Bullet Journal for Beginners

So, a few years ago I was at a craft store and saw some pretty, sorbet-colored journals. They came with stickers and insert packs, and the part of me that loves the idea of being all girly and organized just about fell into a swoon looking at each variation and imagining myself sitting at a perfect, tiny antique desk every morning and planning my day while birds sang outside and some Vivaldi streamed through my computer speakers. Of course my fingernails would be perfectly manicured, too. No rain would ever be falling. Every piece of my life would fall into place…

Right. Never mind that I have always been more of a freestyle journal girl. I always hated those diaries with the preprinted dates. Even in 6th grade I used to cross off the dates because I needed more room to . . .  explore every single feeling. I couldn’t be held back to one eentsy page! And I hated even more the blank pages that ended up staring at me because I never was able to consistently write every single day. 

When companies started offering blank cloth journals I was in heaven. Eventually, though, I ended up buying large, spiral-bound, five-subject, college-ruled notebooks from the grocery store. I could write and write and write. They lasted at least one year. Simple. Easy. Cheap. But not so pretty, to be honest. I’d jazz them up a bit with pictures cut from magazines and taped into a collage for a cover.

Journals have always been, for me, an emotional outlet more than a diary of my activities. I will never give that up. It is raw, unfiltered, sometimes crazy, wicked personal stuff. And it has nothing to do with organizing my life. For that, I’ve tried planners (good) and online calendars (bad) and written daily task lists (good) and sticky notes (bad.) But nothing really felt right. I wanted the equivalent of a Trapper Keeper. Remember those? Or what were those things that women carried around just before iPhone made them obsolete? They had addresses and whatnot in them? Filofaxes! I wanted something like that. 

As I thought about how I was going to organize my life, this buzzy word kept swimming around in the periphery of my awareness, popping up every so often but floating just out of my attention span. It was something called a “bullet journal?” I gathered it had something to do with bullet lists. Didn’t sound much like a journal to me. No writing? Just lists? Why not just have a planner? To be honest, I never really investigated, and I didn’t connect “bullet journal” with those pretty, sorbet planners at Michael’s. 

Until yesterday. 

I was hanging out on the Wattpad forums when a writer I admire posted a photo of her new bullet journal. It looked cool! There were to-do lists and a graph to track her “daily habits” and some other nifty calendar-like things. She had drawn these pages herself, and she described how this system was helping her to accomplish her goals and keep track of her momentum. 

It was like a flashbulb going off in my brain. I need to get organized, I thought. I like doodling in notebooks, I thought. I even like making and crossing out to-do lists. A bullet journal isn’t so much a journal as a log. It is like a DIY planner that you customize to fit your own needs. 

After a bit of research online, I realized there is no end to the complexity and artistry that can go into a bullet journal. (Think scrapbooking craze here, folks. Bullet journals are the Creative Memories Scrapbooking of today.) There are blogs and websites and templates and stickers you can buy. But guess what? A bullet journal can be just as basic as you want it to be. 

I made one yesterday out of a spiral notebook I was already using to keep track of blog post topic ideas, log-in information for my website and social media accounts, goals for future writing projects, and, yes, lists. I found a good blog post about beginner bullet journaling and went to work with my black pen. You can read the post on  BohoBerry.com for yourself. 

I created an index. I made a goals page for each of the next five years. I took three pages to make a “future log” for the remaining months of 2019 so I can see the year ahead at a glance. I made a “May” page with all the days listed and filled in some activities I wanted to accomplish, like a blog post every Monday and three chapters of my next Wattpad book to be posted every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. I also included monthly goals. 

And starting tomorrow, I will begin my daily bullet lists. Yes. Yeah, there are no birds singing or antique desks in my living space here in San Diego. My nails are a freakin’ mess. But I can get up in the morning, meditate, drink my coffee and listen to Vivaldi, and fill in my bullet journal for the day. 

Of course, I thought I was done with my ultra-basic DIY bullet journal. But then today I was on Instagram and I saw the most awesome thing–a reading log that looked like a bookshelf! Immediately, I knew this deserved a space in my bullet journal. I’ve always wanted to keep a log of books I’ve read, but never got around to it. This, however, is genius. I got to work and drew a bookshelf with blank spines for all my book titles. Yes, I wish I were an artist and could do this justice, but it’s cool. It feels like doodling in high school chemistry class. It feels like being sixteen years old in 1985. And, ironically, it feels like progress. 

I will keep you all posted on how the #BuJo is working out for me (yes, there’s a hashtag on Twitter for that). I’d love to hear from any of you who have experienced bullet journals or are inspired to try it out for yourself. Let’s make this our year to create organization in our hectic, crazy lives.



This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Hi! Thanks for sending me this link. I live it already and hope to catch up over the next week. This sounds like a cool idea to explore!

    1. I think you’d like this, Joyce!

  2. I love your style, Shelley! You make organization sound interesting, though I can’t imagine myself ever doing it. I loved the bookshelf drawing; very cool idea.

    1. Debbie,

      Thank you! And it’s actually quite fun to create a log of the day. I had six bullet items on my list yesterday and worked hard…but every single one of them had to be pushed to today, lol. That’s okay. Progress was made. It was fun to make the list and review it at the end of the day. Also, I’m finding it much easier to have my calendar items written out on paper in the journal vs. online google calendar. xoxo S.

  3. How fun! I’m not a big journaler (or even a small one), but this sounds like fun. Like a creative playground. Love the sketch. Thanks, Shelley.

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