The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

I first came across the bullet journal method in 2014. I loved it because it came across as such a simple way to stay organised. Since then I’ve moved between a number of different planners. But I’ve always come back to bullet journaling. For the way, I work its the best tool to help me stay organised.

The thing I love most about the bullet journal method is how simple it is to get started. You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive notebook, planner or any other stationery items. You can literally start with whatever notebook you have lying around. Everything you need to know to start a bullet journal can be found on the official website.

Cover of The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll.

So when I found out Ryder Carroll had released The Bullet Journal Method I was fascinated. I wanted to know what else this book contained. Why someone like myself, a person who has been bullet journaling for 5 years, should buy it and if they would get any use out of it. What I came to learn that this book is much more than a bullet journal tutorial.

WHAT IS THE BULLET JOURNAL METHOD

The bullet journal method is a planning system created by Ryder Carroll. According to Carroll the bullet journal is meant to “help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future”. The bullet journal is much more than a planner. It’s an organisation system which can be adapted to your specific needs.

Bullet Journal Method resting on desk next to open notebook.

You could use a bullet journal as a way to organise your sketchbook, lecture notes, personal diary and yes it can be used as a planner to organise your life. One of the main advantages of the system is that you can use it in whatever notebook or diary you have to hand. Though there is an official Leuchtturm Bullet Journal notebook you don’t need to buy it to bullet journal.

THE KEY CONCEPTS

The system is based on a set of concepts. First, you have the index which sets out everything contained within your bullet journal. Then you have collections, these are notes all based around the same theme.

For example, you could have a collection called books, another called movies. All the notes you take which relate to books will fall under that collection. In the index, you can then note which pages in your notebook have notes related to that collection. So your notes for one collection could be spread through a notebook. But by using the index these notes can be easily found.

Open page showing key concepts.

The next concept which makes up the bullet journal system is rapid logging. This is a set of icons which represent different types of notes contained within your notebook. These icons can be customized but at first, it’s best to start out using the recommended key.

The final concept of bullet journaling is migration. This is the act of constantly reviewing the tasks and notes held within your bullet journal. By regularly reviewing these tasks you can decide if the task is still relevant and should be done.

These are the basic elements of the bullet journal system which can go on to help you organise your life. And in turn plan for your future and achieve your goals.

HOW TO START A BULLET JOURNAL

The Bullet Journal Method starts out by explaining these concepts in a much more succinct way than I ever could. This is what I would describe as the ideal bullet journal. I would recommend anyone new to the bullet journal method follow these rules closely as you learn how to use the system. As you gain more experience you can alter rules to your preference.

Monthly log page in The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll.

One of the things I love in this early stage is how simple the system appears. If you do a quick search for bullet journals on Google or Pinterest you will immediately be bombarded by images of bullet journals which are more art projects than planning systems. I’m not saying its wrong to use a bullet journal in this manner. But as a beginner, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all so it’s best to start out simple.

The book has some really good pictures within this section. Showing exactly how the index, collections and rapid logging can be set out on a notebook page. I really can’t emphasise how useful this first section is.

HOW I SET UP A BULLET JOURNAL

As I said, I started bullet journalling in 2014. From then I’ve gone on to adjust the bullet journal system to something that works for me. But when I bought The Bullet Journal Method I set up a new bullet journal based on the information within this book. I found it extremely useful as it simplified my bullet journaling process. Encouraging me to place less emphasis on the artistic aspect of bullet journaling.

As such I’ve now been bullet journalling in the same notebook for nearly six months. I’ve also used the same notebook consistently during this time. As a person who tends to jump between notebooks regularly, this has been a huge change for me. One which I’m certain was partly influenced by what I learned in The Bullet Journal Method.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR LIFE

Part two of The Bullet Journal Method goes into the planning and goal setting aspect of bullet journaling. The aim is to help you identify what your main life goals are. Then breaking these goals down into small actions which can be done in a short space of time.

The Bullet Journal Method was particularly useful for goal setting because of the simple way it is explained. As you read through the book there are a number of exercises which I would encourage you to try.

