A Bullet Journal is a combination of calendar, ‘to-do’ list and notebook. “Bullet” because you write everything down in the form of lists or bullet points.
The unique thing about Bullet Journaling is that it is very minimalistic – and therefore incredibly flexible and powerful.
Bullet Journaling is a technique, not a product. So you don’t have to spend who knows how much money on a specific calendar, you can use almost any notebook you want. The only thing that matters is the way you fill your Bullet Journal – it’s called rapid logging.
What is Rapid Logging?
Ryder Caroll, the inventor of the system, answers this question on his page like this:
“Rapid logging is the language in which the Bullet Journal is written. It consists of four components: topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets.”
This means that the first thing you do is write a topic on the page. Then you add a page number. We then transfer both to the index. We can then expand on the item in the Future Log and the Monthly Log.
Short sentences are, of course, a matter of taste. You are not forced to summarize your thoughts in short sentences. However, the overview helps to clarify what the core of a task is and naturally, one needs more words sometimes.
The bullets are the symbols we have defined in our key. We use them to distinguish different sentences.
For me “rapid logging” also means that it’s fast. I never have to think about where to write because I can always just take the next empty line or page. This saves a lot of time, and you can quickly capture your thoughts and ideas.
How Does Bullet Journaling Or Rapid Logging Work?
We base rapid logging on three Bullet Journal components:
- Page numbers
All your appointments, thoughts, To Do’s, birthdays and so on, you write in the form of bulleted lists. Write the date of the current day and list everything that comes to mind.
You start at the beginning of your notebook and fill it page by page. Therefore, you do not reserve a certain number of pages for any topic and don’t draw weekly calendars for the next few months. This gives each entry exactly as much space as it needs. You don’t waste spaces, and you don’t have to squeeze many appointments into one small field on stressful days.
The trick here is that you use a special notation or key for each of the tasks. With these few icons, you have everything you need at your fingertips.
- “To Do’s” or tasks get a single dot or a point.
- You record notes with a dash if they do not entail a concrete task.
- You mark events such as appointments and birthdays by a donut symbol.
- You mark completed tasks and deadlines with a cross.
- You strike out the entire line if something has taken care of itself or has failed.
- If you have not done a to-do, and it is moved to the list for the next day, then you mark it with a triangle as moved.
It sounds complicated at first, but it quickly becomes flesh and blood. Moreover, it’s unbelievable how clear the whole thing becomes.
The next day, you will do the same and see what is left of the previous day’s tasks.
As soon as you have finished going through the current list of tasks, you only have to look at the present day and not go back page by page to see if there is still a task from the week before, waiting for you.
Tip: You can now extend this even further by marking individual entries with additional symbols called signifiers in front of the respective lines: for example, an asterisk (*) for particularly essential items. There are no limits to your creativity, but I would recommend that you leave that out for now if you are a beginner. Otherwise, it will quickly get too complicated.
Now you might ask yourself how efficient this is to rewrite to-do’s, sometimes multiple times. However, that is really the intention. It challenges you every day to think about whether this task is still relevant. Because there is some reason, you could not complete it yet. If you realize that it is actually unimportant, then you can just cross it out and don’t have to have a guilty conscience because you unconsciously put it off for days.
Besides these daily lists (“Daily Log”), there are also different theme pages/modules. Here you grab the next free page and note the topic at the top and below you can write ideas. The beautiful thing is that everything you wrote, you do not have to remember and you have your mind free.
Topics can be anything: Notes about a meeting, collections of ideas for blog entries or house renovations, a list of movies you really want to see, and so on.
A particular module is the calendar pages. I find it convenient to have an overview of all months of the year on one double page, so I can see at a glance, for example, on which weekday a specific date falls.
Another double page is the so-called Future Log: here you can find the most important dates of the next six months.
At the beginning of a month, you set up a double page for the respective month: on the left side, you note one day per line, on the right side there is space for the goals you set for this month. In this so-called Monthly Log, you can list the upcoming dates and birthdays. Here you also transfer everything you have already noted in your Future Log for this month.
Tip: The classic monthly overview does not offer too much space with one line per day. If, like me, you have to coordinate a relatively large number of appointments; it is a convenient alternative to use two lines per day and place the month on the entire double page.
You start the day lists below the previous day, and theme pages begin on the next free page. And what do you do if the page is full at some point and there is something else on the next page? Then simply scroll to the following free page, give it a heading again and continue the topic there.
For all this not to end up in a complete mess in which you won’t find anything later, a table of contents is essential. You number each page and write down a list of topics with the page numbers behind them in the table of contents.
This might look like this:
- Year overview 2019: 4/5
- April 2019: 8/9
- Books read 2019: 7,23, 56
- Ideas for Blog Articles: 6, 11, 24, 34
- May 2019: 36/37
- Birthdays: 26/27
- Meeting on topic xyz: 13, 16, 20, 28
The table of contents or an index is, therefore, an essential module.
Tip: if it is too dull for you to number all pages by hand, take a notebook with page numbers from the beginning (I use the LEUCHTTURM1917).
What Is Migration?
Migration in the Bullet Journal is the process of shifting tasks. You can move tasks from anywhere to anywhere. The most common migrations are:
- Moving tasks on the Future Log to a monthly To-do
- Shifting tasks from the monthly ‘To-do’ to dailies
- Moving tasks from one daily to another daily
- Postpone tasks from a daily
Migration is a very essential part of the Bullet Journal system. Once you’ve completed a month in your Bullet Journal, you can browse through it all again. Do you still have open tasks?
If so, consider whether they are still important and relevant. If this is not the case, simply cross out the entire line. However, if the task is yet to be completed, it will get an arrow to the right. Then enter the task on the right side of your monthly overview.
Tasks that have been scheduled for a specific date (such as a meal in the restaurant for which the table has been reserved) are placed on the left side of your monthly overview – after all, you already know precisely when to complete them or when the event will take place.
Isn’t that too much work?
Now you might think that it’s awkward to re-enter all dates and tasks because they’re already in your Bullet Journal. That’s true.
But that’s what it’s all about!
When you transfer your tasks, you think about whether they are still relevant and important. If that’s not the case, they probably never were. You can then simply delete them!
One of the benefits of Bullet Journaling is realizing why you keep pushing things further and further ahead of you. Is it really an unpleasant task? Or is it just unnecessary?
Important Note: Migrating also involves reflecting on the tasks again. When I drag a task from day to day and do not complete it, I worry about why it is like that or just delete it. This also gives you more focus in your life (or work).