In the past few years, bullet journaling has become an extremely popular way to organize your tasks and record your memories. A bullet journal is a combination of a planner, a to-do list, and a diary, so it can hold virtually everything that you need to write down. But are you familiar with all the bullet journal hacks and ideas?
If you’re just starting your bullet journal, you may be overwhelmed by all the different possibilities. There are an unlimited number of sections you can include in your journal, and you can design them in any way you want. While this gives you lots of room for creativity, it also can make it difficult for you to decide where to start.
With this type of journal, it is important that you have a good plan beforehand, but also that you learn some little tips and tricks that seasoned bullet journalers have already begun using.
This whole post is going to give you an inside look into some tips and “hacks” for your bullet journal, whether you are brand new or have been working with this type of journal for a while.
Keep reading to get the inside scoop on bullet journaling.
Deciding on your sections beforehand
Out of all the bullet journal hacks and ideas, what’s the number one trick everyone should know?
Preparation! This is a lot more important than people realize. When you rush through setting up your bullet journal, you probably miss a lot and don’t have room to move stuff around or add new pages. The best thing you can do is make a lot of the big decisions before you even put the bullet journal together.
Choosing all of your sections before you set up your journal will help you keep it organized. You can add collection pages at any time when you think of them. However, if you want sections in your bullet journal that repeat each month, deciding on them beforehand will help you space everything out evenly and leave enough pages for each topic.
What pages to add
The main sections for a bullet journal are the index, the future log, the monthly logs, and the daily logs. Some popular collections pages to consider adding include:
- Yearly goals
- Books you’ve read or plan to read
- Movies you’ve seen or plan to watch
- Recipes to try
- Things that made you laugh
- Your favorite quotes
- Goals or tasks
- Personal or business lists
- Packing lists and travel goals
- Other miscellaneous collections or pages
If you’re using your bullet journal to track your goal progress or to help with new habits, you can add monthly collections pages. Choosing about the different sections and collections you want will help you select your journal size. Some section ideas include:
- Sleep tracker
- Weight tracker
- Water intake
- Chore log
- Spending and savings logs
As you can see, there are many pages to add and a lot of ways to approach the journal.
Make all your decisions before starting
You don’t want to get halfway through creating your bullet journal before realizing that your setup won’t work. When deciding how to design your journal, consider all of the different sections you plan to include.
Do you want all of your pages to be uniform, or are you okay with some variety between sections? Would you prefer your monthly task lists to be written in calendar form or in list form? What do you plan to use for signifiers?
If you want to be very creative or artistic with your journal, try designing a couple of sample pages on loose sheets of paper before starting your journal. This will help you figure out exactly how you want to format your different sections without having to remove pages from your journal that you don’t like.
When looking up hacks and ideas for your bullet journal, you’ll probably see lots of elaborate, beautifully-decorated journals with dozens of different sections and collections. You may be inspired to create the be-all and end-all of bullet journals, but it’s better to start simple. Even with all of these bullet journal hacks and ideas, pick and choose what works best for you.
If you’re not used to journaling, you may get overwhelmed quickly and be more likely to quit. Keep it simple until journaling becomes a habit, then start adding more detail or more content.
Try beginning with just the main sections of a bullet journal: the index, the future log, the monthly logs, and the daily logs. Add a couple of collections pages that are important to you, but don’t go overboard. If you want to add some color or doodles, go ahead.
However, your bullet journal can also be written entirely in pencil with no fancy designs or drawings. Focus on the content more than the appearance, and build on the foundation of your bullet journal only when you really feel inspired.
Leave blank pages between sections
It’s up to you whether you set up your journal for months in advance or take it one month or week at a time. If you do choose to get a few months ahead with your journal design, leave more blank pages between each section than you think you’ll need. It can be very frustrating to want to add a new collections page or a longer daily entry but not have enough space.
The more you journal, the more ideas and inspiration will come to you. Leave at least five or six blank pages between each month, just in case you have a lot to report. If these pages end up staying blank, it’s completely fine. If you do run out of space in one section, though, don’t worry. The index at the beginning of your journal will keep track of where everything is, so you can skip ahead to the next blank page and record it in your index.
