My Journaling Method


I started journaling for the first time in 2018. At the time I had no good productivity system and no properly formalized TODO-list, but I wanted to start getting some real work done, and so I needed something. I stumbled across the Bullet Journal system, and tried that. Did a bunch of variations on that for a few months while I struggled to get the habit down, and then did it consistently for about a year. The physicality of it was key to getting the habit in, because I could literally place the journal in my own way the night before. This is the advantage to real journaling, the physicality of it, and that is why I keep returning to it. If you try to journal in a computer program or app, you can just… not open the app, and suddenly your journal doesn’t exist. And you’ll forget.

I mostly stopped during my studies, because at that point the university’s own systems mostly replaced the role my journal played. Came back to it a couple of times with fresh eyes, though, kept refining it, reducing state, and now, this time, I’m back to it with renewed Vigor and Telos. I now feel I have a system that is good enough to be worth sharing, and even recommending.

I’ll go through this in the order I would when setting up a new journal. Nice thing about this is that we’re not using some standardized template journal you’ll find at a book store, so you can customize this method to your needs and preferences.

I get a Moleskine Classic Collection Soft Cover Dotted Notebook. Black. 192 pages, 12 x 21 cm. You don’t need to get the exact same one, but I do recommend dotted instead of line grid, and that you get one with pages that are at least 32 grid rows tall, to fit all the days of a month in a list.

For writing I currently use a Pentel GraphGear 1000 0.5 mechanical pencil. I’ve heard good things about the Uni Kuru Togas, but haven’t used one. Either way, being able to erase is essential. I used to use Pilot FriXion pens. They did write good lines, but they run out far too quickly and writing where you’ve erased is unpredictable and annoying. Reject modernity, embrace graphite.


I almost never need to go further back than one month, so an index isn’t vital, but it can be nice to have. After the first page, where I’ll usually draw a little logo or something, I’ll title two pages “Index”. Each new month, I’ll go back and write what page number the new month starts at.

If you’ve bought one, you’ll notice that the Moleskine doesn’t have numbered pages. I like this, but it does mean you have to write the numbers yourself. Just get to it, and do it.



The name of the month I place centered atop a pair of pages. On the left side of the left page goes a list of all the days of the month, and the first letter of the corresponding weekdays. Next to that I have my tracker columns. I’ll usually do 4. Any more than that, and I find it gets tedious. What I decide I need to track varies by the month, but the ones that never change are the first two: Did I journal morning and evening this day? Did I work out this day?

      J   W   Z   =
      _   _   _   _ 
1 W  |■| |·| |5| |'|  |
2 T  |■| |·| |4| |'|  | Reality TV shoot 
3 F  |■| |·| |5| | |  ○
4 S  |■| |·| |9| | |  
5 S  |◢| | | |8| |'|  ♡ She said "I love you"
6 M  |■| |·| |8| | |
7 T  |■| | | |8| |*|  
8 W  |◤| | | |8| | | *△ Important deadline
9 T  |□| | | | | | |  

The columns are headed by an icon denoting what I’m tracking. J for journaling, Zzz for sleep, a dumbbell for workouts, a book or bookmark for reading, etc. Below that, using a ruler, I will neatly make an outline for each column.

Inside the tracker columns you can make up your own syntax for how you’d like to track stuff, but for journaling morning and evening, I’ll fill in the top left of the square when I journal in the morning, and the bottom right of the square when I journal in the evening. This means a day where I journaled morning and night will make that day’s J-tracker-square one filled in square. A full month of consistent journaling will be one long filled in bar down the left of the page. Very satisfying.

For my workout tracker, I’ll write a symbol in the top left of each square saying what type of workout I’m doing that day, > for push, ^ for pull, for legs, for core/other, and when I’ve done the workout, I’ll put a solid dot in the middle of that square. If I had dedicated cardio days, that might have been a heart symbol. This is all up to you and your regiment, of course.

I will also commonly track things like time spent meditating, working, pages red, sleeping, anything I’ve felt like focusing on and improving that month.

Next to the tracker columns, I’ll write information regarding the days using this syntax:

  ○ Single-day event
* ◌ Star of extra importance
  | Multi-day event
  ♡ Memory
  △ Deadline
  ! Idea

I don’t put TODOs on that list, because that’s what the next page is for!


The page on the right, also with the name of the month, centered atop it, I will have two things: My TODO-list for the month (what), and the why, which we’ll get to later. Usually I’ll have some TODOs to put there as soon as I set up the month, and then a few more will creep in and/or get crossed off as the month passes. Not many. The fewer the better. Don’t dilute this, the month’s TODOs are the major tasks for the months.

They’re written with this syntax:

· TODO item
X TODO item, done
y TODO item, half done, to do more next unit of equal timescale
< TODO item, deprioritized to higher timescale
> TODO item, delayed to next unit of equal timescale
- TODO item, cancelled

Go through all the TODO items for the previous month. If any still need doing, that’s marked as >, as the next unit of equal timescale is this new month, and then I’ll write it in this month’s TODO aswell. If it doesn’t need doing, I’ll strike-through the dot. This process helps to show you if you’re carrying around a TODO that you just keep neglecting, and pushes you to either get it done, or realize it’s not that important.

