9 minute read

Men Who Bullet: Beginner's bullet journal guide

- INTERVIEW -

BULLET JOURNALIST: Mark Figueiredo

@MenWhoBullet

Passionate about people leadership and design operations, Mark from Maryland, US, is a full-time Creative Manager for an internal creative agency with a talent for bullet journaling. He can genuinely say, he loves what he does for a living – now THAT is what we like to hear!6

Where did your BuJo journey start?

I got into Bullet journaling because I had been looking for a way to organise myself at work. I have tried so many systems and planners. I kept a really comprehensive Evernote digital notebook. I found out from keeping that notebook that I would keep notes there, but rarely go back to reread or organize them. It was really just a repository for notes and to search for something if I needed it. I wanted something more useful and creative, and a friend of mine told me about bullet journaling when Ryder first started talking about it. I looked into it but it seemed like a lot - and I just wasn’t ready. Then about one year later, I decided to go all in and give it a try. I fell in love with the system, how it worked, and how helpful it was for me.

W H A T do you hope to achieve through BuJo?

For me, I wanted to achieve a one-stop place for notes and tasks. As a manager and creative lead, I am in a lot of meetings, and find myself with a good number of tasks throughout the week. My bullet journal helps me stay mindful of what is happening in a week, along with making me think about what is a priority and what can be revisited later.

H O W do you use BuJo to organise your life?

I use my bullet journal mostly for work, but also keep some key dates or events in there too, as reminders. I found carrying my notebook around to be too much, so recently I bought a pocket notebook and keep it with me all the time. It’s been a game changer, and I use the basic bullet journal approach to it, and it’s amazing.

For me, it’s all about being mindful of what I am writing down. It helps me focus on the important things instead of writing down every word someone is saying. I can take those notes and easily bullet key things to do, and migrate it to the right collection or weekly task list. I also love my bullet journal for the creative side. I don’t think that everyone needs to approach their journal the same way, but as a designer, I love thinking about creative grids and layouts. So, for me, it’s just as helpful as it is an expression of my creative side.

QUICK BEGINNER’S GUIDE FOR bullet journal enthuisats

The first time that I was introduced to the Bullet Journal, to be honest, I was overwhelmed. Bullets, notes, collections, migrations, whoa this looks like too much - I just want to organize my to-dos. I looked online for some ideas about how it’s done, and oh my goodness, these spreads looked amazing, but I didn’t think I was ready to commit to everything I was seeing. You might be in the same spot, but let me assure you, it’s much easier than it looks - you just need to understand the foundation and then build upon that.

Starting a bullet journal is a commitment, but it’s just like committing to anything you want to make better in your life. If you want to lose weight, you need to commit to eating right and exercising. You want to get better at painting, you need to commit to practicing. Just like with any good habit, you have to tell yourself it’s worth it. For me, my goal is to organize my to-dos and tasks at work and to remind myself of key dates or events happening in my personal life. I was a hardcore Evernote user for years, but I would type something in, save it, and forget about it. I didn’t have a good tagging system or an easy way to find old notes beyond randomly typing in some words I thought I may have used. Basic-lined notebooks were okay, but without some kind of index (which I only thought about doing after starting my BuJo), would get lost in my notebook and I would waste so much time flipping back and forth in the notebook until I luckily stumbled upon what I was looking for. It wasn’t a great system, and I needed a great system. Enter, Ryder Carroll and the Bullet Journal.

When someone asks me what they need to know about starting a bulletjournal, I say the same thing, start with the foundation and build from there.

1. One Notebook, One Pen

The best place to start is at the beginning, a notebook and a pen (or pencil). There is no need to go out and buy stickers and markers and pens to start your journal. I love a good fountain pen, but I didn’t need one to start my success in my bullet journal. The same goes for journals.

Before you start to spend a lot on journals, I always suggest starting with one you already have or to buy an inexpensive one from any big box craft store or superstore. I personally like dotted journals, but you can use any type of journal to start. If your journal is pre-numbered, awesome, if not, add your own (this is important for the next piece).

2. The Index is Key

I mentioned before that I have used notebooks for notes before, but what makes theBullet Journal system so successful, in my opinion, is that you can easily find what youneed because of the index.

I start every new bullet journal notebook with at least four pages of space for my index. I ended up needing six pages in my first journal, but that was because I put everything in my index. I’ve changed my approach in recent bullet journals, but my recommendation is to add anything to your index that you need to find easily and quickly.

