By Princess Jones

bullet journal is a system of organization that centers around a notebook. It comes from Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from Brooklyn. He developed the process as a way to take notes and organize your thoughts. Essentially, instead of buying a preprinted planner, you make one yourself in a blank journal and use it to track your plans, your work, and your activity.

The reason it works for me is that it allows me to combine list, project planning, and daily tasks in one notebook. I even write journal entries in them. I’m definitely a digital girl by nature, but writing things down has its benefit, too. I’m on computers and mobile devices all day long. When I move to pen and paper, something in my mind switches. It puts me in a brainstorming, analytical frame of mind. It also makes things easier to remember.

How to Get Started

The best part about keeping a bullet journal is that you only need a journal and a pen to start. There are lots of ways to get fancy with it –expensive pens, specialty notebooks, etc. — but you only have to be as fancy as you want. I’ve used both Moleskine notebooks and random generic notebooks from Target. They’ve all worked just fine.

Then it’s time to add the modules you’ll need. Start with the Index/Table of Contents. That’s just a couple of pages where you can fill out what appears on each page so you can easily find stuff later.

Next, you’ll fill out the monthly module, which is a list with the days of the month filled out with events for that month. And then you’ll fill out the daily pages for that month, which is just making space for the information for each day. You can do it how you want, but I usually divide each side of a page into two days. I also create all of the month’s daily pages at once because I want to keep them together, rather than as I go.

Later, you can make pages for lists or notes or even journal entries as needed. One of my pages every month is a page for “wins” — things I was happy about or things I accomplished. I also do a yearly page where I list all the things I want to do that year and then I break them down into tasks over the months.

The Key

As you fill out your daily and monthly pages, you either come up with your own code for entries or you can use the original one Ryder Carroll came up with:

  • Use a hyphen to note events.
  • Use a dot to show a task.
  • Use an X to show a task that is completed.
  • Use a > to show a task that has been pushed to the next day.
  • Use a < to show a task that has been rescheduled. (I actually use this one to show a task that has been delegated to someone else. I write the person’s name next to it for reference.)
  • Use a line through the item for something that is not irrelevant.

Things to Remember

Keep these things in mind as you start with bullet journaling.

It’s YOUR bullet journal.

If you fall into a Youtube hole about bullet journaling, you’ll see A LOT of really cool, ambitious journals out there. Between the doodling and neverending personal goals, you might start to feel a little intimated. Don’t be! Your bullet journal is supposed to be about being useful to you, not everyone else.

If something isn’t working, stop it.

It might take a while for you to figure out what works for you. Personally, I don’t do the monthly calendar. I feel like my calendar changes constantly and is better suited something likefor Google Calendar. Instead, I just start the month with a list of goals and tasks that I plan to do over the course of the month. I also leave space for things that are on my radar but I’m not necessarily working on them this month. That works better for me and that’s OK.

You can start now.

You don’t need to wait until the beginning of a year or the beginning of a month to start. Unlike traditionally planners, you’re making this up as you go along. You can get started right now.