Open Journalling — Introduction — Getting Started

I just want to write a bit about what I think isn’t exactly new, but is based on a bunch of other stuff, and hopefully is pulling together some ideas in a new way.

I am wanting to create a different version of what often are “different journalling systems” and are seen separate, but really shouldn’t be.

These journalling systems are ones which are at least primarily paper based.  This is for personal reasons, and they are discussed below.  The idea here is that these really aren’t independent ideas, and that they ideas that I want to present can’t really be set in a single system.  So I’m creating this.


I will start by saying that I am not trying to do anything to take stuff from other people, and I probably couldn’t do so myself.  I am not someone who is good with success.  I don’t like it, and really I haven’t found success (for the most part).  So I don’t want, or expect this to take off and become, “the next big thing.”

That said, what I do want, is to produce something which does not violate the ideals of the Open Psychology Project (which we’re considering changing the name of, and always have been) of openness and accessibility.

So, we are looking at different journalling systems, and trying to find ways that we can make something that we can share, call our own (whoever ends up contributing), and allow other people to do the same.


First, I am offering a bit of an “origin story” which parts have already been told here.  This direction has come from a number of different ideas coming together, but a few different key ones are that on the YouTube Channel, How to ADHD, I saw a video about doing Bullet Journals.  This got me thinking about Bullet Journals, which got me working on setting up a Bullet Journal myself, and I think it really is a great concept.

But then I also have a few problems with it.  First off, I think that the goals are great, and all the individual tools that are part of it are great.  There’s really nothing wrong with that aspect of it but I have a few issues:

  • The basic setup is too complex for some people
    • It’s a great system if people can understand the whole thing all at once, but some people can’t
  • There is too much of a “right way/wrong way” feel that people end up getting from it.
    • This is partially because Bullet Journal, is a proper noun, the whole thing is “owned” (as best I can by one person) who developed it for himself.
    • This is more to do with the idea that there is a right and wrong, which is just a societal problem.
  • This is at least partially protected by intellectual property laws.
    • I have seen no evidence to support that the originator has made an effort to make it open.
    • Unless declared otherwise, by law (in most jurisdictions) published work is covered under Copyright
    • The intellectual property rights thing is a “block” to our concept of openness.


So, here is where we are, and why we are building this “Open Journalling” (can’t find that someone else is using the term in this manner).  So I want to come up with some ideas about this, which I hope to expand on in the future:

  • Open Journalling is open…
    • This system is not protected as copyright or patented material (sources may be, which may require components either be removed, or changed)
    • People may use this how they want and contribute to the core if they so desire.
    • Any software form of this will be released under some “Free Libre Open Source License” FLOSS license.
    • Any non-software content created for this will be released under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA currently)
  • This system is first off flexible.
    • The first part about this is this is intended to be flexible, and that you bring what you want to it.
  • There technically are no core components
    • This is tricky, because it will look like there are, at least in initial forms of it, this how to get started will have core components in it.
  • This system is currently paper based, though the ideas can be transferred to your own electronic format.
    • We may be putting some sort of app together at some point.
    • Paper based is for a number of reasons.
      • It works for me.
      • Physicality
      • Cost/accessibility
      • Permanence (stability of access to the content).
  • The core intentions are:
    • This is to help people “get things done.”
    • This needs to work for the individuals involved.
    • The starting team (two of us currently) are using it in part due to disability issues.
    • Disability should be accommodated (this is part of why the simplified version will be presented).
    • The individual builds their own system (in the end it has to be individualized).
  • Principles include:
    • Open content.
    • Intention of non-encumbered components.
      • Many things will come from other systems, we try to consider whether we can use them as “fair use” or “open”.
    • Credit is to be given to sources.
      • Inspiration sources should be mentioned.
      • Components based on other sources should clearly have that stated.
      • Attempts to find original sources should be made.
    • Commercial use is allowed, under the relevant licenses.

That itself is more than I really wanted to write as an introduction, and a lot of this will probably end up changing as I write more about it.  I am going to want to have feedback, and will have a contact form at the bottom of this post, and will eventually work on a contact page so people have means to contact us.

Getting Started

Here I am going to take a bit of a break from actually writing, as I want to provide some pictures of what I am talking about, and I don’t have recent ones.