Mental inventory on notebook page.

I think this is a good thing to try even if you’ve been bullet journaling for a while. Or have long term goals set out. Goals can change as your priorities change so I always find it useful to check in every so often.

This method of breaking down goals is nothing new or revolutionary. You’ll find the exact same method in a number of books and planners. The Passion Planner uses the exact same method and includes monthly check-ins for this specific purpose. Personally, I’ve been using this method for a while and I’ve found it to be really useful.

PRACTISING THE BULLET JOURNAL METHOD

Part one and two focused on how to set up a bullet journal and figuring out long term goals. Part three of the book is where you merge the two together. If you’ve been bullet journaling for a while this is the section I think you’ll get the most use out of.

This section explains how to achieve your goals by using the bullet journal to organise your tasks. Within this section, it has some really good examples of different layouts which you could use in your bullet journal.

Daily task log.

It does this by giving an example of how you could take a goal, then use the bullet journal method as a way to achieve that goal. In this instance, the goal is a holiday. Personally, I’ve never used my bullet journal as a way to plan my holiday. But it’s a great example of how the bullet journal can be adaptable.

ON PRETTY BULLET JOURNALS

One of the things I really appreciate about The Bullet Journal Method is its position on artistic bullet journals. Some bullet journals look beautiful. I wish my own bullet journal was as aesthetically pleasing. But my bullet journal is primarily a place for me to stay organised.

I really appreciated that Ryder Carroll insists on you keeping a simple bullet journal, to begin with. The examples shown all the way through the book really help with setting up a bullet journal which looks nice but is still functional.

Carroll also gives some simple tips on handwriting and layout. The aim of this is to show that anyone can have a bullet journal. You don’t need to be an artist or even have nice handwriting. I really appreciate that now that bullet journals have become so popular on the internet. It’s easy to get down because you keep being bombarded with examples which look so much nicer than your own.

DO YOU NEED THIS BOOK TO BULLET JOURNAL?

The one thing I really like bullet journaling is that you don’t have to go out and buy anything to get started. You can use the website to learn how to set up a bullet journal and start with any notebook you have lying around. In fact, at first, I would recommend not immediately going out and buying a notebook.

Open page with highlighted quote.

The how of starting a bullet journal is the exact same online as it is within The Bullet Journal Method. The real advantage of buying the book is the goal setting section. And how to implement the bullet journal method to help you achieve those goals. While very useful, this again is information you can find online.

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE BULLET JOURNAL METHOD?

Despite already knowing how to bullet journal and set goals, I have got so much out of this book. When it comes to bullet journaling I think it has been really useful to go back to basics. I’ve been bullet journaling for so long my method is very different from the “official” bullet journal method.

But going back to basics has really helped me. It reminded me that I don’t need to get really fancy with how my bullet journal is laid out. In the past, I’ve used some really complicated spreads and page headers.

Examples of layouts.

I think using this more stripped back version of the bullet journal has helped me focus on what’s important. I’ve mentioned it before in this post that I can usually never finish a notebook. Well, I started bullet journalling back in Dec 2018 with a brand new notebook.

For the first time in years, I haven’t been tempted to move into a planner or a different notebook. I think part of that is because of The Bullet Journal Method. It reminded me that my bullet journal isn’t something which needs to be aesthetically pleasing. I don’t need to share images of it online (though I have for this blog post). And from that, I feel much more content using a bullet journal.

Obviously, the only person who can decide how much use you’ll get out of a book is yourself. But if a person who already knows how to bullet journal still finds it useful. I’m sure someone just starting out with bullet journalling should get even more use out of it.

FINALLY

Honestly, I cannot recommend The Bullet Journal Method enough. I love using the bullet journal system and this book does such a good job of explaining how to use it. The fact that it also goes into goal setting and how to use the bullet journal method to achieve your goals makes it even better.

The Bullet Journal Method can be found online and I’m sure you’ll be able to find it in bookstores as well. It retails for £12 on Amazon and I would say it’s a definite buy if you’re interested in starting a bullet journal.

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