For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page. It’s an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future.Watch the video Get Started
At the heart of the Bullet Journal is a method called “Rapid Logging”. Rapid Logging allows you to quickly capture and parse all the different types of data we’re trying to digest on a daily basis. This technique provides insights that can help you identify what’s important and weed out the things that aren’t. Figuring that out will help focus your time and energy much more effectively. It’s the difference between being busy and being productive.On to topics
In the Bullet Journal, anything you put into your book is referred to as an “entry”. To add an entry, turn to your first empty pair of facing blank pages or spread. On the top left page, give your spread a brief descriptive title or topic. Topics are the key building blocks for keeping your Bullet Journal organized.
If a page is just for general entries, place the day’s date as the topic. If a topic is specific however, take a second and give some thought to naming it. Your topic can help you clarify and focus the content you’re about to enter. Ask yourself, “What would best describe what I’m about to enter?”
If you feel that this topic will be complex or spread out over a long time, then add a subtopic to clarify what part of a project this collection is referring to i.e. Renovation / budget
Feel free to keep the following spread or two empty, but don’t worry about hoarding pages because it’s hard to tell how many spreads you’ll need for a given topic. Topics are often non-consecutive, so be sure to always add them to the index -which we’ll get to shortly- after you’ve created them.Continue to bullets
The biggest problem with note-taking and traditional journaling is that it takes time. The more complex the entry, the more effort you have to expend. The more effort you expend, the more of a chore it becomes to write things down. You run the risk of abandoning or underutilizing your journal. To assist with this, Rapid Logging relies heavily on the use of short form-notation, or bullets. Bullets are short objective sentences that you’ll use to quickly log entries into your journal. They will help organize your entries by sorting them into three distinct categories: Tasks, Notes, and Events.Continue to tasks
Tasks are represented by the empty checkboxes and include any kind of actionable items like “Pick up dry cleaning”. Once complete, put that gratifying check through the box. Some tasks require multiple steps to complete. These steps or sub-tasks can be listed by simply indenting the check boxes underneath the original master task. Master tasks can only be marked as complete once all the sub-tasks have been completed or marked as irrelevant.Continue to notes
Notes are represented with the solid dot bullet. Notes include: ideas, thoughts, observations, and non-actionable entries. Basically notes are anything you just want to jot down that’s not immediately actionable or has no greater context at the time of entry.Continue to events
Events are represented by an empty circle. An event is basically a note that happens on a specific date. Events can be premeditated, like ‘Charlie’s Birthday,’ or can be logged as they occur, like ‘Signed the lease’. This category can be tricky as it has the potential to be the most emotionally taxing.
Rapid Logging addresses this issue by keeping event entries, no matter how personal, as objective and brief as possible. For example, ‘Movie night,’ should have no more or less weight than say, a good friend moving far away.
Keep in mind, that bullets are just a quick way to organize an entry. Once you’ve logged the event, feel free to write at length about it on the next available page.
A major part of the Bullet Journal is that you can use it however you want, but following these simple guidelines will help you stay organized.Continue to signifiers
Signifiers give your bullets additional context. Here are a couple of examples of signifiers to get you started, but feel free to come up with your own as you get comfortable with Bullet Journaling.
The priority signifier, represented by a star, is used to give a Task, well, priority. It’s placed to the left of a bullet so that you quickly scan your pages and find entries that are most important.
The explore signifier, represented by an eye, is used when there is something that you want to look up. Let’s say you take a note that requires some research, use the explore signifier to remind you to look it up later.
The inspiration signifier, most commonly paired with a note, is represented by a exclamation point. There’s nothing worse than having a great idea that you just can’t remember. Now just place “!” in front of that note so you can quickly reference it later.
The migrated signifier, represented by a right arrow, is placed inside of uncompleted tasks that you’ve migrated to another section in your Bullet Journal. This is one of the handiest signifiers as it will enable you to keep track of tasks over time as you progress through your journal. We’ll touch on migration more in a later chapter.
The irrelevant signifier,
represented by striking through an entry, is used when the task has lost its purpose. This will happen when something has run out of time, or just does not matter anymore.
In order to quickly find what you’re looking for and to stay organized, it’s a critical part of Bullet Journaling to always number your pages. Some recurring entries and collections just won’t be consecutive, so it’s very important to always write down the page numbers in the bottom corners of each spread so you can add them to your index. This will also help when if (like myself) you use your bullet journal for sketching. Whenever I have an idea that requires illustration, I simply flip to the next available page or spread and enter it. By adding the pages, I can quickly orient myself.Continue to Indexing
The index should be created on the first blank page of your Bullet Journal.
Indexing your content provides you the flexibility to organically fill your Bullet Journal, while still being able to quickly find what you’re looking for. It lists your topics and their page numbers.
As you start filling your Bullet Journal, simply add your topics and their page numbers to the index. Topics that span a series of consecutive spreads are indexed like this 5-10. Some topics however are recurring and can be spread throughout your Bullet Journal. These topics can be indexed like this: Topic Name: 5-10, 23, 34-39 etc.
