I started using a Bullet Journal in September, 2019 and today it’s indispensable. Ryder Carroll’s vision for “…a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” hits all of my buttons: Convenient, flexible, accommodating (more on that later), hand-written and personal. Here’s why I’ll be bringing my Bullet Journal (or “Bujo” for short) into 2020.
All you need to adopt the Bullet Journal system is a notebook and a pen. Any notebook and any pen will do. I bought the officially branded Leuchtturm 1917 because, as my daughter would say, I’m so extra. But that’s not necessary. You could get a pocket-sized, spiral bound from the grocery store for two bucks and it will work perfectly. Just number the pages and you’re off.
The Bullet Journal system has the user apply a series of symbols to a list of items (reminiscent of Patrick Rhone’s Dash/Plus System). For example, a “.” signifies an action item, while a “-” indicates reference material that is important but requires no action (Ryder calls these “notes”). Other markings include circles to identify events and an asterisk to highlight important information.
As information comes into your life, you quickly capture it via brief text and the appropriate symbol. The system calls this “rapid logging” and I like it quite a bit. For me, it’s proven to be a speedy way to record meaningful information quickly.
There’s more to the system, but not much. It’s rather bare bones and that’s a big part of the appeal. There’s a “future log” that offers a quick overview of future responsibilities, as well as a formal way to move unfinished tasks over to the next day, next week or next month, which Ryder calls migration.
Collections are similar to projects, in that it’s a way to keep all relevant information together.
You can dive into all of that here but I want to talk about the one feature that really makes this work for me: the index.
At the start of each journal, set aside several pages for what will become your index. You’ll fill it in as you go.
Really, Dave? You’re this excited about a table of contents?
Oh, yes. This is the way.
When you create a new entry on a page that you’ll want to refer to in the future, write down that page’s title and page number in the index. For example, I’ve got “Mazda Collection” on page 8, and October on page 22. Now, if I need some information on the Mazda, I turn right to page 8. That’s great, but we’re just getting started.
In the image at the right, you’ll see “Jaclyn Collection” says “13, 45.” That collection starts on page 13 and continues on page 45. If you turned to page 13 and looked at the “13” in the lower right-hand corner, you’d see a small “45” written next to it. Likewise, page 45 has a small “13” written in.
“But Dave, why do you have 32 pages between the start and conclusion of that collection?” That’s the whole beauty of this! If I want to start a collection on page 13, then doodle unicorns for nine pages, then do a mind dump on two more pages, then take notes during a meeting and finally list my favorite songs before resuming the Jaclyn collection, I can. No more treating pages like precious objects. No more guessing how many pages I’ll need for something…maybe I’ll need four pages for this? Five? Who knows, who cares. Doesn’t matter.
Best of all, not more flipping around to find anything. Jaclyn collection: Boom, page 13. Unicorn doodles: boom, page 14. Meeting notes, page 21. Mind dump, 23. It’s all in the index.
I love this thing. It’s always with me and it gives me a real sense of confidence that I have what I need and that things aren’t falling through the cracks. I even went and got a fancy Nock case for it (SO EXTRA).
Welcome, 2020. I’m ready with my Bujo.