You’ll agree with me when I say that with a busy schedule, everyday tasks start to get unmanageable and even unbearable.
This is especially true for busy moms, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, or all of the above. How can we juggle all our responsibilities, goals, and health without blowing up?
If you haven’t heard of it already, bullet journals are an amazing tool for productivity. The bullet journal system was devised by Ryder Caroll to help you keep track of your past, present, and future.
However, if you heard of bullet journals, you might think you have to be artistically inclined to start, spending hours on a single spread.
Luckily, I am here to show you how to create a flexible, functional, and minimalist bullet journal that will help you keep track of your tasks, habits, and goals. Your bullet journal can be your accountant, coach, or personal manager. On top of that, it’s quick to set up and easy to use.
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Flexibility Allows Changes and Mistakes
Throughout my time bullet journaling, I found it incredibly difficult to stick with a rigid setup.
Naturally, our lives and needs change over time; we are constantly growing as human beings. Because of that, we need a system that can adapt to our evolving needs.
I desperately needed a system that would keep my hectic schedule in order. I wanted to prioritize my most important tasks and have the journal be forgiving, accommodating to my ever-changing needs.
On my quest to finding such a system, I researched and tested different bullet journal systems.
I found that flexible organizational systems are forgiving ones. They allow us to make mistakes without pressure, change it when it’s not working for us, and ultimately help us achieve our goals.
Before I show you how to set up a flexible bullet journal system, I want to introduce minimalism and talk about how you can apply it to your journal.
Why a Minimalist Bullet Journal?
On top of a flexible system, I wanted a bullet journal that would help me achieve my goals but wouldn’t take me hours every week to set up, arrange, and maintain.
I admit, I love looking aesthetically pleasing and intricate bullet journal layouts. I respect those who create beautiful spreads and honor the time they put into their craft. However, this type of bullet journaling isn’t practical for me and many other busy individuals.
I tried creating “pretty” (I’m awful at crafts) bullet journal spreads but found that it took time away from other important tasks.
Furthermore, the stress of creating a nice looking journal discouraged me from actually using it. I always felt like I had to plan everything in advance, from the headers, placement, and even the handwriting in my bullet journal. Eventually, it was too much for me to handle.
That’s when an epiphany came to me: My bullet journal is supposed to serve me, my goals, and honor my time. Rather than saving me time and reducing my stress, my bullet journal did the complete opposite.
That’s when I decided to create not only a flexible bullet journal but also a minimalist bullet journal that has only the things I need.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is eliminating clutter to make more room for the things you value and enjoy. A bullet journal should make time for things you love by organizing your life, not adding clutter and chaos.
In my old bullet journal, there were many spreads I never ended up using. Those pages occupied space that could have gone to other important things and stressed me out, as I felt obligated to fill out those spreads.
For example, in my old journal, I kept a “Books to Read” page but never ended up using it since I didn’t have the time to read. Thus, I felt guilty for not filling it out and for not reading.
That’s why in my next bullet journal, I vowed to only keep spreads I would use, mindfully assessing what I put in it.
If you have a bullet journal currently, ask yourself, “what spreads do I not use?”
As Marie Kondo would say, if it doesn’t spark joy, then you don’t need it. In the next section, I’ll go over the supplies you need to set up your journal.
What you Need for your Minimalist Bullet Journal
I use a transparent A5 binder to house my journal pages. I found this lightweight binder to be perfect for a flexible and adaptable system.
On top of that, the clear binder provides a sleek minimalist look and is easy to use.
Here are some additional perks for using a binder for your bullet journal:
- You can move pages around wherever and whenever
- A binder takes off the pressure of getting everything right on the first try
- Binders open up flat, unlike many other notebooks
- You can replace places whenever or add/takeaway sections
- Many opportunities for customization, especially for the cover page.
If you want, you can also get the binder with paper and tabs included as well.
Refillable A5 Paper Inserts
To go along with that, I purchased a pack of A5 6-ring hole punch paper inserts.
I decided to go with a dot grid paper, but there are many other types of paper available. Here are a few options that I enjoy:
A5 6-Ring Binder/Planner Refill Paper for Filofax, 6 Hole, 100 Sheets/200 Pages, Dot Grid
This is what I currently use in my journal. My personal preference is the dotted grids, as it helps me determine where I should place things and create charts.
