Bullet Journaling 101 - Everything You Need To Know to Start and Use Your Own Bullet Journal
While it’s very customizable, and you’re certainly welcome to change things around,
In this article, I will walk you through the setup for a traditional bullet journal as first introduced by Ryder Carroll from BulletJournal.com. Use it as a starting point, get comfortable with the basic system and then change it from there.
You’ll need a notebook, a pen, and a little bit of time to get started. The type of notebook you use is up to you. The traditional style is grid or dotted paper, but I find even ruled or blank pages work just fine.
Okay, once you've got all that together, you'll want to know how to set it up. Here is a really fast overview.
The first page of your bullet journal will include your key. This will record the shorthand you use for your bullet entries.
Here is my Bullet Journal key - and if you scroll down below it, you'll see the more traditional one. That's what I love about this system - it's so very flexible. It's part of why it works for me!
Here’s the traditional codes used. Feel free to add to it, or modify it as needed.
ᐧ (Dot) Task
X Completed Task
> Migrated Task
⬤ Completed Appointment
⟴ Migrated Appointment
Your next two to four pages will be set aside for indexing. This will allow you to quickly find any collection, or get to a particular month. Title each page as an index page and move on to the next section.
The Future Log
With the original bullet journal setup this is a two page spread that records the coming 6 months. Many bullet journalers find it helpful to use a more traditional yearly calendar instead. This is a great place to record birthdays, anniversaries, or block out vacation time. Add or note the page number and record your future log in your index.
Start each month with a monthly log. Here you’ll record appointments and due dates. You can use a grid layout, or use one line for each day of the month. While this isn’t where you’ll track most of your tasks, the monthly log will come in handy for those times when you have a dentist appointment or your daughter is invited to a friend’s birthday party.
The daily log is where you’ll spend most of your time in the journal. Start a new section each day and record anything important for the day. Make your list of tasks and cross them off as you get them finished. Make notes of anything important you need to remember throughout the day as well as appointments as they pop up. Everything gets logged in the daily log for speed and ease. From there you can move it as needed to the monthly or future log, or migrate it to a different day.
At the end of your day, or first thing the next morning it’s time to review your tasks and cross out and migrate anything that isn’t checked off. For example, if you didn’t get around to doing laundry today, draw an arrow through it and add the task to today’s daily task list. If you noted an appointment that came up yesterday, move it to your monthly list and draw an arrow through it in yesterday’s list. If something no longer applies then cross it out. Your goal is to deal with each entry from your daily list by completing it, migrating it, or crossing it out.
The final part of the puzzle is collections. These are basically thematic lists you make that aren’t date related. A perfect example is a list of books you want to read. Start the list on the next blank page. Title it and start jotting down the books you want to read. Make a note of the page you’re on and add this collection to your index page. Now when you want to add a new book title to this list, or reference it to see what you want to read, you can easily find it via the index.
Using A Bullet Journal To Boost Your Productivity
A bullet journal is a great way to stay productive at work, at home, or in school. Just about anyone can benefit from bullet journaling from college students to busy working moms. If you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done you want to accomplish, use a bullet journal to help you plan and prioritize
The Bullet Journal Makes You Plan Ahead
As you make out your daily tasks lists, you have to think about what you should be working on. This makes you plan ahead and think things through instead of sitting at your desk doing busy work. A little bit of planning can help you make progress that much faster and it will boost your overall productivity. If you find daily to-do lists helpful, give bullet journaling a try as a way to get even more productive faster.
Some people find it helpful to make out their next day’s task list at the end of the day. Others prefer to make out their list first thing in the morning, while they are drinking coffee and getting ready for the day. Both are valid approaches. Give both a try and see what works for you.
The Bullet Journal Motivates You To Get Stuff Done
Once you have your daily tasks recorded, you’ll be motivated to work on checking them off. This will greatly increase your productivity in several different ways. The first is that you know exactly what you should be working on. You won’t waste time figuring out what your next step is, or sit there and watch cat videos instead of doing something productive.
The daily list of tasks will also make you push just a little harder to make sure everything gets done before you call it a day. Try it and see how much more you can get done in a day with a daily list in your bullet journal.
The Bullet Journal Is A Great Record To Help You Reflect
Last but not least, the bullet journal is a great record of what you’ve been doing on a daily basis. Set aside a little time to look through your notes at the end of the week or the month. Reflect on what’s working and what isn’t. Where do you need to work harder, what can you stop doing. Use the record your bullet journal gives you to improve your processes and tasks. It will make you better at your job, in school, and at home. Use it as a personal and professional improvement tool.