You might have heard of bullet journals on Facebook, BuzzFeed, or from your favorite highly-organized person. I am not an organized person. Not naturally, anyway–I tend to have that constant state of creative disorganization, where I roughly know what’s happening and where things are, but you would never call this feat of juggling “organized.” This was fine when I was 25, but almost ten years later, we have a mortgage and shit. I need to be some semblance of organized and on time.
Enter the bullet journal, or “bujo” for short. It’s a system wherein you take a blank notebook and fashion your own planner. You can make it as fancy or as plain as you like–I tend toward the plain, though I like to make a grid calendar for the month, which is a little fancy for a system that is mostly based on lists. Many people do whole big layouts (or “spreads”) with lots of boxes and elements, habit trackers that let you keep tabs on whether you’re doing the things you want to do as often as you want to do them, ongoing lists for things like books you’ve read or projects you’ve completed or things you want to buy, tracking goals such as saving money or going to the gym–the idea is that, because the notebook is blank, it is flexible for the things you need it to do. (Get a more coherent overview at the bullet journal site and prepare to fall down a rabbit hole of wanting to be more productive.)
My bullet journal is pretty plain, honestly. I have a calendar for the month and my daily lists of things to do. I use the opposite page for a running to-do list and sometimes meal planning. I find that it helps me a lot, though. I have issue with executive dysfunction–aka, my brain is not always good at arranging things into do-able steps so that I can then do the things–so a space to write down what I want to do corrects for some of that.
If you’re familiar with bullet journals at all, you know that people get really into them. Like really-really. The feature image for this post says that you can get all the supplies in the photo for $22; some people spend that on one notebook. I’m certain that it’s a fabulous notebook, but I do not have that kind of spare income for a notebook. Bare minimum, you could always get started with just a plain notebook and a pen and spend literally just a couple of dollars; however, I found a few supplies that are both enjoyable and inexpensive, which I think gives me a good cross between value and fun-itude (that’s … not even close to a word, I’m sorry).
A lot of serious bullet journalers use the dot notebooks from Moleskine and Leuchtturm. These notebooks are great, but they also come with heavier price tags. I found the Fabriano EcoQua at Blick’s (where I actually bought all of these things in person, so I didn’t factor in shipping costs). I liked that it was dotted, bright yellow, smaller than the composition book I used for my first bullet journal, and that it was around five bucks. I didn’t love the fact that the covers are not glued all the way on; I worried that, with regular use, pages might start to fall out without the spine reinforcing it. That hasn’t happened yet, though, and I’ve been using it almost daily since January.
It also comes in red, green, orange, black, and gray, in case bright yellow is not as exciting for you as it is for me.
I love this pen. I love it more than the Staedtler fineliners, and that’s practically blasphemy among the bullet journal crowd. I have four different colors of these that I use for my bullet journal. You really only need one, but at less than a dollar a pen, I could afford to have a couple of different colors. I use black for my actual content (hence why I have a spare), purple to write down what day it is and to note special things in my calendar, blue to mark lines between days, and aqua/turquoise to note special things in my daily logs (eg, if I had lunch with a friend, I mark it with a heart and their name in aqua; if I ordered something online, I mark the day I ordered it so I can remember to expect it; etc). These pens work great, don’t bleed in the Fabriano notebook, and I like that they’re orange and hex-shaped.
6″ Ruler, $2.47. I just like having a ruler to make grids and lines. I inevitably forget that my finger has mass and ruin at least one line in my calendar every month, but that’s here nor there; this ruler is good because it’s small enough for my pencil pouch and has cork on the back to prevent slippage.
I admit it: I only even bought a brush pen so I could have a chartreuse pen. I don’t even really use the gray one in the feature image up there. I used it a bit when I first bought it, but I mainly now just use the green one for highlighting or making the lettering on my monthly calendar look . . . well, “pretty” is a strong word. I suck at lettering.
I saw this at the last minute by the checkout when buying my bullet journal supplies, and I did the heart-eyes face in real life. Sure, there are certainly less expensive pencil pouches if you want to go super-budget, but if you decide or are able to splurge a little, Blue Q pouches support the Nature Conservancy. They also have lots more rad designs if that particular one doesn’t blow your bubble.
That’s it. That’s my whole bullet journal rig (plus two brush pens I honestly barely use) for $22. Got your own bullet journal secrets? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear!