A new way to journal

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Just Life By Mark Huffmyer, PharmD, BCGP

If you follow any bloggers or regularly surf the Internet, you may have seen the phrase Bullet Journal (or BuJo) popping up over the last few months. It was described to me as a to-do-list, planner, and diary all wrapped in one package. As someone who has always been obsessed with my planner and organization (see my recent article), it sounded right up my alley.

After some research, I was still very interested, but also confused by this concept. I decided to jump in and start one, because the best way to learn is by doing. Turns out it is fairly simple to do, but just difficult to explain!

Journal jargon
Before I dive a little deeper into how the Bullet Journal works, there is some terminology to learn. A Bullet Journal is really just a method for journaling that relies on a bullet-point system at its core. The developer of the Bullet Journal uses the phrase “rapid logging” to describe bullet point symbols you use. Other terms include “index,” essentially a table of contents; “daily log,” which is your day-to-day view of your journal; “monthly log,” which is a more long-term monthly view; and “future log,” which is simply a “year at a glance” calendar.

All you need to get started is a journal and a pen. Any journal will do, but you want to make sure it’s an appropriate size, one you feel comfortable carrying around, and also sturdy, able to withstand daily use and travel. You can spiff it up or keep it as simple as you like (Pinterest has lots of ideas if you are the creative type). The core idea to this journal is to quickly jot down notes throughout the day, rather than writing long sentences.

You will use a bullet point to jot down each event, task, note, etc. There are a few different symbols here you will use to mark these. An “X” over a bullet point symbolizes it has been complete. I had a hard time with this as an X is less satisfying than crossing it off, but it is nice to still be able to read the item easily. A less than symbol (<) over the bullet signifies that it has been scheduled. A greater than symbol (>) signifies it has been “migrated” or simply you didn’t finish it so it has been rescheduled to a different day/month/time. Dashes (-) are for smaller notes or events whereas empty circles (◦) are for larger events.

Fully customizable
Typically, the first page or two will be the index or table of contents. It’s a good idea to number all your pages so you can easily reference them in the index. It is pretty easy to find stuff at the beginning, simply flip to the month/day you are on. But as the journal fills up you may add many lists or other pages (I added a books to read list, a vacation planning to-do list, and several others) the index can really be beneficial in finding things quickly.

One of the great things about this is it is fully customizable. Don’t like those symbols? Make your own. You can layout the page order and setup however you like! The system itself can evolve and change with you as you grow.

Reading this, a Bullet Journal may seem daunting, confusing, and time-consuming. However, it took me a couple hours to set-up (after researching for a while how I wanted to set it up), and then I usually spend only 10 to 15 minutes writing in it before bed. It is great way to unwind.

If you are someone who finds themselves overwhelmed by tons of to-do list Post-it Notes floating around, or enjoys a multi-use comprehensive planner, then the Bullet Journal may be the perfect fit for you! If you are interested in learning more, check out


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