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Overdue to the BuJo: the Code&Quill Team Starts Bullet Journaling

We have to make two confessions.

First: if you work here, you don’t pay for notebooks. Like, ever. As long as we don’t flagrantly burn inventory, we can experiment and play around however much we want. It's the best way for us to know our stuff. 

Second: even though we could have tried bullet journaling any time before now, and quite literally for free, it took us THIS LONG to give it a fair shot. Consider this article our mea culpa and subsequent PSA on what a bullet journal could do for you.


Given the sparkly, perfect-looking examples in places like BuzzFeed—which, of course, get the most attention—we almost dismissed the whole bullet-journaling thing as a frivolous hobby or look-at-me trend.

After all: we'd say we write in our notebooks to dig to the bottom of things, not to polish the surface of them. 

Just out of pure curiosity, how old are you guys? :-)

A post shared by JUDY ☁️🐝🌿✨🌻 (@focusign) on

 

It’s very possible, if you’re reading this, that you’ve had a similar thought. But here’s what we’ve discovered: bullet journaling is somewhat like beer (or wine). Both the worst AND best examples can scare newcomers away—the worst because they're messy and harsh, the best because they're pretentious and pricey.

If you like beer or wine, we’re betting there was a time (probably right near the beginning) when you didn’t like or “understand” it. But then you had some fun, you figured out what you liked and why, and now here you are.

 

 

Same thing with bullet journaling: you can start anywhere, but you just need some context or guidance, and then you can find your own way to satisfaction.

 

The First Things to Know

“Bullet Journaling” is a reasonably accurate and descriptive name—though admittedly, it doesn't roll smoothly off the tongue. For the name, the essential thing to understand is that a bullet journal is intended for short, concise notes (i.e. bullets) and usually not for longhand prose.

Side note: The common abbreviation is BuJo, in case you were wondering.

Side note to the side note: If you’re Googling on the subject, make sure you spell BuJo correctly. “BJ guides” will not yield the intended search results.

The next thing to understand is that a bullet journal is meant to be a multi-function book which doesn't require (perfectly) linear use. In other words: not every page will serve the same function as the last, and you won't always finish one page before moving to the next. We’ll get into some details below, but for now, just think of a bullet journal as several collections of notes kept in parallel, rather than a single collection kept in sequence.

Since bullet journals are multi-functional, another crucial point: it is entirely up to you how your bullet journal functions. You’re not “doing it wrong” if you veer away from popular examples. We do encourage you to check out what others do since it’ll give you tons of ideas, both useful and creative. (Scroll down for our links to recommended reading.) But remember: whatever you do, it only has to make complete sense to YOU.

Bullet Journal Signifiers - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog

Finally: remember that this is an iterative process, one that you will adjust through repeated experience. Bullet journaling, like so many other hobbies and habits, becomes more natural and “broken in” once you’ve gotten a few laps into it. By the time you start your second bullet journal, the daily time with it will seem automatic and you’ll have a whole head full of ideas for starting again (or so we’re told).

 

Typical BuJo Starting Points

As we've said, you can adjust much of this—but to start with good footing, it's worth knowing some of the common functional pieces and "rules" of a BuJo.

Daily use of a bullet journal. Bullet journals are usually structured by time. As an example, each day might get a page to itself, and all such pages will work the same way. But then, there might also be a section before/between weeks where you include your choice of summary and "feature spaces"—and in turn, you might have bigger-picture notes you're keeping month-over-month or even across the whole notebook.

Fun Collection Ideas - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog

In practice: this usually means some shorthand notes each day, then coming back periodically to track the other features you decide to include at the week, month, or whole-book level. 

Starter pieces. A bullet journal needs its own "front matter" to function properly. Aside from name and contact info, you'll want to have space for a few key features:

  • An Index or Table of Contents. Whether you plan the whole book out or just add page numbers as you go, it's super-helpful to be able to find a spot quickly. 
  • A key (or if you prefer, "legend"). A daily bullet journal will use a handful of different symbols for bullets—their own added form of shorthand. There are common suggestions out there, but exactly what you'll choose (and then use consistently) should be noted here for your reference. 
  • Top-level summary, planning, and info. Whatever you want to see, track, or have handy for the longest-term reach of this journal, leave space for it at the very front before launching into the repeated blocks. 

 

Setting Up A Bullet Journal - Getting Started With Bullet Journaling
Source: Fix.com Blog 

 

Starter equipment and accessories. Really, all you need to start is your choice of journal or notebook and a pen(cil). 

If you're looking for a notebook, just check out our stuff. (Duh.) But especially the Monolith, since it's our biggest notebook with a comfy amount of writing room. 

 

 

From there, your style will dictate how your toolbox expands. Do you add different colors? Do you highlight? Do you use sticky notes or tape? Check out this list of inexpensive products for enhancing your bullet journaling.  

 

Where To Go From Here

We won't drill too much deeper, since the expanding world of details is where you can get lost or overwhelmed (we're still there ourselves, at least somewhat). 

Still, as long as you can take their how-tos with a grain of salt, it's always good to get perspective and detail from some other people who've done it.

So here's our recommended reading:

Good Starting Points
Fix's "How to Start a Bullet Journal" (thanks for the awesome infographic!)
Sublime Reflection's "Bullet Journaling 101"
BuzzFeed's "WTF is a Bullet Journal and Why Should You Start One"
BulletJournal.com's "Top 5 BuJo Ideas of 2016"

What to Bullet Journal
Gurl.com's "20 Genius Bullet Journal Page Ideas to Stay Organized"
SheTriedWhat's "Bullet Journal Ideas You'll Want to Steal"
HouseBeautiful's "Bullet Journal Hacks"
BuzzFeed's "21 Tips from Normal People"
 

Why to Bullet Journal
BuzzFeed's "How to Use a Bullet Journal for Better Mental Health"
ScaryMommy's "Bullet Journaling is The Thing You Didn't Know You Needed"

 

We'll surely be back to talk more about the BuJo — especially once we've gotten further into our own. For now, we'll just encourage you to consider this whole hobby and habit anew. Sure, it's sparkly and Instagram-trendy, but peel away the aesthetic bits and it is, functionally, an excellent way to extend your mind in writing.

 

 

Even if someone's BuJo is way too colorful and over-designed for our taste, we're not gonna lie: those pages still look fantastic and, y'know, it seems like a relaxing way to take stock of things. Maybe we'll get there someday. 


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1 comment


  • This is the best overview of Bullet Journaling that I’ve read. Well done! I love the idea of the Bullet Journal for its simplicity and elegance, but I find some key parts of it to be incompatible with my GTD practice. Maybe someday I’ll dig deeper with it.

    Bruce on

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