Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log

Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log


The Daily Log fuels my day. Exploiting its inherent power eliminates tedium. Unlike todo lists, it invigorates rather than debilitates.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes

Avoiding Vampires: Migration, Duplication, & Other Tedium

The Bullet Journal, as envisioned by creator Ryder Carroll, includes several elements I tossed.

✧︎︎︎ No signifier Key

A shorthand symbol proving so complex as to require an explanatory listing confirms: I took a wrong turn. Adhering to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) serves as efficient productivity booster. Every signifier I employ arises naturally, either from my workflow or my knee-jerk response to a scenario. Because each flows from my intuition, I fritter no time consulting “The Key.”

✧︎︎︎ No color-coding Key

During data entry, I use the same pen. I don’t write in color to signal a category, for two reasons. One, I refuse to introduce friction during the data entry process. Two, seeing an entry gives me its gist, rendering color-coding redundant.

I live the color game only in terms of time blocking and the date header. Every Daily Log begins with a black-on-yellow date header. This makes it visually easier to find a specific Daily Log.

Time blocking reflects a handful of life/ goal/ work categories. Color provides a shorthand reference to each. Quick examples from my primary time blocking categories:

  • red = stop & pay attention → Law
  • light blue = sky = natural → Writing
  • brown = office desks → Admin(istrative)

A few secondary categories within my dual time blocking scheme also nod to intution, including sleep (fuzzy → gray).

✧︎︎︎ No segregated group of pages labeled Index

The traditional Index makes no appearance in my Bullet Journal. My Daily Log houses dated headers, each comprised of numbers. As detailed below, those numbers gift my indexing scheme.

✧︎︎︎ No (todo-list inspired) Migration

Drawing a line in the sand, I refuse to migrate entries, defined as copying one or more item descriptions so each also appears in a more preferred location. The act of deliberate duplication mimics a vampire, draining productivity time. It also creates a problem: one item, in multiple places, instigates confusion. I shouldn’t need to search multiple-locations to learn historical aspects of one entry.


Experience instilled each of the above no way, no how! rules. Employing an Index induced frustration. The Key had me playing flip-flop, referring to Key then back to content, to remind myself of the proper code to insert. Migration gave me false hits while visually looking for item abc.

In short, on too many occasions, I fell into the rabbit hole of mere busy work. Oh yeah, I looked busy, moving/ copying stuff from one place to another or updating my Key/ Index. But in reality, I was working for my system —on an ongoing basis— as opposed to enjoying a system working for me.

The Mighty Powerhouse: The Daily Log

Precious few rules remain immune to exception. Two come to mind:

  • The sun will rise each day.
  • Every action finds its birth in a thought.

Brain dumping, a/k/a rapid logging, weds thoughts to real or virtual paper. So many things vie for our attention, the morning’s brilliant idea risks a wipe-out by the afternoon’s mundane affairs. Consistent brain dumping captures otherwise fleeting thoughts.

Once I took the time to watch myself in action, I understood what I needed and wanted from my Daily Log: 3 E’s → efficiency, effectiveness, and elevation. Efficiency eliminates unnecessary tedium. Effectiveness ensures I’m more productive, on a consistent basis, with the Daily Log than without it. Experiencing the combined effect of the first 2 E’s elevates motivation —the lingering gift of my hand-in-glove relationship with my planning tool.

Dated Headers = Disguised Numbers

A date header is a mechanism for grouping thoughts. Bonus: each dated header provides a natural referencing base.

November 1st translates to 1101 as does 11/1. Why do I convert each date into 4 digits, rather than allowing 3 digits in some situations? My brain likes uniformity. I’ve trained it, within the context of my bullet journal, to interpret 4-digit numbers as dates → reference code.

I exploit what is, piggybacking on that number, then massaging it for cross-referencing purposes.

Circled Numbers = Easy, Efficient, Effective Reference Aide

Daily Log

I see a task-style entry during my review session within the November 21st Daily Log. I elevate that entry to MIT (Most Important Task) status. Only one other item, within this particular Daily Log, previously made it to a MIT designation. Therefore, I aim at the entry’s left margin, entering and circling the number 2, i.e. ②︎.

On my week view calendar, I enter 1121.02 on the day I plan to tackle this MIT.

Subsequent reviews tell me that entry’s action storyline, including no hint of action thus far.

Generous left margin = mini table of contents per entry

Daily Log, with generous margin
Daily Log, with generous margin

A decent-sized margin permits creation of an overview, relative to a task craving a wider view, e.g. MITs.

