What is a bullet journal?

What Is A Bullet Journal?

You have probably heard the term "bullet journal" regularly or seen it appear on the internet. Sometime in 2017, during a sushi lunch in Breda, my friend Helma asked me if I had heard of the bullet journal, because she enjoyed it a lot. What is a bullet journal, I asked her, because I hadn't heard of it yet.

During this monthly lunch all kinds of things are discussed as friends do, including our work and family situations and how we try to keep all the balls in the air. This journal fits perfectly with that.

I have always been an 'agenda person'

Since high school I've been a planner girl and the Getting Things Done method I have been using for many years at work. But what a bullet journal really is, I have no idea.

I visited the website of the creative mind that designed this method - Ryder Carroll - and went on the internet for more examples. At first I didn't understand anything about it. I was already making to-do lists that I happily crossed out and already kept a diary, what was the point of this particular booklet? And what on earth is migration or a 'future log'? So I continued my research and visited journaling blogs, but the confusion didn't get less, maybe even more. During my search I came across beautiful journals, super detailed, beautifully decorated ... but this had nothing to do with 'the' bullet journal, did it?

Meanwhile, the number of accounts with their creations grew at a steady pace

The concept of combining creativity with an agenda appealed to me, so I bought my first Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal, as Ryder Carroll had designed it. In the meantime I had also bought his book and sat down to find out exactly what it is all about. As it turns out, it's not difficult at all, it's even super easy, but it's almost impossible to explain to an outsider ... especially if you combine your creativity with it. Since then I use my bullet journal every day with a lot of pleasure!

Where and for whom is such a bullet journal actually useful?

You don't have to be able to cross them all off 😉

Are you someone who;

  • Stick post-its everywhere?
  • Would you like more control?
  • Loves pen and paper?
  • Setting goals?
  • Is trying to change habits?
  • Loves planners / diaries?
  • Keep a logbook?
  • Likes scrapbooks, stamping, colouring, painting, drawing and stationery?

As I wrote above, you don't have to be able to tick them all off, but if you can find yourself in a few points, please read further.

What is useful to know before you start

There are a lot of fancy terms used in the journaling world, which eventually make it seem more difficult than it really is. About the most commonly used terms I wrote a article with a downloadable PDF of all terminology.

Terminology and expressions in the bullet journal world explained in this glossary. Free download.This free download consists of 55+ expressions, I will list the most important ones below:

  • Index = a table of contents.
  • Key = a legenda of the symbols or colours you use in your journal.
  • Future log = a kind of annual calendar.
  • Daily log = a day overview.
  • Monthly log = monthly overview.
  • Rapid logging = point to point targeted short notation of your agenda content (appointments, tasks, events etc).

The idea is that you quickly make a note of something

A to-do list is just like a shopping listRyder Carroll talks about "rappid logging", which is a nice term for just writing something down quickly. Just like making a grocery list. To the point, no frills. By using symbols, you know what kind of activity it is. Is it a meeting, a phone call you have to make, something to remember, whatever. How to apply symbols can be found in this clear and easy-to-read article.

You can use any type of journal

You can use an empty notebook, a luxury Filofax, a Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917 or a notebook of the Hema You name it. Make sure it's not too big for you, because then you won't take it with you or too small, so you can't write down everything you want. If you want to expand it with all kinds of creative styling ideas, pay attention to the quality of the paper. That is also where the biggest price difference lies. What I find useful is that the pages already have a number, but that is my thing and is not necessary - you can number them yourself. My first bullet journal, was the originalbullet journal” by Leuchtturm1917.

Expensive and cheap bullet journal booklets.

Esther, what the heck is it?

An agenda, diary, to-do list?
I cannot make it any more straightforward than to say that it CAN BE all of this. If you only want to write to-do's, it's your to-do list. If you combine it with appointments, it is also your agenda. Write your memorable moments in it, then it is also a diary etc. It is how you set it up, that is also its strength. It is a PERSONAL booklet, not a massively printed diary or planner.

For me, a journal is a good way to jot down my daily activities and experiences, but also to have my long-term goals in one place at my disposal. It is a combination of what is yet to be done (future) and what I have experienced (past) and together this is who I am, what I do. By using a bullet journal it is an organised whole, although you can make the content as messy as you like .... for the passionate chaotic amongst us 😉

If you only keep a diary, you read back the most remarkable things that have happened. Of course that is always nice to read back, but in a bullet journal you see who you were, what did your daily life look like, what kept you busy, what did you do on a day. That offers a much more detailed record of your life. I think that's a priceless addition to the bullet journal.

Does it take much time?

Despite this long tribute to the bullet journal, journaling is not time consuming or you have to want to. I've often heard 'I don't have time for all that', so I ask you to stop and listen (read) ...

The initial set-up takes less than an hour, after which you can start working in your journal. With a new month, a new layout needs to be set up that will cost you a maximum of one hour per month! The information I keep in my journal costs me less than 15 minutes a day. Before I go to bed, I grab my journal and can think about the day and update what is needed.

The moment you start using the journal creatively, it takes you more time. On the other hand, it's the creative person who doesn't care about the amount of time it takes to craft. After all, it is a combination of agenda/planner and hobby. So, 'no time for' is not a good reason not to go for it 😊

You make it easier for yourself by considering in advance what you want to track

These first few pages are useful. But please don't start mapping out a whole year with all the corresponding layouts. You will find that when you start using a bullet journal, you will change the way you interpret it. As you grow, so does a journal. Oh and a tip in advance, you are going to make mistakes! Errors in choice of layout, writing errors, wrong frames etc. LET IT GO ... that's the way it is and doesn't affect the practical use of your booklet.

Go to work with it and give it a few months to grow into what you need and I promise you won't regret it. If you want to express your creativity in your journal, you'll find the nicest, handy and most beautiful creations on my Pinterest boards. Feel free to take a look and get inspired. If you want to keep your journal minimalistic or straightforward, take a look at these minimalistic notebooks.

Have fun journaling!

Esther Verdonk blogs in Dutch and English about planner stuff

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