How To Start A Bullet Journal (& Finally Get Your Life Together)
For as long as I've attempted to be a productive human being, I've searched for the perfect planner. It's safe to say that I've tried them all at this point. From customized options with $50+ price points to the more cost-effective brands. I've had notebooks embossed with my initials, because personalization was supposed to inspire productivity, or so they told me. And when that didn't work, I took the more direct option and grabbed a book that bluntly told me to get ish done right on the cover.
At the end of the day, those planners all ended up in some nook or cranny of my office or apartment, half-used and soon-to-be forgotten. There was nothing wrong with the books themselves. All planners, as long as they have some of the basic functionality (i.e: a place to write and store your life's happenings) are perfect as they are. The thing we're really searching for, the one missing piece to finding that perfect, productivity-encouraging system, is really more about a lifestyle match than it is the books themselves.
In a lot of ways, the search for the perfect planner resembles the hunt for the right partner. Someone could be a great person and have tons of amazing qualities, and still not be what you're looking for. I'd found tons of great planners, but none of them were exactly what I needed, when I needed them. It wasn't them, it was definitely me.
I'm a natural-born planner. Nothing makes me happier than the satisfaction of crossing something off of a list. Nothing soothes me more than taking all of the jumbled thoughts in my head and getting them down on paper. Lists are how I make sense of the world around me. Writing things down has always made them seem real. And yet, finding a tool that could meet me where I was seemed impossible. Until, I found the bullet journaling system.
Created by Ryder Carroll and described as the analog method for a digital age (if you're wondering what my love language is, it's this), bullet journaling has become my productivity saving grace.
How To Start A Bullet Journal
The Basics Of Starting A Bullet Journal
Writer Amber Burns/xoNecole
All you need to become a bullet journalist, as they're affectionately called online, is a notebook and a pen. That's it. Any notebook of your choosing will work just fine as long as it's something you can carry around with you (you're about to dump your life into it, you'll want it on-hand) and durable enough to withstand being carried around. Most bullet journalists opt for a dot grid notebook as it allows for some guidance without sacrificing flexibility. The pen should be one you can write with comfortably.
If you search "bullet journal" on Pinterest, Youtube, or Instagram, you'll be overwhelmed with stunning notebooks, artistic spreads, and perfect handwriting. I'm here to let you know that none of those things are required to bullet journal! Again, just a pen and a notebook. That's what we're working with.
Once you have those items, your bullet journal can become what you need, when you need it. There are some basic, core "collections," (a term that simply refers to any entry in your bullet journal), but the possibilities are endless.
Setting Up Your Bullet Journal: Your Key
The more you use it, the more your journal will become exactly what you need. But when you're first getting started, there are a few core collections you should set up right away. The first being your key.
A key does exactly what it sounds like: defines what each symbol, or bullet, in your bullet journal means. In my notebook, solid dot indicates an incomplete task, a dot with an 'X' through it means it's complete. An asterisk indicates a note or random thought and an open circle is an event. Having these clearly defined symbols makes it easy to dump everything on a list and be able to quickly glance at what needs to be done or where you need to be on a given day.
The Set Up: Your Index
The next collection you'll set up is your index. An index is essentially a table of contents for your bullet journal. This is where you'll log any new entry into your notebook and will stop you from ever wondering where you wrote down that great idea, shopping list, or phone number. Some notebooks come with a premade index ready to go at the front of the notebook but you can easily create one yourself if it doesn't. Label the top of the page index, then title an area to write the page topic and page number.
Setting Up Your Bullet Journal: Future Log
After the index, most journalists use a spread called a future log. A future log does exactly what it sounds like: helps you log and plan future events and tasks. There a million ways you could set this up, but here's an easy approach: split a page in your notebook into three even sections.
Each section should contain one month of the year. You can write out a mini calendar to reference each day of that month. Now, repeat this page so that you have each month of the year written down. Once it's all set up, you can start plugging future events. Birthdays you know you want to remember, vacations, appointments, etc. When you sit down to plan out each month, you'll flip back to your future log and migrate any task you have listed under the current month onto your monthly calendar.
The index and future log are truly the only year-round collections you need in your journal. Of course, you can get creative and add other collections based on your goals or focus for the year. For example, if you're hoping to read more books, make a collection to track the books you want to read. If you're working towards a specific money saving goal, create a collection where you track how much you're spending versus how much you're saving. If you're trying to go vegan, split a page into four equal parts and label them breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. Then write down meal ideas for each category that you can refer to when grocery shopping. The possibilities are truly endless.
Now that you're all set up with those core collections, it's time to start planning your months and weeks. This is where all of those productive puzzle pieces really start to fit together. Like anything with bullet journaling, there are a million ways to set up a month, but here's a simple, straightforward way to get started.
