I turned 25 last year in November and decided that throughout my 25th year I was going to dedicate more time to practicing French, exploring my Judaism, and working on launching my lifestyle and wellness blog Tova and Wild.
I decided to approach these things this year because I felt like it was something that I wanted to learn more about and delve deeper into than I had previously. Something about turning 25 made me realize that if I wanted to make real progress on any of the goals that I wished to achieve I needed to be organized in order to fulfill these things, however, within quickly deciding that was the case I inevitably fucked up and my French lessons turned more into watching French films, and my Jewish learning became increasingly more focused on meditation and yoga.
The only thing I did manage to incorporate into my life was consistently writing, which, up until this point has been primarily based out of moments of inspiration rather than active planning. Routines have never been my friend. In fact, for the majority of my life, I have viewed a routine as something I would never participate in (no one can tame my Sagittarian heart), and I realized I didn’t approach these tasks with dedication, preparedness, or any wherewithal to actually commit to them.
After some reflection, I decided to look into Bullet Journaling, and while I can say that the first time I tried to keep one I failed, the second time around has been noticeably different—primarily due to hour-long therapy sessions, self-reflection, and a desperate need to make the most of my time. So, in light of Organization Month, and the fact that the stars are celestially organizing themselves as well, I have listed a few tips you might not realize play into getting your life in order along with a simplified guide to start a Bullet Journal.
Tip #1: Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
This more or less is due to the fact that if you look up Bullet Journals online, Instagram, or Pinterest, you will find a plethora of journals that are beautiful works of art. My first mistake was attempting to create a Bullet Journal like the people I saw online. Those moments of comparing and psychoanalyzing my handwriting in order to compete with the other creative individuals online made me frustrated at my sloppy handwriting and inevitably giving up on the process entirely. Now, my Bullet Journal is entirely color-free and consists of the occasional chicken-scratch or blacked out lines.
Tip #2: Give It a Month
The truth is, my yoga instructor once said, regarding meditation, that I needed to stop making excuses and just commit. Whether that means that you are committing to yoga or committing to Bullet Journaling, just stick with it. Stop making excuses for yourself and for not wanting to do it, and try it out—for a month—then drop it if you don’t like it. Morgan, initially had a shit-ton of issues about Bullet Journaling but once he started doing it for a week he was obsessed. He found that it was easier to process information and actually remember to do things than any other app, reminder or technological feature that he had used before.
Tip #3: Stop Being All or Nothing
This is my biggest weakness. I am definitely someone who is either fully in or not at all, most of the time being not at all. The truth is when it comes to habits and most things, stop pretending to know what the outcome will be and instead give up your control. Your routine has to work for you, not you working for it. With Bullet Journaling, the process is simple and ever-expanding, and if you look at it as a tool that is there to help you, instead of you working for it, the process will be quite enjoyable. If you mess up and forget to Bullet Journal, or you mislabel something, don’t give up and start over, just start again.
For more information on how to begin Bullet Journaling, check out their online presence at BulletJournal.com where you can download a comprehensive guide, purchase your own journal and interact with a community of likeminded productive individuals who will give more than two f’s about Bullet Journaling.
Heres the breakdown…
Step #1: Build Your Key
The first page of your Bullet Journal should be for your key. Although it doesn’t have to be, nor do you need to have one, a key is a nice reminder for any sort of signifiers and details that you put in your journal.
The Bullet Journal uses rapid logging which relies upon short-form notations paired with bullets. Every bulleted item can be entered into short objective sentences, these can be broken down into tasks, events, and notes.
Tasks are represented by a dot “•” and include any kind of action-items like “Pick up dry cleaning”. The task bullet does a lot of heavy lifting in the Bullet Journal so it has three additional states:
X = Task Complete
> = Task Migrated
< = Task Scheduled
Events are represented by an “O” Bullet. Events are date-related entries that can either be scheduled (e.g. “Charlie’s birthday”) or logged after they occur (e.g. “signed the lease”). No matter how long or short or taxing of the event, they should be kept short and sweet, just like the tasks.
If events, tasks, or details run a little longer, or if you have any sort of facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations, notate them with a dash "—". These notes are not necessarily action items, but they can be. Notes can also be used well for meetings, lectures, or classroom notes.
Signifiers are symbols that give your task bullets additional context.
Prioritized items are represented by a " * ". Items that are are great ideas, personal mantras, and genius insights, can be signified by a "!". Things that require further research or information can be signified by an eye "” symbol.
Step #2: Index Your Ish
The next few pages of your journal can be used as your index. The index is where your Bullet Journal comes together and simplifies the process for you to find information. With the index, you won’t need to flip around searching for that one note you wrote down a while back, instead, you can simply notate it in the index. Some people color code certain projects and categories in the index they want to keep track of, but that’s too much extra work for me personally.
Step #3: Step Into the Future
Before you start planning ahead and filling out the next few sections, go ahead and number your pages preceding your index. Begin and one and carry on until you feel comfortable, there’s no need to number every page.
Then title the next four pages, future log. Divide the pages into thirds (as shown above) and begin labeling the months in the future log. I always begin with the month I am in, as it’s easier for me to flip to and recognize, but it’s entirely up to you.
The best part of the Bullet Journal is that it allows you to plan ahead easily. A future log is a place where you can write down any future appointments or dates for a month you haven’t set up yet. This is a simple reference point to notice if there’s a dentist appointment or a trip across the country.
Step #4: Take a Birdseye View of Your Month
The next two pages are going to be for your monthly log which consists of a calendar and task list. In order to set up your monthly log and title the top of the page the name of the month and the second-page “tasks.”
Then, list all the dates of the moth down the left margin, if you run out space and don’t have enough lines, simply split the page into two columns and continue. Add the corresponding day next to the corresponding day. This is typically where people get super creative, but again, if that’s not you or you don’t have the time for that (like me) then just start by simply writing it down. Leave some room in the left margin to add signifiers if necessary.
The calendar page is a great way to schedule events and tasks, record events after they’ve happened, or both. Regardless, these entries should be short as possible as the page is mainly designed for reference.
The task page is a list of both tasks that you want to tend to that month and unfinished tasks that have migrated from the previous month. Again, this is a birdseye view so labeling these tasks should be concise as possible.
Step #5: Zoom Into the Daily Log
My favorite aspect of the Bullet Journal is my daily log. This is only for day-to-day use and should be used as a way to record the course of your day. You use this as a way to rapid log all of your tasks, events, and notes as they occur. The best part is that you don’t end up wasting a shit ton of pages because the next day simply begins at wherever you left off previously.
Pro Tip: Don’t set up Daily Logs way ahead of time. Create them as you go or the night before. You never know how much space you may need any given day.
The truth is, a Bullet Journal is sort of an incredible little thing that is endless in its possibility. This post is merely a jumping off point for those of you interested in beginning some sort of organization in your life.
For myself personally, this has been a trial and error sort of approach and not always easy, but in time, I have found the Bullet Journal to be effective, efficient, and really helpful. I think the best thing that I got from using a Bullet Journal was that I was much more productive than before. I started noticing that I was able to cross through tasks that I had accomplished throughout my day and that alone was so satisfying.
If you are giving it a shot let me know. Slide into my comments or DM’s with any tips and tricks that you use to stay organized. Have you used a Bullet Journal? Or do you have your own methods for organization and productivity? As that is the goal of this month, I will be seeking forevermore.