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Bullet Journal

October 26, 2022

In this guide we'll show you how to bullet journal with Workflowy. The bullet journal system is a way to organize daily activities, notes and events in a simple and straightforward way that synergizes well with Workflowy's bullet system.

What is a bullet journal?

Bullet journaling is essentially a set of sections kept in a notebook that record different spans of time (Daily, monthly, future).

The different sections work together to organize daily activities, review past events, and reminder one of future events.

Bullet journaling was developed by Ryder Carroll in 2013 and was originally done in a paper notebook. The name comes from the fact that in several parts of the system, you use bullets to indicate pieces of information.

How bullet journaling works

Bullet journaling is composed of only a few parts. The magic of the system is found in how those parts work together to keep you organized and on track.

The parts

The original bullet journal system is made up of four main sections. A 'daily log', 'monthly log', 'future log', and an 'index'.

The 'daily log' serves as the daily driver of the system and is where we keep the tasks, events and notes for each day.

The 'monthly log' is where we'll keep track of the events scheduled for the current month.

The 'future log' is a record of the events that have due dates sometime in the future beyond the current month. This can be an overview for the next 6 months or for the entire year.

Finally we have the 'index' and works like the index in a book that indicates on what page each section is located. In a digital format it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep an index as we have bookmarks and a search functionality.

The flow

Now let's look at how those parts interact to give bullet journaling its power.

Let's start with the 'daily log' as that where most of the action will be happening on a day to day basis. We'll first review the 'monthly log', and if there are any items scheduled for today we'll copy those into our 'daily log'.

The 'daily log' is where we'll write down the tasks we want to complete for that day. You're also encouraged to use this section to capture any information you don't want to forget.

You should use this section to record any new todos that come up during the day or any new events that need to be scheduled. The idea is that by capturing items in the most readily available section, you won't have to stop and think about where to put them and become distracted. There is a step in the flow where you'll come back and figure out where these items should actually go when you have more time.

The 'daily log' uses a unique notation system to indicate different types of information and also when items have been moved to a different section in your bullet journal. You can also nest different types of items. So for example you can have an event with multiple todos as subitems, or you can have a task with several notes as subitems.

  • A regular bullet item indicates a task or todo
  • An 'X' indicates a completed task
  • A 'o' indicates an event
  • A '>' means the item was not completed and migrated to the following day
  • A '<' means the item was scheduled for another day in your 'monthly log' or your 'future log'
  • A '-' indicates the item is a note

This simple notation system helps you quickly scan your 'daily log' and get an idea of what's happened each day.

At the end of each day, any incomplete todos are marked complete, migrated to the following day, scheduled for another day in the 'monthly log', or put in the 'future log' for another month.

The next section we'll look at is the 'monthly log'.

This section is made up of two parts - a list of the days for the current month with any scheduled items, and a task list that holds todos we want to complete during that month but don't yet have a fixed date. The tasks list serves as a place to hold unscheduled items for that month until we're ready to give them a due date.

Since the 'monthly log' serves as the month's calendar, we check this section on a daily or weekly basis and copy any events or tasks that are scheduled for the current day into our 'daily log'.

At the start of each month, check the 'monthly log' for any items that you did not schedule and migrate those to the next month.

The last section is the 'future log'.

In this section we'll keep events or tasks that fall outside of the current month. Once a month we'll review this section and copy any items that are scheduled for the current month into our 'monthly log'.

And that's the basic flow of the bullet journal system.


How to do bullet journaling in Workflowy

In our implementation of the bullet journal system, we'll exclude the index and simply use the three main sections 'daily log', 'monthly log', and 'future log'.

Let's start by adding those three section to a new bullet we'll call 'Bullet journal'.

Next we'll add a bullet for each month in the 'Future log'. The original system lists 6 months at a time due to the limitations of space. Since we don't have those limitations we'll go ahead and add the full year.

Now we'll add focus on the 'Monthly log' and add the current month's days with a letter to indicate the day of the week. We'll also add a 'Tasks' section where we can park tasks that we know we want to complete during the current month but don't have a set date yet.

To make it easier for you, we've got ahead and created templates for each of the seven days a month could start on. We've put these in a section called 'Templates' so each month all you have to do is duplicate the one that matches which day the month starts on and pull that one out.

Finally we'll list the notation system that we'll use in the 'daily log'. This is of course just a suggestion and you should feel free to modify it if there are other symbols you find easier to use.

  • A regular bullet item indicates a task or todo
  • Completing an item indicates a finished task
  • '#e' indicates an event
  • '>' means the item was not completed and migrated to the following day
  • '<' means the item was scheduled for another day in your 'monthly log' or your 'future log'
  • '-' indicates the item is a note
  • 'X' means you've decided not to do the task

Additionally, we recommend you add an extra '>' each time you don't complete an item and have to copy it to the following day. This makes it easy to see which items you keep putting off and which you should consider either focusing on first or marking with an 'X' and simply not doing.

One last section we'll add is an 'archive' in the 'daily log' so you can move days there after each week or month. Otherwise you'll end up with a huge list of days as the year progresses.

And that's it, we recommend you start using the bullet journal system by going through the steps as if it were a new month.

You start from the 'future log' and add any event you want to schedule for the year. Next, copy the current month's items into your 'monthly log' either into the 'tasks' section or the appropriate day. And finally, add today's date in the 'daily log', copy any items scheduled for today and add your todos for the day.

Supercharge your bullet journaling

Once you feel confident with the system and how the different parts interact, we recommend you try using mirrors(live copies) instead of simply copying items when you're moving them from one section to another, or even from one day to another.

There are two big benefits to doing it this way. The first is that by using mirrors, you can use the bullet menu to track where an item has been moved to over time. For example,  you could see that an item has gone from being in the 'future log' to the 'monthly log' to the 'daily log'.

The second benefit is that as the item moves through your bullet journal and you either complete it, modify it or add notes, all the other copies of that item will remain up to date. This is very handy for example when doing your monthly review of the 'monthly log' and instantly being able to see which items you had scheduled you did not complete and need to be mirrored into the next month.

Mirror can seem a little daunting to use at first but once you see the power that comes with having items that will always be up to date and that you can check where all the copies are - you won't go back to regular copy and paste.

Conclusion

Bullet journaling is a simple and quick system for capturing and tracking tasks, events and notes. However, there are aspects of the system that are limited when using a paper journal. When combining the simple notation and agenda system with a digital system like Workflowy, the bullet journal system really sails.

With instant searching, bookmarking, mirroring, tagging, and sharing - there's really no better way to bullet journal.

View the template to copy it and get started

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