An Introduction To Bullet Journaling, The Productivity Booster

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Through the hustle and bustle of daily life, it isn’t uncommon for the average person to find themselves buried under a mountain of responsibilities. Ever since becoming responsible for myself, my home, my work and the schedules of my 2 little humans, I have depended heavily on planners to keep everything organized and journals to keep my memories intact. It came to a point where keeping consistent on both these fronts became a challenge in itself. The number of half-filled notebooks and dated envelopes containing ephemera for journal entries I’d been meaning to get to was a sight for sore eyes, which was when I took to researching what options I had. Then I came across bullet journaling.

Being a person who swears by her planners and loves journaling, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this system that promised planner-journaling heaven! Designed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from New York, the bullet journal is an analogue system utilizing bullet points and predetermined symbols to organize and put into one place just about anything you want to keep tabs on.

At its core, it is simply a notebook with indexes, yearly and monthly calendars, as well as specific pages dedicated to to-do lists, checklists and note taking. For those with a penchant for creativity, a quick search of #bulletjournal on Pinterest or Instagram will have you feasting your eyes on a smorgasbord of neatly-inked notebook pages designed to track everything from daily tasks and books to read, to study schedules and savings plans. All you need to get started is a notebook and a pen.

While any notebook will do, the most popular ones used are dotted, lined or squared. Make sure the notebook you choose is of a size you can easily take with you anywhere, and hardy enough to withstand the amount of usage you’ll put it through. Once you have those with you, take some time to set your bullet journal up. It may seem daunting at first, with all the beautiful layouts presented online, but the system’s basic building blocks are all you need to be bullet journal ready.

THE BUILDING BLOCKS

1) Index

The first one or two pages of a bullet journal forms the Index. This works much like the Contents section of a book, tying everything together, except that it’s updated as you go along. Number every page in the journal so they can be recorded in the Index. When the time comes to look a certain topic up, all you’ll need to do is refer to the Index to find it!><

2) Future Log

The Future Log is the yearly calendar where you put all your major events, birthdays, short and long-term goals, and this should take up the next four pages (3 months per page). Like all the building blocks mentioned here, it doesn’t have to be filled in immediately, but once set up, you can easily add details later as required.

3) Monthly Log

Next up, is the Monthly Log where many have at least two pages dedicated to each month; one for the monthly calendar and the other for the month’s tasks. Monthly Logs only need to be set up for the current month, giving you unlimited pages each month and the ability to migrate incomplete tasks to the month you’ll be setting up next. It is similar to the traditional Monthly calendar pages seen in most planners.

4) Daily Log

This is simply your daily to-do lists, with still-to-complete tasks from yesterday added in. In the original bullet system, each day takes a full spread in the notebook with space on the left for the to-do list and on the right for notes and anything else you might need to keep track of. This layout works well if you like having lots of space. For a more compact approach, many bullet journalers make use of a weekly layout to get a greater overview of their schedules.

5) Key

The main idea behind bullet journals is that everything is jotted down in bullet points and short sentences. When taking notes and making lists, these bullet points are marked with simple symbols for easy categorization and tracking. While the original system recommends a set of symbols you can use, any symbol you feel comfortable with will work too. It is recommended that you keep a key of these symbols either at the front or back of your journal so you can refer to it should you need to.

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6) Modules

What I found really useful in the system were the Modules. These are pages you set up for anything you’d like to track over time. They can be monthly pages used to track habits, health or finances. Or they can be lists of things you want to complete within the year such as books to read or restaurants to try. You can even set up a “Travel” module containing all the research you’ve collated for the next holiday you have booked up. Tracking these modules is easy with the ever-expanding index at the front of your journal. As long your pages are numbered and you have them catalogued in your index, finding them again will never be a problem.

As you might have figured out by now, the best part of the bullet journal system is its flexibility. You’ll essentially be building your bullet journal from scratch with unlimited pages per month to work with, which can be customized to suit your every need, whim and fancy. Bullet journalers have expanded this system in uncountable ways.

For some, making it look beautiful is pretty much a hobby, and they use this time to relax and unwind. If this is not for you though, don’t fret! How much time you spend keeping it simple or making it elaborate is completely up to you, and doesn’t in any way affect the efficiency of the bullet journal system.

I found that I was able include journaling entries on the days we went on holiday with ephemera stuck on and get rid of multiple half-filled notebooks with separate planning schedules, which was a WIN!

If you find yourself struggling to maintain the many journals and planners one can have, give bullet journaling a try. With the basic building blocks in place, you may find in your hands one power-packed notebook containing your planner, journals, brainstorming notes and all!

Audrey Tan is the founder and creative force behind ARTSUNAMI, which specializes in bringing you quality tools, stickers and stationery products for everyone who loves journaling!
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