It often strikes us as boring or stiff when we are told to organize things. We get the impression that there’s no room for fun, because everything has to be neat and orderly – at least that’s what I thought anyway. After maintaining this stigma for a while, I finally dropped it when a friend of mine introduced a fun yet structured way to keep track of things. This is how I encountered what is known as the bullet journal.

The system was first created by a man named Ryder Carroll, who brought forth his ideas to YouTube and a site dedicated to this particular journaling method. The aim – as stated in his video – was to trace past events, organize the present, and plan for the future.

Aside effectivity, another key purpose to this journal is customizing it to your own preference and needs. After people discovered the benefits of this system, they eventually shared their personal twists to their bullet journal without abandoning the original, main elements. Since I’ve promised you a mix between organization and artistry, this article will provide you the original basics of bullet journaling, and some ideas on how you can improvise. Note that this is only a summarized explanation; more can be found in the sources cited.

It is essential to first understand the main style the journal is written in, which is referred to as ‘rapid logging’. Rapid logging constitutes four components, namely topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets. After sparing some of the front pages for the index – which is recommended – come up with a topic or title to write on the top of the page. Number the page if you wish to input the topic and the number into an index, but it is again recommended in order to easily navigate the journal’s contents. The contents comprise of a combination between the two other rapid logging components: bullets and short sentences. The sentences should be brief and simultaneously clear. For instance, writing ‘do laundry’ gets the message across both plainly and efficiently. You can differentiate the bullets per category, like using dots to mark tasks, and arrows for extra notes. 

There are four fundamental sections in the bullet journal, which are the index, future log, monthly log, and daily log. Here’s an example of the index:

The future log is a collection of things you want to get done in the time to come. Whatever way you use to set the log, make sure that you have enough pages based on how many months you want to plan ahead for. A common format is by drawing a small calendar, marking the dates, and adding notes about what you plan on doing or what you think will occur on the date.

A monthly log is more specific than the future log. With a pair of facing papers, make a calendar on the left, and your task list on the right. In case you have unfinished tasks from last month’s list, you can move it over to a new one. This is called ‘migrating’. You can also add mini notes into the calendar spread, or symbols to identify the urgency of something.

Another format is to draw the monthly calendar in the form of a circle. Afterwards, drag a line from the specific date, and write down the tasks or events to come. This one only requires one page.

If your head’s getting a wee bit heavy, then be relieved that we’re already down to our last log, which is the daily log. The name itself is self-explanatory: the log is utilized for day-to-day use. Write the date as the title, then add in tasks, events, and notes below in rapid log format. If you have enough space on the page, simply do the same for the next day there. The difference between the other logs is that this one requires less planning ahead of time (you can set them up the night before or on that day), and you have the space for more details.

Voila! We’ve gotten the basics covered! Now, let’s move on to the more experimental side of bullet journaling.

For one, you can divide the months per artistic themes. January can be the cosmos, then February can have an underwater motif.

There are some who have more than just events and tasks to track. Other journal spreads include the financial tracker, habit tracker, and one of my personal favorites – the mood tracker. Some draw lined graphs to make theirs, while I prefer making a table with squares which I can fill in with colors to depict my daily emotions.

And that’s exactly the great thing about these journals – you can have a neat record of what you want while adjusting things to your taste! All you need is a pen, notebook, imagination, and the will to commit; I promise it won’t feel like too much when you’re having fun. But of course, adding color strokes and sketches to your liking wouldn’t hurt as much as it pleases your sense of aesthetics.