Bullet journals can include an index, future log, monthly log, daily log, collections, and more.
A bullet journal is an analog system to track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future, according to Bullet Journal’s official YouTube channel. There are custom notebooks designed for Bullet Journaling (or BuJo for short), but the system works in almost any notebook of your choice. All you need to get started BuJo’ing is a pen and a notebook!
In this article, you’ll learn how to set up a bullet journal for success. We’ll explore each standard section and even a few different sections based on your needs and wants. Are you looking for bullet ideas for beginners?
Here’s what to put in your journal.
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1. Create Your Index
First, create an index on your first blank spread. A spread consists of two pages on the left and right sides of your notebook when you open it. Title it as “Index” at the top of both blank pages.
This becomes similar to a table of contents for your journal, but it grows as you add more pages to your bullet journal.
2. Create Your Future Log
Next, create a future log on the following blank spread in your notebook. Add a title at the top of both the left and right pages that says, “Future Log.”
Bullet journals are divided into an overview (future log), then months, then days, getting more granular with each section.
If you’re creating a six-month journal, the future log spread will have six sections, one dedicated to each month in your notebook. Some people create bullet journals to cover three months, and others to cover a year-long period. It’s really up to you!
In this example, the future log would include three sections on the left-hand side of your notebook, titled January, February, and March. On the right-hand side of your notebook, you’d list out April, May, and June.
Once you’re done with this step, add page numbers to the left and right pages, then add those page numbers back into your index spread. For example:
Future Log: 1-2
3. Add a Monthly Log
Next, turn to the third blank spread to create your monthly log. This spread will include a general overview of everything you want to get done that month. It also shows you how much time you have to complete these tasks.
On either side of the spread, add the month’s name at the top of each page.
On the left-hand side of the spread, write down each date in the calendar in a vertical row. For example, say there are 28 days in the month. You’d list numbers 1 through 28 along the left-hand side of the page. Then next to each number, you’d list an abbreviation that makes sense to you for the day of the week. For example:
Now, create a task list on the right-hand side of the spread underneath the month title. In a bullet journal, a task is represented with a simple bullet dot then the task’s name. This seems oddly specific, but there’s a reason for it which we’ll cover in the next section.
Your task list should consist of anything you need or want to get done for that month. For example:
- Call grandma
- Get nails done
- Buy Easter presents
- Find new babysitter
When you’re finished with your monthly log, add the page numbers to the left and right pages. Now, add those page numbers to your index. Your index is starting to take shape!
4. Build a Daily Log
A daily log is a way to capture all of your to-dos and thoughts quickly, also known as rapid logging.
Begin by noting the daily log date in the upper left corner of the left-hand side page. For example:
Beneath the date, you can begin adding entries. Entries include tasks, events, and notes.
Entries should be short statements, such as “call grandma” or “Susan’s Wine Party” to keep the page clear and easy to read.
If the entry is a task that needs to be completed, use a bullet point to the left of the entry. For example:
- Pay Max’s tuition
If the entry is an event, use an open bullet point to the left of the entry. For example:
- Book club meeting
If the entry is a note, use a dash to the left of the entry. For example:
– Lookup definition of scrupulous
When you put each of your entries together, including tasks, events, and notes, it would look like this:
- Pay Max’s tuition
- Book club meeting
– Lookup definition of scrupulous
If your task list gets long, you may want a way to highlight what’s of utmost priority. To do that, add a signifier. A signifier is a little star next to that task bullet, to the left of the bullet.
Once you’ve used as much space as you need for your daily log, you’ll begin the next day’s log beneath it. You may have as few as two or as many as six daily logs per page.
As you complete an entry, add an ‘x’ over the bullet, open bullet, or dash to mark that it has been completed.
5. Task Migration
Once you’ve gone through a month of bullet journaling, it’s time to start the next month! Now, here’s where bullet journaling keeps you productive and focused. With task migration, it will be hard for anything to fall off your to-do list. However, you’ll be more focused on things that are worth your time in the short term.
Turn to the next blank spread and repeat step three to add a new monthly log.
Scan your daily logs from the previous month. Add an ‘x’ over the bullet of any entry that is finished but that you may have forgotten to mark on that day. For example:
X – Call grandma
Are any tasks still open? If so, determine if that task still needs a place on your to-do list. If not, add a line through it to remove it from the list. A task that still needs to be on your list for the short term, place a right arrow over the dot, like this:
> Pay Max’s tuition
Now, rewrite that entry that still needs a place on your task list into the next month’s log with a bullet next to it. It goes on the right-hand side of the spread, just like how you listed the previous month’s tasks in step three.
Say you still need to complete a task from the prior month. But now, you have more than just a month to do it. For this entry, add a left arrow over the bullet, like this:
< Get car smogged
Now, rewrite that entry into the month that it is due in the future log. Then, when you arrive at that month, you can refer back to the future log for any outstanding tasks.
6. Additional Spreads to Add to Your Bullet Journal
Some people choose to go even further in their bullet journals, and you can, too. That’s the beauty of BuJo’ing; it is what you make it. Here are some additional pages you can add if you’d like.
You can create a collection spread on the next blank page following your daily log if you have related tasks and notes.
For example, let’s say you’re planning a birthday party. You may have tasks related to that party. But you may also have notes, such as “Lily is allergic to walnuts,” or “Sam’s mom says he will be 30 minutes late.”
These related items are easiest to process if they’re together rather than spread across disparate days in your daily log.
Go to the next blank page and add a topic to the top to create a collection. In this case, it would be “Junior’s Birthday Party.”
Now, rewrite all the tasks and notes related to that topic. Give the collection page a page number and add it to your index.
Habit trackers help us hold ourselves accountable. You can add a habit tracker easily on an existing monthly log.
To keep this monthly log clean and organized, you’ll want to create a key for each of the habits you want to track. Add the key to the bottom left corner of the monthly log page that features all the dates and days in a vertical line (see step three).
The habit key should first include an abbreviation, an = sign, and the habit you want to track. For example:
W = water goal
E = exercise
If you have an existing collection that relates to your water goal or exercise, add the page number of that collection next to the key. This way, if you forget what your water goal was, you can quickly access that collection. The collection will remind you that you had tasked yourself with drinking eight glasses of water per day. For example:
W= water goal (p. 11)
E = exercise (p. 25)
Now, to the far right of your left-hand page near the binding of your journal, add the abbreviations side by side, as if creating columns. For example:
Then, add a bullet under each column for each day of the week that you want to accomplish that habit. Water may have a bullet every day, but exercise may only have a scheduled bullet on Tuesday and Thursday.
For each day you complete the habit, mark an x through that bullet.
To see this in action, watch this YouTube tutorial from the official Bullet Journal channel.
Bullet journals provide an analog escape in our digital age. This way of tracking past, present, and future tasks allow you to focus on what’s important in a more tactile way. The best bullet journal ideas for beginners are the ones that help you accomplish this goal. But we’d recommend starting out with the basics, including an index, future log, monthly log, and daily log.