- What Is a Bullet Journal?
- How to Make a Bullet Journal
- How to Start
- How to Keep a Bullet Journal
- How to Bullet Journal FAQs
- Relevant and Related Searches
What Is a Bullet Journal?
The Bullet Journal – also known by aficionados as Bujo – is an organising method for your notebook, invented by New York designer Ryder Carroll. The purpose of a Bullet Journal, in Carroll’s words, is: “to help you track the past, organise the present, and plan for the future”.
With the Bullet Journal system, your notebook will keep everything you throw at it, in such a way that nothing gets lost and everything can be found in a moment.
A Bullet Journal is not just one thing. It can be a task manager, planner, sketchbook, diary, ideas repository, or anything else – and all of these at once. All you need is a notebook and a pen.
How to Make a Bullet Journal
First, choose a suitable, fresh notebook. This part is easy: use a notebook you love, so that you’ll be drawn to using it every day. Consider using one that is quite durable, because you’re probably going to be using it quite heavily, and you may want to keep it to look back on in years to come. It should also be big enough to be practical but not too big, or you won’t want to carry it around. A5 is about right.
There is also a ready-made official Bullet Journal Notebook made by Leuchtturm1917, with numbered pages, an index, a bullet key, and three bookmarks. If you don’t have this ready-made version, consider adding a bullet key and bookmarks to your own notebook.
Since you’ll be pouring a lot of vital information into your Bullet Journal, it’s a good idea to write a ‘contact in case of loss note’ in the front. Include your first name and phone number or email, as well as some incentive to return it. This doesn’t have to be cash – a personalized message should do the trick.
How to Start a Bullet Journal
Before starting, it’s a good idea to get a grasp of Rapid logging, the Bullet Journal’s shorthand. Using the following five notation rules will allow you to record large amounts of information quickly, in such a way that any entry can be found again in a moment:
- Topics. At the top of each new page, or at the beginning of a new day, write a Topic. This can just be the date, or it can be a topical title.
- Page numbers. Any time you start a new page, give it a page number.
- Quick notes. Don’t worry about using full sentences. Keep it brief so you can note down more information in less time.
- Bullets. Use these to organize entries into three categories:
- Tasks are preceded by a “•”, which is turned into a “X” once completed.
- Events are accompanied by a “o” bullet. This can include future events, such as a dentist appointment, or past events you would like to record, such as bumping into an old friend.
- Notes are represented by a “–”, and include facts, ideas, thoughts - anything you would like to remember but that isn’t necessarily actionable at that time. Notes work well for meeting, lecture, or classroom notes.
- Signifiers. These are placed to the left of Bullets to add extra context. Signifiers work better if used sparingly, so they keep their power to make certain Bullets stand out. You can make up your own signifiers, according to your needs. Example signifiers Some examples could be a “*” to signify priority. Perhaps you’d like to mark out bills with a “$” or personal thoughts with a “❤”.
The first thing to do is set up an Index. This works much like a table of contents. The Index is the key to organising all of your entries, so you can easily find them again. It also gives you a visual representation of how you spend your time.
Turn to the first page of your notebook, and write ‘Index’ as the Topic. Leave a couple of page spreads for this.
Every time you write a new Topic, add it to the Index, alongside its page number.** If a Topic spans several pages, it is recorded in the Index as, for example, “Topic name: 7-9” or, if they recur, “Topic name: 7-9, 12, 14”.
The Index can also be used to group entries. For instance, if you draw in your bullet journal, you might like to create an entry called drawings, and add corresponding page numbers whenever you create a new drawing.
Once the Index is set up, all the other structural components, known as Collections, may be slotted in, and their page numbers recorded in the Index. There are three core Collections that make up the Bullet Journal:
- Future Log
- Monthly Log
- Daily Log
The Future Log is where Tasks or Events for future months are stored, so that they are not forgotten and can be retrieved when the time is right.
Set this up on the next available two pages facing each other after the Index. First, write “Future Log” as the Topic.
Then divide the page up by the number of months you’d like to plan. For instance, draw three equally spaced horizontal lines across facing pages to create a six-month calendar, and label each square with the months.
Write out the relevant dates in each month, and Rapid Log Tasks and Events beside them.
Perhaps there are some Tasks which don’t involve a specific date involved, but which you’d like to get done at some point in the future, such as learning to drive. You could leave a blank page to record these too.
How to Keep a Bullet Journal
Once you’ve learnt how to set up a Bullet Journal, you will be ready to start using it on a day-to-day basis, incorporating it into your routine so you stay on track of both long and short-term goals.
The Daily Log is the heart and soul of the Bullet Journal. Most of the time, this is what you’ll be using to keep track of anything and everything that you’d like to remember during the day.
At the top of the next available page, write the date as the Topic. Throughout the day, Rapid Log Tasks, Events, and Notes as they happen.
It’s best if you set up the Daily Log as you go, rather than in advance, because you never know how much space you will need. Just add the next date wherever you left off (no need to start a new page every time).
The Monthly Log is used to plan the month ahead by scheduling Tasks and Events and, if you like, to record events in retrospect. It is made up of a Calendar Page and a Task Page.
It’s best to set up a Monthly Log up at the end of each month, rather than in advance, because it’s impossible to know exactly how many pages will be needed throughout the month.
To set up the Monthly Log, turn to the next available page spread. First, write “Monthly Log” as the Topic.
Title the left page with the current month, and list all of its dates down the lefthand side, along with the first letters of the corresponding days of the week. For example, Tuesday 28th = 28 T. Leave a little room to the left of this for signifiers.