Chris.W 80 Sheets A5 Size Lined 6-Holes Traveler’s Notebook Planner Filler Papers/Journal Dairy Inserts Refills/Loose-leaf Binder Paper, Beige Color(Ruled)
If you prefer lined paper, then this is perfect for you. The paper is a nice beige color that is easy on the eyes but will provide ample contrast to your writing.
A5 Blank Paper – 250 Sheets (500 Pages) – 6 Hole Punched – 100 GSM (24 lb.) – for FiloFax, A5 Planners, Organizers, and Binders – 148mm x 210mm (5.83 inches x 8.27 inches)
With this stack of A5 paper, you’ll be set on paper for at least a few months or even a year.
The blank white paper is perfect for collaging and pasting on tables, grids, pictures, stickers, and more. You can also print directly onto this paper, creating your own custom sheets.
Another perk is that this paper is 100 gsm, which will prevent bleeding or ghosting.
Of course, you need some supplies to use for your journal. If you need some suggestions, you can check out these two blog posts:
Best Affordable Bullet Journal Supplies for Beginners
13 Best Bullet Journal Pens Everyone Should Own
In the next few sections, I will talk about what you should include in your minimalist bullet journal.
What’s Included in a Typical Bullet Journal
Here is a list of sections that go in a bullet journal, according to the Bullet Journal System by Ryder Caroll:
This sits at the beginning of your bullet journal. The index is the table of content where you list the page sections/titles and their page numbers.
A page or section that references the symbols used throughout the journal.
The future log is located at the beginning of a bullet journal — it is where you log future events – anything you know that will happen within the future months.
This is the spread/pages that are used for a single month. The main purpose of this spread is to help you plan your month. If you have any events or tasks you need to get done in that month, this is where you’ll list it.
Your tasks and entry for an individual day.
Collections are pages/lists of any given topic. For example, one collection might be a list of items you need to pack.
You can watch Ryder’s video to learn more about these sections and the overall. You can also read more about specific terminology in my bullet journal glossary blog post.
When deciding what to include in your journal, I recommend using the K.I.S.S. method — Keep it simple, stupid.
Rather than overwhelming yourself by adding complex bullet journal spreads, charts, etc., develop a basic framework that you can work off first.
After you developed that and familiarized yourself with it, you can eventually add more onto it without losing the main structure. Without a cohesive system, your bullet journal will turn into chaos.
Keep in mind you don’t need to include everything from the standard bullet journal system. With a flexible framework, you can try things out, but if it doesn’t work for you, you can just remove it.
Deciding What Actually goes in your Journal
Ultimately, your minimalist bullet journal should be a tool to get you where you want. Below are some questions that will help you decide on how to set up and optimize your journal:
Questions to ask yourself
What do you want to achieve with this journal?
What are you using it for and what do you need? Maybe you want to use for bullet journal as an organization tool. Other people might want to use it as a creative outlet.
How often do you plan on using your bullet journal?
Do you plan on using it every day? A few times a week? Your answer will influence how you structure parts of your bullet journal.
For example, rather than having a daily log, you might only need a weekly log if you only use your journal a few times a week.
What are your main goals?
Most importantly, what are your main goals and how can your bullet journal help achieve it? It could be becoming healthier, starting a business, sleeping earlier, and etc.
In the next section, I will show you what’s in my minimalist bullet journal so you can get a clearer understanding of how to structure yours.
What’s in my Minimalist Bullet Journal
Here is the system I devised that you can use as a starting point. Keep in mind that my goals and my needs are going to be different than yours.
To preface this, I don’t use everything in the official bullet journal system. You don’t have to either.
For instance, from my past experiences, I never used my future log. It made more sense to eliminate it so I can create room for other things.
However, if I ever needed it again, I can always add it back in with the binder.
On the same note, I rarely use my index. I found that using tabs/sticky notes as markers worked better for fast and easy navigation.
That being said, let’s dive into what’s actually in my minimalist bullet journal.
I included a key in my bullet journal. It reminds me of what certain symbols or colors stand for in case I forget.
