I believe it was when pregnant with my daughter, towards the end of 2015, that I first heard about Bullet Journals. It’s something that kept getting lots of mentions in productivity podcasts so eventually curiosity got the better of me and I decided to find out more.
For some reason I had the impression that a Bullet Journal was something where you would record past events, a bit like a traditional diary in a more concise form, so I was pleasantly surprised when Bullet Journaling turned out to be a fantastic organisational method.
As a lover of planning, lists and trackers, I knew right away that this was something I wanted to try. I’d been using a Filofax up until that point, both for work and personal stuff, and although I did like it, I sometimes felt a little restricted in terms of what I could write on it. And on top of that, I always had various to-do lists scattered around my office. So I was thrilled to find an easy-to-use and comprehensive system where I could record everything that was going on in my life.
Why using a bullet journal is good for you
It’s now been almost 2 years since I first heard about it and I am now a total bullet journal addict. First of all, it helps me keep track of daily to-dos and events. I’m not sure how long you can blame baby brain for but my daughter is almost 1 and half and my memory is nowhere near as good as it used to be pre-pregnancy.
It’s also my most treasured tool to help me reach my goals. I use it to set myself targets and track progress. You’d be surprised how much of a difference writing your goals down compared to just thinking about them makes. I’m planning a separate post on goal setting but for now I just want to say that breaking your objective, whatever this may be, into small, manageable chunks is by far the best way to achieve it. And a Bullet Journal enables you to do just that.
Finally, it helps me clear my head and feel less overwhelmed. From blog post ideas and recipes to quotes I like and books I want to read, I use my bullet journal to record all sorts of stuff and I genuinely feel that my mental health is much better as a result.
I tend to use my bullet journal mainly first thing in the morning and before bed. I really enjoy the ritual of sitting there with a cuppa and unloading my thoughts onto paper.
I’d go as far as saying that using a Bullet Journal has changed my life. If you’re a parent like me, you will know how physically and mentally demanding parenting can sometimes be and, as I’ve briefly explained above, my Bullet Journal helps me keep it together and find balance in my life.
By the way, I’m not superhuman, there are days when I still lose it no matter how much I journal!
How to get started & basic setup
All you need to start your own Bullet Journal is a notebook and a pen. That’s it.
The official Bullet Journal website is a fantastic starting point to learn the very basics.
Or you can watch this little video which shows you how to set it all up:
This is where you list all your entries and collections. If you start using your journal regularly, this will be a life saver to help you find what you wrote where.
This is where you log future events and appointments. Generally speaking, most people who use a bullet journal set up one month at a time so it’s important for you to have somewhere to record all events for future reference.
Monthly calendar & task list
This is where you keep track of what’s happening during that particular month.
On one page you have the calendar, which is where you record the month’s events, appointments, birthdays, deadlines, etc.
On the other, you have your monthly to do list where you write down everything you want to accomplish that month.
Where you record what you need to do on that particular day as well as events and appointments.
Types of entries
• Dot bullet for tasks (turn into / when in progress, cross out X when completed or transform into an arrow > when moving it forward in time)
o Circle bullet for events
– Dash bullet for notes
It may feel like a lot to take in at the moment but, trust me, after a week or two, it just becomes second nature.
Other things you might want to include
For a few months when I first started I only used the basic setup above and then I started adding other pages to help me plan, organise and track many different areas of my life.
The very best thing about using a bullet journal is that you can fully customise it to fit your life and there aren’t really any “rules” you have to follow.
So this is what’s currently in my bullet journal as well as the basic setup we’ve already discussed:
Yearly/monthly goals – this helps me so much. At the moment I have 3 main yearly goals. Each month, when putting together my monthly task list, I look back at my main goals and plan accordingly. Then I do exactly the same for my daily to-dos.
Habit tracker – a great way to track those things that you want to make sure you do several times a week. Mine includes things like “me time”, digital detox after 7pm (struggling with this one!) and a 15-minute tidy.
Books I want to read
Monthly spending log
Places to visit & things to do – we sometimes get stuck in a rut when it comes to things to do with the little one and this is a great list to remind me of all places we enjoy
Weight loss log
Movies & TV series I want to watch
Blog post ideas – when inspiration strikes and I’m nowhere near around my laptop
Happiness log – every evening I note a little something that made me happy that day
Recipes to try
Tried & tested recipes – whenever we really enjoy a dish (especially if it’s something that my little one liked), I add it to this list. It’s nice to have this to look back to when meal planning.
My 40 before 40 bucket list – very much work in progress but thankfully I still have 5 years left
Choosing a notebook
As you can see in the image at the bottom of this post, I use an A5 yellow dotted Leuchtturm 1917 (which you can buy in many other colours) and a black Stabilo point 88. In fact, dotted Leuchtturm 1917s and Moleskine notebooks seem to be the most popular choices amongst the bullet journal community.
You can opt for one of these or choose something completely different. The only thing I’d say is that getting a dotted notebook or one with squares will probably make your life easier, especially when setting up trackers.
Minimalist vs fancy
This is the big dilemma! Do you want to keep your journal nice and simple, like in the video above, or get all creative using stickers, washi tape, lovely modern lettering or perhaps your own illustrations?
Again, you need to discover what works for you. When I first started journaling (this is pre-baby!), I was using these coloured pens, various stickers from my beloved Paperchase and spending a lot of time creating pretty headers. Once my daughter was born, I found that a minimalistic setup worked far better for me as I no longer have a lot of time to get creative.
Instagram is a fantastic resource to see what other users are doing – just take a look at the hashtags #BulletJournal and #BuJo for lots of inspiration.
So I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about Bullet Journaling and how it can help you simplify your busy life. Have I inspired you enough to give it a try or do you already use a Bullet Journal? Let me know in the comments! I’m particularly interested to hear from fellow mums who use it to juggle work and family life.
Bullet journal for moms by Evie Granville – lots of ideas for spreads you may want to include once you’ve got the basic setup sorted
Bullet journal 101: make it your own on Boho Berry – if you want to get creative with your journal, Boho Berry is a brilliant source of inspiration
50 collections & lists for your Bullet Journal on Page Flutter – this will have you filling the pages in no time
23 Bullet Journal ideas that are borderline genius on Buzzfeed – loads more tips and inspiration