Color code your different categories
Once you’ve set up your journal and have gotten used to it, color coding is a great next step. There are a few different options for color coding, so you’ll have to decide which is best for your own journal. You can color code each section of your journal, so monthly logs are all one color, daily logs are another color, and collections are other colors. One option is to color code your collections based on these categories:
- Things that have happened
- Things you plan to happen (books to read, recipes to make, etc.)
- Habit tracking
- Tasks and goals
Another option is to get more precise and detailed with your color coding of individual tasks or items in the journal. Instead of assigning each section its own color, you can color code subcategories within the sections. For example, you can mark up your monthly spread according to different tasks or events that day. Doctor’s appointment days could be blue, birthdays could be red, and bill due dates could be green.
You can also color code your daily log by assigning different colors to different tasks. This is mostly the purpose of signifiers, but some people respond better to colors than to symbols. You could use a different color for job or school tasks, chores, events, reminders, and memories. If you’re serious about color coding, buying a collection of high quality colored pens might be a good idea. You can also use highlighters or markers to assign colors to different topics.
Keep signifiers simple
Signifiers are the symbols in your daily logs that provide visual categorization. You can take a quick glance at your list and see what type of tasks or reminders you’ve written. This is a fantastic organizational method, but it can get confusing and messy if you use too many symbols.
The purpose of signifiers is to easily recognize what’s written in your daily log, but if you have 20 different symbols to keep track of, you’ll just have to spend more time remembering or decoding the symbols. Some people keep a fold-out key for their signifiers in the cover of their journal. This can be very helpful, but it’s usually easier just to keep your signifiers simple.
You should be able to split up your daily entries into just four or five categories. You could use one symbol for things you need to do, one for appointments or events, one for reminders, and one for memories you’ve recorded. Once you get familiar with your signifiers, you may want to add new ones to be more specific. Try to gradually add signifiers instead of introducing them all at once, so you can take the time to get familiar with them.
You may have projects or collections that spread out throughout your bullet journal. You can flip to the index page to find all the page numbers, but that can be a hassle. Threading is a helpful way to connect the pages of your ongoing projects, even if they aren’t in consecutive pages in your journal.
In the bottom corner of the page, write the page number of the previous or next entry of that particular topic or collection. This will quickly and easily direct you to the correct page when you want to see the collection in its entirety.
Use sticky notes
You may sometimes have short-term reminders or small lists that you want to write down but don’t want to keep in your journal permanently. Grocery lists and weekly meal plans are great lists to keep on sticky notes with your daily or weekly logs.
Also, if you design your monthly logs one at a time, you may have an event or task to remember in the next month but don’t want to make the log for that month yet. In these cases, you can add a sticky note to your current monthly log as a reminder to jot the information down when you make next month’s log.
Sticky notes can also be used to put blank pages on hold for collections or projects. You may have an idea for a collection but aren’t yet ready to write it down. Keep a sticky note with your idea on a blank page, so you’ll remember that the page has a purpose.
Mark important pages with washi tape
Washi tape comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and it can be a useful organizer for your journal. To mark an important page, you can line the edge with washi tape, which will let you easily turn to the page without needing to check the index. You may want to use washi tape on your monthly spreads or on important collections pages. You can even color code pages with the tape, which will make it even easier to find important pages.
Make it look pretty
Once you’re comfortable with the layout of your journal and journaling has become a habit, you can start decorating. Making your bullet journal pretty is a great stress reliever, and it can make you feel especially proud of your project.
You can find hundreds or even thousands of pictures of bullet journals online, which can provide some inspiration. However, your journal should be representative of you. While finding ideas from others is a good starting point, you should always put your own creativity into it. You can start by choosing a theme, which can change each month or remain constant throughout your whole journal. Your themes could be related to travel destinations, nature scenes, current holidays, or anything else you’re interested in.
Decorating your page headers is another way to spruce up your journal. Try practicing your cursive to write elegant headers, or write your headers in bubble letters and fill them in. You can use highlighters or colored pens to decorate around the heading, or you can draw a banner around the heading to make it stand out. If you like doodling, you can add decorative borders to your pages or devote entire pages to drawings.
Even if you don’t feel that artistic, you can make your bullet journal look great just by keeping it organized and adding some color. You can add patterned washi tape to your pages to make them more artistic, or you could include photos in some of your entries to break up the text.
