Bullet Journal Method: 3 Staple Methods For Beginners

A quick search on the web and seeing the elaborate systems and designs of bullet journals can be intimidating. The best solution I found was to stick to the basics. Here, I’ve listed the three staple methods that I found helped me when I was starting out with my own bullet journal.

What Are The 3 Basic Bullet Journal Methods?

Bullet journal methods are the different structures you can use to form the contents of your bullet journal. There are a variety of methods you can use, and you can even make your own. There 3 methods, however, that are considered standard.

  • Ryder Carroll Method
  • Alastair Method
  • The Calendex Method

What’s the best method for you? Let’s explore each method’s strengths, and which one may be better for you.

If you need layouts for each one, I also added some samples from Instagram!

If you’re looking for the best bullet journal notebooks, click here to find our recommendations on what is the best!

The Ryder Carroll Method: The Foundation Of Bullet Journaling

One of the best ways to start bullet journaling is through the original method, as developed by Ryder Carroll.

It’s a simple, minimalistic method that requires mostly just a pen and a notebook. You can use a ruler just to make things cleaner when drawing lines for the future log, monthly, weekly, and daily spread.

If you’re new to bullet journaling and want to explore the standard spreads, terms and practices, this may be the best one to start with.

If you need a guide for bullet journal terms, here’s one I made for you.

Check out this short but helpful video on how the Ryder Carroll Method works, as taught by Carroll himself on his official Youtube Channel.

As you can see from the video, it’s a very easy method to use for beginners.

Almost all the other methods have this as their foundation, only tweaking it to suit their individual needs.

While the basic method is minimalist in nature, people have injected a few of their twists to it. Here are some of the more creative ways people have used his method.

For a full guide on starting a minimalist bullet journal, click here!

You can see that, while they imbued their creativity unto the page, the structure itself is still very simple and easy to do.

Why it may be for you:

  • Beginner friendly
  • Easy to start and keep track of
  • Little tools needed
  • Eagle’s eye view of your plans for the year

For  more minimalist users of bullet journals, the advantages of the Ryder Carroll method may be enough for you. It gives you a good grasp of what’s to come throughout the year with the future log, and a solid system all around to manage your monthly, weekly, and daily tasks.

Why it may not be for you:

  • Some have found it hard to plan future tasks in detail

Some have found that planning things in detail with this method difficult, mainly because future events have yet to be logged in the dailies.

While planning in detail is usually made in the collection spread, the date itself may be hard to keep track of because the day of the event itself has not yet been logged in any of the blank pages.

This brings us to the following 2 methods that try to address these issues, read on for more.

If you want to start a simple bullet journal, feel free to swipe left or right to find out how. You can also follow the link for guide on how to make your own simple bullet journal

Alastair Method: Further Simplification

The Alastair Method was developed by Alastair Johnston, a convert to the bullet journal system, who found the analog nature of the journal refreshing.

However, he did find the system difficult to update. Having boxes for each month meant either to little space, or too much, depending on how busy the month was. For Alastair it was too self-contained.

So, he developed his own method for bullet journaling.

Originally meant for the future log, he would create a series of thin columns to the left-hand side of a blank page for each month, then named the tasks on a wider column to the right-hand side.

There was no order to the tasks, just the notes and a date. To find which month it fell under, he marked the corresponding month with a dot.

It’s an easy fix for an aspect he found didn’t work for him.

Here’s a helpful video on how the Alastair Method works, and how you can put a twist that can work for your whole journal.

While you can choose the minimalistic approach to this method, here’s a creative way to do it.

Why it may be for you:

  • Great for those with plenty to do in a month
  • Space isn’t an issue
  • Easier to update
  • More flexible

This is a simpler form of the Ryder Method, making use of smaller columns and lists to keep track of changing plans and save space.

This would work great for you if you need more flexibility with planning, and would want less time to log each entry.

Why it may not be for you:

  • Not in chronological order
  • Harder for a bird’s eye view of your year

Now that the tasks aren’t contained in a box per month, each entry will no longer be listed in chronological order. This has the obvious advantage of convenience but will also be harder to spot.

Also, some have found that not having a bird’s eye view of your plans for the year is a disadvantage.

Of course, each feature is relative to the user and some may not find the same weaknesses others have.

In response to not having a bird’s eye view of the year, the next method was developed.

The Alistair method is also a popular method used in making an exercise tracker. If you want to find one of your own, you can find 60 of the best exercise trackers I could find on Instagram here.

Here’s one of the ways the bullet journal community uses the Alastair Method.

For @itsmrsscience, she used the alastair method for her weekly spread, which is pretty popular around the community. It’s a useful way to keep track of the things you need to do weekly and could stand in to incorporate your weekly tasks.

The Calendex: An Alternative Way of Future Planning

Developed by Eddy Hope, the Calendex Method method sought to address the difficulty of planning future events while still having the advantage of the bird’s eye view of your year.

His solution was to merge the bullet journal index with the future log, hence the name Calendex.

The system requires you to lay out the year across 12 columns, with rows numbered from 1 to 31 at either side. The columns would then be broken down into weeks through horizontal lines. 

This will replace the calendar and index, and can function as your monthly and weekly spread. Of course, you can still choose to use those two spread under your discretion.

From there, any event that comes up during the day, you may now log into your daily spread. Taking note of the page, you may now log the page number in your calendex.

To learn more about the Calendex Method Future Log, check out this article.

There are many creative ways to execute this method, here are some ideas to get your juices flowing.

Why it may be for you:

  • In depth planning for each entry
  • Easy to log
  • Bird’s eye view of the year

This is great for those who need in-depth planning for events and other tasks. It’s easy to log, and you don’t need to worry about the space or page numbers when listing it down.

It addresses many of the issues of the previous two, with the chronology, space, and flexibility.

Why it may not be for you:

  • More complicated to set up
  • Will have to turn to many other pages per entry

The downside to this is that it reduces the simplicity of the bullet journal. Setting it up, may require more time and tools for it to be executed properly.

While it gives you the bird’s eye view of the year, turning to each separate page when planning can become tedious.

Here’s an example of the Calendex from @gray.and.copper

Her version is different from the standard version of the calendex but is equally as effective because it house it’s core principles.


Finding the right method for you will require time and actual experience. For me, I started with the Ryder Carroll Method and tweaked it until I found the right balance.

Many others have created hybrids of these three methods and have found great success in it. They key is to find what works for you, and what will make it easier for you to stick to it.

Below are interactive summaries of guide on bullet journaling. From making your own simple bullet journal, to bullet journal ideas you can use to fill your notebook.

Feel free to swipe left or right and find what you need!


Jm here! I run the Scribbler Planet website. If you're new to bullet journals and journaling, I think I can help you out. I've always had problems with keeping on track with what I'm doing, so when I heard bullet journaling could help I tried my hand at it. Here we are about a year later and I'm glad to say it significantly helped. Here's hoping I can help you do the same!

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