What is a Bullet Journal?
You may have seen mentions of “bullet journals” frequently throughout social media. Just what is a bullet journal and why are they so special anyway?’’
Searching online for more information turns up several results: calendars, journals, agendas- even sketches and paintings- each one adorned with precise linework and calligraphy fonts.
However, in its most basic form, bullet journals are a productivity system. Sure, you can purchase physical bullet journals, but the notebooks themselves represent a completely new way to stay organized. As the creator Ryder Carroll describes them, bullet journals are “the analogue system for the digital age.”
Why use a Bullet Journal for work?
For one, they’re compact. You can store your entire year of appointments and to-do lists in a few pages without sacrificing any important information.
They also help you to be more productive. Each entry is organized in a way that makes sense. You’ll learn about different views and signifiers which can encourage you to actually get more done.
Finally, they’re infinitely customizable. You can find countless versions and designs that put professional notebooks to shame- use it for tracking habits, collecting recipes, or a list of books to read.
How does a Bullet Journal work?
The Bullet Journal is designed as a fast and flexible way to organize various thoughts and tasks using only pen and paper. They’re designed to “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” Any notebook or pen will work, but there are actual bullet journals available to purchase from the likes of Leuchtturm1917, Rhodia, and Moleskine.
The Bullet Journal System
- Index – On the first spread within the notebook, add the title “Index”. These two pages list the contents of all subsequent pages and their corresponding page numbers, similar to a table of contents or an index page.
- Future Log – On the second spread is the Future Log. This section acts similar to a calendar with a 6-month view, although there are variations. The Future Log lists all the upcoming events and tasks.
- Monthly Log – The monthly log consists of two parts: the monthly calendar on the left page (a list of the days), and the monthly task list on the right (a list of items to complete during the month, in bullet point form). Each spread after the Future Log is counted as one month.
- Daily Log – The daily log tracks your day-to-day activities. The present date goes at the top, and then each entry is listed as a bullet point. Entries come in three forms: Tasks, Events, and Notes.
Bullet Journals are written using Rapid Logging, the modern note-taking technique. Rapid Logging creates meaningful notes while retaining overall efficiency. Essentially, Rapid Logging is composed of four key elements:
- Topics – Each page should have a brief but relevant topic name. For daily logs, this can simply be the date.
- Page numbers – To make it simple to find your place in the journal, write down the page number before adding content to a new page.
Short sentences – Each entry should be as succinct as possible to allow for more space and utility.
- Bullets – Bullets vary depending on the entry and can provide a lot of contextual information. For example:
- Events (represented by a circled dot)
- Notes (represented by a dash)
- Tasks (represented by a normal dot)
- (X) Task Complete
- (>) Task Migrated
- (<) Task Scheduled
Use symbols to add meaning and context to your entries. For example, (*) can indicate a priority for a task, while (!) can indicate a potential idea or source of inspiration. Others have developed their own signifiers, using hearts for memories or triangles for appointments. Make the bullet journal into your own!
The Bullet Journal Method
- At the end of each month, start a new Monthly Log on a new spread.
- Check your daily log for outstanding tasks.
- For completed tasks, write an “X” over the bullet.
- For tasks that are incomplete, use a right arrow over the bullet to migrate them to the present month. If the task is due months later, use a left arrow to move into the future.
- If a task is not worth completing, cross it out.
- To group a common set of tasks, notes or ideas, start a “collection.” On a new page, give your collection a title and page number, then migrate notes, tasks or ideas, from the daily log into the collection. Record the page number in the index.
There you have it! You just learned how to start your very own Bullet Journal.
Tips for Bullet Journaling
Keep it simple! Everyone has posted their version of a Bullet Journal, and it usually involves something extremely intricate and artistic. If you’re using the Bullet Journal for work, you don’t necessarily need it to look pretty, just organized. Otherwise, you may spend too much time designing and less time actually doing.
Limit your collections. While it may be tempting to include a special collection for each interest you have, keep it limited, and only add them as you feel necessary. Adding too many collections can quickly become distracting and ruin the whole point of an organization system.
Combine digital and analogue. Paper notebooks or digital notes- why should you have to choose? Paper notebooks are still effective in helping you remember and organize thoughts, but why not enhance its utility by capturing pages on Evernote? You can save, send, access your pages from anywhere in the world.
Stay with it every day. As with most organization systems, it becomes easy to neglect your agenda. The Bullet Journal forces you to sit down and think through your actions and priorities each day. Take a few minutes to get organized before you do anything else in the day.
The Bullet Journal doesn’t just represent a system of organization, but a whole community of organized thinkers. It’s not uncommon to see someone showing off their journal on Pinterest, or coloring in their calendar on Instagram. Bullet Journals have gone viral for a reason- they encourage people to take pride in organization.
As with most organization systems, it’s only effective when you’re patient and use resources to your advantage. Check out this list of Bullet Journal ideas from Nifty on BuzzFeed for some inspiration.
Follow Novel Coworking’s blog to learn other tips and tricks to staying organized at work.