Journaling is one of my absolute favorite hobbies, and has been since I was a kid. I've tried many methods of journaling over the years — but I've only recently discovered an awesome new approach called the "Bullet Journal" sustem. But what is the Bullet Journal system, exactly? As a recent piece on it in Quartz describes, this approach is all-inclusive to your journalling needs, combining a notebook, diary, and calendar all into one system to help you balance day-to-day tasks with long-term plans and goals. Whether you're an organization junkie or just someone who wants to get their schedule together, the Bullet Journal system may do the trick — and all you need to get it working is some paper and a pen.
For me, that's one of the coolest aspects of the Bullet Journal system, which was created designer Ryder Carroll: The fact that you can do it in any notebook you have. While there is an official Bullet Journal you can purchase, you don't lose out on anything by writing the system with your own pen and paper. Unlike organization systems that require you to buy additional supplies, the Bullet Journal only requires paper and a writing utensil — stuff that most of us probably have lying around anyway. Foolproof, right?
In my personal opinion, the biggest plus to the Bullet Journal system is that you can write basically whatever you want, wherever you want; it all says organized if you follow the "bullet" system you establish before putting the whole thing in action. That way, you're not wasting paper or worrying about writing things in the "wrong" place and getting disorganized.
Here's how it works:
The Bullet Journal system relies on a few different elements to work. Here's how they break down:
1. The Index
The Index is key to using the Bullet Journal system correctly: It assigns page numbers for each of the three types of logs you'll be keeping track of in your journal (more on those soon), as well as any collections you create (more on those later, too). You can definitely use a few pages to fill this out, and it can continue growing as the way you use your journal changes. It functions the same way an index in a book does — it helps you find the specific part of your journal that you're looking for quickly and easily.
2. The Future Log
In the next section after your Index is your Future Log. For most people, the Future Log extends to about six months, but it can be for whatever period of time you designate; all you need to do is draw out the right amount of boxes on your page for the number of months you want your Future Log to cover. The idea is that your notes for the future will be a little broader; that way, you can keep the "big picture" things you have coming up in mind while avoiding bogging yourself down with details. (Those details go into your Monthly and Daily Logs.) The Future Log is great for if you're planning to attend someone's wedding, relocate for work, if you need to file important paperwork, etc. People often also use this section for sketching out ideas for vacations or how to accomplish goals by a certain deadline.
3. The Monthly Log
After your Future Log comes your Monthly Log, which begins by writing the day of the month at the start. Write the numbers for each day of the month down the left-hand side of the page and the corresponding letter for the day of the week beside them ("M" for "Monday," etc.). Use this space for deadlines, events, birthdays, etc. This is great for a quick "once over" when you're making plans or scheduling time commitments.
4. The Daily Log
The Daily Log is pretty straightforward: It keeps track of your day-to-day tasks. You write the day's date at the top of the page, then log any events you have planned for the day, notes to yourself, tasks you want to get done, etc. It's a good habit to develop to use a cross-out system when you accomplish a task, an arrow for when something didn't get done but needs to moved to tomorrow's list of goals, etc.
5. Rapid Logging
Rapid logging is the notation method you use to keep track of all your tasks. For example, if you want all reminders to call back a family member to be a tiny telephone, you'd jot that down and then write "call family" next to it. Then, if you need to remember to call your mom on her birthday in November, you'd jump to the day of her birthday and make the tiny telephone symbol there. Simple, right? You can make the symbols whatever you'd like, and if you write down the original meaning in the Index, this means even if you come across something a few months from now and have no idea what it pertains to, you can go back to your Index as a reference point and figure it out. Awesome, right? Another simple approach to this is to use a "star" symbol to signify importance of a task you don't want to forget.
Collections help you organize what's important in your journal by topic and theme. They're an easy and straightforward way to keep track of lists, shopping needs, or ongoing projects. Once you make your "collection" pages, it's important to add them to the Index as well.
At the end of the day, the beauty of keeping a journal is that you can use it for whatever you want. The Bullet Journal system is definitely geared toward organization and efficiency, but you can use the basics from it and apply it to whatever you'd like — it could easily work as a means to keep track of a specific art or music project, detail health related information, or narrow in on an academic pursuit. Heck, you could even use it to keep track of your doodles or your favorite newspaper clippings. Whatever it is, it's OK! The point is that things become more clear and organized for you, and that can be a major stress reliever later.