My Favourite BuJo Supplies

For my bullet journal, I don’t aim to make my spreads the most beautiful. I also have a somewhat humble collection of washi tape. This post is a list of what I use and what I’ve gathered over the past year. Starting out in a bullet journal, I only had pens, a notebook, and a ruler.

Here’s what I use in my bullet journal (though not all of them in every spread!)

  • Black gel pen (the ones I’m loving right now are from the dollar store)
  • Black Sharpie fine liner
  • Stencil with assorted shapes and sizes (the one I have is this one on Amazon.ca)
  • Washi tape—I have some from Michael’s, Staples, Dollar Tree, and an ultra-cheap set of them from Amazon.
  • Markers—I’m currently obsessed with my Zebra Mildliners and I also like using my Frixion erasable markers.
  • Pencil
  • Eraser

All of the calligraphy-type writing I do is done with my black gel pen or the fine tip Sharpie. I do a “fake calligraphy” method like the one outlined in this post from Jones Design Company.

I use a pencil to pre-plan my layouts to avoid as many mistakes as possible. I get peace of mind knowing I can erase away the lines and lettering after I ink them! that doesn’t eliminate all of my mistakes.

Although it’s not strictly a tool or supply I use, Pinterest is one of my favourite places to find inspiration for my bullet journal. I have a board set up for layouts, handwriting styles, and collection ideas.

Photo collage of some planner layouts.

I like to keep my number of supplies to a minimum. I’m not very keen to have a giant arts and crafts collection.

Bullet Journal 101: Finding What Works

I started my bullet journal in February of 2016 (which, incidentally, coincided with me starting short-term therapy), so I’ve been in the bujo practise for over a year now.

It took me a while to find what works for me. Before I found layouts and modules that helped me be more productive, mindful, and happy in my bullet journal, I was confused. There were so many spreads for me to choose from, and I felt more disorganised than ever while I tried to find methods that were right for me. I think I spent about 6 months in bullet journal/planner hell before I realised there was a way to find what would work.

Trying new things can be absolutely terrifying, so I can understand if you’re nervous to put lines on pages that you might never look at again. I know I’m a perfectionist, but perfection is a subjective illusion, and I can decide what’s perfect, what isn’t, and when “perfection” is even necessary.

Here are my tips for finding what works and what’s right for your bullet journal.

Start with the basics.

Don’t jump into fancy and complicated layouts. It’s always easier to add modules, lettering, stickers, colours, washi tape, and all the extra embellishments. I started with simple layouts and lists, like the original creator focuses on. I wrote out my tips for getting started in a bullet journal, and they’re techniques I use if I need a soft reset.

Review what you’ve already done.

You don’t have to make a bullet journal spread for your review, like some people, but you can use a sticky note, or even type it up in a document. Ask yourself questions like, “What did I like? What did I dislike? What did I use? What did I neglect?” Some weeks, I write out my review—these tend to be near the end of the month in a larger monthly review. I focus on what I used versus what I didn’t, and that helps guide me. I also think about what I need to add, if I found myself forgetting about parts of my life, such as goals and habits.

Start with a hypothesis or a curiosity before trying something.

“If I add a habit tracker to my week, I’ll see it more often and be more aware of the habits I want to improve.” This is what I asked myself before I started adding a small habit tracker to my weekly, always-seen spread. The monthly habit tracker is nice, but I don’t see it all the time and I get lazy and neglect myself. My hypothesis was right: by seeing the module more often, I’m more aware and motivated. When you review your complete (or incomplete!) spreads, these are great questions to keep in mind. Always ask how something can serve you in your bullet journal, whether it’s adding, adjusting, or removing something.

Don’t focus on making things pretty.

The ~*~aesthetics~*~ of a bullet journal are entirely individual. I will, in the future, write a post on the basics of decorating and personalising your bullet journal spreads. But at this point, when you’re trying to find layouts and spreads that work for you, not what looks Instagram-worthy, the aesthetics and style aren’t as important. If you find yourself gravitating toward the layouts that have a nice colour palette, then consider taking some time to add decorations. I prefer a bullet journal spread that has colour in it, but it has to be minimal. I don’t want to spend my planner time decorating and fussing over the style of my spread. I want to use the bullet journal for organisation, reminders, and mindfulness.