The key is the symbols I use, which I’m keeping fairly simple. However, it might help other people. I wrote a blog post on different key ideas that you can refer to for your bullet journal key.
A monthly log is useful because you can quickly see what and when you have to do something. Rather than flipping through your daily logs, collections, etc., everyone is laid out for you on one page.
The monthly log is a crucial part of my journal. It saves me time and keeps me informed.
For my monthly log, I used a template, which you can find in our VIP Library. I simply just printed out the template and placed it in my bullet journal. Rather than drawing out a calendar, you can save time and energy just by using a template.
Did you know that it takes on average 66 days to build a habit?
The biggest driver in changing your life is consistency and discipline. Doing things every day even when you don’t feel like builds lasting habits, which will get you to your goal.
My habit tracker spread is my favorite and most used spread in my journal. It helps me stay accountable for my habits which will help me reach my greater goals.
Rather than setting large goals and fixating on that, create actionable and achievable daily habits. After all, your daily actions determine whether or not you’ll get to the finish line.
To create a habit tracker spread in your own bullet journal, you can also find a handy template in the VIP Library.
All I did was print the paper out, cut it, and pasted it into my journal. I didn’t have to spend time drawing an intricate grid, measuring things out and using a ruler.
The pages for my daily to-dos and tasks. I like to keep a running list so I can check it out whenever I need to. This is for a day-to-day basis only.
I kept the layout simple and flexible because there are days I don’t use my daily log. Keeping it open-ended allows me to jump back into it whenever I want.
Monthly Content Calendar
My content calendar aligns with one of the goals I have, which is to reach and help a specific amount of people.
In order to do that, I have to regularly create helpful content. This spread helps me keep track of what to make and when it should be completed by.
Step-by-Step Guide to Creating your optimized Minimalist Bullet Journal
1. What do you need in your journal?
Start with the bullet journal system as your starting point. Out of the list of things, what do you actually need? Be mindful of what you’re including in your journal and ask how each section will serve you.
2. Brainstorm your goals
It could be anything — being more organized, running a 5k, eating healthier, etc.
Brainstorm both your bigger and smaller goals.
For example, a bigger goal of mine is to reach more readers and help others on a wider scale. A smaller goal of mine is to clean my room every day, eat at least one healthy meal, etc.
Pro-tip: Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Don’t give yourself 20 goals to achieve in the span of a year. Not only will you overload yourself, but you’ll also discourage yourself and hold yourself back.
3. Figure out what will help you get to your goals
Is it accountability? Having a steady to-do list? Motivation?
Whatever will help you achieve your goals, write it down. This will help determine what type of spreads/collections you should add.
If you don’t know what collections are, they are lists of any given topic. For example, one collection might be a list of items you need to pack or things you need to do.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you can create a spread where you track the foods you eat every day. Or maybe you can design a page where you track your workouts.
In my case, my goal is to reach a wider audience and create more helpful content. To help me with that, I created a content calendar page for one of my collections.
Assess your needs and address them after doing so. That way, you’ll put together an efficient bullet journal where every section is useful.
3. Create all the necessary components and put it together
After you determine what will go in your journal, it’s time to create those pages.
As you can tell from my spreads, they aren’t fancy or anything you would see in the top #bujo posts on Instagram. They are simple but functional.
4. Order it in a way that works best for you
After you created all your pages, it’s time to assemble them. Order them in a way that works best for you.
For my journal, the key serves as the first page. After that, I put my monthly log, as it serves as a good and quick reference to what I have to do. From there on, I put the pages I use the most, such as my habit tracker, and so forth.
With a flexible journal, you can always go back and move things around if it doesn’t work for you. Experiment and try different things until you find what works for you!
Bullet journaling doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. It can be flexible, adaptable, and minimalistic. You don’t need to learn hand-lettering or have amazing artistic abilities.
Ultimately, it just needs to be whatever you need it to be. Your bullet journal is a vehicle to get you to your goals and to the best version of you. There’s no right or wrong to it.
If you want to use the templates shown above and access other free printables, be sure to join the Bit of Clarity VIP Community! We are constantly updating our library and seek to help you plan your best life.
What is your preferred method of bullet journaling? Let us know in the comments below!