Maybe you need to get a better handle on your to-do list. Maybe you want an outlet to help you de-stress. Or maybe you simply want to showcase your creative skills. Whatever your reasons are, a bullet journal can be helpful – for full-time moms and women in freelancing alike.

What is bullet journaling?

“[It’s meant] to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”

Ryder Carroll – Creator of the Bullet Journal

You’ve probably heard the term “bullet journal” being thrown around quite a bit. Perhaps you even have a couple of friends who live by one of those and have shown you their “BuJos”. But what exactly is a bullet journal? A bullet journal is essentially a next-level diary for not only writing, but drawing. Instead of blank, lined pages, a bullet journal contains sections to log daily to-dos, keep a monthly or weekly calendar, jot down notes, track both physiological and mental health, plus record both short- and long-term goals. Thanks to Instagram and Pinterest, bullet journaling has become one of the most popular ways to plan, reflect, and meditate.

Bullet journaling is meant to transform the chaos of coordinating your life into a streamlined system that helps you be more productive and reach your personal and professional goals. In the words of Ryder Carroll, the creator of the bullet journaling system, your bullet journal is meant “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” Call it what you want–task manager, planner, sketchbook–your bullet journal is customized for you and you only. With sections for your daily to-do lists as well as your monthly and annual goals, your bullet journal is meant to help you stay sane and keep track of everything in your busy life. The sheer simplicity of the whole system is what makes it so popular among women in freelancing like us.

Bullet journaling

Is bullet journaling for me?

You should consider starting a bullet journal if you:

  • Have a never-ending to-do lists that you struggle to stay on top of
  • Are into art, drawing, scrapbooking and cool artistic stuff like that
  • Feel like you’re a hot mess and really want to become more organized
  • Are an old-school paper-person (who needs computers anyway?)
  • Love planning and goal setting
  • Are having trouble sticking with good habits

These aren’t prerequisites or anything, though. All you really need is a general idea about what purpose your bullet journal will serve (we’ll discuss what that means below).

How do I start bullet journaling?

Interested in learning more about this whole BuJo system? Here is a basic step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Step 1: Gather your supplies

Don’t worry, you won’t have to splurge on colorful gel pens or a fancy, handcrafted leather notebook (you totally can, of course). You only really need two things: a dot grid notebook and a no-bleed pen. Look for a notebook with a lay-flat spine, high-quality paper, and a dot grid. Something like this or like this would be good, though any notebook is just fine.

Step 2: Decide What You Want Your Bullet Journal To Do For You

As you’ve probably realised by now, there are no hard rules regarding bullet journaling. Your BuJo can be your calendar, your goal-tracker, your diary or all of those combined in one. You could even use your bullet journal to help you achieve a healthier life (think exercise trackers, food logs, meal prep ideas, and daily step goals) or you could use it as your mom-planner (think activity logs, allergy and medication trackers, recipe notes, and self-care ideas). For women in freelancing like ourselves, we like to to use our BuJos to keep track of our progress on various projects, record our experiences collaborating with different clients, and stay on top of our finances.

Women in freelancing may use their bullet journals to keep track of progress on various projects, to record experiences collaborating with different clients, or to stay on top of finances.

Step 3: Tailor Your Journal To Fit Your Needs (And Artistic Skills)

There are tons of ways to build your bullet journal (really, the sky’s the limit). We would recommend starting with the following:

  • Page Numbers: Start by numbering your pages for easy reference.
  • Index: The first page of your bullet journal should be the index. This section serves as a table of contents with page numbers to the different items you’ll be tracking, and a symbol key that you update as you go.
  • Future Log: This (usually 4-page) spread is a year-at-a-glance calendar with future events, goals, and long-term tasks. Add birthdays, travel plans, and major holidays. You can structure it in whatever way you want.
  • Monthly Log: This should include a calendar with a bird’s eye view of the month and a task page with things you want to focus on during the month. You can include other tracking pages such as a book log or a habit tracker. 
  • Daily Log: Your daily to-do list. 
  • Your Tracking System: As you familiarize yourself with bullet journaling, come up with a series of symbols that indicate the status of your to-do items or goals. Bullet journal creator Carroll recommends using the following symbols:
    • Tasks: 
    • Events: O (bullet but with an unfilled center)
    • Notes (facts, ideas, and observations): – 
    • Priority: *
    • Inspiration (mantras, insights, and ideas): !

Of course, at the end of the day, this is your system and it should fit your needs and goals. Think about what kinds of lists or trackers will help you boost productivity, become more mindful or achieve a goal. Some ideas for additional pages include a destination list for adventurous travelers, a meal prep log for healthy gals, and a client tracker for women in freelancing.

Women in freelancing

Step 4: Start Journaling

Once you have everything set up, you’re ready to dive right in. The BuJo is completely customizable so you don’t have to start it at the beginning of the year. You can start journaling today, tomorrow, or three weeks from now. Don’t worry about choosing the perfect color scheme or plotting every single event out either. The truth is, you will constantly update your journal as you familiarize yourself with different designs and formats. There’s no better way to understand the system than to practice it. So get started on your #BuJo journey today!