If you have a very complex or multi-faceted topic, you may want to use sub-topics. Subtopics will allow you to quickly reference a specific part of a larger topic. Let's take planning a big vacation. Over the course of a couple months, you have five spreads dedicated to planning this trip. Those spreads will most likely not be consecutive. Each spread will probably contain entries that are specific parts of that trip like: hotels, flights, excursions, etc.By using subtopics, you'll be able to look up exactly what you're looking for much more quickly in your index
|Books to read||5 , 21|
|/ Budget||10 - 14 , 19|
|/ Contractors||15 - 16|
|/ Ideas||17 - 18|
Monthly calendars provide a way for you plan but also regroup. It provides a method of organizing your events and tasks, granting you quick oversight for the month ahead. It’s also a good resource for reference later on.
Monthly Calendars should be created at the beginning of each month. To create your first calendar, find the next blank spread. The left page will be your Calendar Page, and the right will be your Task Page.
For the Calendar Page, title the page with the current month, then list all the days of that month down the left margin. Leave some room between the side of the page and the number for signifiers. If you like, you can also add the first character of the weekdays after the date.
Enter Events like birthdays or appointments that are unlikely to change. Your entries here should be as short as possible as this page is designed for reference only. Schedule all tentative items in pencil.
The Task Page is simply a list of Task bullets - a list of everything that you want to get done. Again, leave some room in the margin for the additional signifiers. When you’re done listing tasks, review your list and see what items are most important. Add stars next to those items to the left of the bullet.
By the time you’re ready for your second Monthly Calendar, you will also be using your calendars to migrate your unfinished tasks to the new Task Page.
Now you have an overview of the things you need to get done AND the time you have available to do it in. Of course you can schedule tasks on your Calendar Page if you like, but the real objective here is to get basic overview of the things you want to get done and the time you have available.Continue to the Daily Calendar
Turn the page right after your monthly Calendar spread for your Daily Calendars. At the top of the page, enter that day’s date. Through the course of the day, simply add bullets as they happen. If you don’t fill a page, then add the next day’s date to separate a page into different days. It saves space, time, and allows you to see when you last used your journal.
Ideally you will have your bullet journal with you all the time, and can write down entries in real time, but if not, try to get into the practice of sitting down with your bullet journal before you go to sleep and reflect on the day. In addition to keeping you organized, I feel it’s comforting and prepares you for the next morning.Continue migrating
Migrating content is a cornerstone of bullet journaling. Once you hit your second month, look through all the pages until you get to the previous Monthly Calendar spread. Chances are, you’ll have some tasks left unchecked. Look through them and assess whether or not you did indeed complete those items, or if that task has become irrelevant. If an open task is complete, check it off. If it has become irrelevant then strike out the whole line. If the task however is still something you need to take care of, then add it to your new Monthly Calendar’s Task Page.
The goal here is not to collect as many tasks as possible, but rather to be mindful of what you need to do and to filter out items that just aren’t that important. Again, it’s the difference between being busy and being productive.Continue to Collections
When you start using your Bullet Journal regularly, you’ll notice some of your bullets have a common theme, or are all directly related to one another. Once you have enough of them, it’s time to create a collection. To do this, simply turn to your next blank spread, and give your collection a topic. Add that topic to your index and find all the bullets that are relevant to that topic. Once you’ve moved them to the collection, go back to the bullets previous location and mark them as migrated. This works best with tasks, but can also be used with ideas and notes.
Collections, like any other topic, can grow over time and are a simple way to organize related bullets. I find the best time to update or create collections is at the beginning of the month when you create your Monthly Calendar.Continue to tips
I prefer using a Leuchtturm1917 because it has a lot of features built in that lend themselves perfectly to Bullet Journaling. This is by no means a prerequisite. Additionally, I like the accessories that are built into most Moleskines like the bookmark and the pocket in the back where I can quickly throw random scraps until I can deal with them later.
The two main things to keep in mind are size and quality. If it’s too big you’ll never take it with you. If it’s too small it will be impractical. Be sure to get something that's rugged enough to keep up with you. I love that I can refer back to years worth of my old Bullet Journals.
I find that starting with a fresh book on the first of the new year will help you catalog them much easier. Even if your book is only a quarter full, there is something inspirational and motivating about beginning the new year with a blank slate.
For the most part, I use pens because pencils fade. One of the great benefits of Bullet Journaling is that over time you create a library of them. The only time I use pencil is when I'm sketching or adding items to my Monthly Calendar's event page, because all plans are subject to change.
Even though a lot of Bullet Journals can be intensely personal, I highly recommend adding a very visible note in the front of the book for people to contact you should you lose it. Leaving your first name and your phone number only should do the trick. Cash rewards are a great incentive, but so are personalized messages. My Bullet Journal fell out of my bag on a train to New York during rush hour, and it was returned to me.Take a peek behind the curtain
My name is Ryder Carroll, and I’m an Art Director and Interaction Designer living in Brooklyn NY. I’ve developed this system through trial and error over many years and hope to keep evolving it as I stumble across better patterns. I hope that you take the ideas presented here and apply/adapt them so they work best for you.
This website is my little thank you to the far more gifted and generous people who’ve helped and inspired me over the years by making their learning, talent, and insight freely available. The Bullet Journal system has helped me tremendously over the years, and I hope in some small way it will be helpful to you.