How to Keep a Simple and Useful Bullet Journal | B.A. Burgess | Skillshare

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How to Keep a Simple and Useful Bullet Journal

teacher avatar B.A. Burgess, Writer | Writing Facilitator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Bullet Journaling Basics


    • 3.

      Standard & Personalized Icons


    • 4.

      Clean, Minimalist Monthly Calendar


    • 5.

      Other Systems


    • 6.



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About This Class

No habit trackers.  No decorations.  Just using a notebook as a tool to make your life a bit more organized.

In the course, you will learn

  • the basics of bullet journaling
  • the standard and personalized icons
  • how to make and use a minimalist monthly calendar
  • and how to add new systems to your life in a low pressure way using your bullet journal

Meet Your Teacher

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B.A. Burgess

Writer | Writing Facilitator


B.A. Burgess is a multi-genre author.  She has published works of poetry, romance, non-fiction, and children's book under various pen names (or author voices as she prefers to call them).
When she isn't writing, working out, taking photos, and encouraging others to write.

Speaking of, would you like to start writing? 

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Level: Beginner

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1. Intro: Hello and welcome to how to keep a simple and useful bullet journal. In this course, we're gonna go over the basics of bullet journaling. And I know you probably feel like you've read everything there is to read about bullet journaling. I promised this is going to be very stripped down and actionable. I won't waste your time here. And we'll also go over standard and personalized icon. This is what's going to help you keep your bullet journal organized to you and maybe only to you, but that's all that matters. I'm going to show you the calendar you're going to need to put in your bullet journal. And I'm also going to show you some other systems that you can implement and how to implement them into your bullet journal without getting overwhelmed. Just in case you don't know who I am who. This is Barbara and the voice in your ears. I'm a writer, writing facilitator and bullet journal enthusiast. Of course. That is my very serious author photo there and no one likes this picture of me, but me. So I keep using it. But I will get an up-to-date one soon where I'm actually smiling, which is what I'm doing most of the time. But if you don't know who I am or if you want to learn more, you can go to hello, This is, that's fine. So my bullet journal just so you know, takes care of all of these things for me. I run my appointments through my bullet journal. I run a small business in my bullet journal all in the same notebook. Project planning, same notebook, note-taking, same notebook, and even my basic to-do list goes right inside this notebook. And it always looks pretty clean and organized because I write in all caps, I write in one color, I have a highlighter and everything is a list, so it's represented by an icon. Again, this is something you can personalize later. I find often when people start bullet journaling and when they start journaling in general, they will make a list. Put it in there, they'll set intentions, they'll put affirmations, they'll decorate it, they'll do whatever. And then they don't follow through. This course is going to strip away all the prettiness. And we're going to look solely on the actionable stuff. And if you feel the need to doodle in your bullet journal later, you certainly can. But keep in mind that we're after something here, we're after something bigger than prettiest. We're after action, we want to see change and transformation from this thing. So if that sounds good to you, I see are a little video here of the lady jotting and her bullet journal has ended. That means I've spoken too long. But if you're ready, let's dive into the first part, get right to the basics. And I'll see you in there. 2. Bullet Journaling Basics: Okay, let's cover the basics of bullet journaling. I'm sure you know what it is. You've probably been to the website, seen the videos, Pinterest, whatever. Let's try to forget that we've seen all that. Embrace this as a new topic. Bullet journaling is more than a to-do list. It's a system designed for you and for your benefit. So when you're making a to-do list, it might seem like it's the boss of you. Whereas when you put your to-do list inside your bullet journal, in a place that is specifically designed for you to use the contents and act upon the contents, then it's a tool to help you move forward in your life. So something cool about the bullet journal is that you can put all the things in one place. This can, if you choose, eliminate all other notebooks you have. So you can use just the OneNote book for everything from appointments to creative writing, journaling, whatever. This one notebook can be, the only one. If you choose to go that route. Some people do, some people don't. It's a good place to just keep track of everything. If you're like me, you're constantly making notes on your phone in different apps or you're writing down information on