Make journaling a ritual
Many people are very excited to write in their journal for the first few days, but they quickly fall off the wagon and forget about their project. The best way to stick with your bullet journaling is to make it a habit or a ritual. Try to keep your bullet journal in the same place, so it becomes a regular fixture in your life. This may be on your nightstand, in your kitchen, or in your bag to go with you everywhere.
One great thing about bullet journaling is that it’s a much smaller time commitment than other types of writing. Once you set up your monthly spread, you just have to jot down a few bullet points each day. However, this also means that it’s easy to tell yourself, “I can write this down tomorrow and catch up.”
Maybe it will only take you a few minutes to catch up the following day, but getting in the habit of procrastinating your journaling will eventually lead to you stopping entirely. If you have a thought that you want to record in your journal, write it down as soon as you can.
If you’d rather write everything down at once instead of sporadically throughout the day, find the best time of day for you to write. This could be during your lunch break, right when you get home from work, before you go to bed, or whenever you feel the most productive or creative. Set a reminder on your phone to journal during this time, and make it a habit to journal every single day.
Don’t compare to others
Looking at other people’s bullet journals can be great for finding ideas or inspiration, but you shouldn’t compare your journal to theirs. You’ll see some journals that look like professional pieces of artwork and others that only contains messy bullet points written in pencil. As fun as it can be to decorate your journal, the content matters more than the appearance, and your content is unique to you.
Also, don’t think that just because other people include certain topics or collections in their journals, you have to as well. Bullet journals are very customizable, so you only need to include what’s relevant to you. Don’t make your journal look a certain way or contain certain topics just because other journals do. This will make your journal less sincere and authentic to you.
Keep looking for inspiration
Your bullet journal should always be representative of you, but you should also keep looking for inspiration to stay interested and motivated. You can read blog posts about bullet journal ideas or look at other people’s journals on Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube. You might see something that’s perfect for your own journal, and adding a new page will spark your enthusiasm.
Continually looking for ways to improve your journal will prevent it from becoming just another chore. It should be a fun project that helps you stay organized and lets you record important moments or ideas. If you focus on what really inspires you to write, your bullet journal can become a lifelong project.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I start a bullet journal?
Wow, that was a lot of bullet journal hacks and ideas but what if you’re brand-new? Most of us have a lot of things on our minds, yet we don’t put enough of it down on paper. Many of those ideas and thoughts bouncing around in your head can sometimes start to feel overwhelming. You may have secret hopes, dreams, love interests, failures or ups and downs going through your head.
It can be hard to remember each of those and it can be very difficult to keep all of your thoughts organized without writing them down somewhere. A great way to remedy this, as well as clear your mind a little, is to write everything down in a journal. Keeping a journal is great for anyone and is an awesome way to express yourself away from any judgment of others. Below are some tips for starting your first journal.
- Protect your privacy – You must first think of ways to protect your privacy when you start a journal. This is especially true if you plan to add ideas that you don’t want people stealing. Always reserve the first page of your journal for your name and phone number or email address. This way, if it gets lost, you might get lucky and have it returned to you. If you like to write online, you may consider getting a personal email set aside just for your journal entries. Alternately, consider getting a flash drive to keep your entries on and make them password protected.
- Date your entries – If you are only able to establish one habit when writing in your journal, it needs to be adding dates to all of your entries. This will allow you to reconstruct your entries chronologically by dates. It can also let you notice the silence in between certain entries.
- Keep and read what you write – Many don’t feel the need to go back and read what they have written. However, it can be of great importance to go back and read what you wrote previously. You can be pleasantly surprised with how much you knew before and how far you have come.
- Write thoughts down quickly – Many people who journal regularly know all to well about “journal block.” This is the same as writer’s block and you can lose everything you want to write down if you don’t get it out in time. To outsmart this block, write everything down as fast as you can or as soon as you have a thought come to mind. Don’t tell yourself you will write it down later because you might miss your chance.
- Be truthful – Your own personal truth is not your enemy. You are writing for yourself, not for anyone else. Do not try and talk yourself out of getting to know yourself better and trying to understand how you really feel about things. You have to give yourself permission to tell the truth about everything. Also, give yourself the ability to go at your own pace. If you are having a hard time facing your own truth, you can slow it down a little.
