Bullet Journaling for Beginners by Kara Benz of Boho Berry

Hi, Goulet Nation! After having Brian as a guest on my own blog earlier this month, I was so excited when he invited me to contribute to the Goulet blog this week!

I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system for almost two years now, and Brian thought it would be a great idea for me to come on and chat with you all about the system itself — what is a Bullet Journal, how does it work, and why would you want to use one?

If you were to google the term “Bullet Journal,” you’d likely be overwhelmed with beautiful images of very artsy journals and often complicated layouts. While these journals are an excellent example of what you CAN accomplish through Bullet Journaling, they are by no means the be-all end-all of the Bullet Journal system.

Today, I want to cover the basics for you in a way that’s not overwhelming and gives you a solid foundation to get started.

Photo Credit: Boho Berry

What is a Bullet Journal?

One of my favorite quotes about the Bullet Journal comes from www.bulletjournal.com:

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” ~ Ryder Carroll

I love this quote because it accentuates the biggest draw of the Bullet Journal system, which is its ability to be whatever you need it to be.

The Bullet Journal (or “BuJo” for short) was created back in 2013 by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based digital product designer. Since then, the system has evolved. There have been “hacks” and upgrades by many within the community, and people have adopted the system into their own lives and made it their own.

“He sees this as an evolving, adaptable practice meant to be self-curated as you determine what works best for you.” – www.bulletjournal.com

In essence, the Bullet Journal is a system for organizing your thoughts, ideas, and goals into one notebook. Those random notepads and sticky notes that you have strewn across your desk? They now have a home and a way to stay organized so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Photo Credit: Boho Berry

Why use a Bullet Journal?

With so many advancements in technology and apps, some make the argument that it seems silly to fall back to such an “antiquated” system of planning.

While I agree that technology has come a long way — and I even use several organization apps to manage my life and business — there are a few reasons why I believe analog systems (and especially the Bullet Journal) still have a place in our lives.

1. Magic happens when you put pen to paper. 
There is just something about that feeling of diving into a notebook with your favorite pen. You just can’t beat it!

2. The act of writing helps you remember. 
Check out this recent study!

3. Sharpened, distraction-free focus. 
A notebook does not have notifications popping up every few minutes to distract you from the task at hand.

4. Time away from our screens. 
It’s no secret that we spend way too much time with our eyes glued to screens. Bullet Journaling will give your eyes a much-needed break.

Photo Credit: Boho Berry

How does it work?

For an overview of the system, I’d like to (again) highly recommend that you head straight over to the “Getting Started” section at www.bulletjournal.com. Ryder does a fantastic job of breaking down each of the components into bite-sized pieces for you to digest.

THE PARTS OF THE BULLET JOURNAL:

Rapid Logging

  • Topics – a brief, descriptive title
  • Page Numbers – to index later
  • Short Sentences – concise and to the point
  • Bullets – to organize your entries

Entries

  • Tasks – signified by a dot or bullet point (•) for actionable items and to-do’s
    •    X Task completed
    •    > Task migrated
    •    < Task scheduled
  • Events – signified by an open circle (ο) for date-specific items
  • Notes – signified by a dash (-) for great ideas worth keeping
  • Signifiers (these help to categorize your entries)
    •    An asterisk (*) denotes priority or important tasks
    •    An exclamation point (!) is for inspiration items
    •    An eye is for items that need more research or information
Photo Credit: Boho Berry

Modules

  • Index – To capture and organize your entries
  • Future Log – To manage future events and appointments
  • Monthly Log – To capture important events throughout the month
  • Daily Log – The heart and soul of your Bullet Journal

Migration
Migration can be done on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. The act of re-writing unfinished tasks helps you to get clear on your next steps.

If all of this seems a little daunting on paper (pun intended), I’d love for you to check out my Bullet Journal 101 series on YouTube. The Bullet Journal Basics video, in particular, will walk you through each of these components step-by-step in their simplest form to give you a solid understanding of the system.

