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There is no shortage of calendar and to-do apps out there. All of them are competing for your attention on every platform imaginable. More likely than not, no one app or service is ever going to be perfect for you, unless you design your own productivity system How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You How to Be Productive When Productivity Apps Don't Work for You You should noticed that the past few years have been about an obsession with productivity. But what if productivity apps don't do it for you? Then what do you do? Read More .

With the use of a digital notebook like Evernote, a journaling system called the Bullet Journal, and no coding experience whatsoever, you can create a completely tailored organization system for yourself.

What is the Bullet Journal?

Described as an “analog system for the digital age,” the Bullet Journal is all about taking your organization system out of your phone or computer, and putting it in a completely customizable, handwritten notebook.

To create a bullet journal all you need is a plain notebook and a pen. You can use a lined, squared, or plain journal — whatever works for you. This system created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, allows you to select which elements of the Bullet Journal system you want to use. Since Bullet Journals are all about being flexible, you could always digitize it using Evernote or even Microsoft OneNote.

The advantage to using this system, rather than a store-bought planner or an online or mobile app is that you have complete control. Often when using apps or pre-printed journals, I find myself wishing I could tweak certain elements. This way, you have the ability to create your own planner from start to finish. With the Bullet Journal system, if there are certain elements that don’t appeal to you, you can alter them, or just remove them entirely.

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What follows is a brief introduction to Bullet Journaling and a guide to how to create a Bullet Journal using an online notebook like Evernote. This method would also work with other digital notebook services like the tabbed layout of OneNote, and you could theoretically even do it using a series of notes saved in a folder on your computer — but that will lack a lot of the convenient features and accessibility that using Evernote will afford you.

Essentially, Bullet Journal fans create their daily, weekly, or monthly calendars in a plain notebook. Rather than buy a pricey planner that includes types of calendars that they’re not going to use — they are creating their own organizer.

You can use it as a way to organize your entire life, for daily stuff like meal planning Plan Weekly Meals in Under 1 Hour with 5 Web Tools Plan Weekly Meals in Under 1 Hour with 5 Web Tools There is a way to eat healthy food that doesn't cost much and do so in a way that doesn't require too much effort on your part. That secret is weekly meal plans. Read More , or a blog post publication schedule. The Get Started section on the Bullet Journal site explains the whole process, but let’s look at it in brief here too.

How Does It Work?

Any Bullet Journal is built around a simple organizational system. The basic framework is made up of modules.

Modules

The Bullet Journal consists of four main sections or modules:

  • The Index
  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Daily Log.

Depending on your personal needs, you can choose which of these modules to use or any you would like to add. You can also mix and match modules.

The Index is your contents page. It tells you where in your journal you can find the rest of your sections.

The Future Log is a list of tasks or events that you can schedule months in advance. The screenshot below shows the recommended layout for the Future Log. You can see there are various symbols used to categorize the items listed, which we’ll get to later.

Bullet3

The Monthly Log is a list of tasks or events tied to a specific date within that month or tied to the month as a whole. The suggested layout consists of a page with the month’s dates listed one after the other and another page with a list of tasks you have planned for that month.

Bullet4

The Daily Log drills down even further. Here you can list tasks and events as they relate to specific days of the week. These are the items you are likely to list at the beginning of the week or at the start of each day. If you really want to consider getting super organized, you should make these lists each evening before you go to bed, preparing for the next day.

Bullet5

Now to fill up those sections. Your Bullet Journal is used to do what is called “Rapid Logging“. Rapid Logging consists of several components, that fall into a hierarchical structure:

Topics and Page Numbers: Think of the topic as your header. The header will be determined by which module you are using, as you can see in the screenshots above.

Bullets and Signifiers: Within each page, you can use short sentences to log tasks, events, and notes. The Bullet Journal uses a series of hand drawn symbols or bullets to signify each type of logged item.

• = Task

X = Task Complete

> = Task Migrated (In other words, you moved the task to another day. At the end of each week or month, you can review your tasks, and see if there’s anything that hasn’t been completed and move it to the next month. Using the “migrated” symbol is a good way to keep track of how much you’re actually getting done compared to what you planned to do.)

< = Task Scheduled

O = Event

= Notes (Pieces of information you want to remember but don’t have the urgency of a task or event.)

Bullet1

As the nature of your tasks change (migrated, scheduled, done) you can change the symbol on the same list. If a task is no longer relevant, you can just cross it out.

