Have you ever found yourself so caught up in planning, you lose sight of small daily tasks and immediate goals?
Or maybe you need a place to collect ideas and thoughts that come up during the day so they don’t clutter your thoughts?
Enter the bullet journal (or bujo), a rapid logging method developed by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based designer who spent years honing the method so he could stay organized and on track every day. Ryder says that he “needed a system flexible enough to handle whatever I threw at it and fast enough that it wouldn’t get in the way.”
Essentially, the bullet journal is a log of the stuff you have to do soon and a daily log of what you did or want to remember from that day.
You can write anything down, from tasks, thoughts, project ideas, recipes, you name it. Let it all out on paper as it comes up, so that it clears your mind.
The Sections of a Bullet Journal
Now we get into the sections of a bullet journal. There’s a key, index, daily log, monthly log, future log, and collections. Let’s go through each section of a traditional bullet journal step by step:
A list of all the sections in your journal. You may have pages that are related but not together. The index helps you fill your notebook without wasting pages or estimating how much space you need. Carroll set aside four pages for the index in the official bullet journal notebook.
Tasks and goals for future. It’s really just a place to write down future events so they’re “downloaded” from your brain. It frees you from worrying about forgetting.
Some people use a calendar (like Google calendar or ical) for events and time specific tasks, but this can also accommodate priorities and plans in the future that are not tied to specific dates.
Write the current month at the top of a page. Write down all the numbers for each day of that month down the left hand side of the page. If you’re starting mid-month, start on the current day. Next to each day, add the first letter(s) of the day of the week it corresponds to (Su M Tu W Th F Sa).
On the next page is your monthly list of tasks and goals. Here you’ll write down all the things you want to get done that month.
At the end of each month, set up the monthly log for the next month. Look at the tasks that you missed. If you still consider them important, enter them into the following month. If not, cross them out. If you need to complete the task but at later time, put in the appropriate month in the future log.
Turn the page and set up your daily log. Under each day, write down all the things you need to do and any events. As the day progresses, you can make any notes or write down anything that you want to keep track of.
When you finish a task, mark it as complete. If you don’t finish it, move the task to the next day, week, or month.
A list of what the symbols mean. Carroll suggests the following, but you can make them your own:
• Task (important tasks * beside it)
> Task that has been migrated from a previous list or month
< Task has been scheduled for a specific time
Drawing an eye means “look into”, and an asterisk means
These are topic pages. You can create a collection page for project ideas, goals, books to read, tv shows to watch, meal plans, packing lists, recipes to try, and that’s just scratching the surface. You can make a collection for anything you can think of so that you don’t have to keep it in your head.
Tips on Using a Bullet Journal
1. You can add your artistic flair, but only if you want to.
Don’t be intimidated by the elaborate spreads you see on Instagram or Pinterest. While some people fill their journals with colorful, artistic spreads, they often do it because they find the process soothing, or because they simply enjoy decorating their pages. They view their bullet journals as not just an organization tool, but an ongoing art project.
Some people find that having a color scheme or a structured layout helps them stay organized. Ryder’s own bullet journal is minimalist. You shouldn’t feel that you’re spending so much time on it that you get stressed or become less productive. It’s all about finding what works best for you.
2. Migrating tasks that you didn’t do may seem cumbersome, but it helps you prioritize what’s really important.
Here’s what makes the bullet journal so different from a planner: planners are focused on what you do or are going to do and bullet journals are about what you do, are planning to do, and haven’t done.
When you migrate the items on your list that you didn’t do, you consciously examine them. If you notice that you’re putting off a task day after day or week after week, ask yourself “Is it worth doing?” or “Am I taking on too much or more than I can handle?”
By reviewing these tasks, you’ll figure out which things you need to prioritize. Your priorities and goals will crystalize through bullet journaling, and you may feel more calm and focused on what’s important.
3. Use it as a place to brain dump.
Having a place to write down any thought or idea keeps you focused on the moment. It gets all of the clutter out of your brain by having everything written down in one organized place.
4. Don’t think of it as another planner.
Bullet journaling isn’t about scheduling tasks months in advance. Sure, you can use it to schedule tasks and stay on top of goals, but think of it as a customizable strategy for organizing the random aspects of your life.
In addition to logs, can create spreads to track your budget, hydration, workouts, food, books, movies, meal planning, tv shows you want to watch. It’s exactly why so many people love the bullet journal – they can make it how they want.
If you have a lot going on one month, but not so much in another, you can devote more space as needed (most printed planners have equal space for all days and weeks).
5. All you need is a pen and a notebook.
Many people like using notebooks with dot grid paper so they can use the dots to guide them when they create customized layouts in their journal. It’s easier than measuring everything with a ruler on blank paper, and the dots are less visually distracting than grid paper. The classics are the Leuchtturm, Moleskine, and Ryder’s own official Bullet Journal.
I like a refillable journal (you can see how I made my DIY dot grid bullet journal here).
Make It Your Own
Remember to personalize your journal so that it works for you.