Hello Planning Mashers!
Once you’re done with your first page, it’s time to set up your Bullet Journal key. What is it though? Why do I need one? What should I include there?
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know to set up your own personalized Bullet Journal key spread.
When you start a Bullet Journal, the first thing you should decide on is how to set up your key, because this is a place for you to decipher the Bullet Journal secret language – rapid logging.
If you want to add a Key spread to your Bullet Journal right away, we have several free printable key pages in the Resources Vault.
Check it out now or join in the signup form at the end of the post and get your access.
Before we dive in, you should TOTALLY give a look at my Ultimate Guide To Bullet Journal for Beginners in case you’re just starting your Bullet Journal.
In this post, we are looking at the Bullet Journal key, but some other pages you should look into afterward are:
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What Is A Bullet Journal Key
If you look at a Bullet Journal spread, you might notice that there are special symbols used next to each entry. This secret code is actually a part of rapid logging – a Bullet Journal language.
All information in a Bullet Journal is written in bullets – short sentences paired with symbols, that allow us to easily categorize them visually. Your key is a reference guide for these symbols.
The key will help you to:
- Classify your entries
- Stay organized
- Save time and effort
- View your day/week/month at a glance
- Make your entries look nicer and cleaner
Moreover, like all the elements of a Bullet Journal, you can easily customize your key to your own personal needs. But before we discuss that let’s start from the basics.
Original Bullet Journal Key
The Bullet Journal system is a way to write down information based on rapid logging. All information is written in bullets – short sentences paired with symbols, that allow to easily categorize them visually.
According to the classic Bullet Journal format, all information is divided by tasks, events, and notes. And each of these has its own signifier. The Bullet Journal key is the place where you write down what signifiers you use and what do they mean. It’s practically a code to crack the meaning of your notes.
The signifiers also reflect how are you doing with the project: completed, migrated, scheduled, irrelevant.
> migrated task from next day
< migrated task to future log
X completed task
You can see below an example of the original key setup.
Bullet Journal is famous for being completely customizable. This is true for your key as well. We all have different needs, so if you need to add some extra division for your notes – add whatever you need.
You probably need a different set of symbols for school than you do for work, so use the original system as a general direction and feel free to think of your own key.
One recommendation though – less is more, so don’t try to use too many signifiers. They must be simple to remember and straight to the point.
Some ideas are:
Bullet Journal Key Hacks
Here are a few hacks to make sure you get the most out of your Key spread.
Make It Easily Accessible
You can write down your key at any place in your Bullet Journal, but it’s always best to do it at the beginning. Why?
You will be referencing your key a lot, especially if you’re new to Bullet journaling or if you’re adding some new signifiers this time. So it’ll be more convenient if you make this page easily accessible.
Make it one of the first pages in your Bullet Journal, or maybe just add a little flag to the key spread so you can easily find it.
Color Code Key
A lot of people in the Bullet Journal community color code their journals. Color-coding is assigning special colors to certain things and this allows you to get a better understanding of the information at a glance. It helps you clarify your entries and makes it easier to visually understand your notes.
You can create colors for different types of tasks, like chores, something urgent something time-consuming, something important.
Or, you can divide your colors by different areas of your life:
- Home: home improvements, bills, home maintenance
- Family: doctor’s appointments, school events, extra classes
- Personal: hobbies, meetups, health
- Friends: birthdays, meetups, gifts, dinner parties
- Work: deadlines, projects, business trips
- Personal Development: side projects, online courses, books
- Finances: payday, bills, savings
Find the best way to color-code your entries and add the code to your key, like some of the artists below.
In this key the colors are assigned to different types of activities. You can think of what kind of things you usually do and start that way.
I also really love the handwriting here, so straight and beautiful.
Another beautiful key with perfect handwriting. This time it’s divided into kind of areas of life: work, social, pet.
And I’m loving how she added my favorite Zebra Mildliners to the color code.
I love how simple the division in categories is here.
it’s kind of different types of activities, and I definitely admire that there is a section for “me time”, something we all really need.
Love the shadow effect of the color-coding.
And to be honest this is probably the basic color coding division I’d start with. Except for I’d probably use my puppy instead of health and fitness.
Washi Tape Your Key
Your signifiers are the key to your entries, but I know often you forget what signifiers mean, especially if it’s your first Bullet Journal or if you use a color code. It just takes a while to get used to them all – I sure struggled when I started.
While you can actually just flip through to your first page every time, there is one more option – to use washi tape and add a key to the cover of your journal. That way if you need it you can just flip it out and keep it in front of you while you’re taking notes. I love this technique because that way if you don’t need a key anymore you can just take it out.
Add Key To Your Monthly Log
Another trick you might want to use is to add your key on the side of your monthly log. It’ll be a great help, especially if you use color-coding.