Adapt to changes in your lifestyle and needs.

While I was in university and attending classes, I needed daily logs to help organise all the material I needed to read and places I needed to go. Now that I’m no longer in school, I don’t need daily logs anymore. I didn’t force myself to continue using daily logs just because they used to work. Changes in your lifestyle, like your job, school, home, and family, will necessitate some rearranging in your life. Your bullet journal is included in that rearranging. This is where the practise of reviewing your journal will help you.

And most of all… Permit yourself to experiment and fail.

You’ll never find what works if you don’t search for things. I looked at inspiration online and copied layouts. I sketched out small outlines of what I wanted to try. I needed to try changes and new spreads entirely, as well as allow myself to dislike what you do. The beauty of a bullet journal is a lack of commitment. Unlike printed planners and agendas you can buy, you aren’t stuck with a set layout in a bullet journal. The day, week, or month will end. Time passes. Your bullet journal, and the pages you don’t like, only exist for as long as you keep it. You can recycle the whole book if you want! The majority of my spreads in the middle of 2016 were awful and I hated them. But they helped me learn what I need to avoid. I’m in my 3rd bullet journal now: the 1st one was never filled in all the way, because I hated the notebook I used.


Let your bullet journal be the one place you can fuck up however much you need to. Let it be a place for you to explore. Let it be something you play with, rather than create. Let yourself mess up while you find what works for you. Remember to explore and consider what serves you, what might serve you, and what doesn’t serve you.

March 2017 Bullet Journal Spreads

I’m really pleased with how my spreads for this month turned out! I only do one week at a time, in case I want to change things for the next week, so this post has photos from my monthly spread and my first week of March.

For 2017 and all of my monthly views, I’ve been including a different quote/saying. My word for this year is “persevere” and I’ve found some great quotes.

January’s quote: “The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.” – David Sarnoff

February’s quote: “Perseverance is the foundation of all actions.” – Lao Tzu (a personal favourite—I would have used this one again if I didn’t have more!)

And this month, the quote is “Persevere and preserve yourself for better circumstances” from Virgil, apparently.

Although I don’t like yellow, I really love the bee washi tape and yellow is really the only colour to go with it. I’ll have a post up this month for my favourite bullet journal supplies, by the way, so you can see the different washi tape and tools I use to make my spreads.

I also couldn’t pass up an opportunity to put in some hexagon icons for my monthly tasks and goals.

These spreads were photographed before I filled them in, so they definitely don’t look as neat anymore. I plan to post the filled in spreads over on my Instagram, and there are more pictures of spreads there—including the one for this week!

My monthly layouts focus on the habit tracker and a quick calendar view of the month. Adding in goals and tasks to the monthly view helps me when I make my weekly views. I can look at my goals for the month and see what I can do during the week to achieve them.

I also have a habit tracker on my weekly layouts for the more important habits I want to develop. Having them shown to me in the week means I’m more accountable, since I’m often too lazy to flip to my monthly view and see what habits I should do.

For the first week of March, I wanted to include a more relaxed meal plan. It doesn’t have the meals planned out for specific days, but I’ve since put in the different meals I can have or cook. In previous meal plans, I found myself switching breakfasts or snacks from one day to another. Now I can look at the meals I’ve written out and pick one!

This week, I also experimented with merging my “next week” and “notes” boxes into one generic space, under the weekly header. I found it much more helpful to consolidate everything together. When the boxes were separate, they took up more space than I could fill in. It made sense to squish ‘em together.

A sleep tracker has become a staple in my weekly layouts. I introduced it back in the fall of 2016, and it’s been fantastic in figuring out the amount of time in my day and how much energy I have.

I plan on keeping the grey and yellow theme throughout the month, though I might change up the grey and go for yellow as the accent colour!

Bullet Journal Notebook Follow-up Review

A worn-out black notebook that says "Matte Black" on the cover.

Well, this book only lasted 3 months and I’m preparing to start a new 7 x 10 inch book (from the same company) in 2017. For December, I’m not going to be doing bullet journaling to the degree I did the past 3 months.

So how did the book hold up?

