After using my Bullet Journal for a while now, some clear DOs and DON’Ts have emerged. These are not research-based in a traditional sense, but they are experience-based. If you’ve never heard of this type of analog/planning system, click here for a brief introduction, but if you’ve been using a bullet journal for any length of time whatsoever, I hope this post is helpful. I’m also curious to hear how your bullet journal journey is going and if your DOs and DON’Ts are different or similar to mine, so please feel free to share and keep this community alive and vibrant.
Bullet Journal DOs
1). Check out bulletjournal.com: Before getting started and throughout your BuJo experience, utilize bulletjournal.com. The video on the home page will get you started and the blog posts and other pages are extremely helpful. While most people make individual changes and modifications to the system, a lot of us follow the original concept highlighted on bulletjournal.com.
2). Dive in: Worrying about how to get started and letting your unused notebook collect dust for weeks benefits no one. Don’t stress about “not doing it right” because there is no “doing it right”. So open that notebook and get started. Mistakes are going to happen. You will have scribbles, mess-ups, ink blots, etc. It’s okay. This is YOUR Bullet Journal.
3). Consider a habit tracker: Of all my pages, one of my favorites is my habit tracker. Most Bullet Journal users have a habit tracker. All of us have daily/weekly behaviors we wish would become habits but we have no consistent way of tracking them. Just using my habit tracker for one month has made me realize a lot about my daily behaviors. It has also reminded me to do things because I know I will color in the little square on my habit tracker. It may sound hokey, but I’m telling you, it works. And the coolest thing is that it’s individualized to you and your needs. I went a couple of months not using one and didn’t like it at all. I initially had too many habits to keep track of, so I decreased my list and now only include the habits that are integral to personal or professional success.
4). Join/form Bullet Journal communities and groups: Much of my inspiration and encouragement regarding the Bullet Journal comes from other people who are also using the system. Several of my friends are also BuJo addicts, so we often chat about how to best utilize and tailor the system. The Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook is a great a group of folks and offers a wealth of information. Also, I developed a Pinterest group board called Bullet Journal Collaborative with many valuable, Bullet Journal pins. If you’re not familiar with group boards, multiple pinners (72 right now) can all pin to the same board so that the resources are more plentiful and varied. Be sure to follow the board and comment on this post if you would like me to add you as a collaborator. All I need is you Pinterest URL or username. Lastly, two blogs that have been extremely helpful are Boho Berry and Tiny Ray of Sunshine. I’m also a part of the Bullet Journal community on Google +.
5). Have fun with art, banners and doodles: Let me start by saying, I am a TERRIBLE artist, but everything can be learned, right? I wanted to start drawing in my Bullet Journal, so I’ve been using my seven-year old’s learn-to-draw books to draw different animals and make them brainstorming/inspirational pages. I’ve started using more doodles, banners and varied handwriting as well. Again, the communities/groups mentioned above offer great tip and helps with doodling, handwriting, banners, etc. I’m a professional writer and I love words, but I must admit, these little pictures, drawings and doodles liven up the BuJo pages significantly. Even if you just draw a heart, star or rainbow, go for it!
6). Constantly reflect/adapt/tweak: Keep changing what you are doing until you find your sweet spot. If the method you are using feels forced, change it up! If you need to, change it every single day until it feels fluid, beneficial and actually helps you become more productive. I have three monthly grids (one for my blog work, one for my freelance writing assignments/deadlines and one for personal events and calendars) so I need them to be in a format that works. I’ve tweaked my monthly grid so many times until I think I finally created one I like.
7). Create collections: Collections are lists or culminations that you gather and keep in your Bullet Journal to reference. Right now my three most utilized collections are Quotes I Love, Books to Read and Blog Thoughts and Ideas (on this last one I write down any epiphanies or ideas related to the blog so I can refer back to it). I’ve always loved quotes but have never written them down in one place. As you can see below, I’m only one month in to 2016, and I have three full pages of quotes.
