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It’s not difficult to set up a bullet journal, but it’s also not something you’re likely to do in a single day.
A bullet journal is, by its very design, flexible and adaptable so you will add things as you go.
I’ve linked all the bullet journal posts on the blog at the bottom of this post. As you can see, there is a lot (or as little as you prefer) to bullet journaling. While you don’t have to use every idea or aspect of the system of bullet journaling, there are some basics that will help you if you want to set up a bullet journal to plan and organize any aspect of your life.
Note: Bullet Journal® (also know as BuJo®) is a trademarked name owned by Lightcage, LLC. Although the name and system is used widely, it’s important to acknowledge that it is, in fact, an intellectual property protected by federal and international law. As a writer, the rights of the designer of the system, Ryder Carroll, are as important to me as are my own. For more on the Bullet Journal® system, check out Bullet Journal.
It helps to understand the basics first.
A bullet journal usually consists of four different parts.
- The first part includes the index and key. These two occupy the first two pages of your journal and help you stay on track with what’s where and how the journal works.
- The second part is the Future Log.
- The third part consists of a monthly log or calendar, and then running daily entries. This includes as many individual activities to be tracked as you have in your life.
- The fourth part of a bullet journal is something called collections or lists. They are just that, lists of related things you want to keep track of. For example, you may have a list of books you want to read, movies to see, restaurants to try, or a list of clients you need to contact this month.
The bullet journal system sets aside a few pages for your index, basically an ever-evolving table of contents, to allow you to record things as they come up throughout your day, week, or month and find them easily by looking for them in the index. In the Leuchtturm notebook that I use, the index is the first 3 pages of the notebook, right where a table of contents would be in a book.
The beauty of the index is that, if you spontaneously start a new collection list in a month, you just need its page number in the index. Nothing is out of order because the order is set as you move from month to month.
You will return to your index pages often, to list the new pages you create.
More importantly, you will use your Index in the future to easily find the page of any number of journal entries, collections or calendars that you need by adding the page numbers into the Index.
The first thing you will want to do when you set up a bullet journal is your future log. The future log is a great way to plan for the near and distant future. It is meant to give you insight into the month coming up, including events or birthdays, weekend plans, work or school tasks, household errands, and everything else going on in your life.
To create this page, turn to the next two blank pages after the index, and write Future Log at the top of each. Divide both pages into three even horizontal sections. Use these as a six-month Future Log and enter the name of six consecutive months at the top of each of the six divisions. Add the page numbers at the bottom of the page and enter them into the Index.
Monthly Log And Daily Entries
At the beginning of the month you will set up a monthly page. This is your space to record appointments, anniversaries and reminders.
Some people simply make a list of 1-30 (or 31) and then leave space to note appointments as they come up. Others prefer to draw a more traditional monthly calendar grid over two pages. Try both and see which you prefer.
As you draw each monthly grid or list at the beginning of the month, make a note of what page it is on in your index.
Note: Bullet journals are usually recommended to be in a grid notebook that has numbered pages, making it easy to keep up your index. For a list of suggested supplies, see The Ultimate Guide For The Best Tools For Bullet Journals.
On the next blank page after your monthly calendar, you will enter the current date.
This is where you begin to record things you need to take care of, appointments to keep today, and anything else you need to keep track of, including quick notes and ideas throughout the day. It can be as structured or unstructured as you like.
The Bullet Journal system recommends using a key system for easily differentiating between tasks, appointments and notes and how to make it clear when they are completed.
There are two common ways to do your key along with many variations in between.
You can try using the original bullet journal key system or create one that pleases you. The idea is to have a consistent way of knowing where you are regarding your daily activities.
I recommend you got for the simplest system that works for you. If you’d rather draw lightbulbs (ideas) and stars, go for it.
Any task on your list can be crossed out if it is no longer applicable or needed.
Pick the key system that seems most intuitive for you and start recording the things you need to keep track of in your Bullet Journal. Honestly, if you want to draw balloons, stars and unicorns, no one will judge you!
At the end of the day, review your list.
Things that have not been completed need to either be crossed out because they are no longer relevant and important, or they should be moved to another day. If you don’t want to, or can’t tackle an item or two the next day, leave it open and make sure you review and work it in at a later date.
If you are using a blank notebook to try out the bullet journal system, you’ll want to reserve about 4 pages at the front of the notebook to create your index. If you are using a Leuchtturm notebook from the beginning (see the resource list for details about the notebook and why I recommend it over others), the index section is created for you and the pages come already numbered.
If you have notes and tasks that you need for a bigger project, you can create a Collection on the next blank page. Collections are a good way to keep certain pieces of information together, or on-going projects or class information.
Collections can also be personal and fun. Create a Favorites collection for your hobbies or interests.
- Books you’d like to read.
- TV shows you want to DVR or movies you want to go see.
- Your travel bucket list.
For more, check out 60 Bullet Journal Collection To Start Today
As always, jot the page number at the bottom and Index your Collection.
How They All Work Together
As you near the end of the month, create the pages for the next monthly log, just like before, remembering to enter the new pages into the Index.
Go through the ending month’s daily log and review the tasks you’re written in.
If you haven’t already, cross out the items that you’ve completed.
For those tasks that are incomplete, decide if they are still a priority.
If not, just cross a line through them.
If they are still important, turn the bullet into a Right-Arrow and copy the task information into the new monthly log.
If the task or project isn’t due for several months, draw a left arrow above or below your bullet point and log the information into the month that the work should be done in the Future Log. This is called Migration.
That’s it! Your bullet journal is set up and you can adapt it to your own needs.
The bullet journal is there to help you plan and organize your life and activities.
All of your plans are located in one place, easy to find and use whenever you need it.
For more ideas about how to individualize your use of your bullet journal, check out our other bullet journal articles below.