Well, compared to how it looked in the original review post, it doesn’t look too bad. I’m glad that it didn’t constantly fall open!

Here are a few pictures of the wear on the outside!

A worn-out black notebook that says "Matte Black" on the cover.

Close-up of open pages that are slightly swollen from usage.

Close-up of a worn-out spine of a black notebook.

Side-view of a closed notebook, the cover with lots of smudges.

As for the interior, I have a few other posts that show my layouts. (Here is one post for monthly spreads in October and another post for weekly and daily logs.) I’m incredibly pleased with how the paper handled my pens. There is next to no ghosting or transfer!

As such, that’s why I’ve purchased another Productive Luddite “Every Day Carry” book in the dot grid style. Since it’s from the same line, the new book also has 100 pages like the one I just finished. The new book is bigger, though, measuring 7 x 9 inches. The one I just finished measures 6 x 9 inches. A one inch difference shows up more than you’d think, especially in a dot grid.

I’m excited to set up through December. Expect a post on the new notebook in the new year! New new new~

Bullet Journal Weekly and Daily Logs: October 2016

For the month of October, I’ve stuck with a “Dutch door” type of weekly and daily layout. I have absolutely loved these spreads. In my review for September’s bujo spreads, I had noticed I needed my goals needed to be seen more often for me to keep up with them. I started the Dutch door system for that, with a quick weekly view at the top and pages for the daily logs.

Five columns with a list of dates, goals, tasks, and a calendar for October and a table for habits.

This type of layout needs a lot of planning, and a little bit of prior knowledge for how you use your layouts. I know that I can fit 2 or 3 days onto one sheet for my daily logs, but it can vary. So for my Dutch door layouts, I added in an energy tracker table for each day.

I’ve been interested in seeing what points of the day I feel more energised or sluggish, and how my energy is affected after and between meals. In a way, it’s self-care: I’m seeing if there are any patterns in my eating, sleeping, and energy/fatigue. My uncle was diagnosed last year with Type 1 diabetes, my family has lots of cardiovascular diseases, my half-sister has celiac disease, and many of my immediate family have mental health problems. I figure, in my 20s, I should keep an eye on my body and how it reacts to anything and everything. This type of tracking benefits the most from long-term tracking. I’m happy to report I’ve been doing it for the past month and have a baseline to work with!

A planner with multiple, cut, half-pages being turned and a row of columns across the top of the page.

I’ve done a bit of different structures for a time codex. I omitted it, or used it horizontally, or placed it vertically. I’m still not sure which is the best. I am very, very fond of the vertical layout (which I’ve been using for October 24 – 30) since I make my lists horizontally and can line up the task near the hour I want to do it. But I also like having it horizontally to line up with the table for my energy tracking.

A planner with multiple, cut, half-pages being turned and a row of columns across the top of the page.

I haven’t shown my weekly spread for this week (October 24 – 30), but it uses the vertical time codex, and it definitely works the best for me.

I haven’t been using categories for my lists—at least, not explicitly. I’ve been batching items together and leaving spaces between small lists, and I’ve liked that so far. It feels more spontaneous than putting headers with lists below.

For November, I’ll definitely be using the Dutch door layout again. Having the weekly view for the entire week, from day-to-day, has been such a huge help. I need more detail than what can be seen on a weekly spread on 2 pages. Daily logs are definitely still the backbone of my bullet journal, but the weekly layout—even being that small strip—keeps me aware of what’s coming up. And the habit tracker? The best.

Bullet Journal Monthly Spreads: October 2016

It’s October already! I’m very excited. If you read my post reviewing September, you’d know I’m looking forward to this month. I didn’t get to a very good start, but those days are done and new days are coming.

When I showed off my spreads from September, I used it as a bit of a review for what I wanted to change come October and the monthly spreads. I spent the first two days of October in a depressed pit, so creating these spreads took way longer than I anticipated. But I’m so excited for them!

The first spread is a cover page for October. I love having a refreshing new page to welcome the month. September’s was very different to this pixelated one, and I absolutely adore the confines of the boxes. It reminds me of the good old days of some webdesign trends in the *ahem* younger generations.

The word "October" styled in boxy or pixelated font outlined in warm colours.

