Year after year, dozens of online articles round up the best planners for every lifestyle imaginable. Although sometimes, pre-made journals—no matter how fancy—just don’t exactly serve your needs. This is where the Bullet Journal comes in.
Developed by Brooklyn-based digital designer Ryder Carroll, the Bullet Journal is a flexible analog system built to track your thoughts, organize your calendar, and sort out your to-do lists. It’s a deceptively simple and lazy way of keeping both a journal and planner. While having a digital system for organization, our brain processes thoughts differently when we use paper and pen. With the Bullet Journal, you get to decide what matters most in your life. If something is truly valuable to you, then you don’t mind writing it down a number of times.
Convinced? Now, let’s get down to business: How to do a Bullet Journal.
Basically, you just need two things: a blank journal and a pen. As mentioned, it’s a highly customizable and flexible way of journaling so you have to know exactly what you want it to do for you. While it’s a fairly simple concept, it’s also a little bit difficult to explain. Thus, here are the basic jargons that you need to know:
Rapid Logging – This is the main concept of the Bullet Journal. You eliminate long sentences and instead, write concise and direct notes.
Topics and Page Numbers – It’s basically your title page and numbering system. Do this in every page before adding your content.
Bullets – These are your short, objective sentences. Bullets can be classified into tasks, events, and notes.
Tasks – Tasks are represented by a simple dot. It has three states:
X = Task Complete
> = Task Migrated
< = Task Scheduled
Events – Events are signified by an open bullet (o). These are activities that can either be scheduled or back-logged.
Notes – Notes are represented by a dash (—). This includes ideas, facts, and observations that you just need to jot down, but are not necessarily actionable items.
Signifiers – These are symbols that give you additional context. For example, an asterisk before a bullet can mean that particular entry is a priority. You can have as many signifiers as you like.
Now that you know these terms, let’s move on to setting up your journal. A Bullet Journal basically has four main modules.
1. Index – This is essentially your table of contents. Your index page will help you reference your content and give you a bird’s eye view of your entire journal.
2. Future Log – Your Future Log is a collection of items that need to be scheduled ahead of time. It is divided by month. You can also add other types of future logs like the books you want to read, movies you want to see, or festivals you want to go to.
3. Monthly Log – This has two parts: a calendar and a task page. This is to give you a general perspective of what you need to do per month.
You can further customize your monthly logs to help you develop and track your personal habits like going to the gym, eating out with friends, or noting when the latest episode of your favorite series comes out. Explore also how you can create different collections such as the songs you like, the places you need to visit on your next travel destination, or even your weight goal.
4. Daily Log – This is meant for your day-to-day use when you log your tasks, events, and random notes.
As you are now fully set-up with your Bullet Journal, let’s put it all together through migration. Strike out tasks or events that have become irrelevant. Mark with “x” the tasks that you’ve completed. Reschedule appointments by replacing the bullet with “>”. This is your chance to evaluate the level of importance of each entry that you have written to discern whether it’s valuable enough to migrate over the next month.
According to the website, “The purpose of migration is to distill the things that are truly worth the effort, to become aware of our own patterns and habits, and to separate the signal from the noise.”
Above all, the only thing that you need to remember is to not overthink your Bullet Journaling. Just go ahead and write whatever feels right for you—think of it as your blank canvas. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes on your first try; it’s an effective way of learning what does and doesn’t work for you!
Here's a video that can help serve as your beginner's guide.
For more info, check out bulletjournal.com.
Main image by @sofibatt on Instagram; artwork by Gab Gutierrez