Bullet Journal example pages

Before I discovered bullet journaling I had been writing regularly for some time but without any coherent order. I was arranging my life with a mixture of Google Calendar and my bad memory, circumstances that were bound to fail. After I discovered bullet journaling, absolutely nothing changed. It would nice to say that it was a revolutionary discovery that changed everything, but it didn’t. This was through no fault of the system; I just hadn’t figured out how to make it work for me. The benefits came once I had adapted it to suit my purposes. This is where the real discovery happens.

What is Bullet Journaling?

Bullet journaling is a system of rapid logging designed by Ryder Carroll as a method of organising that required minimal time and effort. The system utilises a core system of sections (the index, future log, monthly log and daily log) and a range of signifiers to allow the user to record, filter and migrate information into a useful order. The uniqueness of the system lies in the ability to move information around the journal, keeping it where it is likely to be most critical.`

I tried to use the bullet journal system twice in 2016 and 2017 before I really got the hang of it. The main reason for failing was not utilising the other big advantage of the system: flexibility. I started out with the whole system intact, and when certain parts didn’t work I abandoned the whole thing instead of adapting it to suit my needs. This left me with two false starts, and a sense of failure, which is exactly the opposite of what I wanted to get from the journal.

Why I Persevered With The System

The reason I kept coming back to the system is that despite my failures to utilise it properly, I could still tell that something about it just made sense. What I needed to do was make sure that I was fitting the system around my requirements, rather than trying to shoehorn my requirements into the system. Since I wasn’t with my bullet journal all the time, I needed a flexible system that I could dip in and out of. It took a couple of months of trial and error, but I figured out a way of using both my analogue bullet journal and my phone/laptop to get the best of both worlds.

I would consider the flexibility of the system to be it’s greatest asset. I use a blank notebook for my journal so I can make any section as long or short as I like. If something works, do it more. If it doesn’t, ditch it for the next month. One of the first things I did was to ditch the daily log. I quickly got sick of migrating the same tasks day after day, since many were tasks that just needed doing at some point in the week. Instead I made better use of the monthly log, reviewing it often and ticking items off as and when they needed doing or when I had some spare time. I like to keep it quite concise, as I don’t think it is the best place for longform writing, which also has the added benefit that reviewing my whole year can be done quite quickly. This helps to keep track of goals, targets and ideas without them being lost in the sea of daily entries and long winded diatribes. It also made more sense to have a daily catchall place on my phone, rather than my journal, because my phone was the one tool I always had with me. These changes made the system far more workable on a daily basis. It also made sense that the easier the system was to use, the most likely I was to keep using it.

Why Use A System At All?

I knew from previous attempts I would struggle to keep on using a journal if I had no solid idea what I would use it for. Setting aside half an hour at the end of every day to fill out task list, events etc would never work. I needed something that could be amended ad hoc when I had time, and wherever I was. The bullet journal system provided the base for what I use today, adapted for my requirements, and supplemented by a number of mobile and desktop apps to cover almost all of my other needs. In an ideal world this could all be done in one place, but until that day I think I’ve managed to create a decent compromise.

If you would like to read more about the next part in my series, detailing my hybrid journaling and lifelogging system, you can subscribe here.