What do you need to get started?

The only thing you need to start your very own Bullet Journal is a notebook and a pen. That being said, I definitely have my favorites! Here’s a list of my favorite BuJo supplies:

Notebooks:

Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dot Grid – Bullet Journalists love this notebook because of the additional features that it has compared to others. Two bookmarks, a built-in index, and pre-numbered pages make this a go-to for many BuJo fans.

The Official Bullet Journal Notebook – Also made by Leuchtturm, the Official Bullet Journal has all of the features mentioned above PLUS an additional bookmark and a handy getting started guide in the front. It also has additional tips and tricks in the last few pages of the notebook.

Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dot Grid Notebooks

Pens:

Oh boy, where do I start? Of course, I’m a fountain pen fan, so they comprise some of my favorite pens to use in my journal. I recommend a fine or extra-fine nib for writing small on your dot-grid pages.

While I have many pens I love, here are some of the ones I use the most for my bullet journaling:

TWSBI 580 Black/Rose Gold (previous Special Edition) in extra-fine
TWSBI 580 Green (previous Special Edition) in extra-fine
TWSBI 580AL Turquoise (current Special Edition) in fine

Pilot Vanishing Point Yellow in fine
Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight (2015 Limited Edition) in fine
Pilot Decimo Champagne in extra-fine

Lamy Al-Star Pacific (2017 Special Edition) in fine
Lamy Al-Star Graphite in extra-fine
Lamy LX Rose Gold in extra-fine

Haha! I just realized I have 3 of each… they must really be my faves!

Pilot Decimo Champagne

And of course I need ink to go with it, and some of my favorites include Noodler’s Black, Graf von Faber-Castell Stone Grey, Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku, and Diamine Marine.

In addition to fountain pens, here are some of my favorites:

Tombow MONO Drawing Pen – a nice felt-tip pen that will not bleed or ghost in your journal.

Tombow Dual Brush Pens – for adding a pop of color here and there or implementing a color-coding system in your Bullet Journal.

With any pen, I highly recommend flipping to the last page of your notebook to do a “pen test” before you start writing. This will ensure that you don’t “mess up” your pages by using a pen/ink combo that doesn’t agree with your paper.

For more info on the best fountain pen/ink combo for your BuJo, be sure to check out this post.

In Conclusion

The Bullet Journal system is being used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world — from artist and creatives, to moms with hectic schedules,  to busy professionals. If you think this system might be a good fit for you, I encourage you to seek out the Bullet Journal community online.

Just like the fountain pen community, the Bullet Journal community is full of inspiration and helpful people. We love to help newbies get acquainted with the system, and we’re always willing to help out when you hit a roadblock.

Ryder Carroll has created a Facebook group for Bullet Journalists, and of course I run my own private group on Facebook — The Boho Berry Tribe. I hope to see you there!

 Kara 


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Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.

2017-10-11T14:25:16+00:00 June 28th, 2017|Paper Reviews, Tips & Tricks|17 Comments
  • Patricia

    While you share fountain pen information on great pens, having been a new purchaser of pens from Goulet for the past 2-3 years there are much less costly pens for beginners to use that are wonderful. Pilot Metropolitan ($15) @ TWISBI Eco ($28-30) are two of them

    • Oh, I completely agree! I was just sharing my favorites, not necessarily the best pens for beginners 🙂

  • Uniotter

    Wow! As organized and useful as I’m sure the system is, what strikes me most is the ART of it! I love the fact that colors and illustrations and doodles are a big part. Thanks for the interesting post….I will definitely check it out. 🙂

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      There are some truly, inspiringly creative Bullet Journalers out there!

