Before we get into how to bullet journal and the details of bullet journaling, let’s get this one obvious question out of the way. What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists, brainstorming, and other organizational tasks into a single notebook for your convenience.
In short, when used effectively, your bullet journal can be used to organise your entire life!
Sounds amazing, right? This article will introduce you to bullet journaling and its fundamentals to help you get started.
Table of Contents
What makes bullet journals so effective?
Did you know that there’s an interesting psychology behind bullet journaling? According to some neuroscientists, a bullet journal helps you externalize your thoughts. You don’t have to waste your time remembering everything. Instead, you simply write it down. This frees up mental space so that you can think clearly and focus on the tasks at hand.
Now, you might think – Well, that sounds good, but why not simply use a digital tracker? Why use a bullet journal?
Well, writing by hand engages multiple senses like visual, kinesthetic, and tactical. This improves retention and helps commit tasks to memory. It also sends a subconscious signal to your brain that these tasks are important, making you more likely to follow them.
Bullet journal is all about mindfulness and organization. Unlike most traditional planners and organizers, the bullet journaling method encourages how your goals, tasks, and checklists make you feel. It includes regular reflections to look back and correct.
So what exactly constitutes a bullet journal?
The answer is that it’s completely up to you. A bullet journal can be anything you want it to be. You can use it to track fitness, fertility, food, calories, your habits, to-do lists, and so on. The attempt of bullet journaling is to turn all the chaos and clutter in your life to productive, creative energy to make the most of your day.
By planning and organizing your life, you will not only be able to reach your personal and professional goals but also feel more satisfied in life.
By updating your bullet journal daily, you will be able to assess a trend and learn how to get rid of all distractions that deviate you from your goals. You can also add things that increase your productivity and track those habits by using a systematic approach.
Now I know most of you must have seen aesthetic pictures of bullet journals being put up on Instagram, Pinterest, etc. But if you aren’t really artistic, don’t panic. Remember that a bullet journal is more about function over form. Your journal doesn’t have to be perfect, or the prettiest bujo out there.
It simply has to motivate you to achieve your goals.
How to Use Bullet Journal For Rapid Logging?
We have already addressed the psychology behind bullet journaling in the previous section. One of the most common use of a bullet journal is to write down your tasks. Writing your tasks by hand engages multiple senses like visual, kinesthetic, and tactical which sends signals to your brain that these tasks are important. However, writing down your tasks every day can be quite time consuming and tedious.
So how do you get the benefits of writing your goals and tasks while dodging the shortcomings and pitfalls that come with it?
The answer is Rapid Logging.
Rapid logging is the language in which bullet journals are written. It is a method of capturing data in bullet points that can reduce the content by up to 60% while capturing the essence of the data. Let’s break it down further.
What are Bullets Used For Rapid Logging?
Bullets or bullet points are key to rapid logging. Simply put, bullets are short form sentences paired with some symbol to categorize them into tasks, events, notes, etc.
- Tasks– in the rapid logging method of bullet journaling, tasks are represented by a simple dot- (.) Use a dot instead of a checkbox because its fast, clean, and effective. It can also be easily transformed to represent the state of the task. For instance, just cross out the dot (x) if you complete the task, turn it into a greater than sign (>) to represent tasks sent to collection, and a lesser than sign (<) to indicate that the task has been moved to a future date. You can also completely strike out the point if the task is no longer relevant.
- Events– events in a bullet journal can be represented by an open circle (O). Events are date-related related entries that can be entered earlier or even after the event has occurred.
- Notes– notes in a bullet journal are represented using a dash (-). Notes include ideas, facts, thoughts, observations, or anything else that doesn’t fall under the bracket of the above two categories. You can use notes to capture thoughts so that you don’t forget them later on. You can use these for meetings, classroom presentations, lectures, or to simply list down your thoughts and convert them into tasks later on.
- Signifiers– signifiers are symbols that give your bullets additional context. They’re placed just before the bullet points to make them easy to spot. You can use a star (*) to indicate that the task is important or a priority. Use an exclamation mark (!) to mark inspiration, great ideas, and insights.
You can mix and match these symbols, use them together to create an effective rapid logging system. You can also nest points whenever required. Nesting bullet points can add so much color and texture to your bullet journal. For example, you can nest notes or tasks under an event to capture important details.
Benefits of Using A Bullet Journal
The benefits of using a bullet journal are numerous. Here are some of the reasons why you should start using a bullet journal.
