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There is a lot of misinformation about how to bullet journal some of which defeats the purpose of bullet journaling. Read on to see how to bullet journal step-by-step in order to enjoy the benefits it provides.
This section assumes that you have already set up your bullet journal and want to learn more about how to use it. If you need a detailed explanation on the bullet journal setup, then it might be better to start there.
Setting up your bullet journal might be the most time-consuming part of the Bullet Journal Method but it is only part of the comprehensive BuJo system. One of the main differences between the bullet journal and other planning systems is how you use the bullet journal. Most planners and apps encourage you to create lists and plan your time but there is no built-in system to examine each task to see if it is worthy of your time (reflection) and to follow up on your lists (migration).
The bullet journal migration process is what helps you to use your time efficiently and ensures that no tasks fall between the cracks. This ensures that we stay productive and efficient.
However, BuJo migration is designed to be a deeper process. It helps you understand how to spend your life and examine the things you spend your time on. It helps you strip what is irrelevant so that you can expose what really matters.
During migration, we transfer content from one page to another by rewriting it. Rewriting content gives us an opportunity to decide if it is worth our time. If a task isn’t worth rewriting then it probably isn’t worth doing. When we write content we automatically stop to think about it. This process is an opportunity to examine each task and decide if it is worthy of your time and energy. Only tasks that add value to your life are migrated.
Each month you set up a new monthly spread.
Step 1: Scan your previous monthly log
Once your monthly spread is set up, scan the pages of the previous month and review the open tasks. The rapid logging system makes this really easy since open tasks are clearly marked with a “.”. For each open task, ask yourself if there is a reason that it is still open. If it doesn’t matter anymore then mark it as irrelevant. If a task is still vital or will add value to your life then migrate it.
How do you migrate an open task?
- If an open task falls on a future date (i.e. outside of the current month) migrate it to your future log and mark it as scheduled “<“.
- If an open task does not fall on a future date then migrate it to the task list on your new monthly spread. Mark the new task with a “.”. Mark the old task (from the previous month) as migrated. A migrated task is marked with a “>”.
- If a task belongs in a Custom Collection then either move it to an existing collection or set up a new collection. Mark the old task as migrated “>”.
Step 2: Scan your future log
Check your future log to see if there are any tasks or events that have now become relevant.
- If a task has become relevant then migrate it to your new monthly log task list.
- If an event has become relevant then migrate it to your new monthly log’s calendar.
Although the weekly log is not one of the four core modules, some people like to create a weekly spread.
If you keep a weekly log then you complete the migration process, as described above, each week instead of each month.
Yearly Migration / Notebook Migration
At the beginning of each year, Ryder Carroll suggests you start a new bullet journal notebook even if you still have space in your old notebook.
This gives you another opportunity to migrate your content from your previous notebook to your new notebook and examine each item to see if it is still worthy of your time and energy.
This is also a great opportunity to study your content and techniques to determine if they have been helpful or not.
Your notebook contains a short summary of the things that you have chosen to spend your time and energy on. Scan your notebook to see if you have been focusing on the things that matter to you. If not, this is a perfect opportunity to change your direction and focus on the things that bring value to your life.
Migrating your Mental Inventory
Ryder Carroll suggests doing a mental inventory or brain dump before you start using your bullet journal notebook. The process is described in the mental inventory section where you can print a template to help you complete the process. Once your template is complete you can migrate it to your notebook.
How to Migrate your Mental Inventory
- Complete the mental inventory worksheet as described above.
- Set up your bullet journal if you have not already.
- Scan each task to see if there are any tasks in which the second and third columns are blank (i.e. tasks that you determined are neither vital nor meaningful).
- Crossing these tasks off your list. This should provide some degree of relief as you mark tasks as meaningless. They will no longer bother you and will not waste your precious time and energy.
- Scan the list for tasks that you will need to complete during the current month and migrate them to the monthly log‘s tasks page.
- Scan the list for future tasks and events and move them to the future log.
- Group related items together and create a Custom Collection for each theme. For example, places you want to visit might go into a Travel Bucket List collection.
The goal of reflection is to become mindful of how you are spending your time and energy. Ideally, we only want to spend time on things that are meaningful.
Most of us spend a large portion of our time on autopilot. We go through our list of tasks without stopping to ask why we do each one. Understanding why we are doing something is one of the ways we can search for meaning. During reflection time, we check in with ourselves to examine our progress, how we are feeling and why we are feeling this way. It helps us examine if we are spending time on the right tasks. It helps you understand what makes you happy so that you can spend more time doing those things.
A bullet journal documents your thoughts (via notes) and actions (via tasks and events). It documents how you spent your time and how that made you feel. This is a passive form of reflection so by keeping a bullet journal you are already halfway there. In addition to this passive reflection, the BuJo method teaches you to slowly move from passive reflection to active reflection.
Throughout the day, you capture your thoughts in the bullet journal daily spread. During the daily reflection, you designate two short dedicated periods of time for active introspection. This time helps you ensure that you are on the right track. It takes you out of autopilot mode and ensures that you are on the correct route to wherever you are going. The BuJo Method encourages you to make reflection part of your daily routine.
Morning Reflection – Planning Time
Each morning, before you start your day, take a few minutes to sit down with your bullet journal. Review all the pages of the current month to find any open tasks. Take a moment to think about your priorities and plan accordingly. How do you want to spend your day? What do you want to focus on? Once this is clear, you will start your day knowing exactly where you want to go. Don’t only spend time on what you have left to do. Recognize all the completed tasks. Take a moment to congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished. You deserve it!
Use the morning reflection time to start morning habits that make you feel good. I like to add an intention each day. Something unrelated to my tasks. It can be love, compassion, understanding or whatever I want that day. I then add one or two things to my gratitude list. I feel that this is a good way to start each day. Why don’t you start a morning routine spread and decide how your ideal morning will look?
Afternoon Reflection – Review Time
Before you go to bed, sit down with your bullet journal and review your daily spread. Mark completed tasks with an “x”. If any task, event or note is missing then add it. This will help to unburden your mind. Once everything is written in your daily spread, take a few minutes to examine each item. For each item ask yourself WHY you are spending time on it. Ask yourself: Is this important? Why is it important? Why I am doing this? This will help you stay focused and stop wasting time on irrelevant distractions. Strike out tasks and events that you now consider irrelevant.
Again, take a moment to congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished. Acknowledge accomplishments whether they were small or big. Add items to your gratitude list or to your daily spread.
How to Make a Bullet Journal?
- You can either draw your bullet journal from scratch. It’s fun but time-consuming, and not everyone has time.
- You can use our bullet journal printables if the ready-made templates meet your needs.
- Use our online bullet journal maker to create each page from scratch by adding hand-drawn elements with the click of a button. Select from hundreds of elements to achieve the look that you want. Don’t like a detail you selected? Delete it and find another one. It is that easy. If you prefer, you can print blank dot-grid paper and draw or write all elements by hand.
- Print our free pre-made bullet journal printables.