So, what exactly is a bullet journal future log? In this plump yet no-frills post, you’ll learn what the future log is, how it works, plus how to make and use it in your own BuJo.
The future log is the section in your bullet journal for temporarily storing future tasks. At the start of each month, all scheduled commitments for that month in the future log are migrated over to the new monthly log. Aided by task migration, the future log is an effective organizer and productivity booster.
What Is the Future Log in Bullet Journaling?
It’s one of three modules in your bullet journal where you can migrate unfinished tasks to and from. The other two modules are the next day’s log (or, simply, the weekly log) and the monthly log.
Think of your future log as a birds-eye-view of the major commitments you’ve got going on for the next six months to a year. Important things scheduled far enough in advance are recorded in the future log. It’s an integral gear in the bullet journaling method.
Here’s the bare-bones future log originated by Ryder Carroll, the BuJo architect: asdf original future log by Carroll
How Does the Future Log Work?
Our overwhelmed brain tends to forget stuff, but the future log fixes that. Like a colander, it collects all the “bigger” things we must do but can’t until later – before they’re lost down the mental drainpipe.
On its own, the future log seems no different than an ordinary calendar. However, Ryder Carroll ingeniously designed it to work as part of a robust framework called task migration. Within this setup, the future log transforms into a precious productivity hack. How so?
The Power of Task Migration
In a nutshell, the whole point of task migration is to make you deal with all of your written tasks, with no exceptions. No matter where an unfinished task ends up, it will require an eventual decision from you. Carroll’s system forces you to be accountable to yourself!
Consider this example. You suddenly think of planning an overdue trip with your buddies to see other mutual buddies in another city. You’re excited and can’t wait to get started on the itinerary after work. Thus, you jot down the task in today’s daily log, intending to process it by day’s end.
Alas! The day’s over and you had no time to process the task, so the bullet journaling method requires you to migrate it. You decide to migrate it to your future log since, realistically, you likely won’t have time for the remainder of this month.
Time flies, and as you’re reviewing your future log at the beginning of a new month, the task pops up again. Now, you’ve gotta make another decision:
- Migrate the task back to either the daily or monthly log to complete it, or
- leave it in the future log for yet another month, or
- maybe the idea isn’t feasible, so cross it out altogether.
Whatever the case, you’ve dealt with it yet again. This cycle will repeat until the task is no more.
If a regular calendar is like a kitchen cupboard, then the bullet journal future log is like a fridge. Any stored items can’t be left for too long in the latter because they have expiry dates. Sooner or later, you’ll have to check them and decide whether they’re worth consuming or garbage. Similarly, task migration encourages you to periodically check up on your “refrigerated” tasks and either tick them off or chuck them out. It’s a massive productivity booster!
Future Log vs. Monthly Log
What’s the difference between the future and monthly logs? Simply put, the view.
The future log is like a view of the whole city, where major landmarks stand out but smaller details are insignificant. Those major landmarks in your life, already firmly established, belong in this section.
The monthly log zooms in, where only nearby landmarks come into detailed focus. Also, other lesser things within the range become more apparent.
So, any big events in the future log that happen to fall under the current month should be migrated over. Monthly logs could also include routine tasks such as work shifts, class times, and scheduled errands. In addition, habit trackers (i.e. for diet, sleep, mood, fitness, etc.) and monthly logs are usually kept together.
If I use a future log, do I even need to keep monthly logs?
No, you don’t. But maintaining monthly logs gives you a specialized space for lesser tasks that would otherwise clog up your future log. Plus, if you’re into habit trackers, you might as well set up corresponding monthly logs.
Steps to Using the Future Log in a Bullet Journal
1. Set Your Future Log Up
To set up your future log, you’ll need to 1) determine how far into the future you’re going to track and 2) create your layout with the next month as the starting point.
How Far Into the Future?
Most BuJo’ers opt for either a 6-month or 12-month future log. Which you choose largely depends on how quickly you fill up your notebook.
A useful tip. If you’re the type that loves to manage everything and pack your life up to the brim, then you’ll assuredly go through a notebook within six months.
Create Your Layout
Carroll’s minimalist bullet journal future log is foolproof and oh-so-simple to copy. For your first layout, I’d start with his. Of course, once you understand how this whole system works, you can design any functionally pretty layout you want. A bit more on this later.
