Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log (American Bald Eagle. Snapped @ The National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA)

Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log



♦️ Pub: Dec 18, 2017 | Updated: Mar 5, 2019 @ | Reading: 8 min. | Words: 2,218 ♦️

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

The Daily Log Avoids Vampires: Migration, Duplication, & Other Tedium

I exploit “givens” lurking within each Daily Log, i.e. the Log’s inherent structure. This frees me to toss several elements comprising the  Bullet Journal as envisioned by creator Ryder Carroll. For example, I need no separate Index because the Daily Log’s dated header fulfills that role. Nor do I indulge the tedium of migration. Each non-event thought lands in my Daily Log, where it remains —forever. The Daily Log header presents a superb basis for cross-referencing, eliminating duplicate text descriptions.

✧︎︎︎ No signifier Key

A shorthand symbol proving so complex that it requires 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.”

Example: research eats substantial portions of my workdays. My signifier amounts to a capital “R,” which I circle. I know it’s meaning, intuitively. Likewise, a downward arrow tells me I received an incoming item. Reply required? An up-pointing arrow tells that take for the price if a lone character.

✧︎︎︎ 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.

  1.  I refuse to introduce friction during the data entry process. Why? Don’t wanna risk losing the very thought I’m trying to capture.
  2. Seeing an entry gives me its gist, rendering color-coding redundant.

Every Daily Log begins with a highlighted (i.e. black-on-yellow or black-on-orange) date header. One reason: the enhancement makes it easier to find a specific Daily Log. Read: when I know my retinas will play Google, I ease those predictable visual search chores with helpers.

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 = desk = office tasks → Admin(istrative)

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

October 2018 Update: I no longer maintain an analog sleep tracker. From creating the data to pushing it to a diary, digital tools now handle this chore.

✧︎︎︎ No (todo-list inspired) Migration

Expanding on an earlier hit & run “I don’t indulge migration” statement, I now explain. Drawing a line in the sand, I refuse to migrate entries, defined as copying one or more wordy 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 an item.

I enter an item once. It remains in that location, forever. When I perform work related to that item, I add a brief notation in its margin.


Experience instilled each of the above no way, no how! rules. The Key had me playing flip-flop, referring to Key then back to content, to remind myself of the proper code to insert. Migration gifted false hits when I searched 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. But in reality, I was working for my system —on an ongoing basis— as opposed to enjoying a system that worked 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 those 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 my zen zone —the lingering gift of the hand-in-glove relationship I enjoy 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 massage 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.

Once upon a time, I’d copy that test description and place it on my week view calendar. No more. Instead, I enter 1121.02 on the day I plan to tackle this MIT.

Experience also schooled me on the wisdom of keeping my Daily Log in another container. It’s a heckuva lot easier cross-referencing when both my steering wheel (weekly view) and road map (Daily Log) are both open before me. Bonus: the pocket-friendly book housing the Daily Log accompanies me everywhere, a convenience the cumbersome A5 can’t match.

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.

November 2018 Update: A 2019 Hobonichi Weeks serves as my multi-year core EDC and Blogger’s BuJo. The Daily Log lives in a companion Memo Pad tucked into the factory clear cover’s front flap.

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 another book’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.


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

1️⃣ I order no planner/ BuJo-style book until after I’ve mapped out its skeletal contents. I set an EXCLUSIVE purpose for each view, with a watchful eye on the best way to exploit its assorted sections.

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. When the book satisfies that need, it remains. When it doesn’t, I replace it.

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 desired outcomes.

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. I dump the thought. Clean-up and polishing transpires during the Morning/ Evening Review sessions.

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.

Last point: be wary of any blogger dictating “do’s and don’ts”. The rules outlined here apply to me, not thee. They source in my strengths, my weaknesses, not yours. Ryder Carroll created a system to address his needs, not yours. Adopt facets of the system making sense to you and loose the rest. Same applies here. I’m not here to sell anything beyond conjuring your best self, via self-management tools. My goal: show how I thought through, and later tweaked, my system. By piggybacking on my experience, you get a better idea of pitfalls waiting to swallow you.

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

First, get a firm handle on your basic workflow. Next, 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.

Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log (American Bald Eagle. Snapped @ The National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA)
Bullet Journal: Exploiting the Inherent Power of the Daily Log (American Bald Eagle. Snapped @ The National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA)


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