YOU BUJO? The Bullet Journal System and How I Use It.

What is a Bullet Journal?

an analog planner system. a work of art. a time capsule.

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Any discussion of the bullet journal has to start with this guy and his method:

Frankly, I think that video is about as fascinating as watching paint dry, but you have to cover the basics first.

The Bullet Journal is a fast and flexible way to:
Track the Past.
Organize the Present.
Plan for the Future.

The Bullet Journal System Includes:
an Index
a Future Log
Monthly Logs
Daily Logs
Collections

You asked how I use mine, and the answer is something of a mix of methods.

Basics first.  Here’s why I choose to spend my time on a Bullet Journal:

  • it’s fun.
  • it’s handy
  • it’s a way to organize my life the way I need it organized.
  • it’s the opportunity to plan or create my life one day at a time
  • it’s one place I can keep all my appointments, to dos, and lists so I’m not forever hunting down where a thing is written. It’s all in one spot. at least that’s the goal.

Here’s a peek into my process…

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My very first ‘bullet journal.’ It almost doesn’t count, but I’m embarrassed about it so I’m posting it first.

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed in the bullet journaling world, especially if you’re a creative. If you Google or Pinterest Bullet Journal or BUJO, you will see all kinds of amazing art coming out of these journals and their creators.

I fell prey to this overload when I first started trying to craft the perfect bullet journal. You may have noticed some things about it: First, it’s way too big to be practical and it’s completely unused.  Those things are not unrelated. Not all the spreads are blank, it’s true, but the majority are. Second, and what you can’t see: all the time it took to set up these spreads exhausted me too much to use them. I was constantly ‘behind’ with very little motivation to ‘catch up.’ I ended up with a book full of pretty spreads that never got used.

Let’s look at my second go. It went a lot better.

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My first REAL BUJO! As in it says so on the front. It’s official.

Just as there are creatives, there are purists and/or minimalists who only use their journals for productivity and planning. They dispense with the doodles and decorations and only use the bullet point system.

This is a spread from my birthday week several years ago and you can see it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not even colorful. For reference, this is not me trying to do the BUJO system ‘right.’ I never tried that because I recognized from the beginning its limitations for me. These are examples of how I used the BUJO as I was working out systems that serve me.

Fast forward a year or two and you get this one:

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3rd BUJO

Same but different. Not a lot of detail or consistency, but it is color coded and has tasks and migration. You can see in both examples how I was moving into weekly spreads instead of daily logs. Like many people, I prefer the weekly log to a monthly and daily, though I definitely have the monthly task list and I’m now considering moving daily pages into my BUJO.

Fast forward another year or two…and a lot of time dedicated to how I wanted to spend my time money and effort…and we get the current process [let me know if you’d like to see more of these pages]:

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Birthday Week again…2020!

This week when I set up my BUJO I really paid attention to what I do. here’s what I learned:

  • I need to know the day of the week and the date. Example: Tuesday, February 25th. Or I am lost.
  • It needs to be pretty. Pretty means color coordinated. and Stickers. I’m not a doodler or hand letterer. I like themes but also don’t like to spend a lot of time decorating any one thing.
  • It needs to be colorful. Colorful often means pink
  • Otherwise, it needs to be largely blank. Every week is different and I never know how much space a given day will take up. I use post its for overages.

This is as far as I’ve come and I’m proud to be where I am. This spread also looks perfect and unused…because it’s this week (and it’s not blank anymore). I’ve actually found enough of a system to be able to plan ahead!

I had fun coordinating and putting together the month. Future me is already thankful for all the hard work I put in. On the other hand, it took me maybe one whole morning to put the month together, so I’m not spending gobs of time on the thing either. I’ve found a good mix, but I’m not done learning about the process…

I’m still a keeper of several notebooks. I have not yet found a way for the bullet journal to satisfy all my needs. I am working on it and I still have hope.

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  • I think I will always keep a personal journal for, you know, journaling.
  • I think I will always keep a larger monthly calendar that I can lay out and see every day [though I do keep a monthly version in my bullet journal].
  • I’m still trying to decide if I need a daily book or if my weekly spreads are enough.
  • I’m still a planner-holic and journal junkie, but I spend far less money on those things now that I have a system that works for me. At least a system that’s working toward a system.

I’m by no means an expert Bullet Journaler, but I have picked up several tips over the years and don’t mind passing along conventional wisdom.

  • start today: yes, today…
  • with what you have: all you need is a pen and a blank book. You can acquire all the fancy stuff after you know how you work and how you actually use your BUJO.
  • have fun: I found a bunch of free printables online and made my own stickers using mailing labels. That’s probably not a lot of fun for everyone, but maybe you’re a doodler….or maybe like me you like color coding things. Find a way to make it fun and you’ll use it. If it’s just another task, you’re not getting good use out of it.

And here are some things I’ve learned along the way that I can again say are pretty universal:

  • it takes time to get your groove: if you already knew what works for you, you’d be doing it already. I’m on my fourth bullet journal and still only have the vaguest idea of what I’m doing with it.
  • if you wait to start you never will: it’s true. you have to start with what you have in the middle of your life. If you wait for the beginning of the year or even the beginning of the week you’ll lose momentum and the fun of starting.
  • don’t try to get it perfect: in fact, maybe you should practice first like I did. Grab that pen and notebook that you have and start putting down pages you want to have. Then when you don’t like what you’ve done you can correct your mistakes when you move to the big journal.  Go on a YouTube binge and write down all the things you do and don’t want to include. It’s fun. However, I also encourage you to  embrace imperfection as part of bullet journaling and roll with whatever you get going.
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My ‘practice’ bujo

So there’s the progression. From wanting perfection to being happy with my pretty imperfection

It’s still very important to me to put my hands on things. It’s one of the ways I learn. If you’re like me and you need to handle a thing to truly understand it, bullet journaling might just be for you. I’d also recommend this system for:

  • anyone with a daily to do list
  • anyone who needs to jot things down to remember them
  • anyone who has too many journals and planners and not enough to fill them

person writing on brown printer paper

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This was fun. Let me know what other questions you have or anything else you’d like to see regarding my process or style. I’d love to share it. Thanks for your interest.

2 thoughts on “YOU BUJO? The Bullet Journal System and How I Use It.

Add yours

  1. This is so good. It’s a method I knew nothing about and now I do know something about it and I see how it helps in being intentional and proactive. Thank you for taking the time to explain it so well.

    Liked by 1 person

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