Bullet Journaling: What is it and Why do I do it?

I’ve been posting pretty casually about my bullet journaling, but I’m sure more than a few of you are waiting for me to break it all down, just like I broke down my entire work-flow system for the office. Bullet Journaling was introduced to me by Mia of xoMia.com— if you haven’t noticed, we low-key talk about each other kind of constantly— and it’s basically the first planner system that I have really enjoyed and kept up with. 

So a little background on my brain before we begin to get us started: I love information, but I have not been the best about keeping it all organized historically. I keep a lot of knowledge in my brain but I am often the victim of brain fog or brain clutter, and combine this with my tendency toward anxiety, and I often find myself worried about being sure I can recall things when I need them. I grew up having planners for school but they seemed like chores rather than tools. I've tried to get back into it, and then fell out, I tried Google Calendars-- and while that worked great for scheduled events, it was much less effective for me when it came to keeping me on task. I liked Kanban, but that was more of a workflow system for me than a way to plan out a week, month, or year. 

A photo posted by Harper Yi (@harperyi) on

I needed flexibility, fun, simplicity, and a way to really make planning a part of my life. I needed a space to record all the flurry of thoughts in my brain

Enter the Bullet Journal. It's a freeform, highly customizable system that you can employ in any notebook you like-- it's simple. 

The basic key is this:
  • a bullet or box indicates a task
  • a slash through the bullet or box indicates a task in progress
  • an X through the bullet or box means it's done
  • an arrow or > indicates that it's being moved or "migrated" to another day
  • you can also use other symbols, like asterisks for events, dashes for notes or reminders, question marks for things to look into, etc. 
Then you designate a few pages to be your index-- this is especially helpful in bound notebooks-- but I use a ring binder, so I actually don't have an index. Number your pages and then as you use them, index them. 

Create a future log by writing out the months and days, with any important dates-- birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.-- in so you can see a year ahead. This can be in calendar format, or by simply writing the month then numbering the days down each line, and writing the event next the the particular day.

Then create a spread for this particular month, which ever month is current, and go into more detail here like you might on a refrigerator calendar. Appointments, meetings, dates, classes to take, etc. Add information on things you are planning to do this month by creating a list of things you are planning to do this month. See a doctor. Pay your rent. 

Then you can create your daily or weekly spread. Like I said, this is super flexible, so it all depends on how you want to play this! I like to create a weekly spread, Monday through Thursday on one side, and Friday- Sunday on the other, so that I can see a whole week at once. I also dedicate a full page to weekly to-dos for anything and everything I need to get done that week, especially if it's not date specific.

You can add in other sorts of pages outside date-based planning. Write in charts to track your savings, keep a collection of favorite quotes, tally your fitness goals, log books you've read and places you've been, etc. There so really no limit to what you can do with a Bullet Journal. 

I find that this system is super helpful for me since I really like being able to dump everything out of my brain and organize it on paper. Analog (as opposed to digital) gives me a more "real" feeling of responsibility and accomplishment, and being able to customize, doodle, and play makes Bullet Journaling something I look forward to every day. 

You can follow along as I bullet journal my life by subscribing to my Youtube channel where I post, among other things, a monthly Bullet Journal walk-through. I also post about my bullet journal on instagram. Here's what I'm currently working with.


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