How I Use My Bullet Journal.

How to start a bullet journal (including free printables to get started!)

Looking at all of the beautiful inspiration on Instagram, it's easy to get confused about how to start a bullet journal or to think you're not artistic enough.

I'm here to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth! I've even created a tutorial and printables of my spreads so that you can simply grab a notebook and get started (you can download them for free here).

I used to organize my life in a pretty pink Filofax and then I became an avid Passion Planner but bullet journalling is by far the planning system that works best for me. It appeals to my endless need to tweak, customise, and decorate. Rather than having to choose one particular system or tool, I’m able to mix and match the components that work for me, in each season of my life.

Instagram is filled with #BuJoInspo that looks like it could be hung in an art gallery. This is so much fun to look at but it’s really intimidating when it comes to starting your own bullet journal. For some, a bujo is a creative outlet. But for me, writing, photography, and cooking already serve as fulfilling creative outlets. I’m all for prettying up the pages with washi tape, stickers, and coloured pens but ultimately it needs to be an effective tool for organizing my time, reaching my goals, and designing a life that feels how I want it to feel.

To get started and beat the overwhelm, I watched this 3-minute video from the official Bullet Journal website. I’d recommend you do the same. I’d recommend you do the same. It will walk you through the core components of the bullet journalling system including the key, future log, and rapid logging. It’s great to get started using the system in it’s purest, simplest form and then you can decide what elements you want to keep and what you want to customize.

This is the first spread in my first bullet journal. Other than my pretty pink pen, it couldn’t be any plainer or simpler. You don’t need to be artistic to start a bullet journal; this system is available to everyone.

 

Supplies

All you need to start bullet journalling is a notebook (literally any notebook) and a writing device (literally any writing device). It’s easy to think you need the “right” notebook or the “right” pen but whatever you have access to will work. That being said, I totally ordered the fancy Leuchtturm 1917 that so many bullet journalers rave about. But I promise, you really don’t have to. Don’t let it be a barrier to entry.

For my bullet journal I use:

 

Monthly Layout

I still draw my monthly layouts by hand as a) they’re really simple and b) as the dates change every month, they’re a little hard to standardize.

On the left hand side I have:

  • The month
  • My mantra for the month (more on that in a minute
  • My “overview” which includes any major appointments, birthdays, etc. that I want to keep track of

On the right hand side I have:

  • 3 goals for the month and the action steps I’m going to take to reach them. These are usually subsets of the major goals I’m currently working towards. At the start of the year I mind mapped out my big annual and 90-day goals (check out this article to learn about my mind mapping process).
  • A brain dump/log of anything I need to do that month

The other process I go through each month is a mini reflection that helps me look back on the month that’s just passed and the one that’s coming up. This allows me to make small tweaks and course correct throughout the year rather than getting to December and realizing I’ve a) not accomplished anything I wanted to or b) spent the whole year chasing goals and feelings that no longer make sense to me because I never re-examined them.

 

I originally borrowed this process from my girl Laura Jane Williams (holler!)

I’m tweaking my reflection process this year. In 2017 I’ll be asking myself:

  • How did I take care of myself this month?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • What am I proud of?
  • Obsessed with?
  • Letting go of?
  • What am I craving?
  • What do I need to do/be/have to feel how I want to feel?
  • Committing to?
  • Mantra for the month 

It’s a bit of a longer process but feels more helpful and thorough so I’ll report back on how it goes (watch this space).

 

Weekly Layout

My weekly layout lets me see at a glance what appointments or date-specific tasks I have on during the week.

I also choose a focus/theme of the week - something that sums up the goals I want to achieve and/or the feelings I’m focusing on. i.e. “Cultivating nourishing routines” or “Writing my heart and guts out.”

I use the tracker to keep tabs on any habits I’m wanting to daily or at least regularly. I’ll often set alarms in my phone to serve as an extra prompt to do these. I’m really careful not to use the tracker as a stick to beat myself with if I’m not doing them as consistently as I’d like. It’s simply information that I can use to assess whether I’m keeping the habit in the way I want and if not, I can reflect on why.

The personal and professional to-do lists are pretty straight forward. I start filling them out by looking at my monthly brain dump and then fill in anything else that’s come up for the week. I keep track of my client to-do’s on a separate page because keeping track of an additional 6 lists on one spread would be a hot mess.

The editorial box is where I plan my blog and Instagram posts for the week. If this isn’t relevant to you, you could relabel it for anything you want to plan each week (ie. meals, workouts, self-care, etc.) Just stick some washi tape over the heading and write your own!

I also set three goals for the week (usually subsets of my larger monthly goals), which I also break down into action steps.

Daily Spread

My daily spread borrows tools that I’ve found useful from books like Eat that Frog, The Desire Map, and Code Red.

Fill in the date at the top and then I write my monthly mantra underneath. I find that the daily repetition really helps keep it at the forefront of my mind so that I’m thinking about living it each and every day.

The lines on the righthand side are to take an inventory of my daily “SHE-scape,” a practice I learned while taking Lisa Lister’s re:Wilding course. I write down the phase I’m at in my menstrual cycle (ie. day 1, or right now, the date of my pregnancy, ie. 19+2), the phase of the moon (I use the iLuna app to find this), the season that it is outside (ie. winter), the phase I’m at in my life (ie. creatrix/mama …Lisa’s book Code Red is a really good resource for learning more about what I mean by this), and I draw a tarot card that I make note of. All of this information gives me insights into the (often competing) forces that might be influencing my mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s also a really good way of reminding me to live more in tune with nature’s and my own body’s naturals seasons and cycles.

My MITs are the Most Important Tasks I need to complete that day. They’re usually the things I want to avoid, that have an impending deadline, or are urgent in some way (you might find the Eisenhower Principle useful for determining your MITs). I always make sure to set up my day so that I tackle these tasks first.

The to-do list includes anything else that needs to get done that day.

Afterwards I decide how I want to feel that day (this often comes through clearly in my meditation or tarot draw) and I write down what I can do to feel this way in each area of my life.

At the end of the day (or the following morning), I write down three (very specific) things I’m grateful for and I chart my cycle. Charting just includes brief notes on how I felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This practice creates a guidebook to your menstrual cycle (again, Code Red is your best friend here). I’ve continued charting throughout my pregnancy as I’m curious to see what patterns emerge.

 

Using The Printables

Confession: as much as I love the bullet journalling system, I got really sick of endlessly using my ruler and drawing straight lines to create my spreads. But rather than feeling like a bad BuJo-er, I found a simple solution. I ordered full page, A4 labels, created these printables (download the printables here), and now I just print them out, slap ‘em in my notebook, and I’m off!

You could do the same or skip the labels and just use a glue stick. Or, maybe you’ll just use them for inspiration and continue to use hand draw your spreads. It’s up to you!

Please just don't redistribute them without my permission (obvs). If there’s anyone you think would like these printables, just send ‘em over here to download them for free.

 

Additional Resources

Do you have any questions about my bullet journal process? Are there any printables that you’d love to see? Drop me an email and let me know.

I’ll be tweaking these printables and this tutorial throughout the year to make them work better for me. By downloading them, you’re now on my mailing list and will automatically be sent any updates (yipeee!)

 

>> Download the printables and full tutorial >>