Bullet6 You can add further context to your bullets with signifiers:

* = Priority
! = Inspiration
eye = Requires research or discovery

Bullet2

These are the basic building blocks of the Bullet Journal system. You can tweak it as you need. If you prefer a grid for your Monthly Log, there’s no reason not to do that:

BulletJournalExample1

As you can see from the screenshot above by Taz + Belly, the Bullet Journal really lends itself to a blog post scheduling system.

While it’s meant as an analog system, there’s no reason you can’t use this system with a digital notebook like Evernote. There’s an argument to be made for using this system digitally — if you’re anything like me, the digital version will be neater, you’re less likely to forget it at home, and migrating tasks will be a little bit easier. And it also becomes completely searchable.

So how do you go about doing it?

Turning an Evernote Notebook into a Bullet Journal

Modules Become Notes: In Evernote, create a new notebook called Bullet Journal. You can then create an individual note for each module listed above: Future Log, Monthly Log (one note per month), and Daily Log (one note per week.) You could also create an Index, linking to the other notes in another note, but this isn’t entirely necessary since Evernote by its very nature is already well organized.

The Future Log is easy to replicate by separating each month with a line.

Evernote1

With the Monthly Log, it would probably be easier to just use the dates and leave out the days of the week. This way you can use an Evernote template How 6 Simple Evernote Templates Boost My Daily Productivity How 6 Simple Evernote Templates Boost My Daily Productivity Create custom templates in Evernote. With these templates, you can boost your productivity at work and in your personal life. Let's see how you can make your own custom Evernote templates quickly. Read More  to create a new log for each month. You could also create a table to make it a little bit more organized. The first column would be for events and tasks tied to a specific date and the second column could be for overall planning for the entire month:

Evernote2

The Daily Log, like the Future Log is easy to replicate. Be sure to include the date at the beginning of the week in your note title.

Evernote3

 

Bullets are Replicated: As you can see in the screenshots above, for the most part, you can replicate the hand-drawn bullets used in the traditional Bullet Journal. Rather than have to mess around with the formatting nightmare that will come with using actual bullets, just copy and paste this symbol: •.

As the nature of the task or event changes, you can just delete the original bullet and use the > and < symbols, a capital O, and either use strikethrough when you want to cross out an item, or simply delete it. (To access strikethrough on Evernote, go to Format > Style.)

The only symbol that will be impossible to replicate is the eye. You could use a capital ‘I’ as an alternative, or any other symbol of your choice. You can use the Character Map on your PC, but that’s not always a snap to use. You can format with color “codes” of course.

You could also use the checkbox feature on Evernote for new tasks if you prefer.

Tags: Another organization tool that Evernote brings to the table is tags. You can tag items with corresponding notes: weekly, monthly, or the name of the month itself. That way you can pull up all the notes from one specific month if you need to. Once you’ve finished all the tasks on a specific note, you can also tag that as complete. Conversely, notes with unfinished or open tasks, can be tagged incomplete. With the tagging system, it’s easy to search for specific types of notes.

With Evernote’s advanced search feature, you could also limit your search to a certain range of dates to get an idea of your two-week forecast, for example.

Saved Searches: Now that you’ve established your search parameters, you can save searches for quick access. Just go to Edit > Find > Save Search.

Get Inspired

Taking the analog route, instead of using Evernote, it also opens up a lot of creative possibilities. There are a lot of advantages to using a paper planner Why Paper Planners Are Relevant in the Age of Smartphone Calendar Apps Why Paper Planners Are Relevant in the Age of Smartphone Calendar Apps Smartphones are great, but maybe planners are one thing they shouldn't have replaced. Read More , and people who use the analog system take their journaling to a whole other level.

Take a look at Maria Garrido‘s Future Log, for example, in which she has used a color coded system and a little calendar for each month. (If your handwriting isn’t the greatest, you could always print these little calendars out and stick them in the journal:

BulletJournalExample2

Here are a few great examples of creative Bullet Journals we came across on Instagram that might inspire you, whether you use the analog or digital system. In the first example, you can see the types of information that can be included in your daily log — your water intake, weather, and mood:

A photo posted by Sarah Coury (@carryonstarkid) on

The nice thing about a completely tailored system is the ability to include quotes or inspirational messages that mean something to you:

Here’s an example of how to incorporate a nice looking meal plan and shopping list into your Bullet Journal:

A photo posted by Martina (@martyplanner) on

And how to use a Bullet Journal to track goals, in this case, those that relate to health:

A photo posted by SamSam (@happiescrappie) on

Are you inspired enough?

