What is a bullet journal and how will it save your sanity?

what is bullet journal

WTF IS A BUJO…
by Carole G

First things first…a “bujo” is the affectionate nickname adopted by many for Bullet Journal.

So the next logical question is, what the heck is a bullet journal?!

Let’s back up a little. Back in December, I was reflecting a bit, as one is prone to do on the cusp of a new year, and thinking about what I wanted to be different and better for 2016. I realized that I had continued all of last year to let stress, chaos, and feeling overwhelmed rule my day to day existence. I had really pretty much given up on thinking that could change, given I have a family of six, plenty of pets, a full time job, and was always trying to fit in crazy things like socializing and exercise as well. I was continuing to be the frenzied mother who puts herself dead-last and it simply was not working for me anymore. I needed a change and I needed to find a way to focus on myself.

One day, spinning my mental wheels and being generally avoidant of all those responsibilities, I was on Pinterest and stumbled upon this thing called bullet journaling. As I looked at more and more pins and read blogs on the system, I became convinced that this could help me manage my time, feel less overwhelmed, and direct me toward a more analog life, which I also had an epiphany that I was truly craving.

There are many, many blogs and articles out there explaining what a Bullet Journal is. I will not pretend to be an expert, given I’m really only about six weeks in. I will point you to the original bullet journal site, where the lovely video explains the concept as it was created by a gentleman named Ryder Carroll. In its original form, bullet journaling is very minimalist and to the point. It is a system designed to help people be more productive and/ or (as in my case) reign in their chaotic lives. As the idea has spread and grown, people have started putting all kinds of creative spins on the original. That said, if you decide a bullet journal is right for you, I have some advice: do not compare yourself to super creative people on the internet! Use the system as it works best for you– if you love color and doodling and stickers, have fun with them! If you want a functional, straightforward bujo, create one for yourself and take joy in its simplicity.

So, most people start theirs with a key; a system of bullets for tasks, circles for events, an X for completed tasks, and an arrow for “migrated” tasks, that is, the stuff you didn’t manage to get done that day. There are MANY variations on the key, as you can see here.

Next up is your index. Mine is pretty standard and true to the Ryder Carroll method:

bullet journal index

The index is dynamic– you add to it as you add pages or “collections”. (we’ll come back to collections, hang in there…)

Next up is generally a yearly spread– sort of “year at a glance” like you typically see in the front pages of a planner.

bullet journal yearly spread

Note my priorities..haha! I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to focus on and take care of myself.

At this point, you can start with weekly or daily spreads, or you can add in collections– such as “books I want to read”, “bucket list”, or “2016 travel plans”. These are just examples. The idea of collections is to add them as they occur to you and of course, as they relate to your life. I have a few at this point– books to read, things I love, monthly gratitude lists, and the two you see below– my “To-Knit List” and “C & J’s Big Adventure Gear List”, as my husband and I are planning some big backpacking/ camping trips this upcoming summer:

bullet journal collections

My collections are interspersed throughout my dailies, which you might think would be confusing, but it’s not at all. Why? Because you simply log the pages in your index! Hopefully you are starting to see the beauty of this system. It flows and it’s endlessly adaptable.

I’ll leave you now with a couple of my dailies. As you can see, I do like to decorate them a bit– partly because in the process of learning this system and the overall draw to a more analog life, I have become a bit obsessed with learning hand-lettering and improving my everyday handwriting. All these years of typing almost everything has left me with kind of messy handwriting, unfortunately. Learning hand-lettering has become a fun outlet for my creative side, and I find it very calming, much like the adult coloring book craze!

bullet journal daily 1
bullet journal daily 2

So…what do you need to get started on Bullet Journaling? Simple! A notebook. And a pen. That’s it. There is a lot of debate out there as to the best supplies– lined or grid paper… Moleskine, Leuchhterm, or Rhodia… Staedtler pens, fountain pens, or plain ol’ Bic. All of these choices are 100% YOURS. Again, the beauty of this system is that you work it and adapt it and change it up to best suit your needs and personal aesthetics.

Lastly, to address the most important question– is it really saving my sanity? The answer is a resounding YES. Since I have started this system, I feel calmer, and significantly less overwhelmed by my various responsibilities. I have found a creative outlet for myself and I relish the time I spend setting up my journal, adding collections, and working on my writing. I spend significantly less time burned out, glazed over, and robotically surfing the internet. I have more intention in my days and it helps me focus on taking care of myself and doing things I truly enjoy.

I call that a big win. Onward 2018!