If you’re reading Pinterest or blog posts on planning or organization, you’ve probably come across bullet journals – but what is bullet journaling? (And if you already know what it is, skip to part 2 – why bullet journaling works?
The Bullet Journal, or BuJo/BUJO for short, is a paper-based organization system. It’s very flexible, defining only a few basic rules and letting you decide on everything else. It can be very minimalistic or become an outlet for your creativity, leading to very colorful, visually stunning designs you’ve probably seen on Pinterest.
If you’re wondering how to get started with a bullet journal, you just need a notebook and a pen – that’s all. There’s no need to be artistic and make all your pages colorful and covered in stylish doodles and illustrations. The value of a system is what it can do for you, and bullet journaling is no exception. Of course, if making your BuJo look nice helps you relax or makes you use it more often, by all means do it, but don’t feel you have to. You can still have a nice-looking BuJo by choosing a notebook with designs on inner pages.
The basics are:
1. Notebook & pen – You can have some fun with colors, but there’s no need to go overboard, basics will do just fine. Choose a notebook with numbered pages or write the page numbers yourself. You can do it in batches of 10 or 20 so it’s not too overwhelming.
2. Index – Leave the first few pages empty to have enough space for adding things later. Whenever you start a new section (or “module” or “collection” in BuJo-speak) anywhere in your journal, write the name of the section and the pages it’s on in the index.
3. Bullets – The idea of bullet journaling is to be able to quickly jot down everything that comes to your mind, so you’d have everything in one place, including diary-like notes about your day and any events or tasks that come up. This is called “rapid logging”. The author of the bullet journal Ryder Carroll suggests to use special symbols which let you quickly tell apart various kinds of notes. The symbols he suggests are in the picture below, but you’re free to use anything that works for you. In order not to forget the meaning of the symbols, it’s best to have a key.
4. Future log – In the future log, you have a high-level overview of what’s happening in the next 6 or 12 months. You can divide the notebook page into several sections, one for each month, or just leave blank space between months. Add the starting page number of the future log to the index.
5. Monthly log – In the monthly log, you go one level deeper and enter more details. It’s a combination of a calendar and to-dos for the month. You can get very fancy with these, but it’s also perfectly fine if you list the days of the month and add any events or commitments next to the day. Add the page numbers of each month’s log to the index.
6. Weekly log – If there are too many things to put them all on the monthly log, you can use the same system to make a weekly log.
7. Daily log – The daily log is where the action happens. This is where you write down your tasks, notes and anything that comes up during the day. It’s meant to be used throughout the day. Migrate any open tasks from previous days (and note them as migrated on that day, so they’re not left open). Yes, it’s tedious to rewrite them, but the author says that’s what makes you think if you really need to do the task you’re migrating.
8. Optional: trackers – Many bullet journal fans use their BuJo to keep track of various habits, like exercising daily, meditating, drinking water… Because their journal is the one thing they use every day, it also makes it a convenient place to keep a habit tracker. These trackers can be very visually pleasing!
9. Optional: notes, projects, anything you want to write down (“collections”) – One of the principles of bullet journaling is to keep everything in your bullet journal. Just open your notebook on a blank page, write the topic at the top of the page and enter the topic and the page number in the index. Then you’re free to use as much or as little space for your notes as you need to. You can keep a list of books read, books you want to read, bucket lists, gift ideas, shopping lists… Turn a page and sketch something, brainstorm an idea, make a mental map of what you’re studying right now, break down a complex project into everything that needs to get done, take notes while you research a subject… Every group of related ideas is considered a collection and gets its entry in the index.
In the end, your bullet journal is what you make it. It can easily adapt to your needs. Just don’t get caught up in trying to make it look like someone else’s!