Forget about those decorated spreads on Instagram: starting a “bujo” is both quicker and easier than you think! All you need is a pen and a notebook – and it’s super helpful for the ADHD-brain!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a physician, not an M.D. and I do not hold a degree in psychology or any related topics. Described below are my personal experiences with ADHD. Do not regard the tips, schedules or tasks mentioned on this site as medical advice. Do not change any prescription drugs or routines without consulting your physician or other medical personnel.
Bullet Journaling: Preparation
I’m sure you’ve heard about Bullet Journaling, or “bujo”, at least in it’s insta-famous format: on Instagram it’s portrayed as a journal where you arrange your to-do contents in various spreads, all highly decorated with fancy lettering and washi-tape. But the actual Bullet Journal method is much more simplistic than that. And it doesn’t require you being artistic or creative – all you need is a pen and a notebook.
I currently use an A5 size hardcover notebook because it’s small and sturdy enough to carry anywhere in my bag. I should also mention that my notebook has dotted pages to help me with spacing etc, but a lined, squared or a plain notebook works just as well. I also use an erasable pen since my ADHD-brain jumbles my words and thoughts which means I have to edit – a lot.
Oh, and do read the entire article before you start writing in your new notebook as there is some “set up” involved. It does take a couple of minutes to fully grasp this method and to set up the actual journaling system, but you’ll be glad you did it once it’s done. It will save you time and energy in the end!
Ready? Let’s go!
Creating Entries: Logging Bullet Points
Bullet Journaling was invented by Ryder Carroll. He was diagnosed with ADD as a young boy and as an adult developed strategies to maintain his focus, time management and creativity. In a nutshell, his method consists of Rapid Logging your tasks and other things you need to organize. Rapid Logging is the term for collecting information or entries in short sentences in bullet list format in a notebook. The bullet list entries are then organized by different bullet point shapes. The official Bullet Journal system uses these bullet point shapes:
Tasks – your regular to-do’s – are represented by dots. Events are represented by circles. And notes are represented by a dash. Then, you modify the bullet point entry as you complete or edit your entries. For example: a task is completed – cross out the dot. If an event becomes cancelled – strike out the entire sentence.
You can also add signifiers, or special markers to your entries. Let’s say you find a task, event or note to be highly important: use an asterisk (*) on the left-hand side of the bullet – that way you can easily find that entry in the margin. Or if you have a brilliant idea you need to find easily: you can add an exclamation mark (!) next to it. Tip: I write down my signifiers in a different pen color to make them stand out even more – my entries are in black pen and my signifiers are in red pen.
You can also nest your entries if you need to:
In my example in the image above there is a party to attend (=an event). You might also need to write down other entries associated with that event: you might want to write the theme (=a note) and add a reminder to create a costume (=a task). There are more ways to modify the bullet point, but I’ll get back to that further down this post. These three types of bullet points is all you need to know for now.
Organizing the Entries: Collections
But how do you sort the entries, you might ask? It’s all put together using collections. Collections are the parts or modules that make up your Bullet Journal. The four main collections are:
- Future Log
- Monthly Log
- Daily Log
Leave the first couple of pages of your notebook blank to serve as an Index. That’s where you write down the collection names and the page(s) as you enter them in your Bullet Journal. For example: “January Daily Log: 16-25”. You might also have a reoccurring collection that spans several pages, like this: “Doodles: 26-27, 38, 51”. Tip: Don’t forget to number your pages as you go along, if they’re not already pre-printed in your notebook!
Next up is the Future Log. This is a spread where you write down upcoming events not in the current month. In my case, I wrote down the name of the upcoming six months and left some space to fill in important entries. Here’s what my personal future log looked like before I started filling it in:
As you can see, I added a miniature calendar for each month, but that’s according to my personal taste. Here in Sweden, society pretty much runs around the number of the week so I added that as well to the left of the calendars. But that’s the point of the Bullet Journal system: to adapt it to fit your needs. Here’s a few examples of things to enter into the Future Log: upcoming vacation weeks if you and/or your partner have a job, or start/end of the semester if you’re a student or have kids in school.
