Discover more from A Frayed Mind
Get Your Life Organised With a Bullet Journal
A simple and effective way to keep you on track.
A bullet journal (bujo for short) has been the most useful tool I have used to keep myself organised. Bujos are highly customisable, physical booklets designed to keep you on track day to day, with a monthly and yearly overview, making it easy to plan ahead. My life has been noticeably smoother since I started bullet journaling. And it becomes obvious when I forget to use my bujo as my unorganised self rises to the surface, checking in daily helps tame the part of me I’d rather not have take over.
People fill their bujos with drawings, personal writings, doodles, stickers - anything to give it their own personal touch. Others like to keep it simple and minimalistic. Should you decide to get one, it’s up to you for the layout and how much personality it has.
Why not an app?
Really? Do you want another app? We have apps for everything.
I like the feeling of having a physical book rather than another thing added to my phone. It feels better to flick through the pages than it does swiping. It’s filled with mistakes, scribblings and rewritings. The imperfect nature of it makes it feel more real. Plus, the extent of personalisation is greater in a physical book than it is in a digital app.
What follows is a rough guide on how to set up your own bujo, but feel free to change things to suit your needs.
Year at a Glance
The first thing I do with a new bullet journal is to set up a yearly view. I want to be able to see my entire year in one place, and where else better than right at the beginning? The Year at a Glance contains every upcoming event. I regularly return to this to add new things as they come up. I have a small spot for friends’ birthdays, and I also highlight what days I am working. I can see exactly what I’m doing on any day of the year.
Then I have a few pages for lists. These lists include what books I want to read, shows I want to watch and things I want to blog about. I don’t like having these sporadically spread out across my bujo so I set aside a few pages free at the beginning. This way when I need a full page, whether it be for a list or something else, it’s easier to find later.
Now, we get onto the recurring stuff.
I check my Year at a Glance and copy over any upcoming important events, then I draw up a habit and finance tracker. My habit tracker helps me ‘gamify’ my day. It turns the day into a challenge where I have a certain amount of achievements I want to accomplish before it ends. Anything you need to do every day, you put here, ranging from cleaning to writing, exercising or meditating. I scribble in the box every time I complete one of my daily habits. It’s a small satisfying boost to know I’m on the right course for the day. Progress feels good, no matter how small. You could even reward yourself at the end of the day if you complete every habit on your list.
On the next page are your finances. Out of all the benefits I have reaped from starting a bujo, this one is the most useful - and revealing. I was initially shocked by how much money I spent. If you choose to do this, and I highly recommend you do, you’ll have the same feeling of being walloped in the face. I know you may be thinking you don’t want to do this.
But ask yourself, why?
We both know.
It’s because you know you spend more than you like. And it’s precisely for this reason that you need to do it. Take an honest look at where your money goes and start making changes.
I split things up into multiple categories.
Bills - Utilities, phone plan, internet, gym membership, Spotify. Any weekly or monthly payment should go in here.
Travel - Basically petrol and Uber. For big travel expenses like flights, I’ll usually place them under ‘other’.
Supermarket - Groceries.
Takeaway - We all spend too much on takeaways. Now it’s time to see exactly how much. You’re probably not going to like what you find, but that’s the point of doing this.
Other - This is everything else. Books, haircuts, tickets to a concert, anything that doesn’t fit into the categories mentioned earlier.
Maybe you’d like extra categories such as alcohol or business expenses - anything you’d like to specifically track. But everything you spend should be written down. It’s just up to you what categories you want to place things under.
Now comes the weekly layout. My work weeks are 10 days long - 6 days on 4 days off, so that’s how I lay it out. I split each day up into 4 categories, morning, afternoon evening and extra. The extra (the space below the date) is something that’s occurring that day, birthdays, holidays etc. and I refer to my monthly layout to know what to put here.
If it’s something I need to do that day, like pick up some groceries, I’ll put that into the box corresponding to the time of day it needs to be done. I put these as bullet points so I can tick them off when I complete them. Ticking things off can give you a small boost in dopamine. If it’s an event, I put an asterisk. A birthday, a small present.
You can be as precise as you like when writing down what you want to accomplish. I know I’ll make my bed, go to the gym, and have dinner. I don’t bother writing these things down. However, I know some people put great detail into their days and will write down practically everything they plan to do and at precisely what time. I don’t enjoy being forcibly structured like this, but it does work for some - see time blocking.
The last thing I put in regularly is a weekly recap. On just one page I write about what happened that week, how I felt about different things that happened, and what I’m excited about. I guess it’s a mini diary that I use to check in with myself every so often.
Thanks for reading A Frayed Mind! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
With bullet journals becoming more popular I’ve gone through a few different ones to find what I like.
A5 is the perfect size. It’s small enough for travel, but big enough to see your entire upcoming month without having to squint.
You can get some that are pre-made for you. This saves time but reduces customisation. You can get others that have a dotted grid, are completely blank, or are lined. I like the ones with dots. This gives maximum customisation without being too distracting. If it’s completely blank then there’s not enough guidance, and having it lined takes away your freedom.
You might not think it, but the thickness of your page can matter. I hate thin pages. It can cause the ink to bleed from one side of the paper to the other, making it impossible to work with. For me, the thicker the better.
They almost always come with a bookmark. However if you can find two, this is ideal. One for what week you’re on, the other for the month, this way you can quickly move to your habit tracker when you complete a daily habit.
Your Writing Tool
I went out and bought myself a nice pen. You’re going to be spending a lot of time writing in these so I find it’s worth investing in something that feels good to write with and hold. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy expensive, I think mine was $20 or so (plus replacement ink every time it runs out). It feels nice to hold and I really enjoy writing with it.
The last thing that I’ll leave you with is… You actually need to do it. There are times when I don’t check in with my bujo. This results in an out-of-date habit tracker, missing important events and falling behind on being productive.
I go through phases, from checking it multiple times a day to glancing at it a couple of times a week. To keep myself consistent I keep it close by and out in the open. It usually sits on my desk, as when I’m at home that’s where I spend a lot of my time. However, I also leave my bujo open on my bedside table when I go to bed. Leaving it open makes a difference to the frequency with which I check it. I’ve written about this before but the easier you make it for your future self to do something, the more likely your future self will do it.
I’ll try to tick off my habits soon after I finish them. This helps me see what I have to do next, along with giving me a congratulatory boost when I tick them off. Or if I don’t, I’ll do it in the evening when I’m also writing down what I have to do the following day.
A lot of people draw fancy pictures on each of their pages. I can see the appeal in this, especially when I browse through other bullet journals online. They look fantastic. However, I’m not artistically inclined, nor do I get gratification from creating something that looks that nice. And simply - I don’t have the time.
What you must realise before you commit to this is it takes time to set up. I put aside 10 minutes to do my weekly spread and a further 10 minutes when I have to do my monthly. I put on a podcast and get to it. If you want to make it look pretty with colours and drawings everywhere, go for it. However, like I said earlier, if it takes me a long time to do something, I’m less likely to do it. Which is why I choose to keep it as simple as possible.
It’s just important to know that you will need to set aside some time every week to fill out the upcoming weekly spread. How much time you commit to this, is up to you.
So, will you get one and upgrade your organisation skills?