a beginners guide to bullet journaling

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Bullet Journals: A Beginners Guide

contributed by Triber Arlennea Savage ( IG: @novelscript ) 

I began bullet journaling in high school however I didn't know that's what it was called. At the time we were given free planners to help us stay organized and on top of our homework. In the beginning I used it for everything but its intended purpose. 

Over a decade later, I stopped buying planners altogether because they never carried the layouts I needed to express myself and hold all of my thoughts. I used planners to hold to-do lists, to mark down important appointments, to write down study notes or ideas I had for stories. I used the columns provided by the monthly and weekly spreads in planners but I reshaped them. I added mood boards and inserted pages because I was never completely satisfied with the layouts provided in premade planners. I discovered the term bullet journal on the day I bought a blank notebook and made a planner of my own.

What is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal (often called bujo for short) is a journaling method that utilizes lists. It's a planner/diary where layouts are completely designed by you, allowing the creative freedom to jot down whatever you feel is worth remembering. Want to fill your bujo with grocery lists because you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle? Go for it. Trying to track how many poems you wrote in a month? You have the freedom to do so. While some bullet journal junkies design extravagant spreads for their thought logging, it’s not necessary. And for beginners, you can keep it quite simple.

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Tools necessary to begin:

●      Notebook

●      Writing Utensil

In all honesty, that’s it. For more detailed layouts you can make collages out of magazine ads, you can cut and glue photos that you’ve printed off of the internet, or use stickers that empower you. I’m quite fond of using highlighters to accentuate certain words but your bujo doesn’t have to be design chic. That’s the power you possess when having the creative freedom to design your own spreads.

What do you mean by spreads?

Spreads is a term in the bujo world to identify the type of layout you are using on a specific page. There are many different types of spreads:

●      Year-At-A-Glance

●      Monthly Spread

●      Weekly Spread

●      Daily Spread

●      Habit Tracker

●      Freeform Spread

My personal favorites are the freeform and weekly spreads.

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For example, in college, I noticed that I didn’t use the monthly spreads of my planner however I tried desperately to fill them in because I felt like I was wasting space. In high school I simply covered these pages with collages of celebrity crushes or things that inspired me. I didn’t use them so now in my own bullet journal, I don’t waste time creating one.

Weekly spreads allow me to stay organized with my appointments and tasks I need to handle on social media platforms. I use them to write down my daily to-do lists. This is what works for me but you on the other hand may like to jot down what you need to do daily on a monthly spread so you can see everything at a glance. Or you may not enjoy either. You may like to write down lists of what happened to you on a daily basis after the events have occurred. You may prefer using your bullet journal more as a diary instead of a planner. That’s the versatility a bullet journal gives you.

You can design your bujo to have an index page (for the super organized) where you label what is listed on every page or you skip three pages from your last weekly spread to your next one. You don’t even have to include a weekly spread at all. Just allow yourself the breathing room to have a place where you can get your thoughts down on paper, a place to write down your ideas, or your tasks for the day and make them plain.

What kind of notebook should I use?

This is another decision that is entirely up to you. I prefer to use notebooks that incorporate blank pages. I don’t want any sort of lines getting in my way. There are times however where I enjoy notebooks with dot or standard grids because they help me to stay uniform. These bullet journals typically turn more into study diaries than planners.

More than anything, one of the key aesthetics of a bullet journal is that it can lay flat. This is one of the lone distinguishing trademarks of a bujo because it allows the owner to see two pages as one, offering more space for creative discretion. Because of this, popular brands for bujo lovers are:

●      Moleskine (my personal favourite)

●      MUJI

●      Leuchtturm

Not only do these brands offer notebooks that lay flat (which is great for social media pictures) but they also offer notebooks in various styles: blank, lined, grid, dot grid.

You do not have to go out and buy one of these brands to create your first bullet journal. To this day, my favorite is one that I designed out of sheets of printer paper stapled together. It was the most productive bullet journal I’ve had to date and it led me to designing my own notebooks from scratch. There are no rules or restrictions to this journaling method.

Get creative, stay motivated!

Whether you’re looking to get organized in 2018 or you’re looking for a place you can jot down ideas for inventions or prose, a bullet journal is a great way to organize your thoughts all in one place simply because it does not have any traditional rules involved in maintaining one. With the new year rapidly approaching, the familiar “new year, new me” rhetoric can be a constant conversation starter centered around goals missed this year and new ones apprehensively set for 2018. There can be a bit of guilt especially when you may go strong in the beginning of the year and fall off the bandwagon midway. Usually once the excitement is gone your drive to accomplish something diminishes with it but having daily reminders and small notes of encouragement are great ways to self motivate and help refocus on why you set off after a goal in the first place.

You will begin to notice that once you have a place where you feel comfortable writing or listing your ideas/goals, you will be more apt to actively pursue them. And more importantly, that you have the time to accomplish them all.

- Arlennea Savage, 2017


i'd like to thank Arlennea for contributing this amazing and helpful article on bullet journaling. now that i have a better understanding of what i need and how its done, i can't wait to create my own! 

if you would like to be a contributor like Arlennea, click the button below to send me a message! be sure to include the idea for your article as well as your IG handle! 

love & light, 

e l e v e n