The Bullet Journal Method
Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future
Before committing your duties to the page, be sure they’re perfect:
On Instagram, there are almost six million posts with the hashtag “bullet journal.” That’s more than six million photographs of crisp white notebook pages adorned with lovely calligraphy, mysterious symbols, and intricate color-coding.
After seeing these photographs, you might feel compelled to pick out a pen and paper. Defy the desire! The idea isn’t to fill pages mindlessly. Bullet diaries, or Bujos, should be used only for the things that are truly essential to you.
Your bullet journal isn’t an ordinary notebook where you keep scribbles that you never look at again. When used correctly, a bujo can assist you in locating your focus. And, let’s face it, the actual focus might be difficult to come by these days. Distractions abound in life, such as the pile of urgent emails in your inbox. It’s also overflowing with options, such as the shows on your Netflix queue.
Bullet journaling should not be a source of stress for you. Instead, it should assist you in focusing on what is truly important so that you can achieve your genuine objectives.
Because of this, the bujo process does not begin with journaling. It all starts with a mental inventory to clear your head. This is how you do it:
Divide a sheet of paper into three columns with a pencil. List everything you’re doing right now in the first column, both at work and in your personal life. Make a list of everything you should be doing in the second column. Make a list of everything you wish to do in the third section.
This activity could take a long time, and you may need more than one piece of paper to complete it. That’s all right! Continue till your mind is clear.
You’ll be given a map of your daily activities. To put it another way, you’ll be able to view a snapshot of your time and the decisions you’ve made about how you spend it. Are these the decisions you wish to make? Examine each task and consider whether or not it is significant to you. Is it really necessary? Remove it from your inventory if the answer is “no.” It isn’t going into your notebook.
You’ve already learned one of the bujo’s most essential lessons before you’ve even opened your notebook: what you leave out of your bullet journal is just as important as what you put in.
With a few simple tools and the bullet journal method, you can accomplish a lot:
You’re now ready to start bullet journaling. Let’s go over a list of items you’ll require, beginning with the most obvious: A notebook, to be precise. From a simple composition notebook to a leather-bound journal, you can choose whatever sort of notebook you want. Plain or lined sheets can be used in your notebook.
Some bujo newbies are perplexed as to why they should keep a notebook. Why can’t you journal on an app or your laptop? Easy. Because wifi is distracting, remember, bullet journaling is all about minimizing distractions?
The second item you’ll require is a writing instrument, such as a pen or pencil. You will, indeed, be writing by hand. It’s retro, to be sure, but it improves flow and reduces distractions.
Then you don’t need anything. That is all there is to it.
The main point is that minimal tools and the bullet journal method can accomplish a lot.
What can you do with your tools now that you’ve mastered them? Let’s look at the elements of bullet journaling in more detail. Bullet journals don’t have rigid divisions; instead, they use collections, which are customizable modules. Everything in your bullet notebook is a collection of some sort. The index, daily, monthly, and future log are the main collections.
The index is at the start of your notebook, and it will keep you from forgetting that brilliant idea or that important appointment. It’s a table that shows you everything in your bullet journal at a glance.
Your logs are where you keep track of important events and data. Your daily log is where you keep track of all the notes, reminders, and random bits of information you acquire during the day. Your monthly record provides an up-to-date picture of your month, detailing what has been accomplished and what remains to be completed. Your future log is where you keep track of all the tasks and ideas you won’t be able to complete this month but don’t want to forget about.
While the index and these three logs form the foundation of your bujo, you can add other, more personalized collections anywhere you like. Collections can help you arrange data around a common theme or keep track of your progress toward a certain objective. Your stack is the group of collections that you’re currently working on.
So, how do you keep track of events in your journal? Rapid logging is a system of notes and symbols that allows you to capture your thoughts considerably more quickly than traditional longhand writing. Let’s have a look at that now.
Rapid logging allows you to log tasks and events quickly:
Quickly consider your options! What is the date of your boss’s birthday? Have you emailed your accountant about it? On your date night two weeks ago, what movie did you see?
It’s difficult to remember every event and a bit of knowledge you have in a day, let alone the minutiae of what happened last month or what needs to happen next Tuesday, even if you have a good memory. Rapid logging can assist you with this.
The main message is that rapid logging allows you to log jobs and events swiftly.
Assign a topic to your page and a header to the top of that page before you begin logging. This is true for practically every area of bujo! The more precise and structured your topic, the better! Try “September 7, Interview, Marketing Director Position” instead of “Job Interview.” Also, assign a page number. This is critical for your index.
The content you log will fall into three categories, whether it’s in your monthly log, daily log, future log, or special collection. Tasks or errands that must be completed. What’s going on or what’s happened. Also, any important facts or notes. Events like “meet with HR representative,” activities like “send HR rep thank-you email,” and notes like “job involves travel” can appear in your job interview log.
