How to Use a Bullet Journal to Manage Your Time

So, you’re looking for a system to help you manage your time better?  Well, you’ve come to the right place! Back in early November, losing track of time was a daily occurrence for me. I’ve never been one to keep up with calendars and date books. I would buy the prettiest calendar, chalked full of all sort of things to organize (birthdays, addresses, appointments, notes, etc) only to find that within a few months I would put it somewhere and never find it again. Or, I would find it as the year was nearing its end. After hours of searching online for a system that would work for ME, I finally stumbled upon The Bullet Journal.

Since my discovery of the bullet journal system, my life has been less chaotic, more organized and full of more free time than I’ve ever imagined possible. Are you the type of person that has a load of post-it notes all over your desk? Do you find yourself constantly writing notes and to-do lists on scraps of paper? Do you have a thousand and one notebooks around your office just in case you need to jot something down?  Then, when you need the information you waste hours of time looking for the right notebook? If you’ve answered YES! to any of these questions, a Bullet Journal just may be your answer too!

What is a Bullet Journal?

Ryder Carroll created the official Bullet Journal as a way for users to manage their time more efficiently.  It is a notebook that you use for planning, time management, to-do lists, doodling and anything else you want to jot done. The bullet journal was created with a process called “rapid-logging” in mind. The concept behind this system is for users of the system to write small, bulleted items to help keep track of everything they need to accomplish. To understand more of Ryder Carroll’s original Bullet Journal concept, please check out his video here.

Although there is an official bullet journal, many of us newbies use other types of notebooks to start a Bullet Journal (BuJo for short). In fact the only two items you need to start are things you most likely have lying around the house – a pen/pencil and a notebook. It doesn’t matter what you start with. Just keep in mind if you are the artistic type and choose to use heavier inked markers or pens, you may want something with thicker pages to avoid ghosting or bleed-thru.

Basically a bullet journal has between six and seven main parts (depending on who you ask):

  • Index
  • Key
  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Weekly Log
  • Daily Log
  • Collections or Lists.

Some people prefer to use either weekly or daily logs, not both. Myself, I like to see my week at a glance. Sometimes when I have a very busy week I may need more space for everything that comes up. In that case, I will use both weeklies and dailies. Other times I use one or the other. That’s the best thing about a Bullet Journal. You can change it up day-to-day or week-to-week, however you’d like.

The Index

The Index, in my opinion, is one of the most important pieces of a BuJo. The reason – because this is where you will write down the page numbers of everything in your journal so that you can easily reference it when needed. Inside the original BuJo, you will find about 3-4 pages already labelled for the Index. In addition, all pages in the journal are numbered. But, if you don’t have the bullet journal you can simply start with your first page and number your own pages.

Every time you log something into your Bullet Journal, you will then go to your Index and write down the page number(s) and a description of what is there. You can make this as simple or as complex as you would like. The most important thing here is that you need to do what works for you so that you can manage your time and find what you are looking for quickly. The first entry in your index then, should be “(pages XX – XX)  INDEX.” However, some will omit this. After all, if you put your index on the first few pages, wouldn’t you already know where it is?

The Key

The key is another important piece of the BuJo. The key is basically a “legend” to tell you what each type of bullet point is.  For example, in the original bullet journal system, a task is marked by a simply dot (bullet). When that task is completed, you would then put an “X” through it. Remember, the concept of the bullet journal is to “rapid-log.” This means that you will be using small sentences or even just a word or two to remind you of that task. This is a quick way to manage your time and your tasks.

Here are some of the most common “keys” found in a BuJo.

  • A bullet (dot) represents a task
  • A hyphen (-) represents a note
  • An “X” represents a completed task
  • A slash “/” represents a partially completed task
  • A “>” means that you have “migrated” the task to a future time period.
  • A “<” means that you “scheduled” this item into your future log.
  • A circle (o) represents an Event (usually tied to a specific time and date).

Now some will use additional or alternative symbols to represent these items. But for the most part these are the items you will want to track by whatever symbol your heart desires. Just be consistent so that you always know what is for what. This is why the key is so important. It allows you to look back on it to make sure you are putting the correct symbols (that you created) in the journal.

