Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Best Planner Ever: Getting Started with Bullet Journaling

     Scheduled post, I hope you enjoy this one while I'm on vacation!



      I'm completely obsessed with planners. To be honest, it's probably borderline unhealthy, because as my friends discovered early on during our freshman year of college, I often schedule my day down to minute-- probably a bit excessive, but it definitely works during hectic periods like midterm season. I've tried a few different planners over the years: the ones sold by my high school with the mascot on the cover, a generic Mead one, and a multi-year stint with the Lilly Pulitzer agendas.

     Don't get me wrong, Lilly Pulitzer agendas are very cute and surprisingly functional. But headed into my sophomore year of college, as I tossed around the idea of applying to be a business major, I decided I wanted something more grown-up. Lured in by super-cute Facebook ads, I ordered not one, but TWO planners from MochiThings, a kitschy office-supply website: a weekly and daily planner. The two planner system worked okay, but I missed having monthly and yearly overviews, and I sucked at transferring information between the two.

     At the end of the summer, I decided that I had to figure out a better system. After seeing The College Prepster's post about Carly trying out Bullet Journaling, I was intrigued (update: as of Sunday morning, Carly tweeted that it didn't work out for her). I had heard about Bullet Journaling before since I'm a big fan of Moleskine notebooks, a favorite brand of bullet journalers, but I had written it off as complicated and weird. This summer, I did a bit of research and gave it a try using a crappy composition notebook, telling myself I'd invest in a nice, new notebook if I decided to use a Bullet Journal as my planner for the new school year.

     Over 2 months later, I'm here to say that I'm hooked! Now, some people go all-out with their Bullet Journal and make it more of an art project than a functional planner; that's not me, and that's not what the Bullet Journal was intended to be! Bullet Journals are a low-maintenance way to effectively plan your days, months, and years, in addition to keeping lists and trackers, all in the same notebook.

     Bullet Journaling is great if you...
  • Prefer using a paper planner as opposed to online calendars
  • Like the ability to fully customize your planner layout
  • Have had trouble using planners before and want a low-maintenance option
  • Love writing lists/schedules/other extras in your planner
  • Are a student who's schedule isn't compatible with standard yearly calendars

How I Use my Bullet Journal as My Planner 
*all pictures are from my new, essentially unused BuJo for the 2017-2018 academic year

The Notebook 
     All you need to start a bullet journal is a notebook and a pen. Like I said, I "tried out" Bullet Journaling with a ruled composition book. There is an official "BuJo" notebook sold on the website; it comes in one size and a few different colors ($25 + shipping), includes a brief guide, and the pages are dotted grids. However, many people use the well-known Moleskine notebooks as a bullet journal, and as a dedicated fan of the brand, I ordered a personalized Classic Large Hardcover with "squared" (graph-paper like grid) pages to use starting this fall ($20 + personalization + shipping). Really, any notebook can work, but if you want your Bullet Journal to be easy to customize, it's best to get one with dotted grid or "squared" pages for keeping things tidy.

Gotta add a monogram, right?

How to get started 
     I'd highly recommend biting the bullet (no pun intended, hehe) and signing up for the Bullet Journal newsletter so they'll send you the free starter guide (unsubscribe as soon as you get your guide). If you don't want to do that, then you can go to this "Getting Started" page, but it'll be a little more confusing. Here's a summary of how I set up my journals:

1. This part is by far the most annoying: to begin, number every single page in your notebook. I know it's not fun, but it'll save you time and confusion later.
2. The first page of your journal should be labeled "Key". Your key is the guide to what the different symbols in your notebook mean. I use the standard Bullet Journal symbols/meanings.


3. Set aside the next couple of pages-- I used 4 (2 front-and-back)-- for your Index. This is where you'll list each section of the journal and the page number(s) it encompasses. Every time you add a new section, make sure you include it in the Index!

Okay, just realized that the page number for both my Key and Index are 1...oops


4. Next, you'll create your Future Log using as many pages as you want. This is sort of like your yearly overview where you can list items/tasks/events months before they happen, so most people create their Future Log to span 6 months-1 year. For college students, this is a great place to write down major deadlines over the semester. This link includes a standard Future Log format, but I got a little creative with mine.



5. Now, you're going to create a two-page Monthly Log for whatever month you're starting on. Again, this is an overview where you'll record everything you have going on for the month. On the left-hand page, write down the days of the month vertically-- this page is where you'll record events/items with a specific date. The other page is for writing down tasks to accomplish at some point during that month but don't need to be done on a specific day. 



6. Your next page starts your Daily Log for the month. You'll record tasks/events one day at a time here, but you can certainly group them by week (I do it this way, pictured below). This section is pretty standard as far as journals go.

My "daily" log as a weekly overview

The journal in action 
    Record any events/tasks you know of in your Future, Monthly, and Daily Log. Draw an x through the symbol after you complete a task (we don't cross out things in Bullet Journals!) or use a right-facing arrow to signify that the task/event wasn't completed and that you need to "migrate" it to another day/month.

     When you get to a new month, create a new Monthly Log and record any tasks/events for that Month from the Future Log, and after the monthly log, create a new Daily Log. It's that easy!

     The fun thing about Bullet Journals is that they can be as elaborate or as plain as you want. If you want some major BuJo inspiration, I'd suggest heading over to Pinterest-- you could spend hours drooling over Bullet Journal spreads. I'm adding the link to my Bullet Journal Board on Pinterest so feel free to browse or follow the board.


     Have you ever tried Bullet Journaling? What's your favorite way to manage your agenda? Let me know in the comments!

 Thanks for reading,
 Alex

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