Do you schedule your calendar on your cell phone, tablet or computer? Do you use a different application to track your “to do” list, and yet another for your shopping lists? If so, a basic bullet journal may simplify your life and increase your productivity.

What is a Bullet Journal?

The bullet journal is a “rapid logging” analog system created by Ryder Carroll, a successful designer, author and public speaker. As a child, Carroll was diagnosed with learning disabilities. Over the years, he developed a method that helped him schedule tasks and events and to achieve long-term and short-term goals using just a notebook and pen.

A quick internet search for bullet journal, or “bujo” as they are popularly known, will generate thousands of hits. Many include photos of elaborate bujo page spreads complete with detailed color-coded systems, headers written in calligraphy that would put John Hancock to shame, complex charts and even intricate illustrations.

While these bullet journals are visually appealing, it’s important for beginners to know that these bells and whistles aren’t necessary. In fact, they may be counterproductive for people who are trying to attain the focus and productivity that Carroll intended when he created the system.

How to Start a Bullet Journal

All you need to start your bujo is a journal or notebook, a pen and ruler. While many bullet journalists, including Carroll himself, prefer pages with dot grids because the pattern is faint and unobtrusive while still providing guidelines, others favor standard ruled pages. Numbered pages are desirable, but you can easily number them yourself.

While any notebook will do, many bullet journalists prefer high-quality paper such as the Leuchtturm1917 A5 . A number of manufacturers also offer bullet journals that are set up and ready to use, including Moleskin, Scribbles that Matters and Rider Carroll’s own Bullet Journal.

A basic bullet journal only needs five components in the following order:

  1. Key ― This is a legend that includes the symbols that you will use to denote what each entry is. For example, a task is represented by a solid bullet point, while an event is marked by a hollow bullet point.
  2. Index ― As you create each of the following components, add the page numbers to your Index for easy reference.
  3. Future Log ― This section, which includes a box for each month, serves as a place holder for key tasks and events that you know about in advance. For example, if you schedule a doctor’s appointment in June for the following December, you can log it in the proper box for future reference.
  4. Monthly Log ― This spread includes two sections:
  • On the left-hand page ― a calendar for that month to which you will migrate tasks from your Future Log
  • On the right-hand page ― a list of tasks for that month to which you haven’t yet assigned a date
  1. Daily Log ― The Daily Log is exactly what it sounds like; a place to add  your tasks, events and notes for a specific date.
  • Copy all tasks or events from your Monthly Log to your Daily Log the night before. You don’t want to forget to do them.
  • Migrate any undone tasks from the previous day to tomorrow’s Daily Log.
  • You may log each day on its own page or create a simple week-at-a-glance view. Do this by dividing a spread into seven sections with your ruler and labeling them with the day of the week and the date.

A Basic Bullet Journal from @lettersfromsierra on Instagram

Unlike a standard yearly calendar or agenda, you can start your bullet journal anytime you like, even in the middle of the year. You won’t be wasting pages.

Over time, your bullet journal may evolve. It might include some of the above-mentioned bells and whistles. Or you may decide to incorporate components such as “collections” that allow you to track your calories, books read or movies watched. Then again, you may decide that this simplified version is the perfect long-term way to schedule, organize and manage your life.

How are you using your bullet journal? Comment below and let our community know.

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