scraps of paper and stuffing them in your pockets and hoping that you remember to put it somewhere important later. This eliminates all that because you can still go about your day making notes everywhere and shoving them in your pockets or shoving them in apps on your phone. But then you've got a place to consolidate it. You, when you look at your bullet journal, will say, Oh yes, I need to put all of my notes in here and consolidate. And you'll always know where everything is. It's so handy. A beautiful part of the bullet journal and the most aesthetically pleasing bit is that it's all in a list format, even if you have chunks of texts inside, because there's going to be an icon to the left. It's all justified to the left and has a beautiful list. Was the word ugly for aesthetic, That's it. When you're using your icons and making your list format inside your bullet journal with all the things you'll be able to glance in and know exactly what you're looking at. It's so simple and this will make more sense when we cover the icons in the next section. My favorite part of the bullet journal though, is that there are no blank pages. I used to buy tons of planners. I would buy more than one plane or per year. And this happens to me all the time or it used to where I would sit down with my planner and I will have skipped months or days or weeks or whatever. And it would look at it and think, Man, I wasted my money because I didn't use the notebook to its full potential. Or worse, I would sit down and think, Why didn't I do anything in the last three months or why didn't I put anything on that day and I would feel a little guilty about it, which is ridiculous, of course. But the cool thing about the bullet journal is that it eliminates that for you. The pages are not dated, they're not predated, and I'd never recommend to people that they predate their bullet journals. It always ends poorly. But that's just a beautiful, beautiful thing about the bullet journal is that you can guilt free, skip a day, or skip a month. You could skip a year if you needed to. You can come back to it and start again whenever the time is right. So now that we've got just the basics down, we know it's not a to-do lists. We know it's all the things we know. It's gonna be neat and organized. We're gonna move on to the next section where we go over icons. I'm going to teach you the standard and I'm going to show you some of my personalized icons. But before we do that, make sure you grab a notebook and a pen so that you can participate along the way and get started with your bullet journal. 3. Standard & Personalized Icons: Let's talk about standard and personalized icons for your journal. So there are four standard icons that most bullet journaling folk use. The first one is just a bullet point. It's a little black dot and you will write an actionable step beside it. This is something that you can either cross over the dot when you're finished with it or cross through it because you've accomplished it. The open circle is for appointments or events. This is for things like doctor's appointments, meetings, birthdays, new moon, full moon, whatever, that kind of thing. Next is the hyphen. This is for literally everything else. I labeled it as notes here because it's what you would write when someone say recommends a podcast or a documentary or a book, or when you have an idea for something, you just make a dash, write a little note to yourself and move on from there. The migration symbol, this little greater-than symbol, you would actually write this over the bullet in your bullet journal when you're going to move an item to the list the following day. So let's say you put do laundry on your list, but you decided that you're going to wait and do it tomorrow. You would put this symbol over the bullet right beside the word laundry. I'll show you an example of this later. But you can run your entire bullet journal with just these four symbols. And in fact, when you are just starting these, these are at, this is it for you? As you get into a little bit more, you might want to make some new symbols of your own or borrow symbols from other people. So again, these are the only ones you need. I'm going to show you my complete list. Now. Don't get overwhelmed. This is just what I use now and it took me years of bullet journaling to decide that these are the icons that I needed and who knows, they might change. So as I said, you can add and remove any icons you want to make this system work for you. I do highly recommend you use the standard ones just to get used to bullet journaling, just to get started. But this is all about whatever works for you. So for me, I have this post-it note here that I do keep in my notebook. I keep it in the front of my notebook or I'll put it on the page beside the page I'm writing on depending on how into my list at that time I need to be. But these are the icons that I've added for myself. Good news or a win. So I like to record positive things. When I get good news, when I accomplished something big, when something really good happens, I'll put an exclamation point and then I'll write what that is decided. Thoughts or journaling. I do journal in my bullet journal. So I just kinda dumped my brain in there. And when I do that, I write these little