Basic Guide to the Bullet Journal / BuJo

I’ve always loved journaling and I can’t count how many notebooks I have spread all over the house. If tasks are not on a list, they simply won’t get done. So when I found Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal system (BuJo for short), I immediately fell in love.

So just what is a “bullet journal”, anyway? I’d love to summarize this super-easy system here for you and show you some of the basics. You can also find links to Ryder’s official Bullet Journal resources below!

Ryder calls this the “analog system for a digital age.” That right there hooked me. I’m tired of using multiple apps on my phone to track and organize my life (which actually made things more chaotic), I want less screen-time and I adore writing by hand. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Why Start a Bullet Journal?

Before we dive into the “how”, let’s take a quick look at the “why”. On the surface, the BuJo is simply a system to allow you to rapidly track and organize your life using a simple bullet system in any notebook.

But it’s SO much more than that. When I say this system has changed me, I don’t mean it’s made me more organized (although it’s definitely done that!). I mean I am more “into” my life, more mindful of myself, more grateful, and more connected to my goals for the future. I’m no longer walking through life reacting to things — I’m purposefully and intentionally planning, dreaming and reflecting. I’m truly happier and feel more positive about my life.

Ryder started this system out of a desire to reduce distraction and lead a more intentional life. Listen to him speak on this topic here!

The Basics – How to Get Started with a Bullet Journal

Here’s where I send you over to the best “Getting Started” guide out there — Ryder’s website at bulletjournal.com. Click on “Start” at the top and scroll through that page. I also highly recommend watching his overview video here!

The Bullet Journal has a couple of key concepts: Rapid logging, Modules and Migration.

Rapid Logging
The key is to get your tasks, events, ideas and the like down as quickly and easily as possible in bullet form. There are specific bullets for different types of entries, and you can add a little “extra” to your list with signifiers such as stars and exclamation points.

Modules
The four modules are the way to keep all of your entries organized. They consist of:

  • The Index
  • The Future Log
  • The Monthly Log
  • The Daily Log

The Index is exactly what it sounds like and keeps all of your important collections and logs organized so you can find them later. The Future log is a great way to capture all of the events, tasks and other entries that are coming up a few months down the line. When you capture them here, it’s really easy to move them over to the Monthly log when that month comes up. Here’s how my Future Log looks before I’ve added entries:

Your Monthly log is a simple page with the dates and days of the week listed down the left-hand side. You will add any big tasks, events, appointments and so on here so that you can then refer to it when you’re making your Weekly log and Daily logs. (Note – the “Weekly log” is not something that was originally described with the Bullet Journal system, but many people use it so I’ve included a photo of how mine is laid out below.)

Monthly Log:

Weekly Log:

Weekly Log Bullet Journal BUJO

The Daily Log is the heart of the BuJo and where you’ll spend most of your time. I want to stress that when you start your BuJo you really should stick to a simple layout (the header/date and your bullet list). As you discover patterns to your day, you could add things like a daily tracker, a gratitude section, a place to jot down memories from the day, etc. Here’s how mine has evolved. It takes me very little time to draw this out and fill it in, but sometimes I revert back to the simplest format if I am pressed for time or not feeling well.

Collections
Everything in your bullet journal is a collection. All of your logs are collections and you can index them as such. But other types of “collections” make the BuJo really come alive. My favorites are usually lists, trackers and mind-maps. There are endless ideas for collections, but some of the more popular include things like a savings tracker, bucket lists, gratitude logs and meal planning ideas. Here are some of my recent collections!

Migration
Migration is just the act of moving tasks from one area to another so that they will be completed. Most migration happens monthly or weekly, while other tasks need to be migrated to the next daily log.

BuJo Tools and Supplies

You just need a notebook and a pen. That’s it. Any notebook and any pen will do.

That being said… many of us have become quite enamored with specific types of notebooks, pens, markers, planners, washi tapes, etc. You can check out the tools I personally use here, but just remember that you don’t need all of this. 🙂

Joining the Bullet Journal Community

The BuJo has sparked an amazing community of all types of bullet journalists using this system in countless ways and supporting one another by sharing ideas. College students may use it for scheduling and studying, small business owners may use it for goal planning, parents may use it for creating memories and reducing stress. Many people use it for all these things and much more. It’s useful for anyone and adaptable for anything.

You’ll find thriving communities on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook where photos of spreads are inspiring eye candy. Many bullet journalists get very creative with their journals — others revel in being as minimalistic as possible, sticking to the very bare-bones basics of the system. No matter how you use your bullet journal, you’re sure to find like-minded bullet journalists from all over the globe to connect with.

When to Use Your Bullet Journal

Everyone does this differently, but it’s best to try to use your BuJo every day, especially for the first few weeks to get into the groove. You just need a few minutes! I write in mine at night, documenting things that happened during the day and then setting up the next day (or week if it’s Sunday). I find it calms me and is a great way to end my day.

Others start their day with the BuJo and then wrap things up at night. If your day is super busy and things are flying at you all the time, it might be best to keep it nearby to jot new appointments down, make notes of new ideas, or also just to capture a quick memory you don’t want to forget!

Making the Bullet Journal Your Own

The real beauty of this system is how customizable it is. You really can use any type or size of notebook, pens, and other supplies to make it truly your own. I learned early into the journaling process that I wanted to be able to have lots of different “sections” and that it felt more natural for me to have removable pages. The Index method of bullet journaling is genius, but I struggled with it, so I moved to a disc-based planner and I have loved it! I still rapid log, create a future log, dailies, collections, etc — I just do it inside a planner. 😉

I hope this introduction to the Bullet Journal system has raised your curiosity and sparked your interest to try it! I’d love to hear if you have any questions! You can leave a comment below or email me at jess@pineconepapers.com.

Resources Linked in this Post:
Visit bulletjournal.com
Watch the overview video “How to Bullet Journal”
How to Lead an Intentional Life – Ryder’s Ted Talk