The Future Log

The next piece most of us incorporate into a Bullet Journal is the future log. Search Pinterest, Facebook, Google and everywhere else and you will find half a million different ways to create and use your future log. In a nut shell though, you want something that has the next several months at a glance so that you can insert appointments, events and tasks that will need to be taken care of during that time.

Some people will  create an actual year at a glance calendar like I have here. Others will simply split a page or two into three sections and label each section with a different month. The point here is that you want to list out any Holidays, birthdays, appointments events, to-dos, etc. in the appropriate month as soon as you know about it.

The Monthly Log

The monthly log can be a fully drawn out calendar like the one hanging on your wall – with little squares for each day, or a simple numbered list representing the day of the month. I choose to use the list format so that I can make it a two-day spread with my monthly tasks on the right side as shown here. In the photo on the left you can see what I mean about rapid-logging. I simply shorten up my information so that it fits on one line, yet I can understand what needs to be done.

These next two areas are where opinions may vary. As I said before, some people only do a Weekly Log or a Daily Log. Others, like me, do both.  Let me give you a brief overview of each.

The Weekly Log

The weekly log is very similar to the Future and Monthly log, only broken down into just that week.  To draw out a weekly, I usually just divide my page into areas for each day of the week. Some will put the “weekend” together if they don’t have a lot going on. I then split my one page in half by drawing a line down the center. On the left side is where I put my events, holidays, birthdays, and things that have a time or due date. On the right I have various other items to track or get done that week, which doesn’t have a specific deadline.

My weeklies change from time to time to adjust what I actually need. But, here is a picture of a more recent weekly and how I broke it up into sections.During this week, I actually made my weekly into a two-page spread. However, I’ve found that a one-page spread works for me. Again, it just depends on the person and the week itself. If you have more things you need to track, a two-page weekly might be your best bet.

The Daily Log

Here is one of my spreads for my daily logs. This is another area that you will find many differences among the population of BuJo’ers.  Some people are very crafty and artistic and really make their bullet journals more of a scrapbook. I try to get creative, but I don’t feel that I’m that artsy enough. So, I like to add in colors when possible and time allows.

How a daily generally works is that you set it up the day or night before and input anything from your future log and monthly log that you know is happening that day.  Then you make your plan for how you will spend that day by adding tasks, events, notes, appointments, etc.  As each task is completed, you simply “X” it as done.  If you get through the entire week and notice something not completed, you “migrate” that forward for the next week. Or, you schedule it for a future time period by placing it on your Future log.

Collections & Lists

In my opinion, this is the FUN part of BuJo’ing. Collections and lists are basically anything you want them to be. Some people do not incorporate these items into their BuJos. Others, can’t live without them (like me!). Still others, prefer to keep their collections and lists in a separate notebook for easy reference. A collection can take the form of anything you can imagine. Here are some of the more common collections and/or lists I’ve found out there on the web:

  • Books to Read
  • Movies to See
  • Weight loss Goals
  • New Years Resolutions
  • Blog Post Ideas
  • BuJo Planning
  • Bucket List
  • Cleaning List
  • Grocery List
  • Trackers . . .

Trackers are used for anything you’d like to track.  Some of the more popular things that people like to track are:

  • Exercise
  • Water intake
  • Sleep patterns
  • Credit Card and other debt pay-offs
  • Savings
  • Meals
  • Moods
  • Self-Care
  • Sales
  • Social Media traffic & followers
  • plus many more things.

So, as you can see, whatever you want to track, you can do it all in one journal. One thing I like to track is people who owe me money or whom I owe money. Being an Avon Representative, sometimes I will deliver a customer’s order and they won’t have the exact change. Having a place where I can refer to before I deliver their next order makes me feel more professional because I am remembering that they either short paid or over paid me last campaign.

Although it took me a bit to get used to this system, using the BuJo has made a huge impact on how I manage my time these days. By writing things down more than once (in the future log, monthly, daily and weekly) I have found that I am remembering all my tasks for the day. As Andrew Brown once said ” The price you have to pay to be great at something – is repetition.” So, today will you choose to be GREAT at managing your time?

How do you manage your time? Is a Bullet Journal something that could help you? Please share with me in the comments below what you think about this concept.