1. It Keeps Everything Organized
A bullet journal is a great way to add extra organization to your life. I love the fact that a bullet journal is simple and easy to track, keeping everything clear and organized. Remember, function over form. You can organize your life by adding daily tasks, notes, and keeping track of all your events. Using the rapid logging method also allows you to view everything at a glance and make sense of it. In short, a bullet journal is a must if you want to stay organized in all aspects of life.
2. It’s customizable to your needs
One major benefit of using a bullet journal is that you can always customize it according to your needs and budget. You get to decide if you want to be detailed and plan out your day using a daily layout, or simply use a weekly layout. You can change up the themes, layouts, and formats according to your specific needs and preferences. You can also remove tasks that don’t work out for you and add others that increase your productivity.
3. It’s Easy to Learn and Set-Up
An empty notebook can seem intimidating at first when you realize that you have to set it up all by yourself. But a bullet journal is actually quite easy to learn and set up. It doesn’t have to be all pretty like the inspirations you see online. Begin by keeping it simple and easy so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Once you get the hang of it, you can add additional pages and take your bullet journal to the next level.
4. Access Everything At A Glance
A bullet journal lays out everything where you can see it. Everything is always within sight- your notes, your trackers, events, and tasks. By being able to see everything at a glance, you’ll be more productive and accountable to finish your tasks.
5. Increases Productivity
I don’t know about you, but I hate seeing undone tasks at the end of the day. It feels nice to see that at the end of the day, or week, all tasks have been completed. A bullet journal in a way forces you to become more productive. It also increases efficiency as all tasks are written down systematically.
6. Great tool for keeping lists
A bullet journal is a great tool for maintaining lists. You can include all sorts of lists like shopping lists, a task list, chores list, packing list, books to read list, etc.
7. Track your long term goals
A bullet journal is also a great tool for planning and tracking your goals- be it daily goals and tasks, or even long term goals and bucket lists. By writing down your goals, and tracking them in your bullet journal, you are sort of creating a vision board that will help make your dreams and goals a reality. Seeing your goals every day also gives you a sense of purpose in life and motivates you to do better in order to achieve those goals.
8. It’s a positive psychology technique
The world around us is chaotic. A bullet journal is also a place where you can unwind and relax after a long, tiring day. Ticking off tasks from the checklist provides immense satisfaction. You can also use a bullet journal to track your mood, habits, and self-care. In a way, bullet journaling provides peace of mind.
9. Boosts creativity and Inspires new ideas
A bullet journal is a canvas where you can unleash your creativity. It can be really fun to use, and you can play with colors, highlighters, doodles, etc. unleash the creative side in you on your bujo pages. Doing so not only boosts creativity but also inspires new ideas.
10. Track Your Habits, Fitness, And Mood
You can use a bullet journal to track your habits, fitness, fertility, progress, meals, and growth. By tracking your mood, you will be able to identify triggers and symptoms and learn how you can control them. We will be talking about bullet journal trackers in the subsequent sections.
Key Pages Of A Bullet Journal
Your bullet journal can be anything you want it to be. You can include trackers, daily spreads, weekly and monthly layouts, calendars, and so on. Here are certain key Bujo pages that you must have in your bullet journal.
1. Index Page
The bullet journal index page is usually the first page in your bullet journal. A bullet journal, as you know, need not have any specific section of pages allocated to a specific project. That’s the beauty of a bullet journal. Unlike a regular planner, you can simply pick up a blank page and start writing anything you feel like. But this obviously might cause confusion and might be difficult to navigate. This is precisely why you need an index page for your bullet journal. It need not be anything fancy. A simple page with a topic and the page numbers indicated next to it will do. The point is to be able to organize your journal and navigate easily through the pages.
How To Create Bullet Journal Index Page
2. Bullet Journal Key Page
If you are new to bullet journaling, or even if you have some experience, it can get quite confusing without a proper bujo key page. You may have many different areas of your life to plan out like your work life, personal life, meals, workouts, and so on. You start using dots, dashes, and other symbols, and eventually, it gets too complicated. A bullet journal key page is a key for your journal that helps you understand the different symbols and color codes that you use in your journal. You’ll be surprised to know how maintaining a simple key for your bullet journal can almost double your efficiency.
