The overall idea with bullet journaling is similar to Getting-Things-Done: record your to do list and stay organized. Traditionally, you keep an index at the front (a la lab notebook) as well as a master to do list, monthly and weekly schedules, and daily. The purpose of a BuJo is to have everything you need in one place.
P.S. BuJo is actually a great way to have your to do list for GTD.
Index - by using numbered pages (or numbering them on your own) you don't need to flip back and forth looking for that one sheet of notes from seminar three weeks ago. You also don't need to worry about grouping notes together (all advisor meeting notes, all journal club notes, etc.) because they'll be easy to find.
Future Logs - plan ahead by having a list of future things. When you know you have a dentist appointment in 6 months, but you don't have a calendar to put it in, you can use this log.
Monthly Spread - some people use a calendar format, which is more natural visually, and others might make number down the days of the month with a list. You can have events on the dates, and still have room on the page for a task list.
Weeklies - not in the traditional BuJo but are a natural step between monthly and dailies.
Dailies - the "workhorse" of the bullet journal, it's where the work gets done. You write down everything to do that day, including meetings and notes. The advantage over pre-printed planners is that you're not limited to the lines allocated for one day. A busy Monday can take up 2 pages and an easy going Wednesday might take up 1/4 a page.
If you're really excited about the idea of a bullet journal, check out this "Bullet Journal Cheat Sheet" blog post from Little Coffee Fox.
I thought bullet journals were super artsy?
A quick online search for bullet journaling reveals very artistic and fancy books that have spun off from the original boxes and symbols.
If that appeals to you, be careful of the "black hole" - you may spend more time creating your system than getting things done. If you want the basic BuJo with some fancy art, there are templates online to add a bit of flair. You can also order stainless steel or plastic templates online, like the one linked below, to streamline your process as well as ensure 'perfection' each time.
my experience with bujo
I used a bullet journal in the first few years of my doctoral program. I particularly enjoyed the "dutch window" where I could keep my general schedule that didn't change (classes, seminars, journal clubs) but could have a new page to misc. tasks and changes.
Quote of the Day
It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"
– Henry David Thoreau
* Disclaimer: the above links are recommendations. If you decide to purchase the item through my link, I will earn a small amount of money at no extra cost to you. I am not endorsed by any of the publishing companies or manufacturers and have not received any products in exchange for writing this post.
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