My Bullet Journal (Part 1)

I said in my most recent post that I would be doing a miniseries Life Hacks. Most of them will be focusing on productivity, and today’s in particular is a topic close to my heart. It is something I’ve been doing for a few months now, since July to be precise, and it is the most revolutionary organisational method I have ever come across. So much that I may do a separate series on it alone. Today I am going to speak about Bullet Journaling.

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Look at this! A third week in a row I am posting! How amazing is that eh? I know I know, I used to be more regular, but things have got busy. Things have got busy and I am actually beginning to get back on track of them. This is all thanks to Jarvis, my trusty little book that never leaves my side.

What is it?

Jarvis (pictured above) is my Leuchturm1997, my dotted notepad that has my whole life (or nearly) written in. It has my to-do lists, my memories, my day plan, my habit tracker, my doodles, my TV tracker, everything. It is literally my go to book.

 

Why use it?

For years I have wanted to journal. I have wanted to track my life somehow and at the same time keep myself organised. I tried apps, habit tracking apps, to do list apps, calendar apps, I tried using evernote to journal, but with everything it meant I had to go to 5 or 6 places every day. Now I have such a bad memory, it never worked well. Then my best friend Gemma came to me about the Bullet Journal. Boy oh boy do I love her all the more for it!

The Bullet Journal method has allowed me the freedom of journaling and everything else all in one place at my own pace. I don’t have to do anything in it that I don’t want to do, and I don’t have loads of useless pages sitting there that I don’t want to use and never would use. Sure, I try things out that I don’t like, but that’s another story.

But what exactly is it?

Bullet Journaling is something that was designed originally by Ryder Carroll, a designer living in Brooklyn. It is designed as a system of rapid logging, where you use symbols to add entries and everything is done very minimalistically. The idea is that once it becomes difficult to do, it becomes a chore, once it becomes a chore; people no longer want to do it.

Of course, not everyone wants to stick to a basic system, I know I myself changed from simple to more complex very early on, but the option is there which is one reason why I love it.

So how do you do it?

The basic premise is a journal, a pen, a set of symbols, and a few basic layouts. It doesn’t take a lot more.

You begin with a title and a page number. You use a basic title that makes sense, that you will recognise (such as the date), and you number the page so you can come back to it later. Then you introduce the bullets. They have three basic functions, Tasks, Events and Notes.

Symbols

A task is represented by just a simple dot (.). When the task is complete, you turn that dot into an X to show it is complete. If you are unable to complete the task, you either migrate it or schedule it.  A greater than sign (>) means it has been migrated to another list, whilst a less than sign (<) means it has been scheduled to a set day.

To sum that up;

  • . = Task
  • X = Task Complete
  • > = Task Migrated
  • < = Task Scheduled

Then you have Events, which are represented by a circle, a simple (O), once they have been completed they are simply crossed through. The idea is no event holds more weight than another when being written down, they are all represented the same.

Finally you have notes, which are represented by a dash (-). These are just things you need to put down, perhaps put more information about an event or task (such as what colour your top that you took to the dry cleaners is).

If you want to add more priority to things you can add signifiers. In the basic BuJo format you use three different ones. A star to show that something takes priority (*), an exclamation point to highlight some inspiration (!), or an eye for anything that requires any further research, information or something that you need to discover.

Now, I don’t use the same symbols now (largely), but I will go through those I do use in a moment, for now I want to finish explaining the basic format.

Modules/Collections

Ryder calls these parts his modules, starting with the Index. This is basically just a table of contents. You have a few pages at the start of the journal which you put in what is on each page. Pretty simple, pretty good idea in my thoughts, it allows you to come back to anything easily by just glancing down and seeing where everything is. The idea is that you go back to it every time you start a new page and record it. In practice this isn’t always that easy – I often do it only once a week, and do it all at once.

You don’t have to put every single page down individually, but you may have what is called a collection (say, a set of four pages about a trip to London you are going on, with packing lists, notes about hotels, etc) on pages 4-8. For this you would simply write something like ‘4-8 London Trip’. It allows you to get back to the place you need to be easily.

