You have probably seen many people start keeping a diary or writing journal once in their lives. But how many people do you know who continued this habit for a long time or still continue? The answer is probably, “a few”.

Well, it is a normal phenomenon. Keeping a journal or diary requires dedication and perseverance. And in this modern era, it is hard to find these two in people.

Now time is precious more than ever. Nobody likes to waste their time. So when it comes to doing something that requires a lot of time, it is natural that people will be unwilling.

But what if there is a way that is a combination of both the journal and to-do list and rather organizes your lifestyle using very little time? I guess, a lot of people would be willing to be exposed to it.

Bullet journal is something like that.

Bullet Journaling

How it all started

Before diving into the concept of bullet journal, let’s take a tour to the inception of this amazing idea. It all started in the 90’s, when a guy named Ryder Carroll was struggling with simple tasks in school and couldn’t focus. Then it had turned out that he had Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Carroll was always trying to figure out a way to be able to grasp what he was thinking and wanted to present them in an organized way.

He was very fond of scrapbooks and journals because they kept him focused. Soon this fondness became a life turning point for him.

He found a way to take notes, make a to-do list and organize events – all in one notebook. And the best part of it is that, it evolves with you.

Towards the end of college, after many trial and errors, this system has come to this idea presented as bullet journal.

So what is Bullet Journaling?

Although it sounds really complicated and heavy, it is not. Basically, it is a way of journaling and note-taking using bullet points. The main concept behind bullet journaling is that you express your thoughts in short notes instead of writing long paragraphs, and then marking those notes using different symbols in order to categorize them. It is called rapid logging.

A lot of people get confused by the idea and ask whether it is a diary, planner or to-do list. The funny thing is, it is a mixture of ALL these things. Bullet journaling helps you record your PAST, what you have to do in PRESENT and what your goals are in the FUTURE.

Advantages of using bullet journal

  • Saves a lot of precious time
  • It is really helpful for those who like pen & paper to-do list.
  • It helps people stay focused and lead an organized life.
  • An amazing solution for people who like to keep a diary/journal but don’t have the patience to invest much time. They can easily get hooked on it.
  • Great for those who love to set goals and track their habits.
  • Adds a lot to your personality.

Things to know before understanding the concept of bullet journal

  • Bullet journal: A method of journaling and taking notes in an organized way.
  • Index:  A table of contents which you can moderate as the time goes by.
  • Collections: any kind of entries you put in bullet journal. Collections are mainly three types (daily logs, monthly logs and future logs). But you can moderate the types according to what suits you.
  • Daily log: things you have done, experienced and observed and the things you have to do today.
  • Monthly log: basically a monthly calendar, to keep track of your monthly events.
  • Future log: events/tasks that will occur or need to be done in future. It is more of reminder kind of thing.
  • Rapid logging: taking random short notes using different symbols. The notes should not be long sentences.
So let’s get started!

The 4 pillars of bullet journal: The Index, Collections, Rapid logging and Migration

The index:

The index refers to the complexity of bullet journal’s solution finding. Indexing helps you keep tracks of your notes, and make the whole journal unique and organized. You can keep first two or three pages for indexing, or more, just to be on the safe side.

It is a lot like a table of contents that we see in books and other journals, where you list your topics and the page numbers.

You do not necessarily have to put every collection in the index part. You can just keep those items which you will likely to refer often.

Collections: 

You should give every page in a bullet journal a topic. These topics are considered as collections. These collections will go to your index.

Collections can be of 3 types – Future log, Monthly log and Daily log

1. Future log: 

You will use this sector for keeping items that should be done in the scheduled months. You can make your own layout for the future log; the basic version is drawing 2 same-spaced horizontal lines across the facing pages that will make a six-month calendar. You can also make 4-months or 12-months calendar according to your wish.

You can also leave a blank page for future log where you can put events or tasks you want to do in future, but don’t have a specific mindset.

2. Monthly log: 

As I have said earlier, monthly log helps you to organize your months. To set up a monthly log, you need two pages of your notebook – one is for the calendar and another one is for tasks.

In the calendar page, write down the name of the months at the top and the dates down the left margin. If you want to start the monthly log in May, write “May” at the top, then write 1 to 31 down the left margin. In the task page, write down all the things you want to do in that month and also the unfinished tasks migrated from previous months.