I am going to talk about a few different components and concepts, which for me are a very good starting place, and I will be using my actual journal as an example:

  • Notebook and pen
  • Page Numbers
  • Non-Linear:
    • Linearity not required more than it will be non-linear.
  • One thing per page
  • Page Headers
  • Components:
    • Key
    • Index
    • Daily Log

So here we go:

Notebook and Pen

This really should probably be stated (I almost forgot).  This system is based on your notebook, and a pen (or pencil) as the two basic tools.  The notebook and pen are whatever you want to use.  Nothing special here.

Your notebook can be a cheap “scribbler” or whatever you want to use.  If you happen to have a blank notebook, just use that.

Page Numbers

So, this is an interesting thing that I’m taking from Bullet Journals (but I think it’s a common thing), is the use of page numbers.  Now one thing that is interesting is that the basis is a “basic notebook” is where you start with this.

I use a different format for “front material” (upper case Roman Numerals) than for my main material, but I write them by hand as I am creating my journal.

I put the page numbers on the outer corner on the bottoms of the page.

Non Linear Content

The creation of the content does not need to be in a literal format.  Part of this is simply separating things out, but part of it is also “just put stuff where you want it”.

The page numbers in part come into play here.  Because the pages are numbered when you are creating content.  You don’t need to number the pages when you start, you can work with blocks of numbering or whatever.  I like to number all the pages at the creation of the journal.  You can also buy journals with numbered pages.

There are ways which we deal with this non linear format, and the one I will talk about is the Index.  There are other ways which we can use as well (none of which I have used myself).

One Thing Per Page

This is something which to me is related to the index, and what I think about the way that you can identify the pages as you are flipping through.

For me, a page title (which I put on the upper outside edge of a page) should refer to the whole content of the page.  These are really simple, but you don’t do a “sketch” and a “daily log” on the same thing.

For me, I prefer to keep a page spread (two facing pages) to be one topic, but this is a personal thing, and some people don’t really stick to that.

Keeping page spreads together, and also keeping one whole topic together (like the meeting notes or something) contributes to the non-linear nature of how things work out.

Page Headers

Page headers are what tell you what is on the page.  I don’t always manage to put them in before I start working on a page/spread, but I intend to.

I put page headers on the outer top corner of the pages.  I keep it simple, things like “Index,” “Daily Log” (or simply Daily), “Future,” “Notes,” “Meeting,” or whatever it might be.  It might be “Sketch” or “Doodle” if I’m doing that.  It’s an identifier of the page.

As I said, I try not to combine different content on a single page, but that may change, if for example I am writing notes, and I decide that a little drawing will be needed, or something like that.


What I am calling components, are the different types of pages that you will have.  I am keeping this to what I consider to be the bare minimum.  I can see this trimmed down even further, but it is a good place to start, and I think that there is a good reason to use all these tools, and none of them are all that difficult to understand…


I am writing these as I put them in the book (ie. as they fit in the journal when I am setting it up).  The pages are in the order they come in the book, but they don’t really work quite as well in terms of understanding them as they show up in the book, but that’s partially because the “front material” is references or notes for the later material.  So here we go.

Journal Key with the key entries for ways of marking my content.

Detail of the Journal Key. It lists my journal key items.

This is the detail the journal key.  The Journal Key is what there is for the content and I have it broken down into 4 different sections, and these are really not that well defined yet, because for me I am just mostly writing based on what is in the Bullet Journal system.  Some of this stuff I feel it is important to have as different things to look at differently (what you use is not that important).

  • · – I use a “middle dot” to indicate to do items.
    • This does not show up well in the text.
    • The “to do” indicator I think is important, but some other version may decide it is not.
  • o – I use an o to indicate an “event”
    • Events are things of “note”.  Birthdays, anniversaries, moon phases, whatever you want to note.
    • The “event” is not really something I use a lot of, and probably is something that I would say to simplify, you don’t need.
  • – – I use a hyphen to have a “note”
    • Notes are things which you are taking note of, but aren’t to-do, or events.
    • I use these when I am taking notes in a meeting, or when I am writing some notes about some ideas I have.
    • I keep these short.  This journal has no notes in it that I remember.  No longer ones yet.
  • With the “to do” items I feel that I need a variety of ways to handle them.
    • I agree with the “deal with each event” idea that Ryder (I think that’s how you spell his name) before moving to the next day.
    • This “deal with” is not really part of the “getting started” thing, but because it’s here I will at least note what the indicators mean.
    • With the “to do” dot, when you are going through the events you mark that dot different ways.
    • X – Indicates that you have done that event (on that day, week, month, or whatever the timescale of the page is)
    • Strikeout the event (through the dot) to indicate you are “dropping” the event.  You are deciding it is irrelevant.
    • > – Arrow to the right, you are moving that to the next item in “that timescale”.
    • < – Arrow to the left, you are moving it back to the enclosing “larger” timescale.
    • / – Slash through the dot, this is my thing, but it’s helpful for me, it means work has been done on that item.
  • Signifiers are important to note, but also sort of not part of the “getting started” so I’m just going to briefly note my thoughts on them.
    • I use signifiers (and I rarely actually use them) as an indicator of how the “to do” “event” or “note” should be looked back on.
    • They are ways to indicate more detail, without putting too much effort.
    • I have a very brief list, it’s just some starting out stuff.
      • * – Indicates this is something important, and I may want to note it quickly coming back.
      • ! – I use an exclamation point to indicate something is an inspiration for something else.
      • 👁 – I use an eye icon to indicate I want to look into more detail of this.
  • Abbreviations These are just a list of short forms of things that I use in my notes.  The list could become long, but mine is quite short.
2 page spread with Journal Key at the top, and various entries below.

