Anxiety of Starting a Bullet Journal

I recently received a comment from a user who asked how to overcome the anxiety of getting started. This is a great question! This kind of anxiety is common within the Bullet Journal community. There is no right way to get started, you just have to try some different things and see what works for you.

I started a notebook or Bullet Journal as a way to keep track of my personal to-do’s. I had struggled with finding a planner that worked for me and stumbled upon Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal® website and intro video. If you are thinking about your work/personal organizational system and just want some ideas, head over to The Bullet Journal Website and watch the video. Once you are ready to give it a try, remember that it is completely okay to try things and have them not work. You’ll recognize if a layout works for you pretty quickly — within days. If I’m being honest, I never expected Ryder’s version of a monthly planner, with the numbers vertically listed, to work for me. I gave it a shot, figuring it was maximum a 30-day commitment… I have been using this layout for my months for the last 2.5 years. On the other hand, daily entries did not work for me.

Create Your Key

One of the first things Ryder goes over is his list of bullets. For me, using a dot for a task was not sufficient. The dots would get lost in the rest of my notes. Thus, I adopted a modified key, shown below. I cannot reiterate this enough… Try something. If it does not work, try something else.

Bullet Journal Key, The Paper Gazer
My Key

I applied this trial and error methodology to my personal organization.

Use Trial and Error to Find a Layout that Works

Since my personal tasks tend not to be “day dependent” and a big to-do list for the whole week is sufficient. I can migrate tasks weekly and I no longer feel like a failure for needing to re-write “do laundry” 7 times. It took me about 6 months before I honed in on the personal layout pictured below. I wanted a spot for each day of the week so I could write down any appointments I had and see what was coming. The space under each day also allows for me to write down tasks that are day specific, like paying a bill. I don’t worry about the entries looking perfect. The focus should be functionality and helping you stay organized. For this reason, I like keeping my layouts simple and quick to make. This weekly layout takes me ~5 minutes to set up. The color changes for each month. You can head over to ThePaperGazer on Instagram to see a couple different versions of this layout. On my Pinterest, I have several boards with layout ideas.

Bullet Journal Sample Weekly Layout, The Paper Gazer
Sample Weekly Layout

In case you were wondering how I stay organized at work, I make daily entries. Again, this is a system that took refinement. When I finally figured out what worked personally, I was eager to adopt it for my professional use. I quickly realized this was not meeting my office place needs. Instead, I keep a notebook for daily entries and use a separate planner and Microsoft Outlook to supplement my forward logging of appointments and projects. You can find a detailed post of my work system here. There is not one perfect system or layout. Even using a Bullet Journal isn’t perfect. There are plenty of people that opt for different planner systems. Trial and error is the best way to find out what works for you.

If you are looking to get started, grab a pen and notebook!! Instagram is a great place to check out layout ideas. (Don’t forget to follow @thepapergazer!) Have questions or want feedback or personal suggestions? Please comment or shoot me an email! I would be happy to help.

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