After the Index and Future Log, you create a spread called a Monthly Log. On the left-hand page, start by writing down name of the current month as a headline. Then below add a vertical list of the dates and days on the left hand side – this is your calendar or monthly overview. (I use it like this: if I have a doctor’s appointment on the 14th at 2pm, I’d simply write “Doc’s appt, 2pm” next to the corresponding date.) Then, on the right-hand page add a headline called “Tasks” – this is where you put your monthly to-do list. Here you write down ALL the tasks for the current month you can think of. Tip! I should point out that I usually leave a margin to the left on both pages, to be able to add signifiers if needed. Here’s an example of my personal Monthly Log for May 2019 when I just started filling it out that month:
In the image above, I’ve written “To Do” in Swedish as my heading on right-hand page. I also don’t use bullet point indicators of whether it’s a task or event on the left hand page, I just right things down.
And finally, we come to the Daily Log. This is where you start with today’s date as a headliner and jot down all your entries for today below, in bullet list form. When the day is over, you draw a horizontal line beneath your entries. Don’t do several days ahead, you never know if you’ll need very little or much space to write! The following day, you keep writing on the same page where you left of, with a new heading/date below that horizontal line. Here’s an example:
And that’s the four core collections in a Bullet Journal! You can also add personal collections, like food logs, a diary section, drawings or habit trackers. Common habits to track include water intake, exercise minutes and hours slept. Next step is figuring out how to actually use the collections together – and that’s is the topic for the following section.
Using the Collections: Migration
So, you’ve done a few days of Daily Logging. Remember the Monthly Log? Now is the time to put it to good use. I’ll demonstrate how below!
Let’s say you started your Bullet Journal on the date of this post – June 12. This means your Future Log probably looks like my example image in the previous section, with the months of July through to December written out on a simple spread. You’d probably have a ”June Monthly Log” spread as well, with some entries and random to-do’s. Now, fast forward a few days to June 17, the following Monday. Starting Monday’s journaling by looking at your Monthly Log, you notice you have an appointment with your dentist at 3pm. This is where migration comes in.
Migration is the process of moving entries from one collection to another. You do this by adding a forward facing arrow (>) next to the entry you want to migrate in your calendar page of your Monthly Log. The entry should go from this:
Dentist @ 3pm
> Dentist @ 3pm
After adding that arrow, you return to your Daily Log and fill in the entry.
Does this migration-thing seem like a lot of extra effort, writing the same thing twice or more? That is actually intentional. According to Ryder Carroll (the creator of the system) it’s to make sure you reflect if the task at hand really is important. If not, don’t bother migrating the task from the Monthly Log. Simply strike it out. And that’s the essence of Bullet Journaling – making sure you’re productive, not busy.
The ADHD-Brain & Bullet Journaling
If you’ve never heard of the Bullet Journal method before, I understand if you’re confused or overwhelmed by this topic. Especially if you have ADHD. But, there’s “method to the madness” – Bullet Journaling was invented by a man with a former ADD diagnosis (according to Ryder himself, he outgrew his ADD as an adult though). And having rather low executive functioning/functions myself, I do use the Bullet Journal method – and make it work. Why does it work for me? Here’s a few reasons.
- LISTS, LISTS, LISTS
In reality, I use my Bullet Journal to create lists of everything. Because for some strange reason, I tend to remember items on a list if I’ve written them down, by hand, rather than if I have the list on my cell phone. Also, having all my lists in one place (including pages dedicated for “brain dumps” and “brain farts”) helps me to function better on a daily basis. I also have an easier time letting go of a thought if I write it down; it helps me to get it out of my system.
- It creates routine
I am going to share a very personal confession: I’ve been rubbish at maintaining the most basic routines my entire life. That’s because my executive functioning is terribly low, as it is for most people with ADHD. At times in my life, I have gone weeks without showering or doing the dishes, because I can’t remember doing it. Basically, I can’t handle more than 3-4 routines a day, the rest is overwhelming. So in my Bullet Journal, I have created a spread with a “Morning Routine” and a “Night Routine”. Now, I only have to remember one thing in the morning, and that is to check my Bullet Journal and cross of the items on the list – everything I need to do from making the bed to taking my medication is written there.
Fair enough, I didn’t feel particularly mindful when I started my Bullet Journal – I felt rather overwhelmed and stressed out. But something happened when I started looking at my Monthly Log list of tasks. I started crossing out things I managed to get done and, more importantly, I started striking out and cancelling tasks I didn’t find important. (Also, the aforementioned “brain dump” pages are awesome for clearing out the brain, even if just for one moment.) This has left me with less clutter in my mind – which is quite an awesome feeling for an ADHD-brain.
And there you have it – the Bullet Journal method and why it might be a good thing to try, especially if you have ADHD. Let me know about your experiences with this method, do you have ADHD and have you tried Bullet Journaling? Does it work or not? Write in the comments section below or contact me!