can’t draw or can’t spend a lot of time on it! That is completely contrary to how a bullet journal is designed to work.

I’ve created a Beginner’s Bullet Journaling Checklist for you to download with the steps that I’ve discussed in this post.  Hope it’s helpful for all of you newbies out there!

Happy Bullet Journaling!

PS–Here’s the first post I wrote when I first launched this blog with other starting tips.

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5 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal

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My Morning Routine Spread Was Featured on NYMag.com! And I Rant…

I was featured in NYMag.com! | thebulletjournaladdict.com

On Tuesday, in a bullet journaling Facebook group, someone posted a link to this article on the NYMag.com website.  I immediately recognized the thumbnail photo as my morning routine spread, so I excitedly clicked on the link.

Reading through the article, she links to many sources, including http://www.bulletjournal.com and includes photos from other bullet journal Instagrammers, but I never find a link or credit for my IG photo.  So I left a note in the comments and a few hours later, she added a small link under the picture, so, yay, credit.

And then, this morning, to get the link, I went back and read the comments.  I know, I know, NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.  But I always do and I ALWAYS regret it (granted, there were only 9 comments so it didn’t take very long).

I feel like I have to keep defending the system AND my own bullet journal.

People.  (All seven of you that read this blog.)  Please listen.

What attracted me to bullet journaling was the simplicity.  All you need is a notebook and a pen. That’s it.  Everything else is extra.

Along with the simplicity was the flexibility.  If you don’t use it one day, you start up the next time you need it.  No wasted space.

If you’ve seen the (very shaky) video of the walk through of my first bullet journal, you’ll see the evolution of how I use it.  And it’s not pretty, believe me. It’s messy and it’s not always cute.  I made a lot of mistakes and turned a lot of pages and started over.

I started with the basics and, over time, figured out what worked for me.  And what works for me includes lots of color.

Like I mention in my post about my work bullet journal, I keep it very simple and plain at work.  I don’t have the time there for much else.

How I Keep a Bullet Journal at Work | www.thebulletjournaladdict.com

I LOVE the minimalism of just the pen and paper.  Honestly, I start there every single time with my personal bullet journal too. But then I want to add a spot of color here and there and before too long, it’s like a My Little Pony vomited all over my pages. I can’t help it.  It’s me.  And I’m done apologizing for it.

I LOVE drawing in my personal bullet journal.  It makes me so happy and it’s time well spent for me.

But all of the drawings and the coloring isn’t what makes it a bullet journal.  It isn’t what a bullet journal HAS to be or SHOULD be.  You don’t have to be a proficient artist or a crafty scrapbooker and you don’t have to take a lot of time with it.

I think it’s the collision of the minimalist and the ultra crafter using the same system that causes this potential for conflict.  But really, there’s no need.  Neither person needs to feel intimidated by the other.  And neither person needs to criticize the other. It just shows how flexible of a system it really is.

Start with the basics and do with it what you will.  It’s that simple. The End.

 

My New Bujo + August Set Up

I’m still alive!  This blogging thing is a lot of work, especially when I have a full-time job too!  I’m going to re-evaluate what I can commit to consistently posting so I don’t get overwhelmed and end up posting nothing at all.

I AM excited though, because it’s August 1st and I get to start using my new Leuchtturm 1917 notebook.  I’ve been pretty happy with it so far!

The pages are a lot smoother so I do have to be a little more patient with waiting to erase my pencil marks.  The ink takes a little longer to dry so I have had a few issues with smudging.

Also, because the pages are smoother, my colored pencils go on a lot smoother.  It’s like drawing on silk! (Pretend that’s a thing).

I thought I’d go through how I’ve set up my bullet journal in this new notebook, using some of the lessons I learned with my last one.

I love the turquoise color, it coordinates nicely with a lot of my washi tape.  That I rarely use…until now.  😉

My New Bujo + August Set Up

Here’s my contact information in the opening spread.  I didn’t feel the need to do anything particularly fancy here.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

My index. I don’t have everything from this post listed in there since I took the pictures over the space of two weekends.  Also, because I like the randomness of a bullet journal, the index is really important to me.  After the initial set up, I’ll throw in my newest collection on the very next page, so they end up spread throughout the whole book.  The index is vital in finding a particular collection again.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

My personal mission statement.  I wanted to come up with something that meant more to me than a quote and something that encompassed my core values. So I came up with this.  (I love it!)

