What Is A Bullet Journal – And Why You Should Start One

Bullet Journaling has been a hot trend for a few years now in the planner and getting organized communities online, but it may not be something that you’ve heard of.

If not, you’re in for a treat! If you love to-do lists and check-lists, and using bright-colored pens, this is something you don’t want to miss.

If you have too many things to remember and think about on a daily basis and you need a simple system to help you keep track, bullet journaling was made for you. We all have a lot of different daily tasks, appointments, and various things we need to remember.

mac book on bed with hand lettering supplies and cup of coffee

Trying to keep track of everything in your head becomes exhausting. And if you manage a team at work or a family at home, it becomes near impossible. Just think of how much more productive and less stressed you’ll be if you can stop trying to remember all this “stuff”.

A bullet journal is a way of keeping track of everything you need to do in one notebook.

It usually consists of three different parts.

The first part includes the index and key. They will occupy the first two pages of your journal and help you stay on track with what’s where and how the journal works.

The second part consists of a monthly log or calendar, and then running daily entries. More on how these work in a minute.

The last part of a bullet journal is something called collections or lists. They are just that, lists of related things you want to keep track of. For example, you may have a list of books you want to read, or a list of clients you need to contact this month.

bullet journal with pink pens and earbuds and washi tape

The idea with a bullet journal is that you set aside two pages for your index and then record things as they come up throughout your day, week, or month. At the beginning of the month you set up a monthly page. This is your space to record appointments, anniversaries and the likes. Some bullet journalers will simply make a list of 1-30 (or 31) and then leave space to note appointments as they come up. Others prefer to draw a more traditional monthly calendar grid over two pages. Try both and see what works better for you. As you draw each monthly grid or list at the beginning of the month, make a note of what page it is on in your index.

On the next blank page, enter today’s date and start recording things you need to take care of, appointments to keep today, and anything else you need to keep track of including quick notes and ideas. This is where you key comes in handy. There are two common ways to do your key along with many variations in between.

Original Key:

⃞ Task

■ Completed Task

⍈ Migrated Task

⃝ Appointment

⬤ Completed Appointment

⟴ Migrated Appointment

– Notes

New Key

ᐧ (Dot) Task

X Completed Task

> Migrated Task

Appointments and notes are used as before.

Any task on your list can be crossed out if it is no longer applicable or needed.

Pick the key system that seems most intuitive for you and start recording the things you need to keep track of and remember in your Bullet Journal. One way to think of it is as the ultimate ongoing to-do list.

At the end of the day, review your list. Things that have not been completed need to either be crossed out because they are no longer relevant and important, or they should be moved to a tomorrow. If you don’t want to, or can’t tackle an item or two the next day, leave it open and make sure you review and work it in at a later date.

(If you’re ready to start bullet journaling yourself, I have a quick guide to get started, as well as a more detailed, in-depth guide for beginners.)

blank journal with colored pens in jar

Who Can Benefit From Using A Bullet Journal?

In today’s busy world, where we have to keep track of lots and lots of information, almost anyone can benefit from bullet journaling. This particular system of staying organized has some unique properties that make it particularly helpful for people who thrive on lists and appreciate a non-digital system.

Here’s a quick rundown to help you decide if bullet journaling is right for you.

If You Use To-Do Lists, The Bullet Journal May Be For You

If you’re a fan of to-do lists and have one sitting at your desk or your kitchen counter, then a bullet journal may work very well for you. Think of it as a large, ongoing to-do list that also helps you keep track of appointments, grocery lists and the likes. And since it’s all in one journal, no more frantic searches for that little list that held everything you needed to do today. (That is unless you misplace your journal – but that will be a bit easier to find than a piece of scrap paper).

If You Are Looking For An Analog System, The Bullet Journal May Be For You

Our electronic devices are great, but sometimes you want to go back to pen and paper. If you want an organized, easy to deal with system that requires no batteries or Wi-Fi, then this will be a good fit for you.

Even if you think your Google Calendar handles everything for you, I would like to encourage you to give this a try. There’s just something about writing things down by hand that helps us process them differently.

If You’re Looking For a Creative Outlet, The Bullet Journal May Be For You

If you are looking for a creative outlet but you just don’t have the time to sit down and sketch, paint, or create, then bullet journaling may be a good fit for you. As you plan your day, you can let out your creative side as you doodle and decorate your daily pages. Of course this is completely optional.

grid notebook with hand lettering

If You Feel Like You’re Keeping Track Of Too Much “Stuff” In Your Head, The Bullet Journal May Be For You

Do you have a constant running tally in you head of everything you need to do and remember today? That takes up a lot of brain space. A bullet journal may be the perfect solution because it helps you jot down all those appointments, to-dos, meetings, and ideas you don’t want to forget as they come up.

Writing them down allows you to forget about them and stop running that constant long list of stuff in your head that you need to remember. Just think of what you can do with all that extra brain capacity and how much less stressed you’ll feel when you stop to worry about forgetting something.

If You Need Something Mobile, The Bullet Journal May Be For You

A big advantage of the bullet journal is that it’s nothing more than a notebook and a pen. You can sit down anytime, anywhere to plan, check on your progress through the day, or add a new line item. There’s no need to hunt down a power outlet and it works just fine in bright sunlight.

Frankly it’s nice sometimes to unplug and get some thinking done away from your computer or smartphone.

close up of bullet journal on wooden desk with yellow highlighter

Even if you don’t count yourself in all or even most of these groups, I encourage you to give it a try. You may not think of yourself as a list or “pen and paper” type person, but may find that this is just what you needed to stay on top of everything that’s thrown at you on a daily basis.