Welcome to my new series, Bullet Journal 2.0. In this series, I’ll be discussing a number of topics, including what a bullet journal is (hey, you’re on this post), future logs, monthly spreads, weeklies vs. dailies, habit tracking, collections, getting over the fear of starting, what to do before you start, FAQs, and a final wrap-up with my top tips and pointers. If you were counting, that was 10 topics. One topic a week for ten weeks! I dug myself a deep hole here, but with your support, I’ll pull through.
The Quick & Dirty: Bullet Journal
The Bullet Journal System was designed by a, what I assume to be insanely intelligent and organized man, Ryder Carroll. Sometimes called a BuJo, for short, the bullet journal is a flexible organization system, similar to a planner.
The Bullet Journal System is built around a technique called Rapid Logging. Rapid logging is using short sentences, bullets, page numbers, and topics to record useful and important information in an organized structure. Those rapid logs are accompanied by specific bullets that signify what they are. The bullet categories are tasks, events, and notes.
Tasks are actionable items.
Events are date specific and can be written in advance, or after they happen.
The last bullet is for a note, which can be used for thoughts, ideas, or anything else you want to remember that is not actionable.
The Bullet Journal also incorporates modules that assist in the organization of your journal. They include the Index, Future Log, Monthly Log and Daily Log.
The Index belongs on the first few pages of your journal and is where you will write down the topics you add as well as their corresponding page number.
The Future Log explains itself rather well. This is where you will write down tasks, events, and notes that occur in the future or that you want to occur at some point.
Monthly logs are where you organize your monthly to-dos. They are a two page spread with a vertical calendar and a general to-do list.
Daily Logs are where you schedule and plan your day. You add bullets for tasks, events, and notes here.
The last element of the Bullet Journal System is Migration. Migration in the process of looking back at your previous month’s open tasks, reevaluating them, and then moving them as you feel necessary.
Okay, now I’ve given it to you hard and fast, and if you’re just now learning about the bullet journal system, you’re likely a little bit lost. Don’t worry buddy, I gotcha. We are going to take that summary above and make it lonnggg and slowww. If at any point you feel confused or overwhelmed (which I’m going to do my best NOT to do), go watch Ryder’s video, or read the Starter Guide on BulletJournal.com. Obviously, he designed the system and has explained it to make it work for anyone.
WTF is a Bullet Journal?
In my own words, a bullet journal is an analog organization system for your whole life. Literally, everything! But on most days, it serves its purpose similar to a planner, but with a lot more flexibility and options. It’s a place to keep track of to-do lists, to-buy lists, to-read lists, and all the other lists you can dream up. It’s a place to jot down events that are planned 6 months from now, like family reunions, birthdays, business trips, and weddings. Also, it can be a place to write down memories, inspiration, ideas, and day-to-day observations.
The Bullet Journal can be a creative outlet, or it can strictly be kept as a time-management and organization tool. Hence, the flexibility. Honestly, it’s anything you want it to be…except an iPhone; it can’t be an iPhone.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have seen bullet journal pictures floating around the internet, or have a colleague or family member that uses one. So, you’ve probably seen how different every journal can be. From the minimal to the over-the-top scrapbook style. And that could also be why you’re here. Because, with all the creativity and flexibility floating around, it can be hard to grasp the actual concept and gain the benefits of using this system if you are trying to weed through fifty-eight thousand pictures of colorful collections on Pinterest.
I’m hoping, I can help with that in this blog series. My goal is to get you started with the right mindset to start using the system and then be consistent. And, why? Because, I used to buy planners in bulk, promising to use them and be more productive. If it isn’t clear… that didn’t work EVER. But, the bullet journal system has helped me organize my mom-life, my blog life, hell, even my relationship. It’s been the most effective tool I’ve ever used… even more than my iPhone, and that’s saying a lot. So, I know it can work for other people when given correct information to get started.
Once you’ve started you can begin customizing your planning routine, layouts, bullets, etc. But to start, it’s of the most importance that you stick to the original blueprint and find your footing. No, it’s not as pretty as the Instagram posts you’ve ogled over; but it’s the key to making this a successful tool in your life.
So, this first post in the Bullet Journal 2.0 blog series is to give you the basics in a clear, digestible, in-depth manner.
Rapid Logging is a technique using bullet points, short objective sentences, and signifiers to log information. The information comes in the form of Tasks, Events, and Notes. Each of those bits of information is signified by a different style of bullet.
- “•” signifies a task
- “O” signifies an event
- “-” signifies a note.
Task– A task is an actionable item. For example: “do laundry”, “call the doctor”, and “pay rent” are all tasks because they are all items that require an action. Think of tasks as your ‘to-do’ list. For many people, this is probably the most commonly used bullet.
Because tasks are so frequently used and are actionable items, they get extra signifiers.
- “X” represents a Completed Task
- “>” represents a Migrated Task
- “<” represents a Scheduled Task
I will further discuss Migrating and Scheduling tasks later in this post.
Event– An event is something occurs on a specific day. Think birthdays, anniversaries, etc. They are date specific, unlike a task, which can be done on different days. Events can also include meetings, business trips, dates, doctor’s appointments, etc. While events can be moved, they are often scheduled in advance to be on a specific day, and possibly at a specific time, like a doctor’s appointment. Events can be scheduled/written in, in advance, or you can write them in after they occur.