scribbles to reference journaling for myself. I use a question mark when I went to investigate something or when there's something that I need to spend a little bit more time thinking about before I move forward with it. That's again, none of these are necessary. This might seem like a lot. So word count, if you're a writer, you might measure your project by word count. So this one I use for when I have a project that I'm measuring by word count, but I've also been measuring my projects with chapter count lately. So I have this icon as well, which is just a CH goal. This one is new. This one is about two weeks old. And my bullet journal, as I record this, It's just a little pyramid. And I put a lofty goal there, write it in my journal just about every day, just so I can remember what I'm striving toward. Then I have gratitude. This one's also knew this one is only about a week old. And I'm trying to make sure that I don't overlook all the good things that I have in my life. I'm very lucky. I have my health. I have a roof over my head. But beyond that there things that I'm grateful for that I want to make sure our records so I put a little heart and I record it. Now. Just so you know, all of these things here. If I write them on a post-it note, I can put them in my bullet journal later. If I'm standing in line at the grocery store and I'm feeling overwhelmed with gratitude at the nice cashier or something. I'm not going to save that person. Wait, stop. Let me get my bullet journal out so I can record this moment. I'm still going to enjoy those moments privately. But if I want to document them later, I can and then know-how and have a place to do that. So that's just something to keep in mind, just because you have icons for all of these things. It doesn't mean that you have to write every single thing down in your bullet journal to win. So let me show you what a sample page will look like in your bullet journal. So over here you can see I've got the date. I always put the date in a little box. You don't have to do that. It's just something to do. I've got a journaling block here which is indicated by my little squiggles. I have an appointment or an event here indicated by the open circle. I've got a greater than sign overdue laundry because I decided to skip laundry today. I put an X over the bullet beside do dishes because that's been done. And I've got a little bullet beside read email from j because that's something to do. So this is what a sample will look like. Your days might be this short, sometimes you might take three or four pages up in a single day. It doesn't matter. That's the bullet journals for, but that's a nice simple page for you. So I suggest in the beginning that you either write your key on your page while you're still learning your key or you make a post-it note and you transfer it from page to page so that you can have an easy reference. Whatever works best for you is fine. But again, when you're getting started, try to stick to just these four just so you can make sure the project is going well for you that it's easy for you. In the beginning. You might want to put your icons at the top of your page or put them on a post it and just move the post it to the page that you're using. Just you can have it as a reference. And again, start small when you try to change too many things in your life all at once. This goes for bullet journaling, health and wellness or anything else. Odds are you're going to fail because you're gonna get overwhelmed. Take it slow, do something simple. Maybe just stick with two icons if that's all you need for the time being, maybe just a little bullet point there and a little dash there and then you're all set. But don't be afraid to start small and then you can add stuff as you go along, as you feel like you need something new, add it in there. But this is supposed to be simple and useful and stress-free. So don't feel like you've got to have a big long post-it note like this right now. You might develop one of these over time or you may be a forever for Icon person. Alright, in the next video, I'm going to show you how to put a calendar into your bullet journal, and this will be the only calendar that you need. You won't have to carry around a planner anymore. This is going to be a monthly calendar, right in your bullet journal that you can reference whenever you want. 4. Clean, Minimalist Monthly Calendar: It's time to make our clean, minimalist monthly calendar. This should be the only calendar that you need. On this calendar, you're going to put appointments, significant dates. Some folks like to use this for daily gratitude or daily check-ins, meaning they will write how they feel that day, what's on their mind or whatever. Now, what I tend to do with mine is it appointments and events and then also significant dates. I saved the gratitude for jotting down whenever the mood strikes me. As far as daily check-ins and emotional tracking and stuff like that. I don't really do emotional tracking, but I do write down what I feel like doing and things like that just to make sure I'm honoring my curiosity and my interest in my happiness. So you can, if you want to, on your calendar, do daily gratitude, do a daily check-in. But just like everything else in the beginning, you want to start slowly. And