What do you think? Would you use Evernote as a Bullet Journal? What system do you use to stay organized? Let us know in the comments. 

 

  1. Erika
    September 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I think this is just what I need. My bullet journal is not for things that most people put in them. I think more for one time things, writing goals. -a place to keep links, blog post ideas, info for the kids, and photos. I have my iCal and reminders app for the other stuff. But Evernote does have reminders so that works to just remind me to look over things each night. I need the involvement, because if something is automated, I will not use it. Why would I need to? I need searches and neat handwriting! I work for an app developer on a tracking app and could see this as a nightmare project. It would take years and people would constantly want customizations that might not be as easy to implement as they think. It would need to be done by a larger company that has the resources for 10 or mor full time coders for each platform to keep up with the demands. Also, it would have a monthly fee to keep the updates coming. Just my unorganized rambling thoughts on the subject.

  2. Elke
    September 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you for this article! I am experimenting with a bullet journal, and while I love the paper and handwriting, there are some things that don't work as well on paper. For example, I track food in an app, and I've been looking for a system to keep track of links to revisit later, such as:
    - buy this item on amazon.com if I still want it in a month
    - go to blablabank.com on a certain date to check balance
    - enter a contest or survey
    - register for a conference
    - check for an announced discount or sale

    Pretty much anything to do on a set future date, or on an undecided future date.
    I could just use my reminder app, but I find that my eyes glaze over when my list starts getting too long. This might just do the trick!

  3. Felix Soza
    July 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing one of the most action-packed and complete articles in bullet journaling. I love the integration ideas for Evernote and the examples provided by other influencers (experts).

  4. Audrey
    June 30, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for this Nancy! I'm so torn on this one. I have been using GTD+Evernote for awhile now, but trying to journal in Evernote is so.. blah. Even OneNote has way better and easier formatting options. (Just tried making a habit tracker in Evernote; it won't allow more than 30 columns! Had to make it in Word and copy it over) But I really don't want to have to keep up with multiple apps. I'll keep trying it out for a bit longer though and see if it grows on me. Cheers!

  5. me
    May 10, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    There is to much personal involvement. Computers are designed to automated. There should be templates that are automatically applied by the computer. For example, the index should be maintained by the computer which automatically creates daily,weekly,monthly entries.

    Automatically inserts widgets like weather, or whatever is important to you.
    Tasks not completed one day should automatically shift to the next, until the user cancels or deletes them.

    Integration with google calendar would be really nice.
    Important dates like birthdays and anniversaries should part of contacts or another data source and automatically re-occur without manually recreating the entry.

    Task completion rates, and tasks put off should be monitored to let the user know if they are trying to cram too much into a day,week,or etc.

    • Nancy Messieh
      May 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      I guess the personal involvement is necessary if you want something that is really customized for your own use - but point taken. Some of the features that you suggest would be great, like Google Calendar integration and the task completion rates. I do think that, in the absence of having those automated rates, having to manually move the tasks yourself is a good way to get a sense of what you're putting off, and for how long.

      • me
        May 16, 2016 at 3:34 pm

        Personal involvement is only necessary, because no one has written a good program. The code for interfacing with Google is all free and open source which makes the lacking of integration even more frustrating.

        Trusting me, oh I meant the user, to move task forward manually???
        (I will give you a moment to ponder the wisdom of this idea.)
        .........................

        This is certainly a recipe for disaster!! Or at least tasks that will be forgotten.

    • Seed
      June 18, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Totally agree, especially the Google calendar integration, I especially need a calendar with photo support and checklist function in notes. Wish Evernote would release a multimedia calendar/ diary app.

      • me
        June 18, 2016 at 4:14 pm

        Google recently allowed users to add attachments, including pictures, to events on a calendar. There is a "Add attachment" like I just did it to make sure it works.

  6. Victor
    May 5, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    Thank you for a nice overview of the Bullet Journal technique and various applications of it. Myself I have been a fan and user of Evernote for years. Discovered the Bullet Journal later and use them side by side...that with my own personal flavour of David Allen's GTD does the trick for me.

    • Nancy Messieh
      May 16, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks for your comment Victor. I find that the combination is a great way to get organized!

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