To keep track of this, use the signifiers, the distinctive bullets that bujo is renowned for. Each classification has its unique identifier. A solid bullet denotes a mission. Have you completed a task? With an “x,” cross over the bullet. Use the bullet as a base for a right-facing arrow to reschedule tasks within the month. Convert your bullet into a left-facing arrow to move a task to your future log. To indicate urgency, use an asterisk.
An empty bullet, or a little unfilled circle, denotes an event, whether it’s a good thing, like a promotion, or a terrible thing, like car trouble, record occurrences as objectively as possible. Why incorporate events in addition to tasks? Keeping track of the events of the day will provide you with a clear picture of significant behaviors and patterns throughout time.
A dash is used to represent notes. What should you keep in mind? Anything that piques your interest! Use an exclamation point to emphasize a particularly inspiring message.
Tasks or events can be used as anchors in your bujo, and notes can be used to build on these anchors. Add notes like “try and collaborate more with other departments” to an event like “Performance assessment with boss.”
Bullet journaling is a flexible modular system that encourages chaos:
Okay, fine. Bullet journaling appears to be a terrific idea, but you’ve already been burned. You’ve tried a variety of different organizational methods. Nothing has worked thus far. You haven’t yet devised a mechanism to bring order to your unique form of chaos.
What makes you think Bujo is any different?
That’s an excellent question! Bujo does not attempt to bring order to chaos.
Each day in a normal journal is allotted the same amount of space. A bujo celebrates the reality that each day is unique. So, how does it function?
The daily journal keeps track of your tasks and experiences throughout the day. Just make a note of the page number and the date, and you’re ready to go! Don’t plan ahead of time for your daily log. On certain days, your log will fill several pages. You’ll have less to log on other days.
The monthly log is a two-page layout that shows you the entire month at a glance. Your calendar is on the left-hand page. List the date for each day of the month on the outer edge of this page, followed by the first letter of the weekday — for example, M for Monday. As you progress through the month, leave space to write down events and add in signifiers to highlight future duties or noteworthy experiences next to each date. The right-hand page is your tasks page, where you write all of the chores you need or wish to complete for the month.
Want to note a task that isn’t in the current month? This is when the future log enters the picture. This is where you put all of your upcoming jobs in the queue. Scan your future log at the start of each new month and add the next items you intend to accomplish to your new monthly diary.
Are you keeping track of a goal or forming a habit? This is where customized collections come into play. These are unique logs dedicated to a single subject. Fertility planning, a side hustle, a meditation practice — whatever you want to do!
What’s the best way to keep track of all these collections? Through your notebook’s index, which is located at the front. Your index should be four pages long. As you add collections to the notebook, use your index to track them and their page numbers. For collections strewn over your notebook, make a list of all the pages on which they reside. “Meal Planning: pp. 18–24; 67–69,” for example. If you run out of index pages, don’t panic. Continue your index on the next free page, noting the page number at the end of the previous index.
Finding your focus requires relocating tasks and events:
Crossing activities off your to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment. While checking off to-do lists can make us feel busy, this strategy may be counterproductive in the long run.
We can lose sight of the big picture when we’re robotically finishing one activity and moving on to the next. We don’t notice patterns or tendencies in our approach to these chores, let alone stop considering how accomplishing them contributes to our long-term objectives.
The bullet journal, fortunately, is much more than a to-do list. Monthly migration, the act of sorting through and assessing everything you’ve logged for the month, has built-in big-picture reflection.
So, how does the migration function every month? Set up your log for the following month after each month. Scanning your stack or the collections you’re currently utilizing is a good place to start. You’ll almost certainly come across some chores that haven’t been completed. That’s not something to be ashamed of! Take a look at each one now. Is this task still necessary or worthwhile? Move it to a new monthly log, a custom collection, or a future log if you answered yes. Perhaps the task is no longer required. Great! It’s simple to cross it out.
Plan to migrate again at the end of your bullet journaling year. Switch from your old notebook to a new one this time. Your annual migration provides a time for introspection. After a year of journaling, you’ll get a picture of how you spent your time and energy in the preceding 12 months when you browse through your stack of collections.
This is where you’ll have to make some tough choices. How does your old bullet journal’s “life snapshot” compare to the life you want? Have you squandered too much time and energy on things that don’t add purpose to your life? Consider which duties, habits, and experiences you’d like to try to bring into this new year — and which you’d prefer to leave behind.
“Hack away the unessential,” great martial artist Bruce Lee suggested when sharing his success recipe. With each migration, you’re following Lee’s advice by letting go of what no longer serves you and focusing on what matters most.
To make your goals a reality, you must first define and prioritize them:
Your bullet journal can assist you in achieving your objectives. Goals are also beneficial. Setting and achieving a defined goal can give your life meaning and purpose. Pursuing a goal might force you to step outside of your comfort zone, exposing you to new experiences and viewpoints.
However, we are less likely to achieve our goals if they aren’t important.
