Hello Zen Organizer!
When I recorded the last podcast episode on the Bullet Journal, I realized there are other essential aspects of the method you need to know if you want to use it to its full potential. So I decided to do this second episode and article about these additional aspects! They are less about the physical structure of the BuJo and more about the way to use the method efficiently.
I've also decided to talk about the pros and cons of the Bullet Journal, its possible integration with digital tools, and the possibility to use a digital Bullet Journal.
If you haven't listened to the previous podcast episode or read the article, and if you know nothing about Bullet Journaling, I suggest you do that first and then come back here!
So let's dive into it!
The first important concept is rapid logging. Contrary to "traditional" journaling in which you write your thoughts freely, with complete sentences and without structuring them, rapid logging is a form of succinct journaling.
As Ryder Carroll mentions in his book: "The problem with traditional journaling is that it is loosely structured and time-intensive. Rapid logging leverages the best aspects of journaling by stripping away everything that's not essential. It's the language the Bullet Journal is written in. In short, Rapid Logging helps us capture and organize our thoughts as living lists. Rapid Logging will help you efficiently capture your life as it happens so that you may begin to study it" (2018, p.58-59).
Of course, rapid logging relies on short sentences but also on the bullets. That's where the name of the method comes from, so you can imagine their importance! Bullets and signifiers differentiate the types of information you log into your BuJo. For example, Carroll uses a bullet for tasks, a circle for events, and a dash for notes. As signifiers, he uses an asterisk to mark a priority and an exclamation point to indicate an idea (Carroll, 2021a).
You can, of course, personalize your bullets and signifiers to match your needs. For instance, I also use a square for birthdays and a triangle for bank holidays. You can even have a colour code if you manage different projects or tasks for various people (ex. your kids) in your BuJo.
These bullets, signifiers and colours help you categorize quickly and efficiently the information you log in your Bullet Journal so you can analyze them more easily. They also make it quicker to write down your entries.
Here's a comparison between traditional journaling and rapid logging as found on Ryder Carroll's website:
As you can see, it's much easier to go over the entries quickly than if you had to read complete sentences!
Another important concept of the Bullet Journal is the migration of tasks. I talked a little bit about it in the sixth podcast episode on the basics of the method, but I realized this is a crucial concept to understand to use your BuJo to its full capacity.
It's a concept I didn't understand well when I first started, and it made my use of the method quite useless.
A big part of your Bullet Journal is basically composed of to-do lists. In your Daily Log, you should write down every single task you have to do, regardless of their priority or deadline. Your Monthly Log is a giant brain dump for all the tasks you have/want to do. Your Future Log is mostly filled with tasks that have a set date. Even your collections can have to-do lists (especially goal collections).
These to-do lists are great because they allow you to unburden your mind with all the tasks you think you have to do. But let's be honest: it can get very overwhelming, discouraging, and unmanageable to have all these endless lists waiting to be completed.
That's where the migration comes in! You shouldn't make to-do lists just for the sake of making them. You should reevaluate your lists periodically to make sure the items on these lists are truly relevant. As Carrolls says: "It's easy to forget that just because something could be done does not mean it should be done. Productivity is about getting more done by working on fewer things" (2018, p.107).
Migration helps with this reevaluation because it consists of transferring your entries from one part or your BuJo to another by rewriting them. It might seem time uselessly wasted, but it's what helps us evaluate whether a task is worth our time and energy or not. If rewriting it is not worth your time and effort, then the task itself probably isn't either. So just strike it (Idem, p.107-108)! Your time and energy are precious resources, and you should use them on things that truly matter to you.
"Simply put, Migration keeps you from operating on autopilot, wasting tremendous amounts of time working on things that don't add value to your life" (2018, p.108).
You can do this migration in different moments. Ryder Carroll does it at the end of the month: he goes over the whole month and analyzes all the entries that are still open. The relevant ones are migrated to the right collection. The ones that aren't relevant are stricken out!
Other people do this migration process every week. I also know some do it every time they start a new double page. I personally do it daily. Try out what works for you and do it that way!
Here's how to migrate your entries:
"If the Task is date-specific and falls outside of the current month - migrate it to your Future Log. Then mark it as scheduled "<" (Carroll, 2018, p.109)."