You can also use the calendar page to remember things to do, record the already finished tasks or both.

3. Daily log: 

This is the main attraction of bullet journal. It is designated for everyday use. The name of the day and the date will be the topic. You can rapid log throughout the day as they happen. Don’t reserve a whole page for a day, because not every day is a happening day. Write down as you go and set up the next date before going to bed.

Rapid logging: 

The main difference between traditional journaling and bullet journaling is the way notes are taken. In traditional journaling, often people ramble about their thoughts and how they feel. This consumes your precious time. Bullet journal has thrown that idea into the gutter and introduced something called rapid logging.

Rapid logging means short-form notation. Keep it as brief as possible. It consists of 4 things: topics, number, signifiers and bullets.

# Topics and Page numbers

Write a short title as a topic on the top corner of every page. Don’t waste too much time on it. The topic will make you able to enter your notes clearly. After that, give every page a number. It will help you create the index.

# Signifiers

Signifiers give extra life to the bullet system. You can place the signifiers to the left of a bullet. Some suggestions are given below; you can also come up with your own signifiers that suit you best.

  • Priority: Marked by star sign “*”; can be used to give a task or event importance.
  • Inspiration: Represented by an exclamation mark “!”; mostly used with a note which is interesting, inspiring or thought-provoking!
  • Explore: Draw an eye before any notes that you need to check out.

# Bullets

What makes bullet journaling amazing and time-saving is these bullets. You should use bullets after writing the short objectives. Bullets will make it easy to categorize your entries into three categories – tasks, events and notes.

* Task bullets: Represented by a dot “•” and can be used before any kind of items. But since, bullets are heavily used in bullet journals; they need to be turned into additional symbols. For example –

  • X = When a task is finished
  • > = An incomplete task that needs to be migrated to another log
  • < = A task that is scheduled for the future
To make it clearer, here are the following examples:

Task bullets example

 

* Event bullets: Indicated by an ‘O’ bullet, events are date related items that can either be recorded as a log or as scheduled. For example –

Event bullets example

 

* Note bullets: Notes are random items that you need to be remembered but don’t have any specific date or category. Notes are indicated by a dash “–“. They are really useful when you are in a meeting, classroom or in a seminar. For example –

Note bullets example

The bullets and signifiers have no specific rule of use. You can always create your own symbols. For example – you can use a box or check mark in the place of the bullet.

Migration

Migration is one of the startling features of bullet journal. Basically, it helps you moderate your journal as time passes by.

Migration is a process of sending over the incomplete tasks to another collection. You need to migrate at the end of the month while preparing the next month log. Not all the things can be done in time even if you want to. Therefore, if you find any incomplete task that should be done in the next month, use this sign “>” on that item and rewrite it in the next month log.

If you have any task or event which you no longer want to do, just cross it out.

And if you have any event or task that should be scheduled for another month, write it down in the future log.

As we have completed our journey, here is the whole process in brief –

  • After creating your collection, you add them to your index. The index will help you refer to the page you want to go.
  • Always rapid log using bullets and signifiers (use them as per your convenience)
  • Categorize your logs according to days, months and future. The daily log is for taking notes about everyday life. The monthly log is a monthly calendar to set up tasks to be done in that month. The future log is used for scheduling tasks or events for the future.
  • Migrate tasks when needed. Use the migration process on a monthly basis. If something is worth-doing, migrate that to the next monthly log. If not, then cross it out.

Things to Consider Before Starting

  • Most people start to keep a diary or journal having no specific goal in mind. Therefore, a lot of them soon abandon the idea. If you really want to have a journal, first think what you are going to use it for. That way, you will be able to create your own system. It will add something to your personality too.
  • You can use any kind of notebook and pen/pencil to get started. But I would suggest you keep a medium sized notebook. If it is too big, it will be hard for you to carry. If it is too small, you will not have enough pages. Also the quality of the notebook matters. Also, buy something that goes with your style. It will motivate you to use it.
  • A lot of people spend too much time decorating their journal. Although there is no harm in it, but if you do not like to waste time then don’t do it. It is completely irrelevant to the system of bullet journaling.
Now that you know the basics of starting a bullet journal, I hope you would love this. And I also assure you, if you keep trying this system out for a while, you will find yourself hooked into it.

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