Repeating the same colors from your key every month will help you memorize all those better, and it’s easier to find your key in your monthly spread if needed instead of flipping through the whole journal.
Don’t Overcomplicate It
A very important thing to remember is to not overcomplicate your signifiers. Remember, the goal of the signifiers is to simplify your entries.
If you have a million different icons for each kind of task, you’ll get lost in remembering them all, and creating entries will become more confusing than simple.
My Bullet Journal Key
I’ve tried a lot of different things with my code – I used many signifiers, I had color coding. But in the end, I realized that the fewer signifiers I have the better it works for me.
The fewer signifiers really simplify the note-taking process and allow me to concentrate more on the tasks.
I use little squares for my tasks, which I color when the task is completed. I cross them out for being irrelevant and add a little arrow if I just move them to another day.
For notes, I use just a dot and for events a circle. If it’s something very important, I might use an exclamation mark, but I wouldn’t say it’s a part of my everyday key.
And finally, I have a special symbol for birthdays – a triangle. This is really something I’m using mostly in my future log though because I love to see from one glance what birthdays I should be prepared for soon.
How To Create a Bullet Journal Key
When you sit down to create your Bullet Journal key, I really recommend you to take some time and think a bit about it. Here is how you approach this process.
1. Think about what you need.
Take a minute to reflect on your everyday life. What do you need to log in to your journal? Are you a student and need to write down lots of school-related things? Or a mom and need to divide your schedule between your kids? This will help you see your symbols’ needs.
2. Create your signifiers.
Once you have an idea of what you might be needed, you can easily decide on what signifies you need, if you need any color coding and such.
Don’t make your list of symbols too complicated in design – remember it’s something you should be able to quickly jot in your BuJo.
3. Organize Your Signifiers in the Key
Finally, write them down on an easily accessible page. The easiest way it’s just to write a Key on the top of the page and write down your signifiers and their meaning below.
If you’re also using color coding, you might want to do it in two columns.
I have two tips for you here:
- Create your spread in pencil first. This will allow you to center everything better and avoid mistakes.
- Leave some space for any modifications. As you go you might find yourself in need of some other signifiers, so leave space to write them down here later.
Bullet Journal Key Ideas
To boost your creative juices, I’ve gathered here some amazing key designs.
There are many different designs you can use for your key and I personally always find it difficult to decide which one to do.
Hopefully, these pages will give you some ideas.
Flowers always are a great choice and this one is no exception. The tropical leaves make it look even more summer-like.
If you don’t know how to doodle those check my post How To Draw Beautiful Flowers In Your Bullet Journal.
Beautiful key page and I always love using kraft paper in my Bullet Journal.
My go-to source for kraft paper would be an Archer and Olive notepad since it also has a dot grid and it’s very easy to keep things straight. And you can get one with 10% off if you use my code MASHA10.
An amazing example of how a simple black and white page can look absolutely gorgeous.
This is probably my preferred style for the basic pages like the key spread. I like to keep it kind of neutral.
A simple key is straight to the point. This one has a lot of signifiers though.
If you decide to start with this amount as well, just give yourself an option of not using them all. Some might stick but some might end up being unnecessary as you start using them more.
Watercolor botanical doodles are always beautiful to decorate pages, especially if you need to fill out all the empty space one usually has on a key spread.
I’d definitely recommend a Skillshare class by Peggy Dean on watercolor florals to learn how to draw those. You can take this class and thousands more for FREE with a 2-week trial you can get with my link.
If you’re looking for something magical, this is a good inspiration.
And if you’re looking for more check my post Harry Potter Bullet Journal Inspirations.
It’s a beautiful key page and mandalas are always a classy and beautiful way to decorate your Bullet Journal.
If you never drew one check my post How To Draw And Use Mandalas In Your Bullet Journal.
Simple adds to design like a hollow font and a few drawings of leaves can make a page look so pretty.
This hollow font is actually pretty easy to do, check it out in my post Creative Font To Use In Your Bullet Journal.
Love the watercolor in the background and the beautiful sunset colors.
Also, the contrast between the colors and the dark black looks great.
I’m so in love with this effect of color splashes.
I’m wondering how this was achieved while the keys and the letters stay white.
Again a very beautiful contrast between the bright yellow and the thick black.
I love how much character the little details add, like the grey shadows and the thin outlines.
This is all you need to know to create your own signifier system and make a key page. What signifiers do you use? Do you have a creative key page or just a practical one? Share your reply in the comments section below.
Don’t forget to join Planning Mashers and get access to a fantastic community and our Resources Vault, where among other things we have a few printable key pages for you!
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And remember: Keep Bullet Journaling and Don’t Be A Blob!