5 Smart Ways To Use Bullet Journal Key
3. The Daily Log
The bullet journal daily log is a page where you micro plan your day. Write down everything you want to get accomplished during the day, the events you need to attend, take down any notes, etc. You can also include your daily trackers and goals on this page. Basically, anything to keep you going during the day. Come back and tick off all the tasks you got done and reflect on how your day went. You may also write down the highlights of your day. The idea is to not only plan your day, but also to record how it went.
4. Bullet Journal Weekly Spread
If you are someone who feels that planning each and every single day of the week in detail is a bit too much, but still want to have some control of your week, then a bullet journal weekly layout is perfect for you. A bullet journal weekly spread allows you to plan your week in advance, while at the same time, not getting into micro-planning each hour of the day. You can draw up the layout every week and add tasks to each day to get a visual representation of how your week is going to be like.
40 Bullet Journal Weekly Spread Ideas To Plan The Week
5.Bullet Journal Monthly Log
Every month is a new beginning. A bullet journal monthly log is a place where you can plan out your month in advance, to provide you with some clarity and direction for the month. Simply write down numbers one to thirty or thirty one depending on the number of days in the month and write down in one or two bullet points if you have any event or task due on each day. You can also write down birthdays and other important dates. The idea is to plan your month, to give you a vague sense of how each day is going to look like.
6. The Future Log
You can use a bullet journal daily log to record events and tasks for the day. You can use a weekly spread to plan out your week. Similarly, a monthly layout can be used to plan out your month in advance. But what about events and tasks whose dates are uncertain? Where will you note down those tasks? The bullet journal future log page is the answer. This is a simple page you can use to write down all tasks, events, programs, etc, whose dates aren’t fixed. Simply write future log on the top and write down all such events and tasks using bullet points.
7. Bullet Journal Year At A Glance
The bullet journal year at a glance page is basically an events and calendar spread for the entire year. You make this page at the very beginning of the year. This can follow a yearly calendar layout where you can mark all important dates and events. This will help you to macro plan your year and get a vague sense of what your year is going to be like.
To know more about bullet journal year at a glance page, refer to article- 23 Bullet Journal Year At A Glance Ideas You’ll Love
23 Bullet Journal Year At A Glance Ideas You’ll Love
How To Personalize Your Bullet Journal?
How you style and personalize your bullet journal largely influences whether you will return to spend time with your Bujo every day or not. Until and unless you establish a personal connect with your journal, the bullet journal might just seem like any other book, with lots of blank pages. What sets it apart is the user using the journal. Hence, it is highly important to personalize your journal rather than merely copying pages from pictures and posts that you see online. Here are a few ways in which you can personalize your bullet journal.
1. Decide your Bullet Points And Signifiers
The different bullet, symbols, icons, color codes, and signifiers that you use is something that sets your journal apart from the rest. There are a wide range of symbols and signifiers to choose from. Pick out what works best for you. You can even be creative and create your own unique signifiers to add a personal touch to your bullet journal. Some symbols and signifiers you can choose from are:
- To Do
o In Progress
✖ canceled task
✉ send an e-mail
📞 make a call
💭 random thoughts/ musings
🎤 karaoke night
⚽ soccer practice
→shift task to next day
❤ date/ meeting with a loved one
💧drink water/ hydrate
🍟 cheat day
✂ hair cut/ salon appointment
2. Decorative VS Minimalist
You might get intimidated and a bit overwhelmed looking at all the different artsy, decorative bullet journal spreads you get to see online. But you don’t have to necessarily follow those layouts. Whether you choose to keep your journal minimalist or artsy and decorative is totally up to you. Your journal can be all decorative, with doodles, creative drawings, fancy fonts, and elaborate layouts, or you can keep it simple with only the essentials. It’s totally your choice. If you aren’t artistic or prefer to focus on functionality over form, then you might as well keep your Bujo pages minimalist. Choosing which style of bullet journaling you want to follow is another way of personalizing your journal. If you don’t want to pick a style, that’s also totally fine. You can switch between different styles according to your mood and time.
3. Write down your goals
Another way of personalizing your bullet journal is by adding goals to it. Your goals are specific to you, and no other person will have the exact same set of goals. You can write down your goals in your bullet journal pages to add some life and character to it. These can be monthly goals such as losing weight, studying harder, or yearly goals such as buy a car or take that dream vacation, or even long term goals. After writing down your goals, you can also segregate them into categories and chalk out a plan on how you are going to achieve those goals. This way, you can make your bullet journal truly yours.
