Food for Thought

Starting 2016 with a Bullet Journal – what is it?

I like to keep my life organised and put reminders on the electronic calendar on my phone for upcoming events and birthdays, but I also keep an analogue diary to keep me on track too. What with our recent wedding and finishing up for Christmas, I’d been really disorganised and didn’t order a 2016 diary when I was prompted to do so. As a perfectionist who likes everything planned and organised, this is not a good thing.

A good friend of mine recently introduced me to the world of Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal, an analogue system of organising your life and ideas. I am still finding my way around the system, but so far have found it very useful and here’s how you can create your own bullet journal.

Simply put, the bullet journal is a simple system which you can personalise to suit your needs. All you need is a journal (or notebook) to organise tasks, events, inspiration and ideas.

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, creator of Bullet Journal

Instead of spending money on a diary that may or may not be laid out the way you want, the bullet journal is a blank, lined notebook so you can personalise it however you like. You can add various sections, layout your daily planner, tasks or events in a format that suits you. As this is the first month of my bullet journal adventure, I’ve decided to loosely follow Ryder’s system of logging my tasks and events to start me off. Once I get into the way of things, I’m sure there will be changes I’ll make along the way that suit me best.

Below is a short video where Ryder explains what a bullet journal is and how to start.

The wonders of the bullet journal has been adopted by many. A writer from Marie Claire magazine, Anita Bhagwandas, shares how she swears by the bullet journal in keeping her life organised in this article.

Getting started is as simple as finding a notebook that inspires you, a pen and a ruler (to start). Personally, I prefer Paperblanks and I had a blank one in my stash that I was quite happy to use.

My 2016 bullet journal: midi-sized lined Pastoral Impulses notebook

One of the best things about Paperblanks is all products have Smythe Sewn binding, use acid-free, sustainable forest paper and normally come with a memento pouch at the back to store any loose bits of paper. There’s also the choice of elastic or clasp closures, or you can even find ones without either if you prefer not to have one. The one thing that I always find handy is the ribbon marker so you can always pick up where you left off.

Now to get started with your journal.

The method of logging your journal is simple:

  • a filled bullet point for tasks
  • a hollow circle for events
  • a dash for information or notes

Your journal will change according to your needs, but it follows some basic sections and processes. Below you will see how I’ve laid out mine.


There’s various blogs and youtube videos on how each person has personalised their bullet journal to suit, but you’ll find the common denominator in the index page. This is important in tracking where you’ve written different sections. This will normally be the first open spread in your journal – mark the top of the 2 pages with ‘Index’. Here you will list the sections you’ve created with the relevant page numbers so you can easily reference them at a later point. They don’t need to be consecutive numbers either; you can reference ‘Inspirational quotes’ as pages 6-7, 18, 20-22, etc.

Important Information (optional)

This is an optional section I created for myself. Again, I headed the top of the pages with the name of the section and inserted page numbers so I can link this back to my index. On the very first single page, I included my phone number and e-mail address in case my journal ever got lost, but I also wanted the first ‘Important Info’ page to include emergency contacts to make it easier to find, well, in case of an emergency. We’re constantly having to update our passwords at work (like every 2-3 months), so I used the second page to keep track of all the various passwords we use for different work logins.

Future Log

This section allows you to see, at a glance, any tasks or events that are relevant for your immediate, or distant, future. I split each page into 3 sections, one for each month, over 4 pages for 12 months. It is almost like your 2016 overview. Here I’ve included important tasks, dates or events I should be aware of. Again, you can split it however you like – for example, one month a page, or all 12 months over 2 pages if this works best for you.

This is the part where we get introduced to the logging system I mentioned earlier. Although I’ve only really logged events (identified by hollow circles) as I haven’t got important tasks that I need to think about from a long term perspective. This isn’t a static page though and if any tasks come up that I know I need to sort out in the future, this will be marked here with a bullet point. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

Next, we break it down to the month.

Monthly Log

This double-page spread (or more if you prefer) allows you to see your month at a glance. In the original bullet journal tutorial, you list the dates of the month with the initial for the day of the week on the left side, and leave the right page for your list of tasks. The Romantic Impulses notebook I’m using doesn’t allow for all the days of the month to be shown on one page, but that’s fine with me. I normally don’t have a huge list of tasks/to-do list to write for each month so I added that to the bottom of my second page. This, again, isn’t static and if there are any unfinished tasks that you want to take up for the next month (known as ‘migration’), you can transfer these over to the next month.

As you can see, I adjusted the layout of the monthly log to suit my own needs. In the Future Log, I used only the date to indicate when an event was happening, but looking back on the pages, I don’t feel it’s really clear to me what the number means. I will review that in my next bullet journal, but for now I’ll stick with the layout. I think I’d prefer writing ‘1st, 2nd, 3rd…’ so it’s clearer what it all means. I decided to use different coloured pens to make the days of the week stand out a bit more. You might have also noticed an asterisk and a date which has been double underlined on the two pages. These were personal indicators that I used in my yearly diaries for particular dates, so I continued using these in my journal.

Daily Log

This is probably my favourite section. Here, you can keep track of tasks you need to do in the following days. You start by adding the date and the day of the week for the day you’re on or the next day (recommended if you’re filling this in the night before). You might find that you have lots of things to do in one day, but nothing the next, so setting a certain amount of space for each day isn’t recommended. If you know you’ve got a task to complete on a particular day well in advance, record it on your Monthly Log and transfer it over to your Daily Log when you get closer to the date.

Again, I’ve loosely followed the original method of bullet points for tasks, hollow circles for events and dashes for information and other facts. One of the things I record in my diaries is when I get a migraine and how often I get them. This is something I suffer from and can refer back to if I need to consult my GP about, so marking it in red means I can find this easily. Instead of marking asterisks next to tasks that take priority (as this has already been used as an indicator for a specific date), I’ve decided to highlight these tasks. Instead of crossing out a tas, I prefer to tick them when it’s completed. It seems like such a small thing, but a tick (to me) means it’s accomplished whereas a cross sometimes denotes a negative connotation.


I mentioned in the Future Log that sometimes a task can be planned well in advance. This can happen when a task has been set for a particular month and it hasn’t yet been done, it will then be moved to another month – this is what is known as migration in the world of bullet journalling. Where a task (marked with a bullet point) hasn’et yet been completed, it will be marked on the Daily (or Monthly) Log with ‘>’ to show it’s been moved into the Future Log or the next month’s log. Ryder explains:

It may seem like a lot of effort to have to rewrite items over and over, but that’s intentional. This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it. The purpose of migration is to distill the things that are truly worth the effort, to become aware of our own patterns and habits, and to separate the signal from the noise.

I haven’t yet made it to the point where I have to migrate tasks as this is my first month into bullet journalling. I do anticipate that it will be something I will come across along the way, and I know I will be making changes to how I lay out and organise my journal between now and the next few months until I find a process that works for me. For example, I like quotes that inspire me to think positively and when I do, I will start an Inspiration section. I’m also on the path to mindfulness so I will maybe introduce a Mindfulness section to remind myself to keep up with the training I’ve been taught so far.

Now you’re ready to start your own bullet journal. By referring to all the resources available to you (on YouTube, searching for blog posts and articles and reading you’ll be able to pick out the parts that work for you and adjust the ones that don’t. This is a personal journey to help you organise your tasks. Personalise it in a way that works for you, use memorable indicators and introduce sections that are important to you.

For more detailed information about starting your own bullet journal, visit Ryder’s site here.

Good luck you your bullet journal journey and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have so far!


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