Note– A note is a bit of non-actionable information that you want to remember. This could be used to note that the college campus is closing a week before Christmas, or that your mom called and left a voicemail. Remember, that you are rapid logging, meaning you are using short objective sentences. So, when you do write down a note, make it brief. Later on you can expand on the idea on a different page.
Page Numbers and Topics
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One of the biggest components of the bullet journal system is page numbering. Some journals, like the Leuchtturm1917 and Scribbles that Matter notebooks are pre-numbered. But if you are using a different journal, it’s extremely necessary that you number your pages. Do this before you begin adding any topics of collections.
Page Numbers are an important piece of the bullet journal backbone because they are one of the main organizational methods– we’ll get into that shortly.
Right alongside page numbers in importance, is topics, aka titles. I like to think of topics as chapters. They are separate your information according to what kind content will be within the topic. For example, if you have an event such as a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday April 26th, and you also need to pay rent on Wednesday April 26th, you would bullet both of those things under the topic ‘Wednesday April 26th’.
So, now you know topics will be used for each day. But they are also used for monthly pages, future logs, and any collection you add to your journal.
Page numbers and topics work together to establish your Index.
The Index in the bullet journal, much like the Index of a novel or a magazine is an place where all the topics are listed with their corresponding page number. Again, the Leuchtturm1917 and Scribbles that Matter notebooks both have pre-designed and integrated indexes where you can simply add your topic and its corresponding page number(s).
The Index is one of your most resourceful places in your bullet journal. Once you have added a topic/collection to a specific page, flip to the index and write in the topic and the page number it’s on. That way, when you are further into your journal and need to reference a specific page, you can go to your index, find the topic, and then flip to the appropriate page number.
If you aren’t using a notebook with a pre-designed index, be sure to allow 3-5 pages at the very beginning of your notebook for your index.
The Future Log
You’re future log is similar to a year long calendar at-a-glance. It’s where you can jot down events that are a month or six months away. It’s a great place to keep important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, dentist checkups, etc. Then, later on, you can easily flip back to your index to find out when a specific event is happening.
It also makes setting up your monthly logs a little easier. Instead of having to remember what important dates you have coming up for the next month, you can easily flip to your future log and then transfer any important dates to your monthly log.
The Monthly Log
The monthly log is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a spread of two pages that layout your month, a lot like a calendar. Your monthly log has two main components: a calendar and a task list. The calendar is setup in a vertical fashion, starting with 1 near the top and ending with the last day of the month (30 or 31 for the most part) at the bottom. Then, each day is also noted with the first letter of that day of the week. So, if the 1st is a Monday, you would add a 1 and then a M next to it, so it would look like 1M, and then the 2nd would look like 2T, for Tuesday. You continue this pattern for all days of the month.
This leaves you about one line of space for each day, so this area is suitable for events and higher priority tasks. Also, the monthly log is used as a reference page, and not a place to keep your daily to-dos… we’re getting there.
The task list on the adjacent page and is composed of new task you need to get done in the month, and possibly old tasks from the previous month that didn’t get finished and have been migrated. Again, this isn’t the place for your daily to-dos, but more of a reference area for the bigger tasks you need to accomplish for the month.
Here’s where you get to add your daily to-do lists. The topic of your daily log will be the date. The content within that date are your tasks, events, and notes for the day. You can rapid log here as the day goes on, and you can also pre-plan for the following day the night before. It’s not recommended to add daily logs far in advance because you will find that some days are busy and have quite a lot of rapid logging, where other days are don’t require much room at all.
You decide what goes in your daily log, and it’s hugely dependent on your normal day-to-day routine. For me, as a stay-at-home mom, my tasks are usually housework and cooking related. My notes may include my child being in a really bad mood or having an allergic reaction to a new food. But as a business professional or teacher, for example, their daily logs would look much different, and may have a lot more task, events, and notes than I would.
Migrating tasks is the process of moving an unfinished task to a future date. When the month ends and you go to setup your next monthly log, look back at the previous month and find any unfinished tasks. Analyze them and decide if they are still important. If the task no longer needs to be completed, strike it out with a line. If it is, you can move it to your new monthly task list.
You can also use this process in your daily logs. If you had a task on Monday that you didn’t complete, but still need to do the next day, you would migrate the task to Tuesday by rewriting it in under the topic, Tuesday. Then, you would signify that you had migrated the task by turning the task bullet on Monday into a “>”. If you do this, be sure to signify that you migrated the task, so that at the end of the month you don’t migrate a task that you had already migrated and completed.
Migration is also used to move events and tasks from your future log into your monthly log. When you start a new month, check your future log for any upcoming events or tasks and then rewrite them in the corresponding dates in your monthly log.
The other signifier used to move task from one place to another is “<“, and it’s used to signify that a task has been scheduled. This can be used to move a daily task that you didn’t complete and isn’t time sensitive, but still important to your monthly task list on your monthly log. Simply signify with the “<” that you have scheduled the task, and then flip back to your monthly log and rewrite the task in your task list.
[Summarized/Expanded On from BulletJournal.com]
That’s a wrap for part one of Bullet Journal 2.0. And at 2500 words, it may be the longest blog post I have written to date. I genuinely hope you found this useful and that it provided you with the basic information you need. Of course, I’m open to comments, questions, and suggestions in the comments, and would love to hear from you.
Other Posts in the Series:
[Part 2: Before You Get Started]
[Part 3: The Future Log]
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