Bullet Journal 101 – What is a Bullet Journal?

Who's ready for Week #1 of BuJo101?

Welcome to Week #1 of Bullet Journal 101! After all of the amazing feedback that I received from the introduction last week, I’ve been SO excited to continue this course for you. Thank you so much for all of the feedback and questions. I’m looking forward to answering as many of them as I possibly can throughout the course of this series.

Today, we’re focusing in on the HOW and the WHY of the Bullet Journal system.

Are you ready?!? Let’s dive in!

Who's ready for Week #1 of BuJo101?

WHAT IS A BULLET JOURNAL?

On of my favorite quotes about the Bullet Journal comes from www.bulletjournal.com:

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” ~ Ryder Carroll

I love this quote because it accentuates the biggest draw of the Bullet Journal system, which is its ability to be whatever you need it to be.

The Bullet Journal was created back in 2013 by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based digital product designer. Since then, the system has evolved, there have been “hacks” and upgrades by many within the community, and people have really adopted the system into their own lives and made it their own.

“He sees this as an evolving, adaptable practice meant to be self curated as you determine what works best for you.” – www.bulletjournal.com

WHY ANALOG? WHY BULLET JOURNAL?

With so many advancements in technology and apps, some make the argument that it seems silly to fall back to such an “antiquated” system of planning.

While I agree that technology has come a long way — and I even use several organization apps to manage my life and business — there are a few reasons why I believe analog systems (and especially the Bullet Journal) still have a place in our lives.

  • Magic happens when you put pen to paper
    There is just something about that feeling of diving into a notebook with your favorite pen or pencil. You just can’t beat it!
  • The act of writing helps you remember
    Check out this recent study!
  • Sharpened, distraction-free focus
    A notebook does not have notifications popping up every few minutes to distract you from the task at hand.
  • Time away from our screens
    It’s no secret that we spend way too much time with our eyes glued to screens. Bullet Journaling will give your eyes a much needed break.

BULLET JOURNAL OVERVIEW

For an overview of the system, I’d like to (again) highly recommend that you head straight over to www.bulletjournal.com. Ryder does an amazing job of breaking down each of the components into bite-sized pieces for you to digest.

THE PARTS OF THE BULLET JOURNAL:

  1. Rapid Logging
    • Topics – a brief, descriptive title
    • Page Numbers – to index later
    • Short Sentences – concise and to the point
    • Bullets – to organize your entries
  2. Entries
    • Tasks – signified by a dot or bullet point (•) for actionable items and to-do’s
      • X Task completed
      • > Task migrated
      • < Task scheduled
    • Events – signified by an open circle (ο) for date-specific items
    • Notes – signified by a dash (-) for great ideas worth keeping
  3. Signifiers (these help to categorize your entries)
    • An asterisk (*) denotes priority or important tasks
    • An exclamation point (!) is for inspiration items
    • An eye is for items that need more research or information
  4. Modules
    • Index – To capture and organize your entries
    • Future Log – To manage future events and appointments
    • Monthly Log – To capture important events throughout the month
    • Daily Log – The heart and soul of your Bullet Journal
  5. Migration
    • Migration can be done on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. The act of re-writing unfinished tasks really helps you to get clear on your next steps.

While there have definitely been hacks and upgrades to the system throughout the years (and we’ll definitely be covering those within this series), today’s post is meant to be a brief overview of the original Bullet Journal system.

For a more in-depth look at each of the parts of the Bullet Journal, check out the video below:

Thank you SO much for all of your feedback on this series so far! Feel free to drop any comments or questions down below :)


OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES

Introduction
Bullet Journal Overview (you’re here!)
Pre-Planning
The Basics
Make it Your Own
Bonus Wrap-Up + Q &A

Kara Benz
Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.
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  • Lindsay Pence

    This was perfect timing to stumble across your site! I just became a subscriber, no joke, yesterday and have been drawn toward Bullet Journaling since I first heard about it over a year ago so I’m really excited to follow your 101 course! I haven’t tried one yet only because I’m such a perfectionist that I don’t want to set it up wrong and cause me to not actually use it (I know there’s no actual wrong way, I just want it to be as efficient for me as possible!) Can’t wait to learn more about how to start a Bullet Journal next week!

  • Holly

    This is such a useful post, Kara! For the first few months of my bullet journal, I think I tried to complicate things too much and include too many sections. For September, I’ve taken it right back to basics and it’s working really well so far!

