This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
That, my multi-passionate friend, is exactly why people all over the world are now using bullet journals to increase productivity.
Pin me to come back to this post later!
If you’ve been on the bullet journal bandwagon for a while, you definitely beat me to it.
Little known fact: I tried my absolute hardest to avoid the bullet journal craze because – well, to be honest – I tend to be put off by trendy things. And bullet journals are most definitely trendy right now.
But as I got deeper into LaziMILLENNIAL and trying to provide the best content to help multi-passionate millennials put their creative passions to work, I realized…bullet journaling is the organization tool I need for this mission!
Alas, I could no longer resist. I took the plunge, headed to Amazon, and bought my first bullet journal. (By the way, I did a LOT of digging around on Amazon, but I made a post about all my favorite bullet journal finds so that you don’t have to go plundering like I did!)
While it’d be great to have a pretty journal, I couldn’t justify spending so much TIME on something that’s supposed to be helping me SAVE time. For me, bullet journaling is about productivity, so I can’t spend more time drawing and coloring in this journal than I spend DOING the things I put in it.
If you’re time-strapped like me but still want to dive into the bullet journal world, then this is the post for you. I’ll teach you all the basic tools you need to use a bullet journal to increase productivity.
How to Boost Your Productivity Through Bullet Journaling
1. Buy a Bullet Journal
Obviously, you can’t start using a bullet journal if you don’t have one.
Theoretically, you can use any blank journal you want for your bullet journal, but there are a few key characteristics it’s best for your journal to have.
To get the most use from your journal, you’ll want to use the front and back of pages. Nice, thick pages will help make sure your pens don’t bleed through the other side of the page.
Since your bullet journal will be blank, you’ll need a way to keep track of where you write what. The index you create will help you keep track of that important info.
Without page numbers, it’s pretty hard to build an index. If your bullet journal doesn’t come with page numbers, you can definitely add them yourself. That’s a great option. You know, if you like a haze. Just buy a journal with page numbers, k?
To save you some time, I compiled a list of the best bullet journals on Amazon, so if you’re signed up for Amazon Prime, you can be journaling in just a few days.
2. Create a Key for Your Bullet Journal
Remember in elementary school when you learned how to read a map and there was a legend that told you what different symbols mean?
Cool. This is that.
Once your brand new bullet journal arrives, creating a key is one of the first things you need to do to get started.
Your bullet journal is yours, so don’t feel like you HAVE to do something a particular way.
You can make whatever kind of key you want! This is your bullet journal and you do what you want when you’re poppin’!
i do...what i like, i do, i do.– Cardi B & Sza
3. Create an Index for Your Bullet Journal
Your index or table of contents is really, really important. I know I keep saying you can do whatever you want with this thing, but if you don’t create an index, you’re asking for a headache.
Think about it this way: In a planner you buy from Target, you’re “told” exactly where to write things. The pages are pre-manufactured for you.
A bullet journal is completely blank until YOU decide what goes in it. So in order to remember what you put where, you need an index.
This is where those page numbers come in handy. These are some of the best journals that already have page numbers in them. If yours doesn’t have page numbers, you’ll just have to add them yourself.
But since you’re bullet journaling for productivity, I’m assuming you don’t want to waste time doing that.
4. Decide which spreads you want to use.
A spread is another word to describe a type of page in your bullet journal. These are the 3 most basic spreads that will help you get the most out of your bullet journal:
- Future log
- Monthly log
- Daily log
BONUS: Some people find that a weekly log is a useful addition for them. (I’m one of those people.)
Here, you paint a big picture of your life, 6 months at a time. Make spaces for 3 months on the left of the spread and the next 3 months on the right of the spread.
You can include big events happening in each month like birthdays, vacations, big projects or deadlines, and holidays. Don’t get too nitty gritty. That’s what the other spreads are for.
Once you have a good picture of your 6-month plan, it’s time to create your monthly log.
There are infinite ways to do this.
The simplest option is to write the name of each month, and under it, write out each date. Then next to the date, you’ll write down any significant events happening then.
If you’re feeling more fancy, you can make it more of a calendar-style spread with individuals boxes for each day of the month.
Or you could use one side to display your month and the other side of the spread to write out your “wins” for each week. This might be a good option if you don’t plan to use a specific weekly log spread.
Remember, you can slice this bread however you want to.
If you choose to create a weekly log (I do!), this is where it will go. Just use your entire spread to list out each day of the week.
The weekly log is my favorite because it gives me enough of an overview to see how one day fits in with surrounding days, but in a more digestible view than the monthly log.
This is where some of the signature bullet journal techniques happen since the daily log is the crux of the bullet journal.
You can think of the daily log as your to-do list, but with more intention. Having to write each task down by hand should help you better differentiate between essential and non-essential tasks.
5. Create other helpful Spreads & collections.
A collection is just a group of pages you use for a specific purpose – for example, notes or reflections.
Even though you set up the basics in step 4, there are plenty of other spreads you may find to help you be more productive.
6. Keep track of your individual tasks.
Assuming you create a daily log in your bullet journal, you can keep track of your daily tasks in a few different ways:
- As you complete tasks, mark an X through the corresponding bullet.
- If you get to a task that you don’t complete, but you want to complete it, mark a little arrow to “migrate” it to the next day’s log. That just means you’ll do it tomorrow instead.
- If you still want to do the task, but you don’t necessarily want to do it the next day, then you migrate it BACKWARD, back to your monthly (or weekly) log.
- If you decide it doesn’t need to get done after all, cross the entire task off altogether.
The migration strategy is intentionally designed so that you don’t WANT to keep carrying over tasks from one day to the next. It sort of forces you to either get it done or get rid of it.
7. Make your bullet journal part of your routine
As with any productivity system, it’s not gonna work unless you actually use it.
But don’t let Pinterest and Instagram make you think you have to be bullet journaling 8 hours a day to use it properly. Consistency is the only necessity.
Decide ahead of time when you’ll make time to bullet journal.
Will it be 30 minutes before bed to help you wind down? During lunch in the afternoon? Every other day?
Whatever it is, decide and stick to it.