- Write naturally – The best thing about keeping a journal is that there are no rules to follow. Don’t overthink what you are writing or how you are writing it. Write naturally and enjoy the process. You will gain more from it than you realize. Even with all these bullet journal hacks and ideas, don’t go over the top and try to do “all the things” at once.
- When you start, don’t stop – When you start a new entry, it is best to start with the present moment. This could be what is going on in your life that day or that week. It is best to keep the thoughts and ideas flowing. Add in how you are feeling about everything going on as well. When you come back to read old entries, you will find it easier to relive the moment if you were more descriptive about how you were feeling as things were happening in your life. While writing, don’t take time to go back and edit or rewrite anything. Let everything flow out naturally.
- Start with a quick meditation moment – In order to get yourself ready for a writing session, take a few moments to take some deep breaths and meditate. You can use a variety of things to help you get in the mood for writing. The use of deep breathing, soft music, stretches or candles are all great things to help get your creative juices flowing.
What do I write in my bullet journal?
There is nothing quite like that breath of fresh air that tends to come with starting a new year. For those who have stumbled and made mistakes in the year gone by, it is their time to start to rebound and make better choices for the future. For all of us, it is a time of self-reflection and hopefully some positive changes. Many use this time to come up with some resolutions for themselves for the new year. A common (and productive) one is to choose to start journaling. Today we take a look at some creative ideas for writing prompts for each season. These bullet journal hacks and ideas will keep you writing all year long!
We start with the coldest of seasons because this is the time when New Year’s resides. If you happen to decide to start your journal during this time of year, then you need some creative ideas to get those writing juices flowing.
A lot of people associate people getting out and about during the Summer time, what about those interesting people who are outside during the frigid Winter. Surely there is something interesting to say about them.
You don’t even have to write about this exactly idea, but it probably got you thinking already. The point is to spark a creative jolt within you.
The weather is starting to warm up and people are in a better mood (generally speaking of course). This time of year is one that we can all appreciate almost no matter who we are. You might choose to write about revitalization and how even in the darkest days of Winter, we always know that Spring will still come around and make everything feel new and fresh again.
If you are feeling like being contrarian in your journal, how about writing about the decay of certain things (think abandoned malls, outdated inventions). Either direction can take you on a fun journey in your journal.
Each season possesses a unique challenge for the writer to tackle. It can be difficult to remain motivated to write in one’s journal when all of our lives are so busy. However, we have to remain on the straight and narrow in order to continue to fill that journal up. A few of these writing prompts may just help make the process a little easier.
And of course, summer vacations are prime for bullet journals! From the planning to the packing list, to the adventures along the way!
This is the season of Halloween and of football. Sports are a go-to topic if you can’t think of something else to write about. Who is your favorite team? When did you first decide that would be the team you support? What about their rival team can you just not stand?
For Halloween, think about what really scares you. Not just the vampires and goblins, but your true fears in life. What are the things that keep you up at night? Are you afraid to even talk about them out loud? If so, writing them down may give you an outlet to release some of that fear and move on.
What do I do on the first page of my bullet journal?
Categorize your index
A huge one in the world of bullet journal hacks and ideas. A chronological index is very helpful for keeping your bullet journal organized. The way you format you index is up to you, but it’s usually wise to list your index items by page number. However, you can also add additional pages to your index that list everything by category. This way, you can easily find all the pages that relate to a specific topic.
One category for your index page may be monthly logs. Then, you can easily see the page numbers for each monthly log all grouped together. If you have a lot of collections, you can list the different categories in your index. When you want to find all of your journal entries that involve that particular topic, you won’t have to scan through your entire index. Instead, you can go right to that category in the index.
If you don’t want to make a separate index page for categories, you can also color code your traditional index page. Your journal entries and categories can stay concisely listed on one or two pages, but you can also find entries quickly by recognizing the colors.
It’s important to decide how to format and use your index before you start setting up your journal. Make sure you leave enough pages at the beginning for your index to expand if it needs to. If you want to divide your index into lots of different categories, consider splitting your index pages into two columns, which will give you twice the space.