So, how can we set goals that are both attainable and meaningful? And, maybe more importantly, how can we attain those objectives?
Create a goal collection in your bullet journal to organize and define your goals. This is a page or two where you list your goals, large and little. Simply putting out your aims can assist you in transforming them from nebulous fantasies and daydreams into tangible ambitions.
Create a schedule for accomplishing them next. The 5–4–3–2–1 approach is a simple trick you can attempt. Go over your list of goals and figure out what you want to accomplish in the next five years. Then, in the next four months, make a list of goals you’d like to attain. Rep the procedure for the next three weeks, two days, and ultimately one hour.
At this time, you can have a lot of objectives. So it’s time to set some goals. Examine each of the goals on your 5–4–3–2–1 list one by one. Is this an aim that you truly believe in? Will the time, effort, and resources you’ll need to achieve your objective be worth it? In each of your timelines, you should set one personal and one professional aim. That’s a total of ten goals.
You don’t have to cling to your priorities at all costs just because you’ve set them. It’s critical to check in with yourself regularly, especially when it comes to long-term goals, to see if they still have value.
A goal sprint is a fun way to do this: it’s a method for breaking down a big-picture goal into smaller components. Let’s pretend you want to be a published novelist. Write the first three chapters of a novel during your sprint. By doing so, you’ll be able to see if your heart is truly in it and get a sense of the amount of effort required to achieve this goal.
Time management tactics might help you learn to be more present:
Certain Spatio-temporal rules govern the universe and cannot be bent or broken. Is there such a law? A day is made up of only 24 hours. You won’t be able to modify this simple factual reality.
On the other hand, Bujo can make you feel as though you’re defying the laws of time. Although time is a finite resource, our perception of it is not. Simple chores can take hours to complete when we’re not focused. When we’re on autopilot, hours might pass us by in a matter of seconds. When we’re present, however, we can accomplish a lot in a short period.
Do you have any tasks that you dread? It’s all too easy to drag your feet when it comes to doing tiresome tasks. You’ve spent five hours online scrolling aimlessly to avoid sending a five-minute email. Time-boxing can help you overcome procrastination. Don’t merely jot down a task; set aside a certain amount of time or a time limit to do it. Also, try to keep the time limit small. When you have 30 minutes to complete a task, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can find your focus. Break down major jobs, such as filing taxes, into smaller parts, such as gathering receipts or compiling expenses, and give each one a specific amount of time.
Scheduling is another simple but efficient time-management method. The sequence in which you complete your responsibilities significantly impacts your overall success rate. Tell the truth: do you start with the most difficult or unpleasant activities of the day? Or do you give yourself a false sense of productivity by putting easy and fun chores at the top of your to-do list?
Don’t put your most difficult duty last. By the time you confront it — if you face it at all — your attention and motivation will be strained. Getting the tough things done first and keeping the pleasant stuff for later will make the rest of your day feel more manageable and pleasurable.
Don’t merely consider what you have to do. Make it a habit to think about when you’ll need to do it and how long you’ll need to do it. You’ll quickly feel as though you’ve discovered additional hours in the day.
The possibilities of your bullet notebook are endless:
You’re almost done with The Bullet Journal Method’s book summary. You’ve learned how to migrate critical jobs and how to manage collections, such as your index and logs. And you’ve figured out how to turn your to-do list into a to-done list, using everything from goal sprints to time-boxing. In a nutshell, you’ve nailed the fundamentals of bujo!
But why stop there? Now comes the fun part: trying out different hacks, add-ons, and extra-credit activities to take your bujo practice to the next level.
Here are a few creative ways to make your bullet journal your own.
Your monthly and yearly migrations provide an excellent time to pause and reflect on your goals, as well as assess your progress toward them. However, daily habit tracking might help you stay on track if you have a specific goal in mind.
Let’s pretend you’re attempting to save money and have decided to carry your lunch to work. Add a column with an intuitive header to your monthly log, such as “L” for lunch. Each time you bring your lunch, mark the box in the column. You’ll be able to see how well you’re doing in terms of achieving your objective. You’ll be able to compare your results to other events to see how they affect your objective. You might observe, for example, that days, when you stay late at work, are followed by days when you don’t feel inspired to bring your lunch.
A bujo is not the same as a regular diary in which you write down your thoughts and feelings. But it’s possible! Long-form journaling is simple to add to your bujo routine. You may discover some notes you’d like to consider further when you fill out your daily record. Replace the dash symbol in front of a note with a plus sign to indicate that this is a note you’d like to revisit and reflect on. Dig out those plus-sign notes and spend some time journaling about them once a week, if you have the time.
These are just two options for personalizing your bullet journal. Are you hungry for more? Use social media channels like Instagram and Pinterest to join the bujo community. Thousands of bujo lovers have shared their creative ways of personalizing their notebooks, including gratitude logs, bespoke calendars, and more.