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

Future log for the next 12 months.  In my last bullet journal, I had a separate page for my year at a glance calendar, separate spreads for my future log and then another collection/spread for birthdays.  I didn’t have a ton of events in my future log anyway, so it just seemed to make more sense to put them all on the same page.  I’m really happy with how this turned out!  Note the washi down the side.  😉

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.comFullSizeRender 82

My monthly calendar for August.  I don’t work more than a month out at a time, anything beyond that will just go into my future log, like the traditional bullet journal system.  The time specific column is for appointments or other…time specific…events, and the all day column is for birthdays or holidays, that kind of thing.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

Next is my blank August memories spread.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

The next few pages are my monthly challenge spreads.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

The artwork on my zentangle page is completely and shamelessly inspired/copied from this amazing artist here.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

After the challenge spreads, I put in my first week of August.  I’m trying something different this week.  Because of the nature of a couple of the challenges (#rockyourhandwriting mostly), instead of doing a full weekly spread, perfectly spaced out ahead of time, I’m going to try dailies, putting them in with my challenges in as I go.  We’ll see how it works out…

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

As I mentioned above, I keep my collections random, so here is my first collection, a record of our hens & chicks (or pullets, now).  Yes, we have two hens without names.  Any Star Wars-themed women’s names suggestions? We did have a Maz Kanata, but “she” ended up being a “he” and we had to re-home him.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

Next, I have my meal master list, inspired by both Kim of Tiny Ray of Sunshine and Christina.  I’ll post more about this spread after I fill it in more, but I’m super excited to try this out.  I’m ALWAYS trying to come up with meal ideas, so having a simple list should work out well for me to work off of.

My New Bujo + August Set Up | thebulletjournaladdict.com

That’s it so far.  I am still migrating a few things over and finishing up a couple of other collections that I will share in future posts but I’m really excited to start using this new notebook!

Do you have your August all set up?  🙂

The Great Debate

Leuchtturm vs Moleskine--The Big Debate | www.thebulletjournaladdict.com

Leuchtturm vs. Moleskine.

Yes, I’m aware that, in the grand scheme of things, with all of the sadness and violence in the world today, this is pretty small problem in comparison, so please know that I am giving it its proper context. While this isn’t something that’s keeping me up at night, I would definitely value your feedback.

And this is all assuming that I can even get my hands on the color that I want (which is still up for debate itself!).  Enough disclaimers?  Ok, let’s move on…

I’ve done my own research, read the articles, watched the videos, so I already know most of the pros and cons.  As of today, I have 26 pages left in my Moleskine, so it’s not too big of a rush but I want to try to make the best decision I can.

I LOVE the softcover of my Moleskine.  It makes me happy.  The hard cover of the Leuchtturm would be something I’d need to get used to.

The elastic band that keeps my notebook closed looks really sad about now when it’s not wrapped around my book.  And it’s definitely losing elasticity when it is on, but just slightly.  How does the Leuchtturm elastic hold up?

I don’t mind the one bookmark, I don’t really use it a ton to keep my place, it’s pretty obvious where I am in my book.

I’m about 80% happy with the page quality of my Moleskine. I don’t mind the color, the pages are a little rough, but not bad, and the ghosting doesn’t bother me TOO much but it would be nice to cut down on that.

I like the idea of a built-in index and page numbering, since I forget to number my pages every once in a while and have to go back and fill them in, but, again, not a big deal to me.

Moleskines are slightly easier to get a hold of, my local art store carries them, as does Barnes & Noble, so if I can’t find the Leuchtturm I want in stock, I may have to just fall back on using another one.

My main concern is smudging.  It happens to me very rarely with my Moleskine and I’ve heard that with the smoother pages of the Leuchtturm, it’s more of an issue.  I use Pigma Micron pens mostly and am happy with those.  Has anyone had any consistent issues with smudging in their Leuchtturm?

Is there anything that I’ve missed that I need to consider??

I know that the art store I go to carries the Rhodia brand also.  I’m not a fan of orange but I might use a black-covered one if I loved it enough.  Is smudging an issue with that one too?

Again, I get that this is a pretty first world problem, but maybe planner peace is the beginning to world peace?

Yeah, that was a stretch. 😉

Probably Obvious Tip #3

The Bullet Journal Addict Probably Obvious Tip #3

Yes, this is probably the most obvious tip yet, but I’m always amazed at how much cleaner lines are drawn with a ruler.  Ok, not surprised, but much happier with the result.

There’s definitely a time for freehand-drawn lines, and if that’s your thing, go for it.  I do both but, most of the time, even when I think I can manage a nice line between two dots, it’s like I’m suddenly drawing with my left hand (I’m right handed) and it goes all wonky.  It’s pathetic.

The set that I bought is very similar to this one:

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I bought it at Office Max for under $5.  Of course, literally the second day of ownership, I lost the straight ruler and it still hasn’t turned up. However, the straight edges of the triangles are still perfect for drawing lines.  I have used the protractor for banners and things, but I end up using the straight edge for lines more than anything else.

Also, I recommend a clear set over an opaque one.  Maybe it’s completely psychological, but I think it’s very helpful to see the area you’re working with as you go.

Do you currently use a ruler?  Or do you think rulers are for wimps?  🙂

 

5 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal

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Welcome to my little brain dump on the web. 🙂

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a little over 3 months now, so I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned to hopefully save someone some time and maybe a little heartache.  I’ve kept a running list (in my bullet journal, of course) and decided to expound on these tips as my first blog post.  There are a lot more tips than just these five, but I’ll need something for future posts, right?  😉

I’m not going to go into Leuchtturm vs. Moleskine vs. comp book vs. anything else in this post.  I’m also not going to go into pens or washi tape or stickers or stamps or any other decoration aspects.  I’m not against any of those things and have used them in my own, but…

Honestly, the beauty is in the system, not so much what you use or how you decorate it.  You don’t have to be an artist or crafty in any way to appreciate a bullet journal. All you need is a notebook and a pen.  The rest is just extra.