If the Task requires a collection of its own – because it's a project or goal (ex. plan a trip, organize an event), because it requires to go into more details (ex. need to brainstorm), or because you have to note other similar information (ex. reading list, contact info) – then create the Collection, if you haven't yet, and migrate the task there. Mark the entry as migrated ">" (Carroll, 2018, p.109).
If you do your migration monthly, decide whether the open Tasks are worth migrating to your new Monthly Log. Mark them as migrated ">" (Carroll, 2018, p.109). If you do your migration more often, you might decide some tasks have to be done this month, with or without a specific date. Migrate them to your current Monthly Log and mark them as scheduled "<".
If you do a daily migration, migrate the incomplete tasks of the day that are still relevant into your next Daily Log. Mark them as migrated ">".
Finally, you get to do a crucial migration whenever you change your notebook. I already wrote an article about it, so I won't cover it here because it would be a bit too long. You can also watch Ryder Carroll's video on the topic.
As mentioned in the Beginner's Guide to Bullet Journal, you can create collections at any point in your Bullet Journal. You only have to flip to the next available page and start there. It gives you a lot of flexibility because you can create your collections as you need them. But if you have to make various collections that are linked together (without necessarily knowing how many pages you'll need for each one, or the total number of collections), you might find it impractical to flip through your notebook each time you need to find information between your collections.
Of course, you can always refer to your Index. But let's be honest, it's not very efficient to go back every time to it.
Here's where threading comes in handy! Threading basically consists of writing the page number of the previous or next collection related to the current one next to its page number. This way, you know where to find the related collections without having to refer to the Index every time (Carroll, 2021b).
Threading is also useful between notebooks. If you have related collections but that are in different notebooks, you can also thread them. You simply add the number of the Bullet Journal to the page number. For example, if the collection is in your second BuJo on page 63, you can write BJ2p.63 next to the page number of the current collection. This way, you don't have to refer to the Index or, worse, flip through all of your previous BuJos to find the related collection.
Pros & cons of the BuJo
Of course, as much as I love this tool and think it can help most people in their organization and goal achievement, it's not perfect either. So here is a non-exhaustive list of pros and cons I've found during my use of it:
It's a catch-all for everything - it's like a second brain.
It gives you a break from technology.
I can be a creative outlet if you want it to be.
You can track many different things in your BuJo (mood, habits, goals, etc.)
It's a blank notebook, so you can change it and adapt it to your needs at all times.
It has no reminders or notifications.
It can be heavy to carry and difficult to bring everywhere.
There is no backup - if you lose it, you lose everything that is in it.
It takes more time to create than a traditional planner.
It's not adapted for very complex projects.
However, most of these cons can be remedied by pairing your Bullet Journal to some digital tools or using a digital Bullet Journal!
Integration with digital tools
If you need reminders for your important appointments or deadlines, you can pair your BuJo with a digital calendar. The advantages of digital calendars are that you can set reminders, share your calendar with other people, and rearrange your schedule more easily. Digital calendars are also great if you practice time-blocking to boost your productivity! It's feasible to time-block in your BuJo, but it gets messy if there's a hitch or need to rearrange your schedule.
The Bullet Journal is great for managing and organizing your personal life and maybe a small side-hustle. However, if you need to manage your business, collaborate on projects, or record a lot of data, the Bullet Journal is not the right tool. In these cases, digital productivity tools will be much more powerful and will make you lose less time and energy. I personally use Notion to manage Zenly Organized, and I had tried Asana before that. I've heard great things about Trello and ClickUp as well.
Digital Bullet Journals
Another possibility is to create your Bullet Journal digitally. Now, I've never done so myself, so I can only share some apps and software I've heard other people use. Here they are if you want to discover them:
Goodnotes (only available for Apple products, paid app)
Noteshelf (available on Android and Apple, paid app)
Procreate (only available on the iPad, paid software)
Adobe Illustrator (paid software)
PowerPoint (paid software)
Keynote (only available on Apple products)
I hope these tips will help you make the most out of this amazing tool, integrate it into your whole organization system, and adapt it to your needs!
And don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on your favourite platform and leave me a comment if you find it useful!
As always, I wish you a zenly organized week (hopefully thanks to your Bullet Journal!),