Why You Need An Index In Your Bullet Journal

I have something I want to talk about today which is sort of seen as a bit controversial. That being a bullet journal index. I’ve heard a lot of people say a bullet journal index is pointless. That you don’t need something to tell you where certain pages are in your bullet journal.

Those people would be right to an extent. If you’re using a notebook you probably know what is in it well enough that you don’t need an index of the contents. But having an index for your bullet journal can still be extremely useful.

So today I am here to share some of the reasons why you might want to use a bullet journal index. And also some ways that you can customise your index based on your preferences.

Why You Need An Index In Your Bullet Journal

What Is A Bullet Journal Index

The most important thing we should start with is what is a bullet journal index. The index is one of the first spreads you set up in your bullet journal. According to the bullet journal website, this is the “backbone of the bullet journal”.

The bullet journal system is essentially a series of complex to-do lists and notes. The index is one of the main ways you organise these elements so they are easy to find. You use the index to list collections in your bullet journal and where they can be found. This list doesn’t necessarily have to be in chronological order but usually is.

For example, I could create a collection for a university module. Everything related to this module would fall under that collection. At the same time as creating that collection, I would note in the index the first page where it appeared. As I added to that collection I would continue noting in the index any pages where a reference to that collection appears. This way I have an easy place to find any references to that module collection in my bullet journal.

Why You Should Use An Index

Technically you don’t need an index in your bullet journal. It is one of the core principles that the bullet journal system is based on. If you’re creating a pure bullet journal then yes you should have an index. But also the whole point of bullet journaling is you do what works best so in that respect, if you don’t want an index then don’t make one.

Image shows a bullet journal index on a notebook page.

The index can still be extremely useful in a bullet journal. I know that lots of people will say they don’t need the index because they know where everything is while using their bullet journal. But what they are forgetting is that the index isn’t just for when you are using your bullet journal. For example, you may want to reference a piece of information in an old bullet journal. Having the location of this information noted in the index will make it much easier for you to find.

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I tend to keep a lot of ideas related to projects in my bullet journal. Sometimes it can be useful to go through old bullet journals and look at these ideas. Having an index which organises all this information makes it much easier to find. Though there are reasons why you may not want to use an index. If you use your bullet journal just as a planner it may not be necessary. You don’t index daily pages anyway. But if you keep notes in your bullet journal they should be indexed so they can be found easily.

The point I’m trying to get is that your index is a list of all the things in your bullet journal. Just because you don’t need it right now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set one up. In six months that index might prove to be extremely useful.

How To Set Up Your Index

It can be a good idea to think about how you’re going to set up your index, there are a few different ways you can do this. The first way is in numerical order, noting things down in your index as they appear in your bullet journal. You can also index by content, noting down a specific collection and adding pages where it appears. Both methods have their specific pros and cons. I will explain both in more detail further down.

The method you use for an index might change as you continue to use your bullet journal. To an extent, it may also depend on the notebook you’re using. The Leuchtturm1917 notebook already has index pages printed at the front of the bullet journal, though this set up is for a numerical index. If you use a different notebook you may have to set up your own index.

“Proper” bullet journal index

The first version of the index is what I would call the official Bullet Journal index. This is the way Ryder Carroll recommends and you can read more about it on the bullet journal website. You start by creating a new collection in your bullet journal. Then you add that collection to your index and the first page it appears.

Image shows a notebook open to a page which contains a bullet journal index.

As you continue using your bullet journal you continue to add to that list with new page numbers where the collection appears. This will thread the collection through your bullet journal, making each page easy to find.

This is a perfectly good way to use an index. Personally, I find it tricky to organise so I don’t use it. But you can decide for yourself if you like it or not. If you’re just getting started with bullet journaling I would highly recommend you use this method before starting to change things up.

Numerical order index

The second way is in numerical order, noting things down in your index as they appear in your bullet journal. I use this because I find it the easiest. If you use a Leuchtturm1917 notebook you will already have an index like this set up for you. You can also combine this method with colour coding to make important entries stand out.

Image shows the index of a bullet journal.

I prefer using a standard numerical order when adding items to my index. So I start at page 1 and note what appears on that page, continuing through the rest of the notebook. I don’t do this for all the pages. If you have a notebook with an index already printed chances are you won’t have the space to do this. When you set up your index you have a little more freedom when it comes to space.

Instead, I will pick and choose what I mention in my index. Things like daily and weekly spreads don’t need to be indexed. But I will highlight the start of a new month. This way I can see everything which appears within one month.

I realise that most people will prefer the original way of setting up an index. Like I said there’s nothing wrong with it. The original method works better for threading collections. I just prefer how I use the index.

Alternatives To The Index

If you don’t want to use an index there are a few other ways to modify your bullet journal to make it easier to find information. You could create an index for one thing in your bullet journal, maybe you just need an index to keep track of where your lecture notes are.

There are a few other alternatives to the bullet journal index, some of which I’ve mentioned below.

Colour Coding

A really simple alternative to using an index is colour coding the edge of your pages. This makes it easy to see where a specific collection is in your bullet journal. You start by creating a key somewhere, the back of your notebook might be easier for this. Or you could even make a marker which folds out of your journal. Then you lightly colour in the edge of each page depending on what collection it is in.

Image shows the edge of notebook pages which have been colour coded.

This method isn’t quite as accurate as just using an index, but it will give you a vague idea of where a collection is in your bullet journal.

Page Tabs

Rather than marking the edge, you could use washi tape to show important pages. You could even combine this with colour coding if you can find the right colours of washi. One downside of this, however, is using too much washi tape, this can make the edge of your pages extremely bulky if you use too much. I have used this method before and it worked great, but I would advise you use it sparingly.

Image shows page tabs used in a planner.

If you can’t get washi tape you could always use page tabs instead. These can be bought in all sorts of different designs and styles. If you can’t buy page tabs you can easily make your own with paper and glue. Just cut the paper to the size you want and stick them on the edge of a page. Make sure the tabs stick out a little from the edge of the page to make them easier to flip through.

Finally

And that was a post about a bullet journal index. I know to some people it can seem a little pointless to set up an index, but they can be extremely useful. For example, if you need to look through a past bullet journal to find a reference to an appointment (can you tell I’m talking from experience here?).

Of course, you don’t have to use an index in your bullet journal. But there’s always a chance you might need to search an old bullet journal for something and having an index will make your life just a little easier.

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