appointments and events, insignificant dates tend to be the easiest place to start because a lot of people start to feel guilty if they don't fill out a daily gratitude every single day or check-in with themselves every single day, just to get yourself used to not having a full calendar. I suggest these two. So let's take a look at my calendar really quickly. So this is what the month of August looks like for me. At the top of the page, I will put the numeric representation of the month and then I just make a list, one through whatever is the end date of that month. It's 31 in this case. On my calendar, I like to put when the full moon is and when the new moon is. I have a phone call scheduled. You see, had a phone calls to the tenth as I record this. And I also put a significant date for myself at the top. And also a little note that I can text my friend in it on the first because she's not busy and that's true. I did get to text her and it was lovely really quickly while we're here, I'm going to change the topic very, very quickly. You can see over here as well. You can see what my daily page looks like if you're interested. So this is what a full page looks like. So you can see I've gotten notes here. There are the telltale dashes and the x's for when I marked something off my list and my little gratitude thing there. So yeah, that's just what a daily writing would look like. But back to the calendar. I have a section at the bottom for notes. You don't have to add this. I have that just for me. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don't. But this is really all you need. And you can again fill out every single day with something here if you'd like. But it's okay to have some blank, blank lines. That just means your schedule's open. Maybe put something you wanna do on there. Alright, so that's it for our monthly calendar. In the next video, I'm going to show you how you can work in other systems without ruining this really simple setup. And also in a way where you can implement systems when needed versus every single day. Not everything has to be a habit. Some things can be as needed and we'll address that in the next video. 5. Other Systems: In this video, we're going to talk about other systems and how to include them. And as I've said a million times over in this course already, it's best to start very simply and then add things as you go on so that you don't make things too complicated or too hard on yourself. However, you might find that you're ready to add new system sooner than you think because this is so easy to do the system, this bullet journaling system. So I'm going to show you four things that I've added to my bullet journal and I just stick them in the back on post-it notes so I can easily reference them when I need to. And this might be a good prompt for you too. Add some new things into your life. I'm not going to say habits because these are not things you have to do every day. Maybe these are things you want to use as check-ins or things that you want to keep in case you run out of time and you need to work something in quickly. Let, let me let me be more specific. Let me show you. So this is the back of my bullet journal and I've made these post-it notes over and over again. These post-it notes have come with me through several bullet journals. So I've got an actionable note-taking post-it notes. So this is a reference for me whenever I'm taking notes on something. So again, because this isn't something that I need to track like a habit. This is something that I want to be built into my brain, but I don't take notes, physical notes enough that I retain it necessarily. So I have a little cheat sheet here. I have a fitness post-it note here. Again, this is not something I have to do daily. I know it says daily moves up here, but I'll get into that in a moment. I have this also. This is my interrupt emergency kit and this was a weekly practice for me for awhile, but then that changed again. I'll address that in a moment. Then I have a check-in post-it note. And again, this used to be daily, but it isn't anymore. Let us address that as we move on. In fact, let's move on now. So the actionable note-taking system, I learned this from a guy on YouTube. He goes by the modern health monk. His name is Alex hi, and he's a doctor of Chinese medicine. But he's a wealth of knowledge when it comes to journaling and personal development. This is a version of his note-taking system. So I keep this post-it note in the back of my journal so that I can reference it whenever I'm taking a class to make sure that I'm not only taking notes like I normally would in a class or in a notebook, but I'm taking notes that will allow me to apply the knowledge that I'm gaining from the course, podcast or book. So feel free to screenshot this and make a post-it note of your own to stick in your bullet journal. This note-taking system has genuinely, genuinely improve my learning. So the fitness posted, it says daily moves here I was doing this particular workout every day in the morning, um, for about a year or so. And then things changed and I started doing different things. But I keep this post it in the back of my the back of my bullet journal in case I find myself without a lot of time because this entire system here, this workout