I use a dot instead of a square, because it can be neatly converted into any of the other shapes, by being the middle of the meeting lines.


This is the newest and possibly strangest addition to the journal. Titled with “WHY” in the middle of the right-side page, I’ll have the bottom half of the page dedicated to reminding my future self why all this that I’m doing is important. I’ll allow myself to be grandiose, poetic, delusional, anything that will help spur some Thumos. I’ll talk about my future wife and family, the history of my homeland, great achievements by men I admire, etc. Use every tool at my disposal for kindling the fire in my soul. It might read something like this:

I want to go out, destroy my work-tasks, journey back home and be greeted by a loving, warm embrace from an admiring and admirable wife. I want to build a home with a great woman. A home filled with joy, warmth and beauty. I want to make her feel safe, protected, delicate, beautiful, vital, happy and full of life. I want to be her stable pillar through the coming storms. I want her to want me. Vigorously.

To receive these blessing I must become worthy. I must achieve sovereign stability. Biggest current opportunity for improvement is cash flow. Money. Heath and mindset are at a great point, but my income must be increased. Good thing there’s plenty of work to be done this month, and plenty of untapped sources of lead generation I already know about. Let’s smash it.

This I will write in cursive, everything else is small caps. Helps me visually parse out the emotional/inspirational/aspirational text from the technical TODO-text. Sort of like syntax highlighting, but by changing the font.

Find that text cringe? Ok, good thing you get to write your own, with your own motivation.


Days start on the page after the month pair of pages. A day in May might start out looking something like this:

05 26 —————————————————————————————————————————
○ Meeting with John @ 10:50
X Take delivery of book
· Fix bug #563
· Order plane tickets

Great morning. Got my book. Smashed the workout.
Time to eat, shower, squash that bug,
and impress the shit out of John.

The days use the same syntax as the month for the TODOs.

I’ll also write a couple of sentences of “why” or general High Thumos stuff below there, just to force my mind to think about the why. Push my mind into the High Thumos mode.

After I’ve written this, I can fill in the top left half of the journaling tracker.

As the day goes by, I will have the journal open in front of me while I work. My whole day will be oriented around checking off everything I’ve said I’ll get done. This is how to stay on track, and stay focused. It needs to be physically present, and not in a window open in the background on your computer. The words “Fix the bug” and a tempting “checkdot” are right there in front of you. Get it done.

After the end-of-day journaling session, it’ll look like this:

05 26 —————————————————————————————————————————
○ Meeting with John @ 10:50
X Take delivery of book
> Fix bug #563
< Order plane tickets

Great morning. Got my book. Smashed the workout.
Time to eat, shower, squash that bug,
and impress the shit out of John.

X Go buy wooden cooking utensils

Fixing the bug took longer than expected,
but the meeting with John went fantastic.

05 27 —————————————————————————————————————————
· Request log file from Steven
· Fix bug #563
· Plan Dad's birthday present

> means that something has been postponed to the next unit of equal timescale. Aka. the next day. < means that something has been backburned, moving it up one unit of timescale. Aka. moving the item from the day’s TODO list to the month’s TODO list.

Any extra stuff that might have come up through the day will be written below the motivational morning sentences, and then I’ll write a quick recap that will also contain potential criticism of what went wrong that day, what distracted me too much, or it will be just me boosting myself up, gloating a little about how great something went. Whatever I think is needed at that time.

After that, I write the plan for the next day before I go to bed, so that when I get up the next morning, the plan is already there, and I can just start executing. Plan your day the day before, this is one is such a game changer.

Once I’ve done this I can fill in the remaining bottom left half of the journaling tracker, making a satisfying filled square.

Last step is to place the journal in my way for tomorrow, so it cannot be forgotten. Usually, this means on top of my keyboard.

What I don’t do

Future Log

After the two index pages, I think the original BuJo method wants you to have a “future log”, which is 4 pages with said title, each page broken into 3 horizontal blocks, each representing a month, totaling one year’s worth of months. The point is to write stuff for the future there, stuff you need to remember for when you get to that month, or something. I never use it, anytime I added one I always forget it’s there, and because it’s at the beginning of the journal, it’s too far away from the actual month that it’s not useful. It’s also just more state to keep synchronized and that sucks.

Need to remember something for a specific day months in the future? Put it in your calendar, and have it send a notification. Have a big long term goal? Put it on your wall.

Dear diary

This is not a diary. I don’t re-tell my days into text form. I never write out a full page in cursive. Only exceptional, actionable, inspiring or informational things get written down. This is a tool to help keep me focused and moving. Not a diary.

Grid calendar

You don’t want to do this, trust me. Putting your days in a grid, like a traditional calendar sucks. Either you make a small one for each tracker, or you make a big one that covers the page. With multiple small ones you can’t easily see correlations between your habits, like how your sleep effects your hours worked or something like that. With the big one, you have the same problem, but now it’s also harder to write what happens in each day, and harder to visually parse how many days you have until a certain deadline or event.