Key for bullet journal organisation and rapid logging – borrow the ideas here or create your own!

But first – what is a bullet journal key, how do you use one, and how do you make one? If you’re new to this don’t panic – I’m going to answer all of these questions here. And while it may seem daunting to begin with, bear with me, because the purpose of rapid logging and its corresponding bujo key are to simplify the process of journaling, not to make it more complicated!

For a complete breakdown of all thing bujo, check out my beginner’s guide to bullet journaling.
Image shows a journal lying on a peach scarf next to some pink flowers.

What is a Bullet Journal Key and What Is Rapid Logging?

When you start looking into bullet journaling one of the first things you’ll likely notice is all the symbols used alongside each entry. They’re not there by accident – they each have a specific meaning, and their purpose is to help organise your journal. Even better, using simple symbols in this way means that you’re able to interpret the entry at a glance.

Naturally, these symbols require a key, or legend – think of it as a reference guide to make sense of your journal entries.

If you’re new to bullet journalling, another term you may not have heard before is Rapid Logging. Essentially, Rapid Logging is simply the format in which entries are recorded in your bullet journal – they’re logged, rapidly – tada!

You might also like these free bullet journal habit tracker printables to help you accomplish your goals!

Why Do You Need a Bujo Key or Legend?

There are several benefits to using a bullet journal key:

  • Keeps your journal neat,
  • Saves space,
  • You’re able to work efficiently,
  • Saves time and effort,
  • Can help with organisation,
  • Easy to skim-read at a glance,
  • Fully customisable to your personal needs.

The idea is that the process is fast, clean, and dynamic – hence the key.

For example, an item may be added as a task, and then once it’s completed the symbol might be edited to show that the task is complete.

While you’re getting used to this new way of writing in a bullet journal, you’ll need to refer to this key frequently, but as time goes by you’ll quickly become familiar with your chosen bullet journal legend and you’ll work much faster.

Now that you understand what a key is and its purpose, let’s take a closer look at how to use one.

How Do You Use a Bullet Journal Key?

The concept of the bullet journal was the brainchild of Ryder Carroll. Ryder created the journal and the original key, which many bullet journal users adopt. But the beauty and versatility of a bullet journal is its adaptability and easy customisation.

Washi tape and journaling accessories.

The original key is a great place to start, but if you’re using your bullet journal for a special purpose, you may need to make some changes. Or you may simply have your own ideas about what makes best sense for you, or be feeling creative! 

I’m going to walk you through the original key, and then show you some ideas for customising the key or creating your own entirely.

Ultimately, what key you decide to use for your journal is a totally personal choice, but by the end of this post you should definitely be feeling inspired, whether that’s to keep it simple or to use your artistic flair to create something unique.

The Original Ryder Carroll Bullet Journal Key

● Task incomplete

X Task complete

> Task migrated into Collections

< Task scheduled into future log

– Notes

○ Event

This is the classic key created by Ryder Carroll, which works perfectly well. If you have a busy professional life, a hectic family life with multiple schedules to keep track of, or your journal calls for more details for any other reason, you’ll want to change it up a little – or a lot!

Bottom line: don’t be shy – experiment, and if you find something doesn’t work, switch it up and try again. Most likely your journal will evolve over time, and likewise so will your key. That’s totally fine and to be expected – be flexible and adapt your journal to suit your needs.

Suggested Rapid Logging Symbols

If you’re feeling confident enough to start thinking about creating your own customised key, here are some popular suggestions of symbols you can use:

◻︎ Task

Some people like to switch up the dot for a task to a square which you can easily strike through or colour in to show it has been completed…

◻︎ Task complete, or

◼︎ Task complete

If you find that you don’t get around to completing a task in a certain timeframe and need to move it to the following week or month, this is known as migration – and of course there’s a new symbol to denote this too:

⍄ Task migrated

Finally, if the task is not yet complete but has no immediate deadline, you may wish to migrate it to your future log instead of a given weekly or monthly spread, in which case you can show it like this:

⍃ Task scheduled into future log

You may wish to introduce an appointment symbol to your key to keep track of GP consults or business meetings, and a triangle is often used:

△ = Appointment

Just like with the square task, you can strike this through or colour it in once you’ve attended/concluded you appointment or meeting:

△ = Appointment attended, or

▲ = Appointment attended

You can use the same rules with events:

○ Event

○ Event attended

● Event attended

If ever you have to cancel a task, appointment, or event, you can simply put an X through it, like so:

⊠ = Task cancelled

⊗ = Event cancelled

⨻ = Appointment cancelled

Finally, I want to mention bullet journal signifiers which can add context or show priority to your entries when rapid logging.

I know it seems a lot, but we’re nearly there now! And all of this is just to make scanning your journal for information super quick and easy.

Bullet journal key pin

What Are Bullet Journal Signifiers?

Supposing you have lots of appointments in a week, but for one a time is yet to be confirmed. Or perhaps you have several meetings, but for one of them you have to remember to make a call before attending, or to take something important with you. You’ll need these entries to stand out from the rest so you don’t forget that critical piece of information, and we use bullet journal signifiers for this purpose.

Possibly an obvious one, but you can simply show a priority item like so:

!◻︎ Important task

!△ Important appointment

This information is clearly visible immediately and at a glance, which is the whole purpose of rapid logging!

Bullet Journal Legend Signifiers

In addition to showing priority items, you may also like to use a few other symbols for other personal information.

Here are a few examples:

£ – finances; income; expenses, 

✳︎ Reminder 

♥︎ Affirmations or favourite quotes

☺︎ ☹︎ Mood tracking

Of course these are simply my suggestions, but you can switch things about or choose entirely different symbols. 

Some people even choose to stick to using all squares or circles, and have a colour key. The point is, you can customise your bullet journal let to be exactly what suits your needs and personality – it’s totally your choice.

Okay, I think that’s about everything! Just a few key suggestions to make your bullet journal reference work for you, and I’ll show you some examples of keys for inspiration. 

Then you can have a go at creating your own!

Bullet journal flatlay.

How to Make a Key For a Bullet Journal

When it comes to creating your own bullet journal key, there are zero rules, but a few tips:

  1. Options for your key

You can use symbols, as Ryder does, or a colour key – or a combination of both.

  1. Keep your key as simple as you can get away with

Your journal is to help you stay organised – don’t overcomplicate it. Create symbols you need, but don’t introduce ones unnecessarily. This will help to keep a neat structure and prevent your journal from becoming a chore. So, for example, if you start work at the same time every day, you probably don’t need to create a symbol to record your work schedule!

  1. Make sure your relevant keys are editable

Don’t forget that tasks will need to be editable, so you can easily and neatly change their status from incomplete to complete, or migrate them if necessary.

Bullet Journal Key Ideas and inspiration

Here is a gorgeous selection of bojo keys to browse through for inspiration…

From a pretty watercolour design…

…to artistic with washi tape and ribbon.

This one is beautifully colourful and uses a colour key.

Sometimes clean and simple just works.

…but I’m a sucker for a little bit of creativity!

And I adore art-deco!

A splash of colour always makes me smile. ☺︎

Which is your favourite? Will you have a go at creating your own bullet journal key?

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.

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