Turn to a fresh page and write the current month at the top. Then, write all of the days of the week down the page with the letter of the day of the week next to it. This page is now a vertical calendar, where you can write appointments, tasks, important dates, etc. Turn back to your future log and add any important dates from there onto this calendar. If you're using your bullet journal for both work and personal life, write the days of the month down the middle of the page instead, creating two columns. Now, use one column for work and one for personal.
The next blank page will be a future log. Unlike the future log we made at the beginning of the notebook, this one is specially for the current month. Here, you can throw in all of those random tasks you know you should get to each month, but that don't have specific deadlines for, like cancelling a membership or buying a birthday gift. As you plan your weeks and days, you'll flip back to this page and start scheduling them out.
Just like your yearly set up, you can add whatever relevant collections in your monthly set up that you want. A spending tracker, reading tracker, meal planner, or even a daily gratitude log.
Habit Tracker For Your Bullet Journal
One spread that's especially popular is a habit tracker. These are great for tracking the habits that you're either hoping to establish or ones you want to kick. Just make another vertical calendar and then a list the habits you're tracking down the side of the page. After every day, put an "X" on the day that you successfully completed that habit.
Even more important than logging tasks or thoughts in your bullet journal is using it daily to reflect, track, and plan. Set aside a few minutes at the end of the day to review how it really went. Are there tasks you didn't do that you should migrate to the next day's list? Or maybe they can be migrated back to your future log? The more time you spend with your journal, the more you'll realize how much more in tune you're becoming with yourself and your own habits.
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Amber Burns is a writer, producer and vlogger who creates content for women looking to live balanced, organized, and fulfilled lives. You'll likely find her with a book in one hand and a latte in the other. You can follow and engage with her on social @byamberburns and connect with her online at www.byamberburns.com.
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Jay-Z has mastered an air of mystique. With a rap career that spans three decades, the Brooklyn native has managed to weave in and out of the public spotlight, making his rare interview appearances eagerly anticipated.
When you’ve managed to reach billionaire status at the rightful age of 50 and are married to the greatest female artist of our generation, you can grow accustomed to letting your resume speak for itself. But in late October, the music mogul shed his discretion and joined CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King for an in-depth interview while touring his "The Book of HOV" exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library.
JAY-Z weighs in on "$500,000 in cash or lunch with JAY-Z" debate: "You've gotta take the money"
In the exclusive interview, the 4:44 rapper discussed his extensive body of work, detailed his active involvement in criminal justice reform, and gave rare, personal insights on the cultural impact of his wife, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and their daughter Blue Ivy, joining her mom on the Renaissance World Tour this year.
During his sitdown with King, the Roc Nation owner settled the viral internet debate of “Would you rather have one meal with Jay-Z and pick his brain, or get $500,000 cash?” To which he simply advised fans to take the cash.
“You gotta take the money,” he said. “What am I gonna say?”
Internet debate aside, you might be surprised to learn that this coveted conversation with the goated hitmaker almost didn’t happen.
The morning show host caught up with Scott Evans from Access Hollywood recently and shared that her interview with Jay-Z may not have happened had she heeded the advice of her friend, Oprah Winfrey.
"You know he doesn't like to do interviews, and I was shameless," King told Evans. "I just groveled [so much] that it became embarrassing."
“Even Oprah said, ‘You are making a damn fool of yourself. Stop asking him. He doesn’t want to do it.’ But I couldn’t let it go, because he never said no, no, no – he just kept delaying, delaying, delaying."
Despite Oprah's initial suggestion that he was being “polite” by not saying no, King persisted in her request to interview Hov and expressed gratitude for his eventual participation."
Oprah said he’s just being polite because he doesn’t want to tell you no, but I kept coming back,” King continued. “I don’t know why he said yes or why he changed his mind… I’m just grateful that he did."
It’s safe to say that fans and admirers of Jay Z are grateful for King’s persistence. Without it, we’d have one less opportunity to gain insight into the rapper’s life as a proud husband and father and preserve his legacy.
To commemorate Gayle King’s noteworthy entry into Hov’s interview hall of fame, we’ve put together a list of his most iconic interview moments.
Jay Z's Classic 2013 Interview on The Breakfast Club:
The Breakfast Club had a nearly hour-long conversation with the mogul about music, family, and much more.
Jay-Z in Conversation with Dean Baquet of The New York Times
The rapper and music mogul discusses therapy, marriage, and politics with The New York Times's executive editor.
Jay-Z on 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction' with David Letterman
Jay-Z appeared on David Letterman's Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction and gave his views on the Trump administration.
Jay-Z Joins Kevin Hart on Peacock’s 'Hart to Hart'
Hip-hop legend Jay-Z sits down with Kevin Hart to discuss how self-confidence and Muhammad Ali's influence on his life.
Jay-Z’s One-on-One Interview with CNN
CNNMoney's full interview with the hip-hop mogul about everything from his new book to Obama to how he makes money.
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Featured image via CBS