4. Add some collections to your Bujo Pages
Adding collections to the back pages of your bullet journal is another fun way to personalize your bullet journal. Collections are broad to-do or goals lists that you want to accomplish over the course of a year. It basically includes anything that is not a log. Collections can include a list of books to read, or movies to watch, Netflix shows to complete, recipes you want to try, restaurants or cuisines you want to experience, and so on. It’s good to fill out your collections page as and when ideas strike you, and you can refer to it later on when you need inspiration.
Read on to find our section on everything you need to know about bullet journal collections.
5. Fill out daily events that matter to you
The next step to personalizing your bullet journal is to add daily events and tasks that matter to you. Remember, the main reason you’re maintaining a bullet journal is to organize your events and tasks, and not just for the aesthetics. As you track your day, fill out events according to your preference. You can also include moments that made you smile or that impacted you. Remember to use personal experiences, memories, and references to personalize your Bujo.
All About Bullet Journal Collections
Collections are what make your bullet journal fun. They can be lists, logs, trackers, maps, info dumps, and much more. Collections can include anything ranging from a list of books to read, movies to watch, places to visit, cuisines to try out, memories log, etc. You can simply turn to the next blank page and start with one of your collections. But if you find this messy, then a good way to go forward would be to start your collections from the last pages of your bullet journal. Here are a few bullet journal collections worth keeping.
1. Bullet Journal Affirmations Log
Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. Your thoughts shape you. Using a bullet journal can help you shift from negative to positive. Positive affirmations help you change the way you talk and think about yourself. Create an affirmations log in your bullet journal that you can use to repeat to yourself in times of self-doubt and insecurity. Trust me, it’s an instant mood changer.
2. Memories Log
One great thing about using a bullet journal is that it helps you capture and document all your memories. Dedicate a few pages in your bullet journal to write down all the beautiful memories that you experience daily. This sure will bring a smile on your face when you read it a few months or years later.
3. Gratitude Log
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It has the power to transform your life. By practicing gratitude daily, you break the negative cycle that your mind tends to get caught up in. You raise your frequency and get attuned to the positive energies of the world. And by Law Of Attraction, you attract positive things that lead to happiness in your life. Make practicing gratitude a habit by creating a gratitude log in your bullet journal. Each day, just list down a few things you are grateful for.
How To Use Gratitude Journal To Transform Your Life
4. Meal Planning
One of the toughest choices I have to make on a day-to-day basis is what to make for lunch and then dinner. Use your bullet journal to plan your meals. This way, you don’t have to waste time deciding anymore. Simply plan your meals at the start of the week or a month in advance. You can also avoid frequent trips to the grocery store if you plan your meal properly.
5. Recipes to try list
Do you have a lot of recipes that you want to try out, but can’t seem to find them when you need them? Ever find a really great recipe and wrote it down somewhere just to misplace it? I used to do this often, but now I write down all my recipes in my Bujo. Finding them has been a lot easier since. You can also categorize the recipes into starters, main course, desserts, and grandma’s traditional recipes, etc.
6. Grocery List
Dedicate a few pages of your bullet journal for preparing grocery lists. This way, you can avoid frequent trips to the grocery store by getting all that you need at once. Each time you remember to get something, add that item to the list then and there.
7. Goals and Rewards
Writing down your goals provides you with clarity in life and motivates you to achieve them. Create a goals and rewards page in your bullet journal to help you advance in life. Simply list down the goals you want to accomplish. These can be short term or even long term goals. Also set tiny rewards at the end of each goal, or every time you reach a milestone. These rewards, even though maybe small, motivate and push you to achieve your goals.
8. Books To Read/ Movies & TV Shows To Watch
This always happens to me- I sit to watch a movie and spend 30 minutes picking the movie itself. To avoid this, add a collection of books you want to read, or movies or TV shows to watch to your bullet journal. Whenever you come across a cool movie, or your friend suggests you a book, simply add that to the list. So next time you decide to read or watch something, simply pick one from the list.
9. Bullet Journal Bucket List
Bucket lists are such a fun collection to add to your bullet journal. You can dedicate a page in your bullet journal to create a bucket list of all the places you want to visit in your lifetime, the experiences you want to live, the different cuisines you want to try out, etc. You can also create seasonal bucket lists such as a summer bucket list or fall bucket list.