Then you start looking at the Logs, the future log (which is basically a year’s log) and the monthly log. Ryder’s plans are both very simple, easy to follow, but quite bland to look at in my eyes.

The future log is done over a four page spread. Three months to a page, simply with tasks and events for each month outlined (using the aforementioned symbols). It is a page you can flip back to during the year and work out what you need to put in each monthly spread.

The month spread is done on a two page spread, one page having the dates down the left side, with everything you need to do for the month listed there next to the days. Then on the right page, you have tasks and goals for the month. Again these are laid out in a basic form with the symbols above.

There is a little more to go through, but honestly to go over it all, I’d recommend looking at the main site here.

What about my method?

I do something slightly different; I use different symbols and a lot of collections. I got my symbol ideas from Pinterest, and I get a lot of my methods and layouts from there and instagram, it really is worth looking at for inspiration.

 

My key looks like the photo below. I use a square for tasks, if they are started or half done, I colour in half of the square. If it is complete, I fill it in. I keep the usual circle for events, but I added in another symbol for a subsection of appointments (usually only medical ones). I occasionally use arrows within the squares to show migration, but more often than not I leave it.

I also sometimes put deadlines next to tasks, but it depends where these are (the way I lay out my daily and weekly spreads doesn’t usually allow much room for notes next to the box). I also decided that a dot would be my notes, I don’t find a need for dashes, and a dot sums it all up for me and is much quicker.

 

I then use two main symbols, to show pay days and money out (such as bills), alongside an exclamation point for important information and occasionally I will use a question mark for further research required.

As you will see on the image I also use a colour code. This helps me a lot knowing what I am on about for each thing I do. Plus, who doesn’t love a splash of colour?

For my future log I actually merged two popular ‘hacks’ that people have done to the Bullet Journal. These are the Calendex and The Alastair Method.  I shan’t go into massive detail on how to use them; I find Boho Berry does an amazing job of that on her blog. But I find them very helpful for me, and a lot more visual than the traditional style Ryder designed.

A great thing I did for myself was my birthday log! It is so helpful as a point of reference! I have all my family and close friends in there, even myself, and again it is just nice to look at. Plus it was really fun to draw out. I will post a picture of it on a later post.

I have tried a few different layouts for my monthly spreads, I did have a morning afternoon and evening one that went across two pages (like in the image below) but this month I thought I’d trial something new. I am really pleased I did too. I mean, I haven’t had chance to try it out yet, but it looks a lot more usable.

 

The thing behind the monthly spread is having a space to keep everything written down, a lot of people find only one column enough, as they don’t do a lot through the month. But I like to even put my work schedule in, so I have to put a bigger area. I will do an update in the New Year about my Bullet Journal though to keep you all up to date on how my new layouts have worked.

I have also done a lot of different daily and weekly spreads. I began in the traditional way, just putting a header for each day, then writing everything, and then doing another at the end/start of the day. I liked this, but I felt it was quite disorganised for me. I liked to have an area for everything, and this didn’t allow for that. Instead I thought I would trial the idea of weekly spreads. For ages I had rejected them, I thought they would be too small for me, and the first few I tried were. But after a while I began experimenting more, and even now I have begun to trial some new layouts.

 

Honestly if I keep talking about the BuJo this post will never end. But I will do another post soon on the different collections I have and that I find useful within my journal, and which I think other people could find helpful.

Let me know, have you ever heard of the Bullet Journal? Have you ever given it a go? What do you like and dislike? I know this is a very long post to get through (sorry!) but is there anything you’d like more clarification on? Leave me a comment, I will always reply to anything posted, it will be good to interact with you all again!

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4 comments

  1. I hadn’t heard of this but it looks very interesting and fun. I carry a journal around with me for note taking on things I read and meetings I have with my therapist or coach, classes I take online, goals and stuff like that. Personally, my phone calendar works great for keeping me on schedule but I like the idea of organizing my notes better so that things are easier to find later on when I want to look something up. I’ll have to look into this a bit deeper for myself. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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