The Bullet Journal Basics

Starting the Bullet Journal - The Basic Terms

Beyond the hype that has been created around the Bullet Journal, journals are originally meant to get to grips with the things you want or need to do in everyday life. Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal, needed this structure during his studies and developed a way that worked for him. That's how it all started. 

What's a bullet journal for

You can apply his method in all areas, whether on a personal level or for your work, study, hobby, club, fill in for yourself where you can use more control or structure. Do you want to start with a bullet journal or do you want to go back to basics, then this document is for you!

The idea of a bullet journal

The author of the book The Bullet Journal, wants to help you organize your life by capturing the important things that are happening around you. A simple yet highly effective way to sort out your ideas and organize your life and waste as little time as possible. Time and energy are limited resources, so it is important that you use them effectively and efficiently.

Concepts of the bullet journal method

What's this journaling method all about? What are the keywords? A short summary of this method can be found below. An extensive list of more than 55 terms from the world of planners and their explanations can be downloaded free of charge in the article: "What is a weekly and free glossary“. 

Terminology and expressions in the bullet journal world explained in this glossary. Free download.


A key is an explanation of symbols you use in your journal. See the image at the 'daily log'. Its left page is the key.


An index, just like in an "ordinary book", is an table of contents, only with this method the table of contents is dynamic. It is filled and adjusted over time. The first pages in your bullet journal (abbreviated bujo) will be reserved for this purpose. Make sure each page has a number. Number the pages yourself or buy a booklet with numbered pages such as the  Leuchtturm1917 notebook. This is the brand with which Ryder Carroll introduced his bullet journal method to the market. I swear by this brand.

What's an index for in your journal

Future log

Appointments and tasks that take place or must take place in the future. It is an overview, a kind of calendar, that you set up for at least 3 months, but usually a year, so that you can always note your appointments / tasks in the right month / day / time.

Future log example by the bullet journal method

Monthly log

This provides an overview of appointments and tasks for the current month. You can set up a monthly overview or as I apply it, combine the future log and monthly log. You can read more about this in my article: "I'm too busy for a planner“.

Example of a monthly log by the bullet journal method

Daily log

This can be a calendar like setup, but you can also combine this part so that it becomes a kind of diary. A short description of your day next to your tasks and appointments.

Key and daily log example

Rapid logging

This is a way of simply and purposefully listing ideas and thoughts in categories. No extensive reporting (full sentences) of your day, just bullet points and ticking off things that need to happen. Symbols are used for quick and clear notation. You can use the symbols of the method or apply your own preference. Which symbols you apply in your journal, you include in your key. An example of Rappid Logging can be found in here.


The symbols in the table below are used in the bullet journal method. Of course you can invent and apply symbols yourself, both the symbol itself and its meaning. So you can have a " ! " to be used for important matters instead of a " * "

- Notes
O Event
. Task
X Task completed
> Task migrated
< Task planned
Strike through Task is no longer applicable
* Important / priority


This is a page on one subject. An 'annual review', for example, is a collection. If you make an overview of birthdays, that's a collection.


A weekly or monthly recurring process to free your journal of tasks, appointments, events, notes etc. that are no longer important to you. A task can be assigned:

  1. no longer applicable
  2. to be rescheduled sometime during the week;
  3. return within the current month or be listed in another month.

What tot do with an unfinished task on your daily log

In short, you will find the following main concepts in the Bullet Journal Method:

  • Key
  • Index
  • Future log
  • Monthly log
  • Daily log
  • Rappid logging
  • Collections
  • Migration

As you may have noticed by now, there are many more definitions, but these are the basic concepts. Here you can download a list of more than 55 planner terms.

The method written above is a basic version

A journal without doodles, gratitude lists, trackers etc. It's the base, a directive. Everybody's life, timetable looks different. Do I use it as originally designed by Ryder Carroll? No. Am I applying his ideas? Yes. You can find articles about journaling in daily practice and decorating a journal on my blog.

Have fun journaling! And remember:

The journal SHOULD SERVE YOU, not the other way around!

- Esther

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