  • Lesley Schultz

    I gave bullet journaling a good solid college try for over a year. The blank dot grid without any suggestions as to layout etc was too much freedom for me, and the daily aspect didn’t fit in well either. I am much happier with a Travelers Notebook, with the pre made inserts for monthly and weekly with a grid page facing. A space to hit the highlights, a space for a few reminders/notes and I’m good to go. I did enjoy the flexibility of bullet journaling, but the freedom was too much.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      It’s definitely not for everyone, Lesley. I, too, have a hard time with that much freedom so it didn’t quite work for me when I tried. I am still very much into my Lilly Pulitzer planners that I have relied on since college. I was pleased to find out that they still worked with my fountain pens quite nicely. I am glad the Travelers notebook has worked so well for you!

  • Ciine

    Since being introduced into the fountain pen world I’ve heard a bunch about bullet journaling, but I never gave it a shot. I’ve tried several digital and paper organizing systems and they always felt too rigid for me and didn’t follow the way I like to think about things. This article/blog post was fantastic and convinced me to order a Bullet Journal immediately and give it a shot. Thanks so much!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Hope it proves very helpful for you!

  • Tom Johnson

    Kara, this is very fascinating, unlimited possibilities. So glad you contributed to this blog. One thing I love about this is that the variations are limitless, and it draws on a person’s ingenuity and creativity to come up with what works best for them.

    I used Day Timers and Franklin Planners for decades at work to organize my projects and “to do” items, meeting planning, etc. Now retired, I use my Traveler’s Notebook Passport with a planner insert and other inserts/accessories to record appointments, briefly record events, and make lists. What is so important is that this notebook is in my pocket all the time, and used like Leslie does below. I also put appointments on a calendar and in my iPad. The calendar is right there in plain view for a quick glance.

    I update my full size leather bound lined journal every week or two, recording significant events, memories, etc. that I want to keep for the future. While this journal is not for planning or organizing purposes, your bullet journal methods show me that I need to include something extra in that journal, like graphics of some kind. So far it is just writing with date of entry. Hard to look back 3 years to find a single event that I want to review what I wrote. With a graphic (can be small too) it would be so much easier to locate my past entries just by flipping through the journal. And, an index would be good too.

    I used a Preppie Marking pen with Blue Ghost ink to underline the more significant events. I even ran a line along the page edge. I can quickly find those items just flipping through the pages under UV light. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful concept, with techniques for any one’s needs.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I love the graphic idea, Tom! That is a great way to mark specific exciting events. I never thought of using Blue ghost that way but I may just have to implement that in my new Some Lines a Day notebook!

  • Kara: “Today, I want to cover the basics for you in a way that’s not overwhelming and gives you a solid foundation to get started.”
    Also Kara: *shows picture of BuJo that looks very fancy and artsy and may be overwhelming to newbies*

    LOL XD

  • Kathy

    I’ve been looking at BuJo for over a year, and am a member of Kara’s Tribe. I have to admit there is one aspect I just don’t get. I need a regular planner for appointments into the next year, and am positive others do as well. Do you use two books, one as a traditional calendar and one for BuJo? If not, how do you integrate the two? I don’t want to use two books, and I don’t want to have to re-enter the same info. Help!

    • Ciine

      She incorporates the Calandex system. Check it out. Here’s the original as shown on Ryder’s blog:
      http://bulletjournal.com/future-log-the-hope-method/

      And here’s how BuJo does it slightly differently:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c2NdTRw1gc

      • Kathy

        Thanks for the info, Ciine. I think I’m going to experiment a little. The idea of just putting the page number on the calendar, then having to go to that page for more info, seems like extra work to me. But I could expand the calendar over more than two pages, maybe 2-3 months/page. Then have a brief explanation of the activity with more info referenced later in the book. Just something to experiment with.

        Please let me/us know how this works out for you. I’m always interested to see how people adapt it for themselves!

        • Ciine

          Will do

  • Glenn

    It’s a freehand planner. Haven’t people been doing this for ages eternal. I mean just because you give a name to something that’s always existed doesn’t make it a thing all of a sudden.

  • caldwell65516

    Students are like this education so more and it will be very useful for them. I expect more facilities as like this for them and they also enjoy this job.