I found September’s calendar didn’t work well for me, so I adopted a table with dates on the left side, and various categories and deadlines/schedules/activities for those days. This gives me more room, but also lets me see everything at a glance and make it easy for me to know what’s coming up in a few weeks. It also feels more chronological than the 7-column structure of a calendar, y’know? I kind of regret the numerical calendar on the bottom of the right page—it’s much more spaced out than I’d like. But, c’est la vie. I can always cover it up if I really, truly hate it.

Chart with days of the month and activities in various categories.

My habit and health tracker got the least changes. I eliminated a few things I neglected to track during September, and refurbished them onto a daily spread to test out this first week of October. I also decided to bring in colour. I’m using FriXion markers in a set colour palette (the blues and greens) in a pattern. Last month, I used different symbols for when the habit was present or when it wasn’t. At the end, it looked very cluttered. I reasoned, If I don’t do the habit or healthy thing, then I shouldn’t get to mark anything down. Let it be nothing.

Chart with the days of the month and various habits and coloured boxes next to the habits.

I’m also very much in love with the weekly spread I did. It’s a variation on the last week (which I have yet to show, heh) with some differences in how I structure the daily logs. I promise I’ll show some pictures soon!

The monthly spreads in the bullet journal always take up the most of my time. They are more long-standing than the weekly or daily logs, so I find I consider the look and content much more. But I’m very happy with this month’s! We’ll see how well I keep up with some habits and where I fall off the wagon.

New Bullet Journal Setup

In preparation for my new bullet journal, I assessed my old one and what worked and what didn’t. From that, I made a list of what I wanted to include in the new bullet journal.

So, here’s the list of what I included! I won’t go into detail about each one, since they’re all worthy of their own blog post; but most of them are pretty self-explanatory.

  • Year-at-a-glance
  • TBR (To-Be-Read)
  • Book Stats
  • Business Hours
  • Goals
  • Bills
  • Class schedules

Of course, I have monthly, weekly, and daily spreads going on. But these are the collections I included in my new bullet journal. A few more that I’d like to include are:

  • Japanese kana charts (for hiragana and katakana), since I’m casually learning the language.
  • An “ideal day” routine and schedule that I can aspire to on a daily basis.

Anyway, onto the pictures.

Bullet Journal: Page layout featuring small calendars for each month from September 2016 to September 2017.

Bullet Journal: Two pages for book reading, including a list of books to read, and book statistics.

Bullet Journal: Layout to track book genre, demographic, and rating; author's gender; and page count.

Bullet Journal: Partial view of a spread that lists local business locations and hours.

Bullet Journal: Layout listing various goals related to creative writing.

Bullet Journal: Layout listing various goals related to physical and mental health.

Bullet Journal: Layout listing various goals related to creating art.

Bullet Journal: Layout listing prices and payments for bills.

Bullet Journal: A chart showing class schedules.

I’m so glad I started a new bullet journal. I have the collections all near the front of the book, with a bit of extra space before I started my September spreads. I much prefer having them separate. In my old BuJo, I had some collections interspersed with my daily spreads and it broke my flow so much. I ended up neglecting those collections and trackers because they weren’t in a very accessible spot. Sure, I could have marked them off or put them in the index. But even now, if you can see it, I have an orange sticky note in my bullet journal, to mark where September begins—and I don’t use it. My first instinct is to flip through the book, and there’s no sense in fighting that.

Anyway, perhaps you found some inspiration here! Bonus points to you if you can tell which spread I messed up on.

Pinterest-ready image. Bullet Journal: Setup for my new notebook

Bullet Journal 101: Finding Inspiration

Bullet Journal 101 Series on CorylDork

This post was requested by the lovely Briana Morgan, and I’m so glad she did! She mentioned on Instagram that she had been using her BuJo for a month and “it’s already feeling a little stale.”

I’ve been there.

Ohhh, have I been there!

For a solid month and a half, my spreads went:

  • Header (sometimes decorative, sometimes not)
  • A giant to-do list, consisting of
    • class schedules
    • meals
    • random chores
    • homework
    • notes

And that was it, all in black ink on a white page.

Then I split my daily logs into two columns—essentially just a very large margin on the left side—and got a bit more decorative. Eventually, I sorted it out so the more consistent aspects of my BuJo (taking pills, putting out garbage, exercise) were in the wide margin.

