For those of you who have hundreds of different lists in various notebooks, reminders on sticky notes, and to-do items sewn throughout your agenda, it can become very overwhelming trying to remember everything you need to get done.
When I first came across an organizational system called ‘bullet journaling’ (a system invented by Ryder Carroll) I realized it was the perfect solution for keeping everything in one spot, all in a systematic way. Ryder developed the system over a life-long process of solving his own organizational issues. He had been using notebooks for as long as he could remember and over time all of his notebook turned into the Bullet Journal. It is designed to be whatever you need it to be. When I spoke with him, he told me “there are a lot of very elaborate examples out there, but it’s not about how your Bullet Journal looks, it’s about how effective it is at getting you closer to the things you value. Start by visiting bulletjournal.com and check out the free video tutorials. This the most basic set up. Once you get the hand of that, then you can begin to evolve it as you see fit.”
After watching the video tutorial and doing a bit of my own research, I found that there is a huge crowd out there who are amazing bullet journalists. So, to help me further explain this system and how to effectively use it, I reached out to some bullet journal pros around the world:
- Sophie Ollis of Soph’s Choices, a simple clean living blog based in London, England;
- Kim Alvarez of Tiny Ray of Sunshine, a planning and productivity blog based in San Diego, California; and
- Judy of focus-ing, a YouTuber sharing tips and tricks to stay super organized and based in Toronto, Canada!
Kim: In the Fall of 2014, I was looking around online for a way to keep track of the different parts of my life. Through Pinterest, I found an article on Lifehacker featuring the Bullet Journal.
Judy: I found out about bullet journaling after seeing some photos of it on Tumblr through the “Studyblr” community. I’ve always been a person that values organization and planning and I liked how with a bullet journal, I have the freedom to plan out anything which I really liked. I’ve always owned a store bought agenda or planner with a layout that is already pre-made, but found it difficult for me to update it everyday because of how structured and unpersonalized the design was. I found that bullet journaling was a perfect combination of both, and helped me relieve my stress as well.
Sophie: I love that there is one place for all of my tasks, lists, to-dos and creative outbursts. Not only am I better able to schedule my days, weeks and months, I have a place to take notes, doodle, write out thoughts, ideas, plans and mind-maps. I use it for all aspects of my life so nothing is lost and everything has it’s place.
Kim: I absolutely love how flexible it is. The fact that the Bullet Journal system is designed for notebooks is perfect because you can add anything to it to make it work for you.
Judy: My favourite part about bullet journaling is the flexibility. I can do anything in my bullet journal, whether it is writing a list of tasks I have to do this month or a list of T.V. shows I’ve recently been interested in. I’m able to express myself and my interests in my bullet journal in a way that no store bought planner or agenda with a set layout can allow me too.
Sophie: The best way is to just get started. Soon you’ll find your individual layout and theme and begin creating sections and sub-sections based on what you need in that moment. Mine is constantly evolving depending on what I need.
Kim: Experiment with different ideas and do the things you enjoy. Every Bullet Journal is unique because they’re unique to that person’s life. No two Bullet Journals are the same, even if they may have similar elements. Different lives call for different interests and that will be reflected in what gets added. If you want to make yours unique, just make it yours. In being yours, it’s already unique.
Judy: Try implementing some of your hobbies into the bullet journal. If you’re interested in drawing, doodle a little on the sides of each spread. You can also stick photos you take, any concert tickets or receipts into it! (Judy’s doodles and notes are pictured in the image to the left).
Sophie: Decide what you need one for, whether it’s a work / life planner or, like mine, an all-in-one notebook. Then you can begin jotting down your schedules, notes pages, shopping lists and whatever else you’re going to be using it for. But remember to always be open to change; you’ll learn what works best for you as you go and changing it up is inevitable. So have fun and play around until you find what serves you best.
Kim: First, use any notebook and pen you have laying around. You learn by doing, so just open the notebook and get started! Keep your Bullet Journal simple at the beginning just as Ryder presents it and adjust it as needed over time. The more you use it, the better understanding you’ll get of what you need and what you don’t. If you start to get overwhelmed, take a deep breath and turn to the next blank spread and start anew. Anytime you need to reset, simply turn the page and try something different. The more you personalize it, the more invested you’ll get, which will lead you to using it more and thus getting more of what you set out to accomplish done. That’s really one of the main points of the Bullet Journal: to help you achieve what you set out to accomplish by taking a moment to connect with yourself. Paper helps you slow down and think, that is its unparalleled strength.
Judy: Look at the layouts that other people use and find one that you like. You can alter it and customize the layout to include what you want on it until you figure out which type of layout works the best for you!
Sophie: Some people use their bullet journal as a means of creative outlet and others use it as a tool to help them with their creativity elsewhere. No matter how you use it, don’t get too bogged down with ‘perfecting’ it. Remember that it’s there to help you save time, increase productivity and act as a fun and functional tool to better your life.
Kim: Your Bullet Journal is a tool to help you manage exactly what you need and want to. Its forgiving nature allows you to pick it up when you need it and to put it down when you don’t. It works when you use it, so tweak your system as needed to help keep you moving forward.
Judy: I know a lot of people feel pressured to make their journal look nice. If you are interested in starting a bullet journal, don’t worry too much about making it look “pretty”! The bullet journal was made for productivity, and if spending too much time on making it look nice isn’t working for you, opt for a more simple layout.
A big thanks to Sophie, Kim and Judy for sharing all of these incredible tips and their beautiful photos! Make sure to check them out and give them a follow!