Bullet Journal DON’Ts
1). Don’t compare your Bullet Journal to others: This is the worst. There are some Bullet Journal users out there who are incredible artists and have handwriting that should be a font. DO NOT compare yourself to these folks. While I highly admire their creativity, if I tried to be like them, my BuJo would not be mine. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but let this notebook be yours and yours only. While we can all learn from others and borrow (steal?) ideas, no two Bullet Journals should look even remotely the same. Are anyone’s fingerprints the same? Exactly.
2). Don’t make it another thing on your to-do list: Again, if using your Bullet Journal become an item on your to-do list, you are not doing it right. Your BuJo should be your guide for your day. In it should be all of your to-do lists, but it in and of itself should never be something that you bemoan.
3). Don’t continue down a path where you are using numerous journals and notebooks: I did this for YEARS until I learned about the Bullet Journal system. Anytime I needed to find something (a date, a phone number, a set of notes, a calendar), I would have to look through so many notebooks and journals. Why do that when I am telling you, you can put everything in ONE place! Your BuJo.
4). Don’t wait on the perfect materials to use the system: I won’t lie, I’m slightly obsessed with the Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Dot Grid notebook from The Goulet Pen Company. The dots on each page make it so easy to line up a ruler and create grids, boxes, etc. I like the hard cover, the weight of the paper, the folder in the back, the fact that the pages are numbered, etc. However, if you don’t want to buy a pricey notebook (it’s not that pricey) or if you haven’t received yours in the mail yet, don’t delay. Begin with whatever type of notebook you have.
5). Don’t delay: What are you waiting for? If you’ve been searching for an organized and efficient way to keep up with life, a system that uniquely fits your needs, this is the one. Enjoy!
I consulted some of my pals in the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group and the Bullet Journal Google + community. Here are some of their DOs and DON’Ts.
“Don’t forget that mistakes give your bujo character. Whether your creative or not fixing your bujo is easy as 1,2,3… and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Do whatever you want to make You love your bujo!” -Nicole A.
“DO use it every day – even if you’re new at it and not accustomed to it yet – it will soon become a part of your everyday life and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. It’s great to have everything written down and in one place!” Beth S.
“I like to watch Ryder’s original video (on bulletjournal.com) at the start of each month to remind myself of what drew me to bullet journaling almost 2 years ago now. And as a reminder that simple works.” -Deb
“Don’t be be afraid to change course if what you are doing is not working for you, turn the page and write out that new idea. Do take it slow at the beginning to figure out what works for you.” -Ellen C.
” Do – Have and Index and make sure to keep up with it. There is nothing worse than filling out a whole journal then not being able to find anything.” –Marissa B.
” Don’t write with bold tipped black sharpies…..” -Brianne H.
“Do what works for you!” -Janey M.
” Do start simple without too many modifications and additions. Add as you go along.” -Tammy N.
“Don’t get hung up on perfection….live, learn, relax….enjoy the process. It may take trial and error to figure out what works best for YOU.” -Diane O.
“Don’t forget to put your contact info in the front should you ever lose it!!” -Allison S. (put email or cell; not address)
“Don’t feel overwhelmed with the prettiness. Start with a simple system and enjoy the process of making it work for you.” -Kazia T. at Happy Little Blogger
“Do the best you can with what you have,,,beautiful expensive notebook, pens, tapes, etc are not necessary. Many people are unable to purchase these items. That should not deter them. A bare-bones setup of a basic notebook or tablet and a basic ink pen will do the trick. The reason for the bujo is what is written in it.” -Elizabeth M.
“DO make your own system customized to fit your needs. It’s ok to have a plain journal, a pretty journal or apply bullet journal concepts to a planner, whatever inspires you to be the most productive and will encourage you to stick with it.” -Tanya M. at Mom’s Small Victories
“It’s better for new users to stick to Ryder Carroll’s basic system and get the hang of it before experimenting with layouts, etc. A bullet journal is completely useless if people are so afraid of doing it the “wrong” way or make it unnecessarily complicated with all kinds of modifications to the original system that they never actually jump in and begin.” -Shauna
“DO be a bit neat. My normal handwriting is terrible and almost unreadable. Writing in small caps in the space of a Moleskine line with a decent pen has enabled me to get better but I have to keep practicing, of course.” -Derek