Creative Ways to use a Bullet Journal Key

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I haven’t used a key or legend since teaching map skills to second graders over a decade ago. The bullet journal brought the use of the key out of the geography books and into the mainstream. I am here to tell you that it has so much more untapped potential.  I have used a key countless times as both a teacher and designer, but I have to thank Ryder Carroll, the creator of The Bullet Journal Method for reintroducing the key in a new way.  Just a little makeover and the concept of a “Key” can be transformed for use in your professional and personal life

What is a Bullet Journal Key?

The bullet journaling method was created to help organize information with minimal content through the use of symbols and lists. The bullet journal key serves as a visual reference guide for all the symbols used in the journal or planner.  This method provides the user with a system that is quick, clear and customizable.  What’s not to love? The best part is that a key can be used outside of bullet journaling too.

Now, let’s imagine you could customize a key that makes different parts of your life easier and quicker.  A customized key to enhance shopping lists, errands, goals, and schedules are just the beginning. If you are thinking who needs a key for these everyday tasks, just keep on reading to see what a difference a few symbols can make.

Using a Bullet Journal key with lists

The purpose of a bullet journal key is to visually identify and organize items quickly. Each person’s mind works in a unique way, so customizing a key to organize your thoughts and lists can be a huge time saver. For instance, when I am create a grocery shopping list I brainstorm all the items I need into a list. This made me less likely to forget items, but it didn’t help organize my shopping. I often had to go back to an aisle I already visited because I had already passed an item on the bottom of the list. I found that if I added a few symbols and a key I could make shopping much easier.  A simple symbol in front of the item on the list that signified where the item is located in the store made a huge difference. I could quickly glance at the list and make sure I got all the items. This meant I didn’t waste time going back and forth throughout the store.

Get Creative with Bullet Journal Key Use

Less time spent on errands meant more time I could spend reaching my goals or doing the things I loved. It made perfect sense to incorporate this system into as many things as possible.  I used different bullet journal keys as my inspiration to find a way to use a key to simplify personal and professional tasks.

Check out how I used bullet journal keys to inspire creative ways to organize and simplify tasks to help me live my best life:

Bullet Journal Key Schedules

Most schedules are based on time rather than type of activity. As I have moved towards a more flexible lifestyle I have found that scheduling time blocks was more effective. This allowed me to fill blocks in with compatible activities from a group of possibilities that needed to get done. This method truly increased my productivity and satisfaction (more about this in an upcoming article). Days rarely go as planned and I found that using a custom key for daily or weekly tasks that designated the importance and time needed was much more realistic.  I just fill in time blocks as the day unfolds and by the end of the week all the tasks are done. This method has been a game changer for my personal and professional life.

Bullet Journal Key on a Travel Itinerary

As I was planning a two week trip to Europe, I searched for a travel itinerary template that would meet my needs. I couldn’t find one, so I used a custom key to update an excel template. The travel itinerary shown below uses a key with special characters rather than image icons. I purposely did this so I can sort in excel by any column. This file can be easily sorted to see which items are places, activities, or food/drink related. This design allowed me to quickly check that I hadn’t forgotten something important like reservations. It also allowed me to print a one sheet itinerary that was compact and complete. 

Checklists that use Bullet Journal Keys

I used the example of my grocery list above, but just about any checklist can be improved with a key. You can start with any basic checklists and add your own custom key. I did this with a premade checklist below to illustrate how easy it is. It is clear that the addition of a basic key can help you organize and track any checklist. A key for a checklist can be used for things such as: packing lists for a trip, to do lists, shopping lists, and planner lists.

Planning Checklist with Key

Personalize the Bullet Journal Key to work for you you

Personalizing a key to fit your purpose and lifestyle has become an invaluable tool in my life. I use the key method in many areas of my life and my organization and productivity have skyrocketed.

The beauty of this technique is that each person can find a unique way to use and personalize the key. The photo below shows the way this bullet journal enthusiast expanded on the key to fit her life. 

She has a key symbol for each of her kids so she can differentiate between their activities. She also adds a question mark before her symbols to show what is flexible. This helps to keep “unplanned” items on the radar. I think these two additions are genius ways to personalize the bullet journal key.

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