Many tasks can be accomplished within brief periods of time. Those tasks never see a formal MIT designation. I tackle it to completion, check it off, and move on. Some tasks may span days, while others remain lonely. In all instances, withOUT any steps beyond the MIT signifier and/or checkmark, one glance yields status:

  • 12.3,5 gD ②︎ ☑️ ← done deal; worked on it 2 days, December 3rd & 5th. Related research yielded at least one file, stashed in Google Drive.
  • ②︎ 🔲 ← in progress
  • 🔲 awww, poor boo, ignored so far

OnGoing food for my dual time blocking

I sometimes complete an MIT in less time than anticipated. After enjoying a break, I consult The Plan time blocks. That suggests which category I should next attack. Returning to my Daily Log, I pluck out a related task and tackle it.

Because I’m diligent in reviewing the Daily Log, some things simply stick in my mind. Using two books to form my bullet journal provides convenience: I can keep both the time blocks (Jibun Techo) and Daily Log (Hobonichi Weeks) open and within view simultaneously. Little conveniences (like irritants) add up, easing (or freezing) routines.

My Restrictive Approach Precludes Duplication and Overlap

I adore Japanese calendars because they minimize spread drawing, while remaining flexible enough to meet my desires. Measuring 3.75″ width x 7.4″ height, my Hobonichi Weeks (Daily Log and wallet) shadows me. Adding one inch to the Weeks’ width, the Jibun Techo Biz Mini welcomes all other aspects of planning. Problem: using a multi-book Bullet Journal invites the vampires discussed.

Bricks, cinder blocks, wood, nails, screws, and more form the strong foundation and structure comprising my home. I don’t pluck out bricks or nails to move them elsewhere. Likewise, once I nail a thought to my Daily Log, it cements in that location. When I need to locate a written thought, I know to look only in the Daily Log.

The Daily Log, within the Context of a 2-Book Bullet Journal

When I perform reviews, the Weeks’ Daily Log stays open to my left, with the Biz Mini’s vertical weeklies open on my right. This setup proves über convenient, as I need not flip between two critical-to-me views. Both remain equally accessible! Another time savings and focus enhancer.

Likewise, the portability of the Weeks ensures brain dumping in the central location, regardless of my location.


Hobonichi Weeks as Bullet Journal Daily Log
Hobonichi Weeks as
Bullet Journal Daily Log

1️⃣ I ordered no book until after I mapped out its skeletal contents. I set an EXCLUSIVE purpose for each view, with a watchful eye on the best way to exploit the assorted components, e.g.:

  • Daily Log → dated headers → disguised numbers → quick and efficient referencing scheme
  • The Hobonichi month calendar blocks personify “too small.” But the blocks welcome time-only listings (all I need to discern free/open time)
  • The event details associated with the bare times appearing on the month cal appear on the left dated pages.
  • Every blank page, whether right-side or in the Notes section, belong to the Daily Log.

2️⃣ I do not tolerate overlap or duplication.

3️⃣ Sometimes, a treasured scheme reveals a glaring deficiency during “in the trenches” use. I’m free to tweak or replace as circumstances mandate.” Nothing proves as expensive as unmet dreams. Dreams won’t and don’t muscle their way into reality absent planning. My bullet journal has one job: honor my flow.

4️⃣ I evict vampires lurking in or around my bullet journal house. Mere busy work eats time better spent accomplishing, e.g. the milestones established to push myself closer to goals.

5️⃣ Unnecessary friction threatens efficient braindumping. Trying to figure out a proper category-based location, or which pen to use, risks irretrievable loss of the fleeting thought I want to capture.

Whether “bullet journal,” “planner”, or copybook, the worthiness of a self-management scheme blossoms only with diligent use. I treat my Daily Log and dual timeblocks with absolute reverence. But I struggled mightily TRYing to conjure THE scheme best for me.

I deduce, from your appearance on this page, you’re seeking your best scheme. Suggestion: fill a mug with your preferred hot beverage. Grab a pen or pencil and a pad. Plop into your favorite chair. Prop up your tootsies, lean back, close your eyes, and think. Envision your typical day—the type of info you take time to note. That gives you the framework for calendar views to embrace your planning needs.

On the same pad, sketch quickie month and weekly calendars. Add a blank page for “daily” treatment. Consider how you will populate each. This process will hammer the distinction between what your workflow requires vs what your heart may desire. Nothing wrong with accommodating both. Everything wrong with treating the two as synonymous.

Wanna Read More About the Daily Log?

Googling → “bullet journal” “daily log” ← yields hundreds of thousands of hits. Filters fail to tame the storm of ain’t I purdy spreads. These two articles focus on substance (the functional aspect), as opposed to form (oooo, pretty).

Call to Action

With a firm handle on your basic workflow, look at planning-related offerings with a mindset demanding proof of potential usefulness. Blank book? Cool! Book that appears perfect, except for bunches of included forms. Discard the preprinted labels which may be attached, and wonder aloud if the page can be repurposed.

Think it through. Understand actual usage may reveal deal-breakers. That’s ok. Just proves you’re getting closer to your planning muse.

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