Bullet Journaling for Beginners


May 24, 2021

Tired of restrictive paper planners and chaotic sticky notes? Overwhelmed by workflow management software? If you’re looking for a quick way to track your to-do lists, enjoy checking off tasks, and recording the day’s events, bullet journaling may be for you. 

Bullet journaling is designed to be an efficient way to track tasks in our quick-paced, productive world. But it also allows freedom to record miscellaneous memories, notes, and things you want to record or remember. While the concept was designed to work with a paper and pen, Workflowy’s app allows you to work from anywhere on your phone or computer.

Originally created by Austrian designer Ryder Carroll as a fast and flexible task-tracker, traditional bullet journals are made up of five main components: the index, collections, rapid logging, logs, and migration. 

Index: This is essentially the menu or “table of contents” for your journal. In Workflowy, it’s located on the left-hand column, which you can hide or show for easy reference.

Collections: This is a way to categorize topics in your to-do list that is separate from the index. Workflowy marks collections through hashtags to help you organize different goal-tracking (e.g. health & fitness, house projects, or work processes). For example, if you are writing a book, you can hashtag every book-related journal entry with #mybook for easy access to all entries.

Rapid Logging: This is the core workflow for bullet journaling: quick, shorthand bullet points to log any to-do lists, notes, or journal entries. 

Logs: This is a strategy to help you manage bigger and smaller goals and track progress: whether a daily vs. monthly vs. annual log, to bite-sized goals versus longer-term goals. 

Migration: An easy way to move uncompleted tasks to a new list. Workflowy makes this easy through copy & paste or mirroring the task in multiple lists. This also helps you weed out any tasks that are not worthwhile.

Feel like you’re ready to give it a shot? Here’s how to start a bullet journal. 

  1. Gather supplies. If you want to use a paper and pen, you’ll need a hardbound journal (preferably with gridded paper), a ruler, and an ink pen. If you want to go the digital direction, you can download the Workflowy app on desktop, iOS, or Android.

  1. Create an index. In your journal, leave the first few pages as a “table of contents” for months or different projects where you can identify page numbers. Make sure to number pages as you write out months and days. If you’re working digitally, create a few new “nodes” on the left-hand column in order to start getting organized. This list could be anything from a M–F to-do list to the 12 months of the year, to categories like “Finances” and “House Projects.”

  1. List out daily, monthly, and long-term goals. Carroll recommends writing out logs with a monthly calendar on one page, and a bullet list of tasks on the opposite page. The following pages can contain a grid of the days of the week, with three days on each page. Digitally, you can start to nest these tasks under broader categories of days or weeks. Toward the back of the journal, you can include lists for different ongoing projects or goals such as health & fitness, meal planning, financial goals, or home improvement––remember to index page numbers! (The benefit of digital is that you can move beyond written bullet points and nest URLs, images, and text you’ve copied/pasted from online.)

  1. Link categories. Another benefit of digital bullet journaling such as Workflowy is that you can connect different lists through hashtags, such as #Today for all items across your lists that you need to accomplish today, or #Fitness to track your gym days.

  1. Get organized! Now that you’re set up with a few projects or categories, start listing out everything that is on your mind. Take some time to get familiar with the process, and don’t be discouraged if you initially make a few mistakes or find it confusing. Some people enjoy the therapeutic process of hand-lettering or making their journal aesthetically pleasing. My favorite benefit is writing down everything––from tasks on my mind to things to think about later––so I can free up more creative brain space and time to be present with those I love. 

Learn more about Workflowy’s system here

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[…] main purposes for bullet journaling is simply to allow for stream-of-consciousness writing, such as rapid logging. There are three main ways to categorize brainstorming sessions, and each utilizes Workflowy in a […]


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2 years ago

This is great! I also love the side-by-sides and that they bullet journal examples are not those pin-worthy works of art. Just straight up bullet journaling.

Bob Elliott
Bob Elliott
2 years ago

@Café655 Thanks for pointing to this blog entry. For awhile I have been using BJ year, month, week, today headings in my WorkFlowy. The blog article gave some ideas to refine my setup such as index, and use of “tags”.

2 years ago

So great! Love the side by side layout of the journal page and WorkFlowy. Well done post. I have been experimenting with a more “journal-centric” approach to WorkFlowy lately, and this gives me some ideas.

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