And then I got washi tape.

And nothing changed, except for a strip of colour.

And I was frustrated.

And then… this spread happened.

A photo posted by Coryl o‘Reilly (@coryldork) on

When I planned for an entire weekend—Friday June 10th to Sunday June 12th—I had to think differently about my planner, and more specifically, my daily logs. Instead of chucking all the information into one big list, I needed to figure out the best way to organise all the different things I wanted to do that weekend. I wasn’t aiming to plan tasks to do in a day, or limiting myself to what to do on one day. I needed to do something new, and I ended up inspired.

That spread was only 5 weeks ago. I’ve been playing with my layouts ever since. The inspiration comes and goes, but I’ve found ways to find it when I struggle.

If your BuJo feels lackluster lately, here are my tips for finding inspiration in your spreads.

Try something new

Planning multiple days in one spread; using a timeline to schedule a day; adding a weekly spread; including meals. There’s so much out there that you haven’t tried. You could throw in a new collection, or you can set up a spread for your goals.

When I want to try something new, I look to Pinterest. I have a board on Pinterest for bullet journals that might show you something different! Tumblr also has a bullet journal community. I don’t use Tumblr, but from the Pins I’ve saved, there are some intensely creative folk on there. Search the bullet journal tag or even some “studyspo”—study inspiration— or “studyblr” blogs!

Give your daily log limits

I firmly believe that creativity expands when it’s put under limitations and restrictions. You think differently, y’know? Challenge yourself to use a specific amount of a space, a number of boxes, or a theme like in the Erin Condren planner community.

Use colour

Markers, pens, pencil crayons, washi tape; you don’t need too many supplies to add a small bit of brightness! The spreads I have that use colour tend to make me feel more excited about the day. Start out with a small pop of colour, rather than going HAM with multiple coloured pens to write your lists.

Add something not related to a to-do list

This is a big one for me. I like to put the weather in my daily log because it’s useful, but also because it gives me something to look at that doesn’t scream, “You should be doing something!” Quotes, stickers, and doodles are popular non-task pieces of a daily log. You can remind yourself of some of your goals—the motivation, not the goal to hit—or write down something interesting that happened that day. Find and include something that isn’t a task or an event you need to check off.

Practice your pen skills

Calligraphy, general handwriting, doodles, or drawing straight lines or different boxes. I recommend using blank, dot-grid, or grid paper to practice. There are also printable worksheets online, particularly if you want to try different handwriting styles.

Change your angle and use shapes

The date at the top. A list of things to do down the page. It gets boring. Try mixing up the layout with variations in columns and rows, or turning the book entirely to use a landscape orientation. Put two lists side-by-side. Draw a circle and write in it. I went through a phase of trying different banners and flags, thanks to The Revision Guide on Instagram (also Pinterest) showing short tutorials for doodled illustrations, banners, flags, and borders.

Review your bullet journal

Assess what is working and what isn’t working. Make a list of things you want to try. Look at your previous logs to see what you like and dislike. I recommend this happens at the end of every month before you begin a new month, but there is no set time for when you can review your own work.


I hope you can find a spark somewhere in here! If nothing works, it’s okay to step away from your bullet journal and plan differently. A fresh mind presents new perspectives.

Bullet Journal 101 Finding Inspiration For Logs and Spreads

Bullet Journal 101: Modules, Logs, and Migration

Happy Canada Day, and welcome back to Bullet Journal 101!

Last week, we looked at the basics of a bullet journal. This week, we’re looking at how you can expand out from your to-do lists to create a larger, more complex, and more specialised system for your BuJo.

The official website talks about Modules, Logs, and Migration, but only briefly, so I’ll cover them again here for clarity’s sake.

Modules

Modules include everything in your BuJo. A log is a module. The index is a module. Your habit tracker is a module. All of your collections are modules. Modules are to clothes as logs and collections are to shirts and pants. Logs and collections are modules. Shirts and pants are clothes. It’s a category for all the crap you’re putting in your notebook.

