Earlier this week Emily posted about how to get started with a bullet journal, and I wasn’t the only one who was inspired. I’m a complete newbie to bullet journal so I thought I would share the process of how I’m starting mine with you here. I started by visiting the bullet journal website, and have to admit that I got a bit overwhelmed. I started to feel like it was one more thing to learn from scratch—so I’m going to take cues from Emily’s post to create my own bullet journal. And I’m sure once I get the hang of just getting started, I’ll be able to digest more of the official bullet journal techniques.

Why I love the idea of bullet journaling.

One of my favorite designers of all time is Nicholas Felton. For years he’s been measuring and tracking little details of his life and create annual reports out of them. In some of his earlier reports, he would track places he frequented, beers he drank, and music he listened to. In 2014 he was measuring things like the weather, his heart rate, sleep, and distance driven. He also took tracking these patterns a step further and began making correlations between things like the weather and his heart rate—or physical activity against time in the studio.

Felton’s dedication to tracking the details of his life is impressive and inspiring to me. I’ve attempted to measure the details of my life with the same level of accuracy and commitment as Felton but…my life’s work is not tracking my life. That said, I love the idea of documenting where I’ve been, what I care about, how I’m feeling, and what I’ve accomplished. And I love the idea of being able to see my life at a glance, uncover patterns I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, and use data to determine what’s next. I love the idea of having expertise in how I live my own life. And that’s why I love the idea of bullet journaling.

Getting started with bullet journaling.

To get started, I’m going to approach my bullet journal by thinking about the daily, weekly, and monthly things I want to track and record. I’m also going to think about capturing information “at-a-glance,” in the “shallow end,” and “deep dives.”

Defining the daily goals I want to track.

I love the way a bullet journal will really help me see my goals and track them in a visual way. But first, I have to decide what goals—personal and professional—I want to hold myself accountable to. I’m going to start by brain dumping all the things I care about and narrowing it down to a handful that I want to commit to.

Bullet Journal Mind Map

Now I’m going to grid out my daily priorities so I can visually keep track of my progress. It looks like Emily simply fills in the block when she’s made accomplishments—I might try tracking my success by leaving the block empty if I neglected my priority, half-full if I half-assed it, or all the way in if I feel successful.

I’m also going to leave space to include one thing, event, or travel that stood out to me on that day of the month. I might also use this space to keep track of recurring appointments (hair cuts, teeth cleaning, chiropractor, and acupuncture, for example) so I can see at a glance when I’m due for another health care appointment.

And finally, I’m going to leave a bit of space to track my general daily mood on a scale from frown-y face to smiley face so I can see how my actions, behaviors, and whatever else I’m tracking correlate with my mood.

Bullet Journal Daily Goals

Setting a monthly intention and a monthly goal

Now that I’ve been able to get my month laid out by the day, I want to create a theme or intention for my month + one big goal I want to accomplish. My intention is going to be based on how I want to feel as I move through life—whereas my big goal is a tangible, concrete thing I want to manifest. I’m going to write my intention and my big goal at the top of my chart that graphs out my days.

Laying out my week

Now that I’ve got a layout of my daily priorities over the span of the month, I’m going to go a little deeper into my week. I’m going to draw out every day of the week and for this month I really want to track:

  • What is interesting, beautiful, or memorable about my day
  • Important tasks and to-do’s (this might replace my post-it note method for the time being)
  • Content ideas that I could write / podcast / blog / newsletter about later
  • The tarot cards I pulled (Tarot as a self-awareness tool is something I’m becoming increasingly interested in, and which cards I pull is a pattern I really want to track.)

Bullet Journal Weekly Layout

I’m forcing myself to keep it down to four, but I can imagine in future months tracking relevant information to the goals I’m trying to achieve. That might be anything from what I’m eating and how I’m feeling during my workouts to organizing my home.

Using a bullet journal to uncover patterns along the way

Like I said, I’m really excited about using a bullet journal to uncover the patterns and themes that begin to emerge as I track my days in really concise ways. I was tempted to keep a few pages each month dedicated to more long-form journaling, but I’m afraid that will go against the whole point of a bullet journal and take me down the same journaling path I’ve been down before (you know the one, where you buy a crisp new journal and maybe get a 1/4 of the way through it before you forget about it—or is that just me?). I’m excited that if my month takes up 4-5 spreads max I’ll be able to glance at years at a time to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Need help getting started?

I’ve created a fill-in-the-blank worksheet that depicts everything I described above if you need help getting started. Just enter your email to get it delivered direct to your inbox.

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Kathleen is the co-host of Being Boss Podcast, helping creative entrepreneurs learn how to run their own creative business while being their most authentic selves. She also co-owns Braid Creative, a business visioning & branding agency for people- and purpose-driven businesses.