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The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future

by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future

Table of Contents

  1. Part 1 – The Preparation
    1. Introduction
    2. The Promise
      1. Productivity
      2. Mindfulness
      3. Intentionality
    3. The Guide
    4. The Why
    5. Decluttering Your Mind
    6. Notebooks
    7. Handwriting
  2. Part 2 – The System
    1. Rapid Logging
      1. Topics and Pagination
      2. Bullets
      3. Tasks
      4. Events
      5. Notes
      6. Signifiers and Custom Bullets
    2. Collections
      1. The Daily Log
      2. The Monthly Log
      3. The Future Log
      4. The Index
    3. Migration
    4. The Letter
    5. Set up
  3. Part 3 – The Practice
    1. Beginning
    2. Reflection
    3. Meaning
    4. Goals
    5. Small Steps
    6. Time
    7. Gratitude
    8. Control
    9. Radiance
    10. Endurance
    11. Deconstruction
    12. Inertia
    13. Imperfection
  4. Part 4 – The Art
    1. Custom Collections
    2. Design
    3. Planning
    4. Lists
    5. Schedules
    6. Trackers
    7. Customization
    8. Community
  5. Part 5 — The End
    1. The Correct Way to Bullet Journal
    2. Parting Words
    3. Frequently Asked Questions
    4. Thank You
    5. Notes
    6. Content
    7. About the Author

Part 1 – The Preparation


  • “I took a deep breath and dove in. This was more than a trip down memory lane. It was like reentering the husk of an all-but-forgotten self.”
  • “The main culprit was my inability to rein in my focus. It wasn’t that I couldn’t focus; I just had a hard time concentrating on the right thing at the right time, on being present.”
  • “Through trial and a lot of error, I gradually pieced together a system that worked, all in my good old-fashioned paper notebook. It was a cross between a planner, diary, notebook, to-do list, and sketchbook.”
  • “One thing this community helped me realize is that my condition simply forced me to address something early on that has since become a common malady of the digital age: the lack of self-awareness.”
  • “The simple act of pausing to write down the important minutia of one’s life goes far beyond simple organization. It has helped people reconnect with themselves and the things they care about.”
  • “The Bullet Journal method consists of two parts: the system and the practice. First we’ll learn about the system, to teach you how to transform your notebook into a powerful organizational tool. Then we’ll examine the practice. It’s a fusion of philosophies from a variety of traditions that define how to live an intentional life—a life both productive and purposeful.”
  • “It will help you track the past and order the present so that you can design your future.”

The Promise

  • “The Bullet Journal method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless.”


  • “One possible explanation for our productivity slowdown is that we’re paralyzed by information overload. As Daniel Levitin writes in The Organized Mind , information overload is worse for our focus than exhaustion or smoking marijuana.”
  • “The Bullet Journal will help you declutter your packed mind so you can finally examine your thoughts from an objective distance.”


  • “If the journey is the destination, then we must learn how to become better travelers. To become better travelers, we must first learn to orient ourselves. Where are you now? Do you want to be here? If not, why do you want to move on?”
  • “The act of writing by hand draws our mind into the present moment on a neurological level unlike any other capturing mechanism.”
  • “The Bullet Journal method keeps us mindful of why we’re doing what we’re doing.”


  • “Like building muscle, we need to train our intentions to make them resilient and strong.”

The Guide

  • “The Bullet Journal method is comprised of two main components: the system and the practice.”