3. Future Log

Right after your index, you can add your future log. The future log is where you will schedule appointments, events, or tasks for the future. Say you are starting your journal in April - then I would start my future log on May. I like to keep myself planned at least 6 months at a time. You can write in your whole year, if you want.

Always remember, this is your journal. We will come back to the future log when we talk about migration - but for now, you want to list out each month and leave some space to add events and tasks under it.

4. Don’t Skip Pages (my opinion)

It took me a little bit to be okay with this, but to get the most out of my journal and to maximize the pages, I do not skip pages for any of my notes or collections (a collection is any group of related information). For example, since I use my bullet journal for work, I have a collection called “Weekly Lead Team Meeting”.

Every week I open to this page and keep a running list of notes for that meeting. In my index I have that collection name, and next to it, the page number it’s on. In last year’s journal, I ended up having my notes on 7 different pages. There is no way that I would have known that I needed that many pages when I started, so to skip any number would have either been a disappointment or just pure luck that it would have worked out.

To keep myself running efficiently, I just keep things moving, focusing on one dayand one page at a time...

5. Bullets, Dashes, and Migrations, oh my...

Some people think that these journals are called bullet journals because of the dotted grids in the journals themselves. Good guess, but it’s called a bullet journal because of the symbol you use during your rapid logging. If you have done any research online, you will likely see some designed pages called a “KEY”. I think that a key page can be helpful to remember the basic symbols used with the bullet journal system, but you don’t need to start with a ton of them. For me, the most important are:

.  Bullet for Tasks

x Cross out for completed tasks

- Dash for notes

< / > Forward or backwards migration! 

* Important indicator

When I first started, the most important thing I did for myself was put these symbols, and their meaning, on a post it note and move it with me. It was a hard concept for me to think of bullets for a task to-do, and a dash for a note - this comes from years of using bullets for grouped items. Technically you will use bullets and create lists this way, but they are to indicate things that need to get done, not just a succession of items.

MIGRATION is another concept that felt really hard to grasp at first. But when you do it, it makes so much sense. At the end of a week (or day), I review all my tasks. The ones that did get left, and anything that didn’t get done gets moved. I’m either going to take that task with me > to the next day or week, (it all depends on how you keep your journal), or it’s going to get scheduled in my future log < . This is where that mindfulness comes in with bullet journaling. Taking the time to think about each task, and its importance, will help clarify the big things that need to get done or things you can worry about later.

My Rule of Thumb

When It comes to tasks or to-dos, if I migrate it for more than 2 weeks, I put it back into my future log. I do this because otherwise I will carry that with me forever. If I’m not getting it done week after week, it’s really not that important. I will remind myself of it in a few weeks/months - and likely take action on it then.

The important indicators (! or *) really play an important role on tasks that need to be done. This makes tasks for to-dos stand out and easily identifiable. If I’m being mindful to add an indicator like this, I know I need to do it - and it climbs to the top of my list.

7. Build on the basics

Now that you have the basic understanding of the bullet journal system, get started. Try it out and see how you like it. I would recommend that you do not get overly crafty in your bullet journal until you are comfortable in your basic approach. Once you are comfortable, start to build out your artistry a little bit if you want. Add some stamps, or lettering, or whatever you’d like.

I have so much respect for the amazing work that exists within the bullet journal community. I mean, some of these journals are works of art. But always remember that those journals fit those journalists. You may not be that type of person and that’s totally okay. Hell, I’m not that type of person - but I do respect that style and appreciate the approach.

Always remember that this is your bullet journal. You are in control of every aspect of it. If you don’t want anyone to see it, don’t show them. If you don’t want to share photos of it on Instagram, don’t share it on Instagram. I have spoken to quite a few people who have said they are nervous to start because they don’t want people to judge what they do. And I tell them the same thing as above.... you do you and focus on that

I always send anyone interested in Bullet journaling to the source – www.bulletjournal. com for a more in-depth listen and learn of Ryder Carroll and his explanation of his system. He does such a good job of explaining both how to bullet journal and why to bullet journal.

What now?

Also, there is a huge, amazing community of bullet journalists out there. My advice again, because it’s that important, not to compare your bullet journal to others. You should definitely check other people’s work out, get inspired, maybe even try and recreate a spread or layout if you like it, but at no time should you feel inferior or less than just because of someone else’s style and approach.

We all have different talents when it comes to art and skill, but we all share the samething in common, the foundational understanding and appreciation for the BulletJournal system.

Always feel free to connect with me on Instagram, @MenWhoBullet. I love interactingwith everyone in this community, old and new. I am always happy to share tips, tricks, oreven some mentorship if you’d like.

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