    I completely agree about the pen and paper thing too. If I don’t physically write something down, there’s no way I’ll remember it!

  • Peace InspiredbyTrue Blessings

    I’m happy to say that the forced “unplugging” nature of the bullet Journal was much needed for me. This is my 3rd full month with the system and I love it! It has made me go back to my older journals and notebooks from years ago (as far back as high school…I was always a notebook junkie) and revisit my love for the simplicity of the written word. My writing mojo has since returned! I am super comfy with the system and my own twists and turns on it and love looking at others spins much like reading another author’s work. Thanks for your dedication Kara, you continue to inspire and ease people into a great thing!

  • Christina Grandrath

    I stumbled across the BuJo when your blog post over at bulletjournal.com popped up in my recommendations on Pocket. When I read through your blog I saw you used to do a lot of stuff in Trello. I’ve been bullet journaling for a few months now and it is very helpful in many aspects of my life. It also works great besides an Google Calendar. But I find it quite useless when it comes to certain aspects of project planning (specifically for programming). Like when you use kanban or something similar.
    Do you still use Trello at all or some other software/app besides your BuJo for project planning?

    Btw, this intro series is great. When I started my BuJo I made the mistake to look at Instagram and thought BuJo-Fans are crazy. Turns out they are just a specical kind of nerd and very lovely people.

    • Katherine Thousand

      I’m so glad to have found your comment! I am considering switching over to bullet journaling and have been toying with the idea of that or keeping my Happy Planner and then using the Google Calendar on the side to actually schedule my days for work/appointments. How does that work for you? Is it cumbersome?

      • Christina Grandrath

        No, it is not cumbersome. I find it pretty perfect. Google Calendar was the answer to my calendar needs :) I tried to use Google Keep for tasks but it is just an awful peace of software.

        How I use it:
        I put all appointments and events in my Google Calendar right when they come up. I use 6 or 7 different calendars so I can differentiate between my own appointsments, stuff I do with my husband, birthdays and so on. Sometimes I even use the built in reminder option when I want to make sure something gets done on a specific day or I want to be reminded at a specific time (this happens maybe two or three times a month).

        When I do my monthly spread I usually only copy birthdays if I need to get a greeting card or a present and big events like holidays or family meetings from my Google Calendar. Otherwise I use the monthly spread as a reminder for task that need to be done on a certain date but are not an appointment.

        For my daily planning I check my calendar and put events/appointsment in my task list with the exact time. Sometimes I to put some extra info like which bus I have to take (I don’t own a car and use public transportation).

        Since my calendar is used for events I don’t really use the future log in my bujo. I don’t put tasks in the future log since if something needs to be done in a few months time it is usually tied to a appointment or event (I think I had one exception to that rule in the last three months). I do use collections for planning events and I put a reference to my bujo in the event description in my calendar sometimes.

        Also, I tried the Calendex but after a few months it is mainly empty. In my next bujo I probably either ditch both of them or do a very condensed version. Not sure about it yet.

        So, yeah Google Calendar and BuJo work together very well. I would never give up my Google Calender since it is by far the easiest way to share appointments with my husband. And that is one feature the bujo doesn’t offer: Syncing and sharing between different people and devices ;)

        • Katherine Thousand

          Thank you so much for this awesome info! I think I am going to try and implement this system. It sounds so fuss-free and practical :)

          • You’re welcome, Katherine! It can be as fuss-free or as complicated as you want to make it. :)

    • Zan Lyons

      I, too, have been trying to wrap my brain around how to do project management with this system. I currently use Teamwork for my personal work tasks, but wonder if integrating all tasks and deadlines (a handwritten Gantt chart) would just be overkill. Thoughts?

      • Christina Grandrath

        A handwritten Gantt chart would be overkill for me but if you think it might work for you give it a try.

        I struggling with project management for a much longer than I’ve been bullet journaling. I tried a few software options (Trello, org-mode in Emacs, ToDoist, Excel and some other stuff) but I found that none of it really worked.
        At least I learned over time there are two kinds of projects in my life.
        The first one is simple stuff that only consists of a small number of steps which follow one after another. Making a christmas gift for example. For this I just make a list of task in my BuJo as a collection, index it and add tasks to my dailies as I see fit. Sometimes I put a little more stuff in these collections like materials I need, sketches and so on. I think for such projects the BuJo is great because I don’t have any post-its or scraps of paper flying around.