The Why

  • “How often do we find ourselves in this position? You’ve worked incredibly hard on something, only to discover that it leaves you feeling empty.”
  • “We need to understand what’s actually driving our motivation before we ascend (the mountain).”
  • “Our motivations are heavily informed by the media. Our social feeds are populated by endless images of wealth, travel, power, relaxation, beauty, pleasure, and Hollywood love. This virtual runoff perpetually seeps into our consciousness, polluting our sense of reality and self-worth every time we go online. We compare our lives to these largely artificial constructs and structure our plans accordingly, hoping to eventually afford a golden ticket to these misleading fantasies.”
  • “Distracted by the never-ending stream of aspirational media, we forfeit our opportunity to define what is meaningful on our own terms.”
  • “Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse and author who spent several years working in palliative care with patients in the last weeks of their lives, recorded her patients’ top five regrets. The number one regret was that people wished they had stayed true to themselves.”
  • “When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
  • “What does it mean to live an intentional life? The philosopher David Bentley Hart defines intentionality as ‘the fundamental power of the mind to direct itself toward something . . . a specific object, purpose, or end.’”
  • “Intentionality is the power of the mind to direct itself toward that which it finds meaningful and take action toward that end.”

    “If intentionality means acting according to your beliefs, then the opposite would be operating on autopilot. In other words, do you know why you’re doing what you’re doing?”

  • “We can’t be true to ourselves if we don’t know what we want, and more importantly why , so that’s where we must begin. It’s a process that requires the steady cultivation of our self-awareness.”
  • “When we believe in what we’re doing, we stop mindlessly clocking in. We become more innovative, creative, and present. We’re not only working harder, but smarter because both our hearts and minds are genuinely engaged by the endeavor.”
  • “Day by day, you’re deepening your self-awareness by becoming a steady witness to your story. With each page, you improve your ability to discern the meaningful from the meaningless.”
  • “Leading an intentional life is about keeping your actions aligned with your beliefs.”

Decluttering Your Mind

  • “This freedom of choice is a double-edged privilege. Every decision requires you to focus, and focus is an investment of your time and energy. Both are limited—and therefore exceptionally valuable—resources.”
  • “To which Buffett replied, “No. You’ve got it wrong, Mike. Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top five.”
  • “President Barack Obama said, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
  • “As psychologist Roy F. Baumeister wrote in his book Willpower : ‘No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue—you’re not consciously aware of being tired—but you’re low on mental energy.’ This state is known as decision fatigue.”
  • “This is why you’re more likely to eat an unhealthy dinner at the end of the day than an unhealthy breakfast at the beginning of the day, when you have a full tank of willpower.”
  • “Left unchecked, decision fatigue can lead to decision avoidance. This is especially true for big life choices, which we tend to put off till the last minute.”
  • “We need to reduce the number of decisions we burden ourselves with so we can focus on what matters.”
  • “The first step to recovering from decision fatigue, to get out from under the pile of choices weighing on you, is to get some distance from them. You need some perspective to both clearly identify and corral your choices. We do this by writing them down. Why write them down? Each decision, until it’s been made and acted on, is simply a thought. Holding on to thoughts is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands: They easily slip from your grasp and disappear back into the muddy depths of your mind. Writing things down allows us to capture our thoughts and examine them in the light of day. By externalizing our thoughts, we begin to declutter our minds. Entry by entry, we’re creating a mental inventory of all the choices consuming our attention. It’s the first step to taking back control over our lives. Here is where you can begin to filter out the signal from the noise. Here is where your Bullet Journal journey will begin.”
  • To begin, sit down with that sheet of paper I mentioned you’d be needing. Orient it horizontally and divide it into three columns:
    1. In the first column, list all the things you are presently working on.
    2. In the second, list all the things you should be working on.
    3. In the last column, list the things you want to be working on.

Bullet Journal Mental Inventory

  • Go ahead, ask why for each item on your list. You don’t need to dive down an existential rabbit hole. Simply ask yourself two questions:
    1. Does this matter? (To you or to someone you love).
    2. Is this vital? (Think rent, taxes, student loans, your job, etc.)

Bullet Journal Workflow



Part 2 – The System

Rapid Logging

Topics and Pagination





Signifiers and Custom Bullets


The Daily Log

The Monthly Log

The Future Log

The Index


The Letter

Set up

Part 3 – The Practice





Small Steps









Part 4 – The Art

Custom Collections








Part 5 — The End

The Correct Way to Bullet Journal

Parting Words

Frequently Asked Questions

Thank You



About the Author

Nefer Lopez

Curious human.

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