system takes me anywhere from seven to ten minutes. So it does everything that I need to do to keep myself in the shape that I'm in now. So it's very beneficial. So you can add a quick Post-it Note that doesn't say daily on it, just says get to move in or something and put your favorite workouts on. And you just have it just have it for when you feel like you need to do something. It's always nice. Just a little reminder. So my Internet emergency kit, if I feel stuck in a rut with one of my projects or goals, I use this to get myself out. This is also something that is built upon some things that the modern health monk teachers this on YouTube. So again, when you go down the rabbit hole of his videos, you're going to love them. But it's just a way for me to look at what I'm doing and make sure that what I'm doing is working for me. So I asked myself, why isn't the project going forward? So what's not working or there's some barriers to entry for my project. Then I tried to write solutions to get myself out of it. I tell myself out loud and then write it down that I will not quit no matter what. Then I will write three actions that I can take to move the project forward. The only time I don't do this is when I know a project is done and I no longer want to do it. So if I no longer feel expansive when I think about the project, I don't do this, I just let the project go. That's just a side note. Then the daily review. I did this on the daily for a long time. Then I decided I didn't need to do it every day anymore, so it's just a check-in. Now, I use this when I feel like I didn't really do anything with my day and not in a good way. Not like I had a lazy day, but if I feel like I'm just on the hamster wheel, I will do this to help get myself off of it. So if you want to create some little post-its like this for the back of your bullet journal. Maybe make one reference Post-it notes, something that you have to look to and check your notes on. So you're welcome to copy this one so that you can have it as a guide when you are doing some note-taking. In fact, you can copy all of these if you want to. Maybe you need a little cheat sheet for when you feel like you wanna do something. So if you feel like your body is funky, it's been sitting too long and you need to move right down 45 things that you like to do, like write down dance. Or if you'd like to do squats, write down that you want to do some squats or something. It's just a little so what I'm looking for, it's like a safety net for when your brain starts to go bananas. So instead of thinking, well, I could do this and getting on your phone and downloading apps. You're like No, no, no problem. I've got this Post-it Note that will tell me exactly what to do. And maybe you need a system in your life or checking in on yourself emotionally. Make a little bullet pointed list of questions that you can ask yourself. And you know, again, you'll always know it's in the back of your bullet journal. It's there waiting for you. You don't have to do it every day. But you know what the system for checking in on yourself emotionally. It's right there for you if you need it. Just because the system isn't implemented everyday, doesn't make it any less of a practical system. 6. Congratulations: Congratulations friends. You've made it all the way through the course. And I hope that you found this information valuable. In this course, you've learned the basics of bullet journaling, the standard icons and how to make your own. How to use those icons to organize your thoughts and how to make the only calendar you'll ever need. Also, you learned how to add new systems to your bullet journal and your life when needed. And I do hope again that you found this useful. This bullet journaling system has helped me do so many things. I run a couple of small businesses out of this notebook. And it has helped me not only keep up with friends and family because I put notes in and events in as to when to contact those folks. But it's been a place for me to collect all of the things I love. So when I read a book or watch a movie or listen to a good podcast, I can take notes and I can go back and reference those. And it's so nice to see your life all bound up in a book that's easy to understand. Please remember as you go forward, like everything else, it isn't enough to just know this stuff. You have to apply it. So if you want to see improvement, if you want to see the bullet journal work for you, you have to use it. So don't give up if you don't build a habit of it immediately or if you hate it right off the bat, just try it a couple times, fix it and move it, customize it. If you still don't get lit up every time you see your notebook that maybe it's not for you and you can throw it away. It's not, you know, not everything is for everybody all the time and that's okay. But make sure you give this a proper go and you apply everything you've learned in this course. And you've tried the simplest ways before you start making it more complicated. So again, thank you so much for joining me here. I really appreciate it. If you want to keep up with me, you can add hello, This is and I do hope to see you over there sometimes, so take care of you. Good luck, happy bullet journaling my friends. And I hope to work with you again someday.