        The second kind of project is much bigger and either ongoing (e.g. blogging) or has multiple parts (e.g. writing an app). Fo this the BuJo falls short for a couple of reasons:
        1. Repeated steps have to be written again, again and again. I hate that. Check out Kara’s article on using Trello as Blog Editorial Calendar and her checklist and you get an idea what I mean. I think Kara’s method for this is quite brilliant. You still can use your BuJo for ideas and notes.
        2. If you have lots of different sub-projects with lots of task that rely on each other it can get quite messy when you have to move stuff around. Or something new comes around (e.g. an unexpected bug in your software*). I haven’t found a way to work this out in my BuJo without getting mad at some point.

        I started a new approach this months for bigger projects:
        For each project I have a collection and I define milestones (can have a deadline) which can be ticked off like a tasks. I don’t care about order here. So I can add stuff if necessary (which shouldn’t happen very often). The actual management of milestones and associated tasks will be done in Trello (I decided to give it another go because it goes well with Kanban). In my BuJo I put milestones to my monthly or weekly goals. In my dailies I just put a task like “cooking app” to indicate I will work on this at a given day. I don’t know if this is going to work but it can’t be any worse than it is now. Also, I dedicated a separate notebook for design and code related stuff.

        I should note that I’m not working in a team so I can basically do what I want regarding managing my projects.

        * Excuse the software examples but I’m a nerd ;)

    • We are definitely a special kind of nerd! :) I absolutely still use Trello (and Google Calendar) on a regular basis. I’ve found that certain types of long-term projects such as creating my editorial calendar don’t lend themselves to solely analog planning. There are too many moving parts that need to be shuffled on a regular basis.

  • Tina Stepanova (happytin4ik)

    Thank you for your BuJo 101 course! It’s just so in time for me)) I’ve started mine this september and would love to know more about bujo system!

  • bf_nimue

    I started journaling a lot of years ago, but only few days ago I discovered this amazing word, I have a lot of trouble to find in my country washi tape or tombow brush pen even on amazon, and besides tombow pens are very difficult to learn to use. But I really don’t understand what is a challenge. :( so I hope you’ll show us in next videos

  • Jane Sanford

    Hi Kara …I really enjoyed this video …thank you jx

  • The bullet journal was the best thing I discovered x

    http://www.thelisasworld.com

  • Patti Johnson

    Loved this Kara, keeps me grounded to the purpose of the BUJO. I get all caught up in the fancy and forget the function.

  • Shelly H.

    This has been so helpful. I want it all and I want it now. Patience is not my forte. :) I think the daily log is the hardest part for me. So I am going to work on doing that. Just write down my tasks and add them as I go.

    I really need to create a daily routine as part of my daily log, since I tend to hyper-focus on a task or distraction which means I don’t always get things done which is frustrating for me. I desperately need to build structure into my life that I lost when my kids grew up. ADD sucks but at least I now know why I do some things and not others. So I think figuring out how to adapt the daily log into a schedule or routine that is divided into parts is going to be best but I don’t want to be too complicated with it. Some of the layouts are overwhelming – gorgeous but overwhelming. OTOH all that black space is overwhelming as well!

    So I am hoping that somewhere in one of the coming videos that you will give us some ideas on how to design a layout for our individual needs. Or how to put ideas from others together that work. I seem to become paralyzed when I get overwhelmed from all the distraction. I think that is why traditional planners have never really worked well for me. The potential of being able to build an adaptable working format is what is so attractive to me with a Bullet Journal.

    • Thanks, Shelly! I’ll definitely be addressing your concerns in the series, as well as showing my approach to daily planning and creating new layouts :)

  • Ashley Rauen

    Really LOVE that you’re doing this series Kara! This post helped me understand a few of the basic aspects of Bullet Journaling much better. I appreciate all you do! Thanks!

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  • Hi, Katherine! I don’t have quite as many daily appointments as you do, but even so, I still use a combination of digital and analog for my events and appointments. It may seem repetitive to enter them into a digital calendar AND your Bullet Journal, but I find this helps to ease my mind that I’m not missing anything on any given day. Plus, having the shared online calendar with my husband helps to avoid any scheduling conflicts between us :)

    • Katherine Thousand

      Thank you for your insight! All of my appts have been in Google calendar since Thursday now, and so far so good! I am still using my THP, but using bullets for to-do’s in each day. Not sure if that will continue to work but for now at least its aesthetically pleasing ;)

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  • Karina Guerrero

    Hi Kara! I have a question… can I start my own BuJo any date, as today? Or would you recommend to start it the first day of a month?

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