Bullet Journal Basics

What is a Bullet Journal?

It’s an analog system in a digital age. Bullet Journal was developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY.


Simply put, it’s a notebook that works as your daily planner, to do list and whatever else you need it to be. Every Bullet Journal (BUJO) I’ve seen on the Internet is as different as the people who use them. Some are simple lists, while others are beautiful works of art.
But why, you ask?
In this digital world of Omnifocus, Wunderlist, Todoist, OneNote, Evernote and a host of others, why would you ever want to go back to pen and paper?


In today’s fast paced digital world, there’s something about taking pen to paper that can’t be achieved with anything digital. The satisfaction of seeing and hearing the pen tip dragging slowly, scratching the surface of the paper, as your handwriting reveals itself. Nothing matches that feeling…nothing. It brings with it a different state of mind, a state of actually learning and accomplishing something. Isn’t that the whole idea of some sort of planning system? Actually being productive and getting things done?


“Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.”
Quoted from: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: the Science of Paper vs. Screens fromScientific American


Setting Up Your Bullet Journal

The basic concepts are the same for all. How you interpret and create those concepts make your BUJO unique to you.


The Notebook

Your choice of notebook is entirely up to you. I’ve seen BUJOs on spiral bound notebooks, Moleskin notebooks,  Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks and just about anything else you can think of. Personally, I use a an ARC customizable notebook system from Staples. It gives me complete freedom to move pages around to suit my mood at any given time. Bound notebooks don’t give you that kind of flexibility. But it doesn’t matter, that’s the beauty of the Bullet Journal system.


The Index

Similar to the index in the back of a reference book, the index in your BUJO is a snapshot of the contents contained within. Start out with the first 4 pages in your notebook. This should give you enough room as your BUJO grows. Title all 4 pages INDEX. The purpose of the index is to be a reference to whatever is in your BUJO, making it easier to find that entry later. So only index what you think you will need to find later.


The Future Log

This is where you’ll keep track of future events. Since the basic concept of the Bullet journal system is to be focused on one month at a time, you’ll need someplace to log future events and tasks that need to be dealt with in the future. This way it’s off your mind and recorded.


Set up the Future Log with 4 pages. Separate each page into 3 sections and title each section with a month of the year. Be sure to number each page and add them to your Index. Now you have a place to log your future items.


The Monthly Log

Your Monthly Log is where you’ll log your tasks and events that need to be dealt with this month.


Go to the next available 2 page spread. The left page is a calendar for the month. Title it for the current month, then number down the left side of the page, one number for each day of the month, one line for each day, 1 to 30 or 31. Optionally, you can add the first letter of the day of the week next to each number, SMTWTFS.


On the right side is your Task list of the items that you want to get done this month. Also, be sure to migrate any tasks from last month that are still relevant and haven’t been accomplished. If that task no longer needs done, cross it off of last months log.


No go back to your Index and add an entry for the monthly log and the page number. Do this for every month as you add them at the start of the month. See how your Index page becomes your running Table of Contents for your BUJO? Makes it easier to find items in the future when your BUJO fills up.


The Daily Log

The Daily Log is place for all that happens during the day. Here you “Rapid-Log” through the day with any tasks, events and notes as they occur to you. Start each day at the next available line and boldly title the line with the day and date to make it stand out on the page. Now using “Bullets” rapidly log each task, event or note as it comes to you.


The Bullets are just short-form notation to identify the item on the line. For example you could use:
.  tasks
X completed tasks
> task migrated
< task scheduled
O events
– notes
! important or notable
There are many ideas for bullets. Do a quick Google image search and you’ll find many pages of ideas.



Eventually you’ll end up with a list of related items. These are your collection logs. Lists like books you want to read, movies to watch, shopping list, blog post ideas, among many others. Don’t forget to index your collection pages.


Watch the video

For a visual explanation of the Bullet Journal and setting it up watch the following video:



That’s it! Simple huh?
Almost too simple, which seems to make it complicated for some. People begin to play out different scenarios in their head and in turn, makes it seem so complex. My advice is to set up a basic BUJO and give it a month. If you find something isn’t working for you, change it to your liking and give it some more time. Keep adjusting things to the way you work.


Do you BUJO? Tell us about it the comments.