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Advice For Bullet Journal Newbies

So you're new to Bullet Journaling and don't quite know what to do. It's a bit intimidating, I know. And there is so much that can be done. So many ideas. As with many things, especially new things, expectations can change everything.

Universal Journal: Bullet Journal Advice for Newbies

Does it have to be artistic?

No you don't have to do things in an artistic way. The artful spreads that take hours to produce can be a pleasure to behold, sure, but if you don't want to take the time (or don't have that kind of time) to do that you don't have to. Short and sweet is the ultra-streamlined way.

The page/spread layout should work for you rather than you working for the layouts. Design should serve its purpose in the bullet journal and for me that purpose leans very heavily toward function. Form is good but I don't want keeping up with the journal to slow me down.

Do I have to record everything?

Why would you do that to yourself? If you need to track something, a tracker might be the thing for you. If you need to keep a record of stuff, a note/reminder/collection in the journal should work just fine. Ryder said in a video in the early bullet journal days that he often records things after the fact to keep a record of his productivity. Sometimes I do that, sometimes not. Record what you need/want. 

Do I have to prepare weeks/months in advance?

No you don't. You could do this, of course. If you prefer to have months planned out and drawn up so they are all located in the same section, go ahead. I never know how many months will fit into a journal because unexpected things happen (such as collections or projects that require who-knows-how-many pages) so I don't plan these.

Journal planning is one thing, life planning is another. For life stuff that has to be planned in advance I use the workflow to manage that. This is essential for me and I think the whole point of the bullet journal. The original bullet journal method was all about workflow with minimal effort devoted to form. As far as monthly/weekly/daily spreads and such I simply proceed month by month, one day at a time. When the end of the book is near it's time to acquire a new one.

Do I have to use a dotted notebook?

No you don't. I use a dotted notebook, I really like it. It helps me to have an unobtrusive guide (such as dots rather than lined grids) so I can use the page in portrait or landscape orientation, or what ever suits me. A straight horizontally lined or even a blank notebook may fit your needs just fine.

Do I have to start a new journal at the new year?

What for? The bullet journal system is eminently customizable. If your journal stretches from January to May of the following year, that's a great stretch! If it lasts from December to February, so be it (and may God help you if you are that busy). Of course, if you like a fresh journal each year (which is entirely understandable), go for it.

Make your bullet journal work for you (I'm assuming your journal is really for YOU rather than public consumption). Knowing what works for you will require experimentation, of course. Try things, see what fits and what doesn't.

This is merely a basic overview of issues that might scare away someone new to bullet journaling. Got any other questions? Please feel free to ask them here in the comments below.

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