What are the Bullet Journaling Bullets and Signifiers?

by | Jun 3, 2020 | Beginners Guides, Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling has undergone an evolution from the original simple method created by Ryder Carroll. On the surface when you look through the Bullet Journal hashtag on Instagram the pages have become a lot more artistic. But the Bullet Journal is at heart a productivity tool based on these ‘bullets’ or signifiers. in this post today I’m going to break down in detail what the hell the ‘bullet in bullet journal is. What are the bullets or signifiers, what different types are there and how do we use them?

Where do the Bullets live?

The first time we set up our Bullet Journal we need to create a key to keep track of what all these little bullets mean. The Key is one of the first core pages in our journals and the idea is that if someone else were to pick up our journals they would be able to understand what our logs and all of the different bullets mean.

There are lots of types of bullets or ‘signifiers’ and I’ll go through each of the bullets that you might come across and what they’re used for. Remember that the beauty of Bullet Journaling is that it’s flexible and unique to you so you don’t have to follow this method or copy my style of signifiers. Go wild and create your own set of signifiers to suit you!

Task

The main signifier you’ll be using is the task bullet. The task bullet is what you use to log the items on your to do list. It should be a simple box, circle or a dot that you’re able to add signifiers on top of for sorting out your tasks. You can use this signifier in your monthly, weekly and daily logs or use them on a project page. If I have a big project I like to create a specific page and dump all the tasks I can think of for that project in the one place.

Here are the task bullets and signifiers used in the Bullet Journal system

Task in Progress

I’ve noticed that not everyone uses this but I like it as it gives me a little kick of motivation to add the extra line and mark it as complete. This is most useful for my big projects pages full of tasks that might have been started but not quite finished.

Task Completed

Hooray you completed your task! Put an x over the top of the signifier to mark that it’s done. Some peple also colour a box in to show that a task is done. Whichever way you choose to show a task is done Is there any better feeling than that crossing off feeling? Seriously is there? Comment if you can think of one!

Migrating Tasks

So you had a task down for the day but something might have come up and it didn’t get finished. Not a problem. You can migrate it over to the next day by putting an arrow on your signifier. Then just copy the task to the next day. You can do this with months as well. If for example you’ve had a task down in March than never got your attention migrate it over to April to make sure you don’t forget about it.

Take a look at this example of how I use all of the Bullet Journaling
Here’s how I use the different signifiers or bullets in action

Scheduling Tasks

If you know you won’t have time to complete the task in the next few days you might want to schedule it instead. What this means is that rather then just letting the task roll over to the next day you move it to a specific date or even over to next month if you decide it doesn’t need to be done until much later.

Cancelled Tasks

If you can’t seem to get a task to completion then maybe it’s just not working for you. Perhaps after migrating and scheduling it’s still hanging around so you need to rethink how essential it is. If you’re having that much trouble completing it just cancel it and move on.

Events

Here’s a different signifier for events that are coming up. You can distinguish it with any other type of bullet. I tend to use a circle for my events. Events can be national holidays, birthdays or anything that you have coming up. You’re likely to use these in your future logs as well. You’re likely to use these a lot more in the future log of your Bullet Journal.

As well as tasks there are other bullets and signifiers that you can use in your Bullet Journal.

Appointments

Another signifier is the appointments. Like events, these are a great signifier for your future log especially when you have to schedule things like dental appointments far in advance. I often use a little triangle to signify an appointment and add the time next to it.

Notes

I often like to add notes into my logs. These are the things that don’t really fall under any other signifiers but they’re things I want to note down and remember. Personally I use a little dash for notes.

Memories

One of my little bonus signifiers is my memory bullet. This is similar to using a gratitude log where you can record little things that happened that day that you want to remember. They don’t have to be really detailed but a few notes can often jog memories of the happy little daily things that happened to you. It’s a great little mindfulness practice to include especially if you want to make sure you remember more about your daily life. I use a tiny smiley face for my memories signifier but I’ve also seen people using hearts or tiny little suns.

Important

This is an extra little signifier to add next to any other really important or urgent tasks, events or appointments. You can either use a star or something like an exclamation point.

How to use the Bullets in practice

Knowing what all of these signifiers mean is one thing but how are we going to actually use them in practice? Ryder Carroll the creator of the Bullet Journal Methodology explains it well in this video. Essentially you’ll be using them mostly on your monthly, weekly or daily logs. At the end of the time period that the spread covers you can sort out the task signifiers by marking them as completed, migrated, scheduled or cancelled. The idea is that the important tasks will be dealt with and eventually be completed or cancelled if they’re considered unimportant. It can take a bit of practice to perfect ‘logging’ but by having a go at using the different bullets and signifiers you’ll create a system that can work best for you.

Want more help understanding how the Bullet Journal system works?

No worries! I’ve introduced workshops just for you. I know how daunting it can be when you’re starting out and you might have questions that google can’t quite answer. My Get Started with Bullet Journaling workshop is aimed at beginners who want a more interactive introduction to Bullet Journaling and the chance to ask lots of questions and to connect with other beginners! Get more information and check out the schedule of the next workshops here.

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As a beginner you might not realise that Bullet Journal is a productive planning methodology based on bullets and signifiers. Here's an explainer.

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