10. Bullet Journal Wishlist
Sometimes, you really want something, but just don’t have the budget to spend that much at the moment. Add all such items to your bullet journal wishlist. So next time you want to reward yourself, just pick something from your wishlist and add it to your cart.
For more bullet journal page ideas, refer to our article- 55 Bullet Journal Pages Ideas For Your Bujo
All About Bullet Journal Trackers
1. Habit Trackers
I won’t be exaggerating if I said that the bullet journal habit tracker changed my life. It takes only 21 days to build or get rid of a habit. And if you too want to build a habit, then a habit tracker is a great tool to help you achieve that. A habit tracker is a very simple and efficient way to track if you are following a particular habit or not. By creating a habit tracker page in your bullet journal, you can not only track multiple habits at once but also modify it to suit your taste.
25 Habit Tracker Bullet Journal Ideas For You
2. Mood Trackers
Mood trackers are an exciting way to keep track of your happy days or gloomy days. Mood tracking is a positive psychology technique for improving mental health. It requires you to record your mood, usually at set time intervals, in order to help identify patterns in how your mood varies. They also help you to identify the triggers that affect the way you feel on a daily basis. We have two separate articles on mood trackers, how to track your mood, its benefits, and mood tracker ideas.
24 Best Bullet Journal Mood Tracker Ideas For Bujo
3. Health And Weight Loss Tracker
Are you trying to lose weight and want to keep track of your body? Or simply want to stay fit and healthy? Then you must create a health and weight loss tracker in your bullet journal. What you track here is totally up to you. You can track your weight, weight loss, body, health, allergies, doctor’s appointments, etc.
18 Weight Loss Tracker Bullet Journal Ideas You’ll Love
4. Travel Trackers
Travel trackers are a fun collection to add to your travel bullet journal. You can keep track of all the places you’ve been, the places you want to visit, etc. If you’re planning a trip, then you can also plan out your travel itinerary, your packing list, places to visit, etc. You can also document your memories from each trip that you can cherish for a lifetime.
8 Things To Document In Your Travel Bullet Journal
5. Finance Trackers
Do you feel like you have no clue where your money disappears by the end of the month? Then keep track of your finances and bills using a bullet journal finance tracker. A bullet journal finance layout is a great way to track your income, expenses, savings, and plan your budget. By doing so, you will be able to attain your financial goals and make better financial decisions in life.
25 Bullet Journal Finance Layouts To Manage Money
All About Bullet Journal Themes
Bullet journal themes are a fun way to add some life and excitement to your bullet journal. You can use different themes each month to make it different, and stand out from the rest of the pages. Change is motivating. Change up your themes regularly to keep you motivated and interested in journaling.
A theme is basically a subject or a central topic or idea around which you can base your bullet journal for the month. You design your monthly cover, daily, weekly, and monthly spreads, trackers, and any other pages, spreads and collections of the month around these central themes chosen.
The themes you chose can be anything- Christmas and holiday-themed for December, Halloween themed bullet journal for October, summer and beach themed spreads for July and August, etc. Your theses can also be completely random such as a watermelon themed spread, or avocado month, or mountains, vacation, etc. You can also base your themes around your favorite shows, cartoon characters, and so on.
Use your imagination to bring these themes to life. Choose a layout, color scheme, add some fun decorative fonts, stickers, and washi tapes, or doodle.
Refer to our article on bullet journal themes-
What Tools Do I need?
While official bullet journals exist, you can even make do with a sturdy notebook or journal if you are a beginner. You can use any writing tools such as a pen or even a pencil in your bullet journal and slowly move to felt tips and other fancy markers. Use stickers, highlighters, stencils, and washi tape to decorate your journal.
How To Move To A New Journal?
If you are not new to the world of bullet journaling and are simply moving to a new journal, the game is totally different.
The first thing you need to do is review your previous journal. See what spreads worked for you and what didn’t. Then use only those spreads and layouts that you like. Think of the pages you don’t really need anymore and discard them.
Similarly, review your collections as well. The ones that you use regularly, move them to the new journal. If you have certain collections that you no longer use, then leave them in the old journal itself. You can always go back and refer to it when the need arises.
Once you’ve done analyzing your existing pages, consider adding new ones. A bullet journal is fun and always filled with new possibilities. Look for more collections, spreads, and inspiration and consider adding them to your new Bujo.
A new journal also means new pages. So consider testing your pens and tools by adding tonnes of swatch pages before using them in the journal.