Minimalism and the bullet journal

I've been using a bullet journal for about 2 years now and I LOVE IT! I can't see me ever going back to using a normal journal and whenever someone buys me one as a present I have to donate it on to someone else or to charity. This year I'm working on living at a slower pace and creating a more minimalist lifestyle. So far my bullet journal is really helping with this - I can easily see what I've got planned across a week and a month and I can make sure that I'm not stretching myself too thinly. I can keep track of my minimalist goals - creating a capsule wardrobe, making sure I don't spend too much time on social media and focusing my time on things that really matter to me. I've also started making my bullet journal itself more minimal so that I don't get too fixated on recording things rather than living them.

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The bullet journal is so flexible that you can completely personality and be as creative with it as you want. It can all seem a bit overwhelming at first though - especially if you search for bullet journal on Pinterest and get page after page of information. So I thought it might be useful for those of you who want to use this system to write a little beginners' guide to help you get started.

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First things first; equipment:

  1. You'll need a notebook - basically any one will do, it doesn't have to be anything bespoke or anything fancy. I have found it helps if you use a book with dotted paper rather than lined but the first bullet journal I had was lined paper and it still worked. My current favourite is the Leuchtturm 1917 with dotted paper. It's got a hardback cover, is big enough to write everything in but not so big it won't fit in a normal sized bag, it's got two handy page bookmarks and a pocket envelope at the back. The pages are also all numbered which is handy when it comes to the Index (see below).
  2. Pens and pencils - obviously you need something to write with! I like to keep things fairly minimal so I stick with a black fine-liner, a grey fine-liner, a grey brush pen for highlighting and a black rollerball. A pencil is also handy if you want to play with drawing out a new layout.
  3. A ruler - you'll be drawing out boxes quite a lot of the time so a ruler is handy. I've recently acquired some stencils from Jayden's Apple which have rulers built into the design and I keep these tucked away at the back of the journal. They're absolutely not essential but they're a lot of fun.
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Next up; the basics:

INDEX PAGE - this is your contents page for your whole journal. Every page you create gets listed in the Index with its corresponding page number. This means that you don't have to leave blank pages in your journal for similar things - you can just start a new page for the next thing you want and you'll always be able to find everything nice and quickly by referring to your Index page. The Leuchtturm notebook has blank Index pages ready for you to complete but if you use a plain notebook just leave a couple of pages blank at the front of the book. I'm terrible at keeping my Index up to date but it's worth doing.

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THE KEY - this is where you list out the symbols that you are going to use for your commitments. For example, you could do an open box for a task that you have to do and then fill in the box when that task is complete. You can put an arrow through the box if you haven't managed to complete it that day and so are going to "migrate" it to the next day and strike through the box if the task no longer needs completing. Here's my key as an example:

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FUTURE LOG - this is where you can lay out each month of the year and map out events that you know are going to take place. This page is great as it gives you one big overview of the year ahead and if an event gets put in your diary before you are ready to set out the pages for that particular month, you can just put it in your future log.

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MONTHLY LAYOUT - so you've done your future log and now you're ready to start setting out your first month (note that you don't have to start a bullet journal in January - any day of the year works as a start date). I put a page header in first as one nice clear page to start the year. Then you set out each day of that month with a space to write next to it. Here you log all of the events that you have coming up for that month. You might want to add any goals you have for the month here too. There are so many different ways you can lay this out. Some people set it up to look like a traditional calendar but I just use a simple list layout. To fill in your monthly layout you just need to flick back to your Future Log and jot down those events that you've already kept a note of.

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WEEKLY LAYOUT - this is a bit like the monthly layout except it's just for each week in the month. Again, you use the Monthly Layout to update this section.

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DAILIES - you can have a page (or more - none of this is limited to any particular number of pages, it's all up to you) for each day of the month where you can put down more detail of tasks to do, places to go, actions to complete etc - whatever you need to remind yourself of on that particular day. I haven't needed dailies whilst I've been on maternity leave as everything fits neatly into my weekly layout but I used this all the time when I was at work and needed more space for a much longer to-do list.

Then there's the extras:

Extra materials: how creative you are with your planner is entirely up to you. I've mentioned the stencils that I bought earlier in this guide which are a lot of fun to play with and make some of the grids a lot quicker to draw out. Lots of people use washi tape to add an easy bit of creativity to their planner. The sky's the limit though so you can get your colouring pens and pencils out or even paints if you wanted to.

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You can add anything you like to make your planner work for you - it's one of the best bits about the bullet journal! For example, in my week overview I add a mini month calendar and highlight the week I'm on so that I have a quick look calendar. I also add a small meal planner so that I can see what dinners we're having during the week. I then have two "to-do list" boxes where I set out things I want to do with the blog that week and then things that I need to do around the house etc. There are so many different things you can add - either on to one of the layouts or as a standalone tracker. Some examples of things you can use trackers for:

  • exercise
  • calorie in-take
  • blog posts
  • books you are reading/want to read
  • TV series that you are watching
  • the number of glasses of water you consume

The list goes on and on - check out Pinterest if you want more ideas. Personally I want my journal to keep me organised and allow me to a live at a slower, more intentional pace. As such I keep my trackers to a minimum: blog posts, calorie in-take and exercise (new ones to try to help me lose the post-pregnancy weight) and a capsule wardrobe one (my current big project). My concern with having many trackers is that you can spend a lot more time recording your life than living it BUT the best part of all of this is, it's totally up to you!

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Once you've got going with your journal there are lots of nifty tips that you can pick up from the web and Pinterest. For example, if you  have two pages for say, your Expenses, that are in different places in your journal you can draw an arrow and the page number of the second Expenses page at the bottom of your first Expenses page. That way you can skip from the first page to the second page without having to go back to your Index.

I hope that this has been helpful and if you want more ideas on layouts and using the bullet journal then take a look at my Pinterest board. If there's any other information or guide that you think might be useful then please let me know!