How to Develop a Key For Bullet Journal | A Simple Guide

What is a bullet journal key?

A bullet journal key is a set of symbols to help you identify tasks and log events.

A bullet journal key allows you to use symbols instead of words – saving you time from writing everything out and having a simplified way of identifying events, tasks, and achievements.

So for example, instead of writing the word ‘appointment’, you would jot down a symbol – I use a square.

Like this;

Or to note a birthday, you might use a symbol like a present or cake, alongside the person’s name.

Like this;

Another good example is a social event. So you may use a star for these.

Like this;

Using a key is simply replacing ‘bullet points’ with different symbols to suit your needs and to make your journal look more attractive and streamlined!

why do I need a bullet journal key?

So, you may be thinking why can’t I just write the appointment, task, or birthday down – why am I bothered about symbols? 

Good question!  So if there’s a lot going on in one day, your journal page might look like this;

Everything looks jumbled into one, and you can’t differentiate between each activity.

So look at this list of the same things;

This makes your day – and your time – much clearer.

If you are aware of your symbols, you can easily see what each point means which makes it much easier to keep track of everything at a mere glance.

Look at the lists side by side – you can see how much clearer everything is – not only to identify what you have to do, but what you have actually ticked off your list, cancelled or postponed.

At the end of the day, I update the list, and can clearly see from my symbols that;

  • I paid the vets bill
  • I met with Toms’s teacher
  • The washing machine was delivered
  • I checked my bank statement
  • I carried out my Zoom meeting
  • Emily went to ballet
  • Tom went to after-school club

I can also see that;

  • The dentist got cancelled
  • I started my intro to my BuJo article
  • I didn’t have to pick up Tims’s suit
  • And I postponed booking my Paris flights.

This list means that I need to re-schedule some events to another day – and I won’t forget to do this, as it is clearly written and easily identifiable in my journal.

Take a look at our beautiful prints that we also offer:

how to create a bullet journal key


First, you need to decide on your symbols.

Start by thinking about the actions that you consistently write in your journal; appointments, to-do tasks, birthdays, social events, etc…

Write out a list of these.

The most common to start with are;

  • Task
  • Appointment
  • Event
  • To-do
  • Social event
  • Birthday

Then you need to assign symbols for them.

The symbols you use can be unique to you or you can use any of the suggestions we give you here;

Your key can be a simple set of symbols, a colour code, or an elaborate set of icons – you can choose whatever suits your particular style of journal and personality.

There are no limits to what can be in your bullet journal key or what can be included, but remember that the bullet journal was originally created to streamline your life, so don’t be tempted to add too many symbols!

Once you have decided on your symbols, and created your key, you can add in signifiers.


What is a signifier?

Signifiers are used to show your progress, the stage you are at with your task, or the status of the task.

Signifiers can be simply a cross, a slash, or a colour.

Rather than just ticking a task or activity when completed, or crossing through if it’s cancelled, you simply add an extra symbol to show what has happened to that activity.

implementing your bullet journal key

So, let’s look at how you would use and develop your key.

Let’s start with an example;

I set myself a task for the week to iron everything in the ironing basket. (tedious? Yes!).

I will put a square alongside this.  At a glance, I can see it is a task.

I begin the ironing on Monday and do a fair bit of it.  So on Monday evening, when I am reviewing my day, I will put a slash / through the box, to show that this task is underway.

When I complete the ironing (often unlikely) – I will colour the square in, so I can see clearly it is complete, and gives me a sense of achievement.

Or, if I give up halfway through, and see that it will never be completely done, I put a cross X through the square, to show that the task is no longer relevant.

Another example is;

An appointment might be symbolised by a circle. 

When I have been to the appointment I would colour in the circle – so it is clear that it was kept.

If the appointment gets cancelled I mark a cross through the circle.

This method of using a clearly coded key, also makes things easier to refer back to. 

When you look back on your journal, you can clearly see if you went to the appointment, or not, or if it was cancelled.

Again, this makes everything very clear.

What is the benefit of a bullet journal key?

If you like to be organised and streamlined and make the most of your time, there are many benefits of creating a key for your bullet journal.

  • You can create brief to-do lists
  • A bullet journal key allows you to keep track of your life simply and quickly.
  • Allows you to easily keep your day/week on track

Rapid logging

When developing your bullet journal and particularly the key, you may have heard of rapid logging.

Rapid logging is short handwritten lists in your bullet journal – as we have demonstrated in this article, developing your key.

Rather than writing words or sentences, when you need to jot something down or remember something, you note down a symbol. 

It’s a quick and effective way of ‘brain dumping’. 

Rapid logging, connects directly with your bullet journal, as a bullet journal brings all your rapid logging together.

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