Using Rapid Logging, write Events on the Calendar Page, and Tasks on the facing Task Page.
If you are using your Bullet Journal heavily, you may prefer to create a Weekly Log instead, to keep tasks very fresh in your mind. It’s up to you; as you go along, you’ll discover what you need and have the time and energy to do.
Migration is the glue that keeps the Bullet Journal together. It’s the act of moving unfinished Tasks over to a new Collection. Regular migration will refresh your memory, clarify which Tasks are still truly worth doing, and increase awareness of patterns and habits.
Migration is done at the end of each month, when setting up the Monthly Log, though it can be done at other moments too.
Take a look through your Daily Logs for unresolved tasks. Put an “X” over all those “•” completed, and assess whether any unresolved Tasks are still worth doing. If you decide a Task is not worth doing, strike out the whole entry, including the Bullet. Use a single line so it’s still legible, in case you need to take another look at it later. If a task still needs to be done, then migrate it: turn the “•” into a “>”, before adding it to the Task Page of your new Monthly Log.
Repeat this process with scheduled Tasks and Events from the relevant month in the Future Log, migrating them into the Monthly Log.
The effort involved in rewriting tasks over and over is intentional. It is supposed to make you pause and consider each item. The idea is, if it doesn’t feel worth the effort to rewrite, then it’s probably not worth doing. If you find yourself repeatedly migrating the same entry, you may want to think about letting it go. You could also use monthly or weekly migration as an opportunity to complete stagnating tasks.
Creating Your Own Collections
While the core collections above are personalisable, Bullet Journaling is also about creating your own Collections to suit your needs. Perhaps you realise there are Tasks or Notes, stretched throughout the Daily Log, that would best be kept in one place, so you don’t have to keep flipping between different pages. All these Bullets can be migrated to a new Collection.
Just turn the page and write the Topic, such as “Books to Read” or “Shopping list”. Then migrate all relevant entries to the new Collection. A Collection doesn’t have to start in the Daily Log; you can begin one any time you’d like to write down related ideas.
A Bullet Journal isn’t just for lists. Anything you put into it can be a Collection, be it a drawing, a mind map, meeting notes or anything else. There are hundreds of online resources with ideas for Collections. Many of these are tailored for specific uses, of which a few of the most common are listed below:
How to Bullet Journal for School
School involves juggling so many different projects, that figuring out where you’re going to fit it all in can be tricky. This is where the Bullet Journal comes to the fore. Here are just a few ideas:
Once you’ve set up the Index, consider creating a semester overview. This keeps all your deadlines and tests in one place. Lay them out visually by drawing a mini calendar for each month of the semester. Highlight the important dates, and write out what’s on those dates beside each mini calendar.
A grade tracker can also help with achieving your goals. To do this, list each class with space to fill in the grades you get as you go. That way it’ll be possible to keep track of how you’re doing and where you need to improve. It also allows for quick calculation of grade average.
Consider using a weekly planner to allocate work to each day of the week. This bird’s-eye view will help make sure work doesn’t pile up. One good way create this is through a table that visualises your time. Across the top of the table, write out the days of the week. Down the left-hand side, write out different categories, such as events, homework, assignments due, tasks.
How to Bullet Journal for Work
Many workplaces will already use various organising systems, such as task managers and calendars. A Bullet Journal doesn’t need to double up with any of this or slow down information sharing. However, it is very useful for things that stay at an individual level. Working physically on the page can help with planning, notes, tracking, meeting minutes, and more.
Every job has responsibilities, such as those established in an annual review. One way to help achieve these is to create a goal tracker, listing goals for a specific timeframe. Start with general goals before breaking these down into projects or tasks. These can then be broken down further into more specific Tasks in the Weekly or Monthly Log.
Consider making an accomplishment tracker as well. This could be a useful tool for reporting progress to your boss, for example when an annual review comes round.
Another ideal Collection for work is the Gantt Chart for planning and scheduling projects. To create this, take a page of the notepad and rule out a table. In the top half of the page, list job responsibilities down the left, and months across the top. Use color-coded shading for the parts of the year where each responsibility is most prevalent, shading darker for particularly intense months. This allows you to see when there will be time for extra projects. List these extra projects down the bottom half of the page and shade in spaces where there will be more time for these.
How to Bullet Journal for Writers
A Bullet Journal can be a great way to hold yourself accountable to writing regularly.
Use the Weekly or Monthly Log to create long-term goals, such as how many words you would like to write in that time. Then, use the Daily Log to break these down into manageable daily tasks in the Daily Log. Rather than just writing “write”, it’s really beneficial to create specific daily goals. Here are some ideas:
- Write x number of words
- Edit x number of pages
- Write / edit for x hours
- Write a particular section
Normally it’s best not to exceed two or three goals a day, and one daily goal can be plenty.
When writing a novel, there can be a lot of different elements to keep track of. Collections can be used to tackle any number of ideas, such as:
- Plot outline
- Chapter breakdowns
- Scene breakdowns
- Character profiles
- Setting profiles
- Research notes
- Problems to fix
How to Bullet Journal FAQs
**Q: What about the online software that I already use to coordinate with friends or colleagues? **A: Bullet Journal can fit everything, but that doesn’t mean it has to. It may not be best for everyone to use it as, say, a calendar, if you are already happily using a calendar on your phone. Keep the systems you already have that work for you. Bullet Journal is for everything else.
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