I use a softcover Moleskine for my current (which is my first) bullet journal and I love it. I’m almost halfway through it now and have thought about trying the softcover Leuchtturm1917 B5 for my next one because it’s a little bigger, page size wise, but it does have fewer pages, so I’m still undecided.  That may also be a future post.

I also keep a bullet journal specifically for work in a spiral-bound Fabriano, grid-lined notebook.  This means the daily pages in my personal bullet journal are a little on the light side, but my personal bullet journal is the one I love the most.  It definitely sparks joy in my life! (Thank you KonMari.)

So here are my first set of tips for how to get started bullet journaling.

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Go here. Watch the video.  Click on all the links.  Take notes. Look at the blog entries.  Understand the framework of the system.  If you’re worried that is too structured or too simple, don’t worry, this is ultimately going to be yours. This is just where this whole bullet journaling thing started and it’s just smart to understand the concept.

At the beginning, keep it simple!  Put down the basic elements first, then move on to the crazy stuff like doodles and washi tape.Other places I got inspiration from before beginning:

•Boho Berry
•Tiny Ray of Sunshine
•Searching “bullet journal” on Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.

There is a LOT to look at so don’t get overwhelmed.  Make a Pinterest board or start collecting inspo however you’d like, but don’t think it has to look like all of those pictures when you’re just starting out.

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…then the future log, than the monthly spread.
I know.  It’s scary to make the first mark in that brand new book.  What if you do something wrong??  We’ll get to that.  But for now, if you don’t already have the index designated in your notebook, this is the best place to start.  Just start putting your pen to your pages and it gets easier as you go.

**Also…Kim at tinyrayofsunshine.com has a great reference guide you can print out here.

How I did it:  I have a moleskine, so I have the opening spread with the inside front cover and my contact info.

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Then, the next spread is my One Little Word for the year and a year at a glance calendar.

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Then, I have four pages set aside for my index pages.  It will probably be too many, but I wanted to err on the side of too many rather than not having enough.

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After my index pages, I have a year’s worth of a future log, also pretty much like on the bulletjournal.com site. It’s nothing fancy, just putting it down.  It’s also pretty empty, apparently my life is very boring.

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There are a lot of good ideas on Pinterest and Instagram for how to lay this out.  I’ve already decided that I want to do my next future log differently than I currently have it.  It’s ok, you don’t spend most of your time there anyway, so just pick a way to lay it out and move on to your monthly spread.

I did my first monthly spread pretty much like Ryder does on his site.

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But I decided that I liked having more of a traditional calendar so I changed it up the next month.

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Which brings me to point #3:

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It’s super normal to want to a do whole month’s worth of weekly spreads right at the start or want to fill up as many of those beautiful dotted pages as possible, but that’s counter to how a bullet journal works best.

Until you’ve used it for a while, you don’t know what parts of the system you’re going to use and which parts aren’t for you. The thing I didn’t like about a regular planner in the past was that I felt like I wasted so much space if I didn’t use it every day.

Theoretically, with a bullet journal, if you don’t use it one day, you just write in the next day and  on.  No space wasted. No planner guilt.

Be patient (not my best quality, so I get it) and just work a week out (or maybe even one day out) at a time.  You have your monthly spread and future logs for future planning, use those for things that come up.

How I did it:  I have the left side of my weekly spread for appointments and a running “to-do” list.  The right side is specifically for the days of the week and any notes pertaining to each day. Since most of my day is spent at work, using my work bullet journal, I don’t need a lot of room for daily entries.

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I tried 5 different weekly spreads before I came up with the one that works best for me.  And what works for me, most likely won’t work for you, so you need to try different layouts until you come up with one that you love.

Again, why it’s so important not to work too far in advance.  You’ll either end up feeling stuck with pages you hate using or waste the space, skipping them because you want to try something new.

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I find the pages that I use the most are pages that aren’t forced.  Don’t feel like you have to have a ton of collections at the beginning or have to have a full list of books to read.  Leave some of those spots blank and keep your bullet journal with you to capture inspiration or recommendations as you get them.

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Perfectionism is paralyzing. It really is. So stop worrying about being perfect.  Make a mistake.  Or two or three.  Don’t think you have to throw out your bullet journal because you’ve made a mistake in it.

Some people laugh when I say that.  Others nod their heads because they know what I mean. These are my people.

Work your mistake in to your design, cover it up with some washi or a doodle or…wait for it…turn the page and start over.

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Thanks to Joan Runke for this perfect graphic.

You can do that??

You can do that.  This is your bullet journal and you can do whatever you want with it.

One more little bonus tip for you.  I know it might be obvious but I don’t always even do it (and I often regret not doing it):

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Whether it’s a new monthly, weekly or daily spread you might be trying out, or some kind of fancy header for a collection, use a nice mechanical pencil (so you always have a fine point to work with) to map out where you want everything to go.

Ok, there you have my top tips for starting a bullet journal.  What are some tips that you would recommend?  Leave them in the comments below!

 

 

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