Bullet journaling is a great way to organize and track the thousands of to do’s that are probably running throughout your mind during the day. It can also serve as a way to track pain symptoms, medications, as a food and fitness tracker…just about anything you can think of. It can even work as a memory keeper. Overwhelmed? Read on for a beginner’s guide to simple bullet journals.
What is a Bullet Journal?
First things first…a bullet journal is is an analog system. Many of us are so used to using apps to stay organized on our smart phones now so it may seem strange to use something as old school as a notebook and pen. But that’s the beauty of it…there’s something very peaceful and grounding about writing things down this way.
With bullet journaling, you are essentially combining all of your thoughts, finances, schedules, to-do lists, and miscellaneous life notes into a single journal. It is a way to organize all of those different things you try to keep up with on a daily basis. It is not only fun, but very helpful in reducing overall stress and anxiety.
Mental Health Benefits of Bullet Journals
Keeping a journal has been a big boost to my mental health. However, anyone can benefit by starting a bullet journal. Remember there is really no right or wrong way to do it. It is supposed to make life easier for you, not more difficult, so don’t feel pressured to have it organized or look like the ones you see on Pinterest and Instagram!
For one thing, everything is in a central place. All of your various to-d0 lists, schedules, and notes are in a single journal. Many people do have journals or digital to-do lists with this type of information, but when things are spread out across phones, stickies, notebooks, various planners or elsewhere, it’s very easy to lose track of it all.
By having all of your schedules and appointments in one place, you aren’t constantly worried that you’re going to miss something. When you have a way to organize your appointments, health needs and budget, you can better plan for the future which is a huge stress reliever.
Getting Started With Simple Bullet Journals
Here’s the traditional setup for a bullet journal with credit to Ryder Carroll from BulletJournal. Think of it as starting point, get comfortable with the basic system and then change it from there.
You’ll need a notebook, a pen, and a little bit of time to get started. The type of notebook you use is up to you. The traditional style is grid or dotted paper, but I find even ruled or blank pages work just fine.
The first page of your bullet journal will include your key. This will record the shorthand you use for your bullet entries. Here’s the traditional codes used. Feel free to add to it, or leave out things that don’t work for you. Make it yours.
Your next two to four pages will be set aside for indexing. This will allow you to quickly find any collection, or get to a particular month. Title each page as an index page and move on to the next section.
The Future Log
With the original bullet journal setup this is a two page spread that records the coming 6 months. Many bullet journalers find it helpful to use a more traditional yearly calendar instead. This is a great place to record birthdays, anniversaries, or block out vacation time. Add or note the page number and record your future log in your index.
Start each month with a monthly log. Here you’ll record appointments and due dates. You can use a grid layout, or use one line for each day of the month. While this isn’t where you’ll track most of your tasks, the monthly log will come in handy for those times when you have a full schedule of chauffeuring the kids, tracking doctor and therapy appointments.
The daily log is where you’ll spend most of your time in your bullet journal. Start a new section each day and record anything important for the day. Make your list of tasks and cross them off as you get them finished. Make notes of anything important you need to remember throughout the day as well as appointments as they pop up. Everything gets logged in the daily log for speed and ease. From there you can move it as needed to the monthly or future log, or migrate it to a different day.
There are a multitude of ways to do this. Look up the #bulletjournal and #bujo tags to find a layout that works best for you.
At the end of the day, or even first thing the next morning make some time to review your tasks and then cross out and migrate anything that isn’t checked off. For example, if you didn’t get around to doing (or finishing!) laundry today, draw an arrow through it and add the task to today’s daily task list.
If you noted an appointment that came up yesterday, move it to your monthly list and draw an arrow through it in yesterday’s list. If something no longer applies then cross it out. Your goal is to deal with each entry from your daily list by completing it, migrating it, or crossing it out.
Need a Simple Bullet Journal to Get Started?
If you’re just getting started with bullet journaling and don’t want to invest in a top end bullet journal, I’ve created a budget friendly dot grid journal that you can use to try out your new hobby. Or you can use it to keep track of recipes, health and fitness, bucket lists and more.
What to Put In Your Bullet Journal
The list is endless. Here’s a few possibilities to help support your mental health.
The Anxiety Journal. Anxiety journals might also be called ranting journals. When we feel anxiety we usually feel a rush of emotions all at once. Some of the thoughts are chaotic while might be strangely calm. The fact is though, the thoughts and emotions are fast moving and can be overwhelming if there is no outlet.
Some people find that the very idea of anxiety and thoughts can be worse than the actual onset of anxiety itself. For this reason, there is no real set-up of anxiety pages. It is simply a space in your journal that allows you to put in your thoughts as they come to you and get them out.
Emotional Eating Triggers. Create a section for what you are eating, the date, the time, and then an area to let you write out what may have lead you to the emotional eating incident. You may not think the foods you’re eating are important, but some people have found that certain foods are more comforting and that the memory of those foods is connected to the trigger of the emotional eating.
For example, you may find that eating grilled cheese sandwiches are comforting during an emotional eating binge. Once you start journaling, you may find that the reason they are is because someone was verbally abusive in your past and that verbal abuse was always followed by a grilled cheese to make you feel better.
Mindful Journaling. A mindfulness journal strongly resembles what some might call a devotional journal. In many cases, people use some prose or a quote to reflect on. As you use your journal you will be reflecting on the quote and giving your thoughts on that quote and how it applies to you. Many mindfulness journals are prompt based to get your mind thinking and focusing on you and your feelings about your day or stress in your life.
The Gratitude Journal. A gratitude journal can help you remove negative energy from your life, reduce stress, and reduce depression by finding the good in your world. You may start off with just one or two entries. As you move on with a daily journaling practice, you may find that you are finding less bad and much more good in your day. This is what you’re going to write down, and will lead you to mindfulness and peace in your daily life and a new way to look at things. A gratitude journal can be as simple as a few lines or just one line.
Collections are simply themed lists you make that aren’t date related. Some examples are your bucket lists, lists of books you want to read, movies you want to watch on Netflix, specialty grocery ingredients….just about anything.
I hope this inspires you to find a journaling system that works for you. There’s no right way to do this. Just stick with it and you’ll reap many positive benefits.