Bullet Journal: The Beginning

After listening to the Pen Addict podcast from the beginning, I got to see Brad and Myke progress a lot in their stationery addiction and grow, but one of the really excellent things I found through them (other than developing my own addiction) was Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system. I started reading more about it and looking at how other people have been using it to improve their own productivity. I decided to take the plunge and buy a notebook to dedicate to it and formally employ it into my workflow.


The notebook I chose is the Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted A5 Notebook because it seems to be the standard for bullet journals, and I really liked the inbuilt page numbering and the index. These little features save me a ton of time and hassle (especially when I’m working with a 249 page notebook). I also chose this very bright royal blue color (not reproduced accurately in the photo) because literally every other journal-type notebook I have has a black cover, and I wanted something that would pop more than gray or navy that I usually defer to from black. 

Appearing alongside the bullet journal is my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen which I’ve also recently purchased. I’m really liking it so far. I am quite a novice when it comes to fountain pens, so I’m still learning more about fountain pens every day.

This post is an introduction to my journal, and I plan to check in periodically to update how it’s working for me. So far, I don’t have anything to report because I’m still two weeks out from my classes beginning at university and I’m keeping my summer work tasks in a Field Notes pocket notebook. As I make the transition, I’m putting more and more of the focus on this journal and making it my main notebook. It’s working really well so far, despite not really using it for much.

I’ll explain a little bit of the process I’m currently using, so that if it changes in the future, I’ll be able to explain why it differs from before, and why the change is important.

Starting right after the index is a legend of the symbols I am using for my task management. The spread following the legend is where I begin the real bullet journaling. However, instead of using a Future Log like that which is included in the bullet journal plans, I use a version that is more appropriate for my uses. I instead use a Quarterly Log that shows the calendar for the next quarter (though the first one, Fall 2016, shows 4 months because the academic quarter begins mid-September). This allows me to see at a glance when all of my important dates are for the next quarter without begin distracted by extraneous months before and after.

The red number next to the calendar dates refers to the week number within the quarter.
The calendar of the quarter appears on the left side of the left page with colored shapes on dates for different purposes assigned to each. On the right side of the left page is a colored date based on the calendar and a short description of what that date is.

For example, I use the green to mark generally important dates (move in, first day of class) and I use blue squares to represent exams (midterms and finals). Then on the right side I specify what that date is or what class the exam is for. The only other mark I made on this calendar is a red circle to mark the beginning of my bullet journal and a purple underline of days we have holiday from school. On the right page of the Quarterly Log spread is only a task list (so far). I use the traditional rapid logging bullet journal system with different variants on the symbols that I thought matched my small handwriting better and kept with the minimal look I want to go for throughout the journal.

After the Quarterly Log brings me to a fork in the road. I have a plan for what I could do after it, but I’m hesitant to start anything until school begins because I don’t really have anything significant to do in the next two weeks. One option is to just begin rapid logging tasks immediately and get into the habit. Another is to break down the quarter into an even smaller chunk—perhaps a pre-midterm 1 period, a pre-midterm 2 period, and a pre-finals period—and see if that’s a useful way to separate my time. A third option is one I’ve come across frequently in reference to a student’s bullet journal—the Calendex. This might be useful because it allows me to see a lot more at any given time, and allows me to see when the important dates of a quarter are still. As I progress in this journal, I definitely will be looking into whether it will be useful for me. Most bullet journals have a Monthly Log too, but that doesn’t really make sense for me because it does not provide enough context within the quarter since it’s less than half of a quarter and does not allow me to see what is coming in the upcoming weeks, but instead give too much of a focus on the month as a unit. This is one reason a Calendex could be useful, but I still don’t know explicitly how I’ll be using this notebook. So as it stands, I’ve only decided to use Quarterly Logs and some kind of Rapid Logging process.

Any of the options could work, but it really depends how often and how much I write for a single day/week. I have a feeling that I might be able to fit two weeks or more on a single spread of the notebook some weeks, so it would take ages to fill in the notebook if I only do Quarterly Logs+Daily Logs. Therefore, I really do need another subdivision of time, or some other kind of structure so that the notebook doesn’t stagnate into an empty list of tasks, page after page after page. My plan going forward is to start with roughly weekly task logs of things I need to do everyday, and if I realize I need more structure, I’ll start trying other structured methods.

To conclude, I am excited to finally be able to start this bullet journal and try it our as an organizational method. As I get more and more into the quarter, I’ll report back what is and is not working and some of the positive changes I make in the system, then, hopefully, some of the positive changes in my own productivity.



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