Bullet journals are the newest organization sensation and rightfully so. These simple yet effective tools are a great way to track past events, organize the present, and plan for the future. While using a bullet journal may be simple, learning how to initially make one can be overwhelming (especially if you only know about bullet journals from seeing the beautiful layouts on Instagram). To set your minds at ease, here are the basics of bullet journaling.
All you need to get started is a notebook and a pen. The notebook style and size is up to you. The pen colors can be as fancy as you’d like, but you really only need a basic ballpoint.
For starters, bullet journals are broken down into modules. The standard modules include: Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, Daily Log, and Collections. Within each module, you’ll use bullets and signifiers to rapid log tasks, events, and notes.
This module is exactly what it sounds like, a table of contents for your bullet journal. This module should be the first in your journal and will be updated continuously. This is where you will add topics and their pages numbers. Some topics will only span a few pages and some will be spread throughout your journal. Not everything will be added to your Index, but it’s a great place to store the important items for reference.
The future log is a module used to document tasks and events that need to be scheduled well in advance or that are not time sensitive. This log can be set up in three month, six month, or twelve month sections. This forward-focused module should be set up in a view that is most useful for you.
The monthly log is more detailed than the future log. Each month should be set up on two pages, preferably starting with a left page, in order to view the entire month in one view. This first page will be a calendar page. For example, January would have 31 lines, numbered 1 through 31, for each day. The second page will be a task page. Both pages will be used to schedule and record monthly tasks and events.
This log is where your day-to-day updates will be tracked. Here you will record your daily tasks, events, and notes in list form, starting with the date at the top. This documentation can occur throughout the course of a day or you can set aside a specific time each day to capture the day’s contents. This page should not be set up ahead of time as each day may vary in length. If there is available space on the page at the end of the day, start the next day where you left off. This daily process is called Rapid Logging. All of these tasks, events, and notes should be short and objective.
This is an optional module used for miscellaneous lists, such as shopping lists, books to read, or ongoing projects. Each list will consist of notes and tasks for that collection.
Bullets and Signifiers
A key component of a bullet journal is the actual bullets used for each task, event, and note. For actionable tasks, use a standard bullet ‘•’. Tasks include items such as ‘Pay rent’ and ‘Call Mom.’ For events, use an open bullet ‘O’. Events are date-related tasks that can be scheduled or logged after they occur. For notes, use a dash ‘-’. Notes include thoughts, facts, and observations from that day.
Signifiers are added to the left of a bullet to add emphasis or priority, such as ‘*’ or ‘!’. Bullets and signifiers can be personalized. Once you’ve started your bullet journal, it’s helpful to add a key to keep track of your bullets and signifiers.
At the end of each month, the next month should be set up with items from your future log. Your past month’s tasks should be evaluated to determine if they should be carried forward. If you’ve completed a task, update the bullet to an ‘x’. For any unfinished tasks, assess whether they are still worth your time to complete. If they are not, strike a line through them. If a task has been scheduled for a later date, update the standard bullet to a left arrow ‘<’. If the task still needs to be completed, update the standard bullet to a right arrow ‘>’ and carry forward the entry into the new month. This process is called migration. It makes you stop and think about each task to add awareness and intentionality to your everyday.
Although the explanation of how to make a bullet journal may seem lengthy, bullet journaling is not something that takes a long time. It’s a valuable tool that serves as your planner, your to-do list, and your diary.
This post was originally written for and published by Elana Lyn. Elana Lyn is a professional and personal development resource that provides millennial women with actionable job search, career, lifestyle, and wellness advice. To learn more about Elana Lyn, visit www.elanalyn.com.