Logs

Logs deal with time-sensitive items. You can create a “Future Log” like the one on the website, where you write down events, tasks, and reminders in a calendar spread for the future, but with less detail than the “Monthly Log.” The monthly log is a list of all the days in the month, and then relevant information is stored there. The BuJo website classifies daily to-do lists as “Daily Logs,” so any tasks, events, and reminders that are linked to a specific day are considered to be part of a log.

Another way to look at logs is to see them as calendars. A four-month semester-long calendar is a semester log. A three-month calendar is a quarter log for your blog or business. A calendar for one month is a monthly log. A series of rows and columns that have a space for each day of each month for an entire year can be used for tracking your habits or quality of life—and this is also a log. A yearly habit log, perhaps.

A large chunk of the BuJo community finds most of their inspiration and creativity inside their logs and collections. You can mix and match, create your own, and cater all of your logs and collections to your specific needs.

Migration

All the information in your BuJo, whether it’s a task that needs to be done or an inspiring quote you noted on a day, needs to be migrated to a more permanent space, like a collection. Migration deals with the list items from your daily logs that don’t have a “done” or “in progress” status. Tasks not done on one day can be migrated to the next day, or they can be scheduled for another day. Signifiers and bullets can tell you whether the task is moved to tomorrow or scheduled farther in the future. Notes and reminders, or quotes you jot down, can be done in the daily log and then migrated to the appropriate collection or calendar.

So let’s say I have a daily log. In it, I write, “Even behind clouds, the sun will rise”—a motivational and inspiring quote. I also write, “Brother visits July 3rd to July 12th.”

At a designated time, maybe at the end of the day or the end of the week, I would flip through my daily logs and find pertinent information to transfer to a collection or a different log. I’d move my quote to a Quotes collection, and write down in a monthly log the days my brother is in town.

Personally, migration doesn’t work for me. It’s an additional step that takes away from my organisation; I’d rather go straight to the collection or log and write down the information.

However, if I have a task or an event written in one daily log that I don’t do that day, or that gets post-poned, I can migrate it to the next day, or I can add it to a monthly or weekly log, or even add it to a collection like “Housekeeping and Home Improvement.” I have yet to find a rational way to cross-reference a monthly log with my daily logs to try implementing migration. Just goes to show that I’m still learning with you!


If you can believe it, we’ve covered the basics already. You now have all the information necessary to go full-force into a bullet journal. You know about bullets, collections, modules, logs, and migration. If you’re confident enough, you can stray from the purist path. If not, I suggest you use the method on the website to see what doesn’t work. Start with the process of elimination.

This week’s challenge

Create a monthly log for July. You can use the design on the BuJo website, or do a look on Pinterest and Instagram for ideas. I have a Pinterest board for the bullet journal in case you need inspiration. Think about how much information you need to include in your log. You can also write out the things you want to display in your monthly log. Maybe a list like the original system will work for you. Maybe you need a column-and-row box calendar instead.

Here is what I’ve designed for my July Log!

Monthly Log July

Next week will feature all the goodies you can have fun with in the core of the bullet journal—Daily Logs. I’ll share some of my own daily log spreads so you can see what I started with and how my layouts changed.

Bullet Journal 101 Modules Logs Migration Expanding Bullet Journal For Beginners

Bullet Journal 101: Getting Started

Bullet Journal 101 Series on CorylDork

Welcome to Bullet Journal 101—the beginner’s “course” where I’ll be guiding you through the bullet journal. I only started using a bullet journal in March 2016, but I’ve been watching it and internalising so many bullet journal things since the beginning of 2015 that I think I know my stuff.

So let’s get into it! I’m introducing the absolute and utmost basic, beginner parts of the bullet journal.

The bullet journal official website has a decent walkthrough for getting started on the bullet journal. But if you look at anywhere in the bullet journal (or “BuJo”) community, people have adapted this planning system substantially.

Frankly, I think that the purist bullet journal approach—following the official system developed by Ryder Carroll—is sterile. It lacks inspiration, personality, and intrigue. So the best way to use the bullet journal is to understand why and how it started, and then adapt as you go along. You’ll find what works for you if you let yourself explore.

So what are the essentials? What are the basics that come even before the introduction on the official website? Let’s get down to the grains in the sand that built this castle.

