Part I: You are good enough and creative enough for this
I’ve always loved art, but I’ve never been very good at it. I have sketchbooks full of attempted drawings and closets full of paintings gone wrong (with the best intentions and ideas).
I also have terrible handwriting. I always have. My whole life. My brain sprints forward and my hand struggles and scribbles to catch up. I hold pens and pencils totally wrong. It has been a source of mockery from friends and family with beautiful calligraphy abilities and legible writing.
But… I won’t let that stop me from bullet journaling. Because GUESS WHAT? Your bullet journal does not have to look the way they do on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to work for you. I think a hard thing about starting any creative project (whether you plan to share it or not) is comparison and worrying that yours won’t be good enough. And sometimes we can let that deter us from EVEN STARTING.
I made so many mistakes when I started this journal, which was only a few weeks ago. I messed up layouts, couldn’t get my lettering to look right, mis-measured, and smudged my markers. But using it makes me so happy, so I’m trying to not let those “mistakes” get me down. I learned from each and every one of them.
So people with pretty handwriting, people with “chicken scratch” (like me!), creatives, or self-proclaimed “non-artists,” you can do this.
I’m going to walk you through the FEW things you need to get started… the basic four things you should buy. You might already have some of them at home. And I’m going to share with you a few pictures of mine, just how my real pages look, nothing special added for the blog post. It’s all about embracing the mess and just starting and doing.
Part II: What Even IS Bullet Journaling?
A bullet journal is a DIY planner. Its pages have dots instead of lines, which means the possibilities are endless for design set-up: boxes, lines of writing, drawings, agenda pages… but in the journal, the pages are all blank, so the design is totally up to you.
As stated on this bullet journal website, it’s “the Analog System for the Digital Age.” Are you someone who loves carrying around a physical planner, when everyone else is using iCal and phone alerts? Do you like having a calendar on your wall for important events, instead of saving them somewhere in the cloud? Then this is definitely for you.
Here’s a quick 12-minute Ted Talk by the creator of the system.
From my perspective, here are some pros and cons of bullet journaling:
- There is flexible design of pages – probably the biggest “pro” – you create it!
- It’s cheap to get started
- You can take it anywhere
- It’s a planner, but with endless additional spreads
- Motivation to track habits = improved life
- Writing everything down declutters your mind
- Bucket lists and “wishlists” are fun to make
- It uses creativity!
- It can be time-consuming to set up
- Searching layouts can be overwhelming
- You have to remember to fill it in
- You have to physically carry it around if used for scheduling
- You may feel pressured to learn lettering/nice handwriting (:
*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and purchase something, I may receive a very small compensation at no extra cost to you. This allows me to keep the blog running for you for free (:
Part III: What to Buy:
- A journal. Most bullet journalers use Leuchtturm 1917, but there are plenty of options. Just search for “journal with dots or grids” to get started. Some people like using grids. I personally love the dots the best. This journal will probably run you anywhere from $18-35.
- Some markers and pens. You MIGHT have something at home you can use, but you may want to invest in some brush pens as well. These are typically used for lettering, because they’re able to make a thick downstroke and thin upstroke. I started with the TomBow bright pack for about $15. I really love TomBows because they have two ends: the flexible “brush” end and a thinner “fine” tip on the other side. You can also blend them really well by coloring a lighter brush tip with a darker one, which creates an ombre effect. You can also use Crayola Supertips, since you’re able to use the thick side and the thinner tip. Sakura is another brand I like, if you’re looking for JUST the brush markers.
- Washi tape. This is NOT a requirement, but I am obsessed with it. It really brightens up your pages and adds some color. You can find multi-packs online. A set of 20 will cost you around $20-25.
- A ruler. This was essential for me, since designing my own pages required some straight lines for charts and boxes.
Part IV: Click any of the links below to buy directly on Amazon!
Part V: Ten Things to Remember When Starting Your Journal
Alternately titled, “So I bought the stuff, now what?”
- The first thing you want to do when you set up your journal is PLAN OUT your pages. Do some research and write out all the ideas for layouts and spreads you like.
- Allow 2-3 pages for an index or table of contents at the beginning.
- Make a key near the beginning of your journal. Here is the generally accepted starting key for journaling:
• = Task
X = Task Complete
> = Task Migrated
< = Task Scheduled
O = Events (with strikethrough for completed event_
– = Notes
* = Priority
! = Inspiration
As you can see, you write all your tasks out first as a “•” and then you turn that “•” into an X, >, or < depending on if/when you complete it. It’s basically shorthand for daily and weekly planning pages.
- Create a Future Log. This is usually a four-page spread, full one-year calendar with three months per page. This is where you can write big events like birthdays, trips, and more.
- Create a Monthly Log. One page per month, with the dates written from top to bottom, leaving one line per day. This is for an overview of the month.
- Create Daily Logs. This is like the planner you’re used to – usually a two-page spread for the entire week, where you can write down more specific tasks for each day.
- Create your habits pages. These are great ways to track sleep, budget, debt, mood, eating, weight, water intake, or really any habit you wish to track for the month or year.
- Create your fun pages. Put some wish list or bucket list pages in there, too. Some ideas: affirmations, gratitude journal, movies to watch, books to read, “little adventures,” meal planning, and more.
- Create your “Best of the Day” spread. This is my FAVORITE SPREAD ever. Make a calendar for the month on a two-page spread, leaving boxes for each date. In the box, write down the best thing that happened to you that day… every day. They’re so fun to look back on.
- Be creative! Since you’re making the index, you can always add pages on whenever you have a new idea.
Part VI: Follow a Guru
There are many accounts online where you can see spreads and learn tips and tricks for bullet journaling. Here are a few I love:
Part VII: Get Ideas
I’ve shown you some of my pages in case anything sparks your interest, and there are tons online, too! Get on Pinterest and see what you find. (:
I’m planning to do some more specific posts on lettering, designing spreads, and staying motivated with your Bullet Journal, so tune in for future tips and tricks.
Do you already use a bullet journal? Or do you have another way of planning? I was really into Erin Condren planners for a while, too, but they’re just pricey for me. Tell me in the comments how you plan and track!