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What is a Bullet Journal and do you Need one in Your Life?

This morse code style journaling is taking over...

Over Christmas, my mum told me about a new craze sweeping the young working generation. This is a bit odd in itself – especially since I then went on to read about it in a copy of Good Housekeeping [NB: or similar]. At first I wondered if this was actually a fad that now belonged to the parental generation but I was proved wrong when I realised that BuzzFeed had converted to bulleting and there’s even an Instagram #bulletjournal tag. 

If, like me on Boxing Day, you’re tilting your head to the side and asking ‘WTF is a bullet journal?’ – let me explain.

Bullet journals are suited to people who:

  • Like planning
  • Like pretty stationary
  • Have several big interests – for example, work and cycling
  • Feel frustrated by the limitations of traditional diaries. For example – how am I going to fit key dates into this teeny tiny year long calendar page?!

And why are there not enough ‘Notes’ pages to satisfy my urge to create lists and diagrams for basically ALL THINGS in life?

I can tick all of the above. I adore planning, possibly more than doing, and Santa knows I like a new notebook at least once a year (sometimes he pops up with one on my birthday, too).

So – despite having already purchased myself a brand new 2017 diary, I decided to have a go at creating a bullet journal of my own. All you need to create a bullet journal is a pen, and a notebook – though there is an official ‘bullet journal’ you can purchase that comes equipped with specific slots and tailored pages (contradiction level: slight, it allows for a large amount of creative freedom using dots instead of lines).

Whatever notebook you go for, it’s suggested that it’s large enough to allow you to fit everything you need into it, but small enough that you’ll actually carry it around and use it. I’d suggest one that has at least 30 lines, or enough space to write the days of the month down the spine.

The key components of the bullet journal

So – you’re ready to start your bullet journal? The process can initially sound quite confusing, and it’s really one of those things I found I had to do to understand.

Throughout your notebook, you’ll number every page (which is why the official diary, with pre-numbered pages, could be useful – unless like me you find you have to rip pages out to start again).

A bullet journal begins with an index. When you add sections, you’ll log them in the index so they’re easy to find. As well as month and weekly planning, you might add ‘birthday party planning’ or ‘planning for cycle touring holiday’ so you can create sections dedicated to these. I added sections for a look at my year long goals and phases of 2017.

A traditional bullet journal will use a ‘future log’. This is where you log key events over the coming period – for example the next year.

Most bullet journal-ers then create a ‘monthly log’. My life is quite clearly divided into two components: work and training, so I created two monthly logs. The work log has key events, and the training has a brief indication of what’s in the plan each day.

You can see, by this point, that I’ve already ripped out a few pages. This could be seen as ‘bullet journal teething problems’ but it’s perhaps an indication that it might take a bit of practice to get this right. Or that bullet journalling and I are not suited.

Then we get to the nitty gritty – weekly planners, or full pages for daily notes, depending upon your style – I opted for a panel of notes per day of the week.

When logging your daily notes, it’s suggested that you use a system called ‘rapid logging’. The symbols to use are:

  • ♦ Task to do
  • x Task complete
  • ◊ Event
  • > Task Migrated (moved to the next day/month/future and logged in the plan)
  • < Task Scheduled (texted my friend and planned a dinner date with her)
  • – Random observations from your day

Those are the basics. However, the key to the bullet journal is that you’re creating it becasue you want control over the spaces in your diary, and how you use them. Taking a look at #bulletjournal is a good way to get a little inspiration and find new ways to present your days, weeks, months and perhaps years.

Bullet Journal Examples

There are currently well over 400,000 examples of Instagram, so it’s pretty easy to get stuck in and find inspiration…

first post on ig!!!! here is a daily spread in my bujo!!!!!! . . . #bulletjournal #bujo #studygram

A photo posted by Charitha ! (@_bujostudy_) on

My conclusion on the bullet journal…

It’s been fun. I’ve spend a morning trying to write my plans out in a new system and that process in itself was interesting – especially re-writing my goals and year-long plans. However, it took me about three attempts to create a version that I was even a tiny bit happy with. By this point, the pages of my diary were beginning to fall out, my handwriting had descended and I couldn’t really be bothered to highlight the underlines or doodle sweetly on the edge of each page (the kind of actions that might win me likes on #bulletjournal).

Personally, though my pre-designed journal has it’s limitations, I now realise how hard it is to create a diary system that works. And perhaps why someone in an office somewhere at Paperchase HQ is employed to do it for me – so I can fill in the boxes, and explore my creativity elsewhere.

However, that’s just me. If you like stationary, enjoy planning and feel frustrated at the limitations of your journal, give it a go…

The Sports Psychology of Setting Goals and Achieving Them

How to Actually Plan Training and Stick to It

Cycle Into 2017: Kickstart your Best Year on the Bike

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