How to structure your bullet journal

If yesterday’s post about bullet journaling whet your appetite, today I’m going to get into the nitty gritty of how I structure mine.*  (Can I also just reiterate that bullet journals do not need to be works of art. Keep reading, and you’ll see that mine certainly isn’t. My journal is here to serve me, not the other way round!)

The future log

I take a double spread in my notebook and split each page into three. Ta daaa… I have six months laid out before me. Each section is given a month as a heading (Jan to June). If I know that stuff needs to happen in a certain month, I’ll write it down under that month.

I do this in one go when I’m setting things up. If a new task comes in that can’t be dealt with during the current month, I add it to my future log.

The monthly log

My May 2016 monthly log

My May 2016 monthly log

At the start of every month, I start a fresh page and add the heading “monthly log – May” (unless it’s not May, in which case…. oh, you get the idea).

Then I go to the future log and copy the relevant tasks over into the monthly log. “Surely just copying stuff like that is a waste of time?” I hear you cry! Nope. It allows me to decide whether the tasks I listed in the future log are still important. If they’re not, I draw a line through them.

I then list out all the other things that I need to get done that month that weren’t in my future log. If a new task comes in that needs to be handled that month, I add it to my monthly log.

The daily log

My daily log for a week in June 2016

My daily log for a week in June 2016

Each day, I go to the monthly log and decide which tasks to complete. Those tasks are then written in the daily log, and marked with a ‘>’ in the monthly log so I can see they’ve been taken care of.

As you can see, I draw a little square alongside each task. That’s so that I have the satisfaction of shading it in when I’ve completed something. But it also allows me to indicate when I’ve started on something but haven’t finished it, as I can shade in half the square. That’s a psychological thing really; it makes me feel as though I’m making progress.

I also list meetings in my daily log, drawing a little circle next to each so I can differentiate them from tasks. That gives me a visual clue to how much time I have for tasks during any given day (if there are lots of circles I know I won’t be able to get as much stuff done, so would list fewer tasks…thus not setting myself up to fail).

I don’t draw a line through a task when it’s complete. Instead, I’ll strike through a task if I know it no longer needs to happen. SO satisfying!

A few final pointers: It can be tempting to plan out your whole week in one go, but try and deal with just one day at a time. Keep your tasks as succinct as you can. This is called a bullet journal because the entries should be bullets rather than prose! 

Project pages

As I said yesterday, bullet journals are all about keeping everything in one place. That’s where project pages come in. You can dedicate a page to a particular topic and then keep all your notes there. Examples of project pages from my journal have included: ‘recruitment and selection briefing’, ‘stuff I need to buy’, ‘office move’, ‘mini moments of inspiration’ and ‘New Zealand planning’.

Just remember that the key to preventing your bullet journal from becoming just another half-filled notebook is to use every single page. Don’t skip a page to leave space for something. Instead, number your pages and create an index. If you run out of space on your first ‘office move’ project page, you can pick up again on the next empty page and write ‘cont’d on page xx’ on the first page, and ‘cont’d from page xx’ on the next.

Habit tracker

I don’t do this anymore, but when I’d reached the point of overwhelm in my 9-5 last year I introduced this as a way of ensuring I remembered to do all the small things that I knew would keep me sane. (You can see an example of a bullet journal habit tracker here.) Some people draw this out by hand every month. Not me. I saved it on my laptop so all I needed to do was print it out and stick it in at the start of each month. 

Shade in the boxes to indicate success, and job’s a goodun! I find this a really great way of ensuring that I stick to good habits most of the time. There will be days when things don’t go so well, but as long as most of the boxes have been shaded in at the end of each week/month, I’m happy.

And that’s it!

If you have any questions or comments, let me know below.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some practical tips about how to make your journal work for you as you go about your day.

*you can find out more about the ‘official’ bullet journal structure here.

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