Journal Key Spread, this shows the Roman Numerals at the bottom, as well as how this looks as a spread

This is how the journal key spread looks.

Most of what I talk about is talked about above.  You can see that I have written “Journal Key” on the outer top corners.  And on the bottom outer corners, I have I, and II to indicate page numbers.

I have already talked about how those work, but I wanted to give a bit of a visual of how that looks in my own journal.


The index is the next component.  The Index is part of how we have things in a non-linear form.  You can find stuff here.

Of course with it being all by hand, it will probably need a bit of work on a regular basis to keep it up to date.

There are also other ways to handle some of this stuff.

text with Index at the top and different entries with page nuimbers after them.

The content I have put in the index. This is a very new journal, and really does not have a lot of stuff.

This is a detail of my index.

The Index spread looks much like the Journal Key spread, so I am not making a note of it.

There really isn’t a lot here to say anything about.  What I have is different categories of things, and I am noting the page numbers of each one.

The crossed out numbers are “mistakes”.  I made note of the page, but then things ended up on different pages.  Or in some cases “will end up” on different pages.

Something to note, I have Daily listed, and a couple of pages crossed out.  At the time of updating this, I hadn’t updated to put where I had been putting Dail Log content, so it looks like things are a bit out of whack (and they are actually).

Daily Log

The Daily log is the core content of the journal.

This to me is probably one of the main purposes of the journal.  This is entries created for each day, on that day.  This is only planning for the day you are in, and stuff which has happened that you want to take note of.

daily log with red ribbon bookmark.

The spread that the daily log shows. This shows the Arabic Numerals for my “main content” as well as the ribbon bookmark which marks the current main entry point.

This is a spread of the journal daily log.

There are a few slight differences from the Journal Key spread.

First off, instead of Roman Numerals, we are using Arabic Numerals.  In this case 9 and 10.

Second, something that you might want to think about, as you can see the “10” is slightly folded, this is not intentional, it is something that was happening with working with it one day.

Third, you may note I have “gaps” here.  And one thing of note is that today is the 31st, and there is no entry for the 30th, or the 31st.  This is because “I forgot”.

The other thing to note, is the use of the ribbon bookmark.  This bookmark is just where I am currently.  I like the way the ribbons work as they can nicely stay in place, unlike what I more commonly use as bookmarks, which is business cards, which have a habit (at least with my other journal) of falling out, and will get in the way, so I’m thinking of actually looking for some ribbons to use as bookmarks which probably will not be attached as this one is, because doing that would either be clunky, or difficult.

various notes from a journal, with two different days

Detail of the Daily Log, containing notes I have made in my daily log.

Detail of the daily log.

First of note, is this is not how things are intended to look.  I forgot to fully handle the 28th, so a lot of items don’t have an indication of what I have done with them.

That is just how things were (and mostly still are).  And I decided to leave these with them as they are, rather than try to get this to look the way it should.  I have not changed anything (that I remember) to this since I photographed it.

What is shown here is how I have handled “to do” items, and completed to do items, as well as a brief note.

The items with just the dot, are things I intended to do (though sometimes not expecting to do them).  I should have them (at this point) moved to the next day, or whatever.

I am about to look at today, and probably plans for tomorrow.  Other stuff will probably be coming up as I want to have some stuff for who I have started working with.

The intention of creating this with this person is in part “how do we work together”…  I am finding that I need to figure that out a little differently, and not quite sure how to do it.

Please feel free to use this contact form.  (and removed due to massive levels of spam)

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