The essentials to the bullet journal are the following:

  • Index
  • Bullet-point lists
  • Collections

There are more parts to the bullet journal than these three, but if you want to dip your feet into the system, these are the three you should first be aware of. More can be added later. For the time being, let’s keep it simple.

Index

The index on the bullet journal website is a misnomer. It’s actually a table of contents. At the beginning of the bullet journal, a few pages are left blank in order to write the page number and contents of the page. (An index, on the other hand, would be at the back and work with key words and phrases, not a literal list of contents with page numbers. For shame, BuJo website.)

Personally, the index doesn’t work for me. I don’t go to the front of my bullet journal, get the page number for what I seek, and then find the page number with the contents. I can usually flip through my BuJo easily to find what I need. It’s up to you if you want to include it. After three weeks, I abandoned mine.

However, one great function of the index, if it’s maintained, is the ability to see at-a-glance all of the contents in your bullet journal. You can see a list of which days you logged, where you meal planned, the collections you have; and you can assess which of these things work, don’t work, or need to be changed.

Bullet-Point Lists

This is where the bullet journal gets its name. You use bullet points to signify and list tasks, events, reminders, notes, and anything else you may want to include in your journal.

Within the bullet-point system, there are two types of “points” you can use: bullets and signifiers.

Bullets are the dots, circles, boxes, triangles, hearts, arrows, checkmarks, X’s—whatever you’re using to create your list. The original system uses dots, circles, and dashes. Each bullet corresponds with a specific type of notation: dots are for “tasks” (typical of a to-do list); circles are for events (I classify these as time-sensitive tasks); and dashes are for notes (pieces of information to remember for something else).

Signifiers add context to the bullet. This context can put the list item into a category (such as inspiration or finances), show importance, or group the item with other items throughout the journal. The original system has signifiers for priorities, inspiration, and exploration. Each of these categories has an additional function to it: priorities with asterisks mean that list item is more important; inspiration shows a list item intended for migration; and exploration denotes a list item that needs more information researched on it.

The bullet-point system also includes variations in the bullets to say whether that list item is 1) done; 2) in progress; or 3) migrated (AKA scheduled for later).

I think everyone should find their personal style for bullet points. This function is the core of the bullet journal, so it will be present throughout. Here’s a sample of some bullet points I’ve thought of. I use triangles, circles, hearts, and double slashes because they’re easy to draw and easy to differentiate.

Bullet Journal Different Icons Bullets and Signifiers

Collections

Collections are very self-explanatory. They are pages that hold similar information, whether it’s a calendar for a specific month, a meal plan, a list of books to read, or quotations for motivation. The official website breaks collections into different logs and modules, and I think collections are more of a community-created aspect to bullet journalling instead of part of the original system. But I’m using it here as an umbrella term.

I consider collections to be anything from the calendars in “Logs” to a page of scratch notes for an active project. I also think the more unique spreads, such as goal-setting pages and trackers, are individual collections.

To put it simply, collections are places where you collect information, regardless of the format it’s collected in. Some collections are lists. Others are calendars. Each one is different, otherwise it would fit into another collection.


These are the parts I consider the most important to getting started with a bullet journal. The introduction to the BuJo is incredibly content-heavy, with tons of different things that may or may not serve you.

Pick up something and try it out. If it doesn’t serve you, leave it behind.

This week’s challenge

Get a piece of paper, whether it’s lined, grid, blank, or even a sticky note, and a writing implement. Write the date—however you want!—at the top. Start a to-do list, whether it’s for yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Use the bullet journal system’s key to categorise your list items, including signifiers. Try this for a few days, then assess the following:

  • Do these bullet designs work for me?
  • Do these icons for signifiers work for me?
  • What categories do I need on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis?

This is a quick and simple (and 100% fake) bullet journal to-do list that I’ve created, but using my own bullet icons to suit my own brain.

Getting Started Example Bullet Journal Entry Log

Look at my meaty hand. I wrote this on a sticky note and it works well! The exclamation points denote two priority items, with the filled-in one being more important than the other one.

Come back next Friday for “Bullet Journal 101: Modules, Logs, and Migration” to learn more about expanding your bullet journal out from to-do lists!

Bullet Journal 101: Getting Started for the Absolute Beginner