How I #BuJo: The Definitive Guide

TL;DR: It’s masculine and manly, and not a bit of washi tape.


One thing is certain: if it was popular in the last 5 years, and I recently started doing it, whatever it is can be officially shelved as OVER.

Today’s victim: Bullet Journaling (or #BuJo, as they used to say until I did).

If you don’t base all of your life decisions on what’s “in” these days, and you’re wondering if Bullet Journaling actually accomplishes anything besides being Pinterest and Instagram food (read: you want a minimalist, and frankly masculine approach to the medium), then this is the article for you.

The General Idea

Bullet Journaling differs from plain old “making to-do lists” in that a) there’s usually a – wait for it – journal (book) involved, and b) it’s a bit more structured without being a diary, or as rigid as a weekly/monthy/yearly/academic year planner.

Keeping it real, I strongly disliked (read: HATED) the #BuJo trend because Instagram and Pinterest exist, and as such the desire to overly decorate and ink up the journal pages completely eclipsed the point of bullet journaling: it’s a DIY planner that expands and contracts as your needs change.

I simply must credit this article with getting my head around the practical side of #BuJo. The irony isn’t lost on me that Mister I-Wanna-Be-More-Creative was repelled by overly decked out journals in favor of something Spock would be into.

Proof of Concept Testing

I happened to have an old sketchbook/journal/book with blank pages laying around, and I allocated space in there after using it as a design sketchbook for a forthcoming project to map out the basic concepts of bullet journaling, like so:


I noodled around in my Test Journal and got the hang of making the entries:


I made a sample collection. The index page has an entry that says it appears on [whatever page number] and then the month in progress just continues on the following page. See how flexible this is?


And once I got settled in, I spent money (all of $6 USD) on a grid-lined journal at Office Depot.

Making (It) Your Own

As told in the linked article above, there are four essential elements of a bullet journal:

  • The Index
  • The Legend
  • The Future Log
  • The Daily Log

All else is gravy, such as “collections”, which have their place but I agree that they aren’t essential, especially when you’re getting established with bullet journaling.

I did a title page for my current bullet journal:


The index is a handy reference as to what is where. It goes either on the first page or inside the front cover.


I messed up and put it on page three. Oh well, it works for me. I also messed up and used an alcohol marker on the title page which obscured part of my legend. Live ‘n learn!

The legend explains and/or reminds you of your Secret System for labeling entries.


Wait for it…


Yes, I am skipping back to the test journal because it had all of the School of Rock references in it, unlike my production journal.

The future log is some sort of forecast. I made a 6-month spread early in the book to highlight key moments without trying to plan my entire life in the space of about 3 inches per month.


Then each calendar month gets an overview page of its own. I used to break it down into three sections:

  • “Gottas” = things I’ve gotta do (urgently)
  • “Wannas” = things I’d like to do, but might not
  • “Stretch” = a goal that is really ambitious


I would do the same thing for the week at-a-glance (I run my weeks Monday – Sunday FYI), and frankly having a weekly AND monthly “stretch” goal got tedious, and when that space started to be blank for more than a week at a time I finally decided to try that “flexibility” thing and made three new categories:

  • “Gottas” (unchanged)
  • “Wannas” (very original)
  • “Art” (NEW!) = Making a mark each day that I did something artsy


Oooh, ahhh.

Now that this blog exists, I track “Art” and “Blog posts”, bringing my section count up to four on each weekly overview. Flexy!


Don’t worry, I noodled around with my watercolor pencils before sitting down to write this epic guide, so I’m 4-for-4 this week in both categories.

At last, it’s time to check out where the rubber meets the road: the daily log.

If the rest of these photos didn’t already give this impression, my approach to daily logging is very sparse with occasional Feelings thrown in for fun.


Also, my handwriting [STINKS]. It’s why I can’t #BuJo on Instagram because AWFUL.

Sure, I Could Try Doing This, But

What if you miss a day/days/week/month/several months?

Simple. Pick up from that day and move forward, you know, like life.

Unlike a weekly planner where the whole thing is basically garbage if you miss a significant amount of time, I like this approach because you’re making the decisions as to form and function.

Truly, if you’re not doing this regularly, maybe your focus needs to shift. Maybe if you make it a trip planning journal or something more focused, your interest will ramp up accordingly.

What if I want to feel all the feels, use all the Washi tape, and doodle harder than actual Yankee Doodle?

Go for it. Just because I don’t doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

Everyone else’s Bullet Journal looks so much more creative than mine. I’m demoralized and stink at everything.

And Dilbert isn’t Calvin and Hobbes. One of those strips is still being produced today.

But I hear ya. I was demoralized too and HATED this concept until I found that article I linked to (here it is again) and figured out that I could Just Do It, Be Bad, and make it work on my terms rather than trying to be Insta-Famous or Pin-teresting.

Productively Ever After AF

I went from HATING this concept to faithfully carrying my bullet journal to and from work five days a week. I like that I can stick important papers, etc inside the front or back covers and wrap that elastic band around the journal to hold it closed and not forget to bring, say, a voided check to work to set up Direct Deposit or my latest car insurance card printout to put in the car.

And if you’re not sure about committing to any of this, sketch out the “bones” of the journal on a piece of paper and think about how this might actually apply to what you’re doing every day anyway.

I heartily recommend spending the least amount of money on this unless and until you’re really serious about it. Just saying.

Hope this helped! This was a lot of typing just to check off a daily blog postings tracker…!


/checks off task

Author: Ethan Johnson

Words like silent raindrops.

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