When exploring the use of a planning and organizing system that works for you, there are a few things you’ll need to start your bullet journal. The one thing to keep in mind is that it is your journal, your planner, and your calendar so the only thing that matters is that it works for you and no one else.

At its core, the bullet journaling system was designed to work so that even a minimal amount of effort could result in a consistent and effective log of tasks and routines. Creator Ryder Carroll studied his own workflow habits before sharing the most essential elements of this uniquely adaptable method of record-keeping and scheduling. One of my favorite things about a bullet journal is that it expresses who you are as an individual! That’s why a quick search will show you a gazillion layouts available – some thought consideration on what speaks to you is important in my opinion.

Two Things Every Bullet Journal Needs

Something to write with and something to write on are the most obvious and important materials. Could you use random paper you have laying around, sure but when you have a journal that’s bound with everything in it’s place, it is more likely to withstand regular use and travel . Pens, markers or pencils can all be suitable choices for use individually or together for a layout’s design.

colored pencils for bullet journaling

Some bullet journal enthusiasts have their own specifications based on how much detail or design their pages need. The weight of a piece of paper, determines how durable it will be for usage and storage over time. This affects how well any writing tool works on its surface, which can be an important detail for people who use heavily pigmented pens or markers and want to avoid staining between the pages.

For others, making sure the inks they use are water-resistant or of archival quality is a necessary factor if they intend to refer back to journals after they’re completed and stored away.

Three Common Components to Include

Because the spirit of the bullet journaling system lies in personal adaptation, there are very few rules to how it all works together. Most journals are a mix of chronological or categorical pieces. However, the single most important element is the use of what Ryder Carroll terms as rapid-logging. By fixing a dot (or other signifier) before every single entry on a page, each task or note has an easy starting point for more detail.

That can be as simple as checking the dot off when done or migrating it forward to the next list with an arrow, instead. Technically, a bullet journal doesn’t need anything else to start in order to function at its most basic level of use, but the key and the index can become indispensable tools over time.

And speaking of index which serves as a table of contents when you are using a key for what each symbol means, you want a place to refer to – and this should be in the beginning of your journal.

How to Choose Designs That Work Best

Again doing a quick search on the interwebs one an get overwhelmed with all the different layout designs, but keep in mind that the original design for the bullet journal began as a way to make the most effective tool with the least amount of steps and effort. The intention was more about adaptability for each person as they used it over time rather than minimalism for simplicity’s sake. Speed and ease of use are still important considerations for many people interested in the bullet journal system, but the ability to personalize the basic elements opens up so many opportunities for creative and conceptual layouts.

Pages built around scheduling or tracking tasks and goals typically feature a six-month spread often named as the future log, plus monthly or weekly layouts that offer a more detailed glimpse of the most immediate deadlines or important dates. Pages that are used each day, can be formatted ahead of time but are most commonly made on the day itself to leave as much room as possible on the page for whatever might need recording.

As each journal develops, patterns develop that reveal important themes which can then be pulled together as collections each person can curate through the course of keeping their journal.

When you start your bullet journal you may find yourself with increased mindfulness and adding element that make your journal a personal-page turner.

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