You’ve seen them on blogs, pinterest and instagram, but what exactly is a Bullet Journal?
Ideal for artists and minimalists alike, it seems like everyone’s getting involved. We’ve looked into Ryder Carroll’s journalling system to bring you the bare bones of how to journal, why this method works, and the ways it can be tailored to suit you. Bookmark this guide for Bullet Journal ideas and inspiration.
Bullet Journals are easy to set up - the perfect excuse to get a coffee and buy a shiny new notebook. Taking some time out of your day to unplug and stare somewhere other than the computer screen can’t be a bad thing, and if it helps you plan your day more productively, that’s a bonus.
Get ready for your new (somewhat stress-free) organised life. Read on to find out more.
Get more organised with a planning system that adapts to you. Source: Pixabay.
When in doubt, go straight to the source. Watch the video below for an explanation of the Bullet Journal by creator Ryder Carroll.
Digital product designer in Brooklyn NY, Ryder Carroll set up the Bullet Journal system to help him capture intense moments of focus into a workable planning technique. It needed to be flexible to adapt as his circumstances changed - this is one of the foundations of this form of journaling. Once a series of methods, his trial and error attempts have become a system that people around the world follow every day.
Grasping the basics of the Bullet Journal with Ryder Carroll. Source: Youtube.
Notebook & Pen
Google the Bullet Journal and you’ll be confronted by beautiful snaps of intricately-designed journal pages with incredible illustrations.
If you’re inspired, great - get out those coloured pens and start making your journal look amazing.
Terrified? Don’t be. All you need to start bullet journaling is a notebook and pen.
There aren’t any rules as to how to craft your Bullet Journal, just some suggestions to make your life easier. Go for a high-quality notebook that you can carry around with you and a black pen that won’t bleed through the page.
Here are some of our favourites. Clockwise from bottom-left: Tombow Reporter 4 Smart Ballpoint Pen, CIAK Appuntino Notebook Medium (2-Pack), Pilot V7 Hi-Tecpoint Liquid Ink Rollerball Pen, Blackwing Slate Notebook.
Ryder Carroll’s Essentials
Starting a new project is always a little daunting, so we’ve broken down the key elements of Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system to help you get started. While experimenting in your journal can only be a good thing, bullet journalers around the world keep coming back to these four foundation points.
Just in case you’re still feeling a little lost, we’ve included some great examples to give you some inspiration.
The index should be the first page of your journal, ready for you to list all of the important pages that come after it. This is a great way to keep track of your collections and spreads without having to flick through the entire notebook.
Start off by numbering the first twenty or so pages of your journal - you can number the rest when you get to them. As each page gets filled, label it in the index. Don’t feel as though you have to write down everything in your index; only note important spreads to maximise time.
This is essentially your calendar of events and appointments for the foreseeable future. As the Bullet Journal encourages on-the-go planning, and your journal will be ever-evolving (as it’s supposed to!) this is one of the few permanent pages.
Divide two pages into three sections that cover the next six months. Whenever you get a wedding invite or a plan a trip, stick the dates in here so you don’t forget.
You’ll use the Future Log to help you plan short-term spreads, so don’t worry about it too much. Just fill in any birthdays and national holidays, then turn to the next page.
QUICK TIP: If you’re someone who has events pre-planned quite far ahead, repeat this structure to use up four pages and cover your entire year.
The Monthly Log is your month at a glance, where all of your month’s appointments are laid out on one page. Number the left page with days and dates, i.e. 1M for Monday the 1st, ready to write in significant events. Turn back to the Future Log to see what you’ve already scheduled for that month. This is for reference, so be short and snappy.
On the right page, note down your tasks. This can be added to throughout the month. You can either list these in a jumbled list (remember, convenience is key!) or split the page into useful labelled categories.
QUICK TIP: Always flick back to the previous month’s task page. If you have tasks that still need to be completed, move them into the new month.
Every day that you use your Bullet Journal, you’ll start a new Daily Log. List all appointments for the next day and note down any tasks; try to do this in the morning or the night before. Use your journal during the day to keep on track.
This is where you can get really creative - your Bullet Journal can be used as a list of things to do, or a space where you jot notes down, or a scrapbook-like retrospect of whatever happened that day. Don’t draft out your Daily Logs so that you can take up as much space as you need.
Be personal or practical, it’s up to you.
Symbols & Signifiers
Ryder Carroll has developed a way of writing notes called Rapid Logging, using a variety of bullets to quickly identify points. This means you don’t need to carry around a case of coloured pens to colour coordinate - though you certainly can, if you’d like to!
Here are some examples of how you might use the following symbols to Rapid Log the day’s events:
(•) Tasks: Things that need doing - i.e. Email boss
(X) Task Complete: Mark a task when it’s been done
(>) Task Migrated: Move this entry to the next Tasks page
(<) Task Scheduled: Add this date-related note to the Future Log
(O) Events: Dated entries - i.e. Dinner @ Meg’s House (8pm)
(-) Notes: Thoughts or observations - i.e. Tube strike tomorrow
(*) Priority: Important memo - i.e. Buy Meg’s birthday present
(!) Inspiration: Ideas and insights - i.e. Kids loved that new Christmas movie
(Ø) Eye: More information needed - i.e. WiFi might be down this weekend
QUICK TIP: As you delve further into the Bullet Journal system, create your own signifiers specific to your needs. Use these whenever you note down Daily Logs.
Useful Bullet Journal Extras
Now that you’ve got you head around the Bullet Journal basics, it’s time for some additions to make your journal as effective as possible. We’ve trawled the web for the very best extras to make your Bullet Journal pop.
Remembering the Key can be tough even as a seasoned journaler. Keep a copy pinned with washi tape as a fold-out or write it down on the front page.
Make event planning a breeze by including a yearly calendar - don’t forget to index this nitfy page!
Having trouble keeping track of expenses or want to drink more water? Use a Habit Tracker to make daily records and look back at the end of the month to see how you did.
Too many good movies to see? Deciding on which trips to take next year? Already shopping for Christmas? Fill up blank pages with collections.
If you prefer to plan your week in advance, you’re not alone. Many journalers choose weekly spreads over dailies - try a new layout to see if it makes you more productive.
QUICK TIP: Don’t worry if you make mistakes, your Bullet Journal is your personal notebook. Find the beauty in faults and start re-designing something epic.
Start climbing that mountain with attainable goals. Make lists of what you’d like to achieve this year, month or even today.
Bullet Journals give you the freedom to plan the way that you wish. Indulge in some me-time and squeeze in daily mindfulness by adding colour and illustrations to your journal. Take as much time as you’d like - a quick doodle in the corner of a page, or a entire seasonal spread, it’s up to you. If you’re feeling especially creative, why not sit back and dedicate a full page to some sketching.
Go for Functionality
Don’t feel as though you have to be imaginative - journalling isn’t an art project. Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journals are simple and effective, designed to make your life easier. As long as you put pen to paper, you’ll be Rapid Logging in no time.
A system that adapts to you, Bullet Journals are taking the web by storm and the planner community is only growing. With the flexibility to be as simple or creative as you like, this method of journaling suits everyone.