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How to Use a Bullet Journal – Tips & Tricks

Learn all about the bullet journal – what it is, how to set it up, what supplies to use, and what you can do with it. Analog organizing in the digital age!

Learn all about the bullet journal - what it is, how to set it up, what supplies to use, and what you can do with it. Analog organizing in the digital age!

Bullet journaling is a short, organized way to keep track of your life. It’s more than a “to do” list, and it’s more than a calendar.

A bullet journal allows you to keep everything in one spot: ideas, lists, “to do” items, appointments, birthdays, reminders, calendars, sketches, and basically anything else you want easy access to.

While bullet journaling doesn’t usually include as much creativity as using the Happy Planner does, how you use your journal is completely up to you.

Using a Bullet Journal

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Getting Started: Bullet Journal Supplies

To get started with bullet journaling, technically all you need is a journal and a pen. Allow me to elaborate: A bullet planner features numbered pages, an index, and a bullet key – at the minimum.

Journals: You’ll need a sturdy journal for this, because it will last all year long. For this post, I’m using the Leuchtturm 1917. There are many varieties available, but this one was the most affordable (less than $20).

You can purchase a bullet journal directly from the official website, but they’re usually sold out. Other options include Moleskine journals, which are more expensive but extremely durable.

Bullet journal supplies

Writing utensils: I recommend using fine tip pens for your bullet journal. You can use a pencil, but after time the writing will fade. Some bullet planner pros enjoy using wide felt tip pens for each page title.

Extras: Bullet journals are pretty simple. Some folks like to use stickers or stamps, so if you’re feeling extra creative, go for it! There are no limits. . . it’s yours. I use neon tab dividers because it’s easier to flip to my favorite sections that way – rather than just looking at the Index.

Boxes, Circles, and Arrows, Oh My!

One of your first pages should be a Key page. This page explains what each symbol means on the following pages.

For example, you could use a box for tasks, circles for events, and dots for notes. An “X” in the box means the task is complete, a slash (half an X) means “in progress”, and a dash means the task is cancelled.

I use E for email, C for call, B for blog, ! or * for important or urgent. Most of the time, if something is important, I write it in red pen. Below is a sample bullet journal key you can use:

Sample bullet journal key

Index and Organizing

The index is probably the most important part of your entire bullet journal. As you fill your journal up, you’ll see why. Say you add a recipe on page 183. How will you ever remember that? You probably won’t. This is where the index comes in handy!

Learn all about the bullet journal - what it is, how to set it up, what supplies to use, and what you can do with it. Analog organizing in the digital age!

On the first few pages of your bullet planner (after the Name/Address page), you’ll see the Index page. Your first page will be your Key, so put that first.

Next, you might add a calendar or even an introduction: why you want to use a bullet journal and what you hope to use it to accomplish. Any time you add something to your bullet planner, you will want to go to the Index page and indicate which page(s) it’s on.

How Much Does It Cost?

I purchased my journal for about $15. Pens were $15 but I had a 40% off coupon, and the washi tape was 40% off as well, originally $13. I spent less than $30 total. You can spend more if you get crazy with pens, stickers, stamps, etc but it’s quite possible to do a bullet journal on a budget!

More Ideas for Your Bullet Journal

I’ve read a lot about using bullet journals. It’s so fun to see all of the creative ideas others come up with! Here are some of my favorites:

Daily Gratitude Log – List 5 things you’re thankful for each day

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Meal Planner – List your meals for the week or month

H20 Tracker – Draw a water drop for each glass of water you drink

Points Tracker – For Weight Watchers

Learn all about the bullet journal - what it is, how to set it up, what supplies to use, and what you can do with it. Analog organizing in the digital age!

Bucket List – Create a summer, winter, or even yearly bucket list

Fitness Tracker – Design workouts, track how often you run, and more

Mind Mapping – Draw a mind map for your blog post ideas

Learn all about the bullet journal - what it is, how to set it up, what supplies to use, and what you can do with it. Analog organizing in the digital age!

Stick With It

Don’t feel like you have to be boxed into any certain type of planner or journal just because it’s popular and has a name. If you purchase a bullet journal and want to use it in a different way, do it! The best planner is one that you use every day.

Keep it simple and don’t allow yourself to get stressed or overwhelmed. After all, the point of a planner is to help reduce stress! Learn more about how you can reduce anxiety with a bullet journal here.

If you want to read more about bullet journaling, here are some helpful articles:

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Carol ("Mimi")

Sunday 14th of August 2016

Thanks for the thorough and informative article on bullet journals. The "bullet journal" concept is new to me. I like the combination of organization and creativity. I also like how you can have all the "compartments" of your life in one place -- personal, professional, creative, etc. Great post!

Cheryl @ Artzzle

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

I appreciate your detailed article. It seems both constructive and fun, but ever so time consuming. I'm at a life stage where 1. still want to be organized (AND have fun); 2. more relaxed and in a "take it as it comes ... go with the flow" frame of mind. 3. now need to "write to remember" though. So, I see many of your ideas that I will use, BUT my dedication may not be so timely :D