Lastly, start your future log with the next month. So, if you’re making this module in January, then label the first section “February”. If the current month is April, then enter “May” as the first month.
2. Record Your Future Commitments
Record all of your future commitments by writing them in their respective month’s section. Here are common commitments you’d want to enter in the future log:
- booked appointments
- time off work and school
- special events
- anything and everything that requires prescheduling
Notation structure. For each commitment, adhere to the recommended notation structure. Don’t get creative here; just follow the rule. Write the date first, followed by a brief description of the task, like this:
- 17 Family reunion @ Uncle Pat’s (i.e. This event is scheduled for the 17th of the month it falls under.)
You could do a massive brain dump the first time you record your commitments, leaving no stone unturned. Or, you could start with the most prominent ones now and add others to the list as they come to mind. Either way, an authentic future log is not static. (This article guides you through how to do a successful brain dump.)
3. Regularly Migrate Tasks To and From
Remember, without task migration, the future log is nothing more than a crude calendar. Maximize its potential by using it the way it’s meant to be used. How?
At the Start of Every New Month
At the start of every new month, migrate all of the scheduled tasks for this month FROM your future log over to the new monthly log. For example, if today were February 1st, you’d take everything under the February section of your future log, and rewrite them in your new February monthly log.
What about unfinished tasks from the previous monthly log? You could either migrate these to the future log or forward them to the new monthly log, depending on when you think they’ll get done.
A useful tip. For simplicity’s sake, only migrate stuff FROM your future log once a month, preferably at the start. However, you can migrate tasks TO the future log whenever you want, such as at the end of a day or as soon as you establish another future commitment.
How To Make Your Future Log
You only need two components to make a fully working future log:
- A section for each of the upcoming months and
- enough space within each section to record your tasks.
Everything else is fluff. Seriously, it’s this simple. I’ve already shown you the basic setup Ryder Carroll himself uses in his bullet journal. Draw two horizontal lines across a double-paged spread, dividing it into six equal parts, and voila! You’ve recreated the original module, ready to undertake the next half-year.
Useful tip #1. The future log is a crucial reference and should thus be put at the front of your bullet journal. Most people insert it right after the index.
Useful tip #2. Allot at least two to four pages for your future log.
Here are some other variations from around the web:
Bullet Journal Future Log Hacks
The Alastair Method
A guy named Alastair Johnston wanted to make the future log even quicker to scan and process. His setup incorporates six months and dots to plot upcoming plans.
The advantage. This method lets you track commitments using one ongoing list without having to worry about the order of items or running out of space. Also, the setup itself smoothens the task migration from the future log.
The layout. The Alastair Method of future logging uses a stupidly simple layout. Here are the steps:
- Starting from the left side of the page, count six columns. Each column represents one month. At the top of each column, label the month using vertically oriented text.
- Draw a vertical line down the entire page length at the end of this section. You now have a page divided into two parts – a thinner margin containing the months, and a wider section to the right for writing tasks.
To use it…
- List your future tasks using the basic notation structure in the right-hand section (i.e. specific date + description).
- On the same row of each task, put a dot in the matching month’s column to the left. Each dot signifies the exact month the corresponding task falls under.
- When it’s time to migrate your tasks, you simply have to scan down the relevant month’s column, and rewrite any with dots in that particular column in the monthly log.
The Hope Method
Eddy Hope, another intelligent being, decided to combine the BuJo index and calendar to create a future log hybrid – a “calendex”. Using a double-paged spread, Hope’s adaptation lets you visualize all of your plans for a full 12 months (six months per page).
The advantage. A calendex functions as both your bullet journal index as well as future log, saving you the hassle of creating two separate modules.
Its biggest advantage, though, lies in its concise, integrated indexing structure. In other words, you can freely write your future tasks anywhere in the BuJo – even dedicating an entire page or collection to them – and find them immediately using this module.
The layout. While more complex than the Alastair Method, a calendex isn’t hard to set up. Follow these steps:
- Flip to a blank double-paged spread and number the leftmost column of EACH page 1 to 31. So, each of the 31 rows corresponds to a specific date of the month.
- Divide the remainder of each page into six columns so that, added together across the spread, you’ll have 12 columns (one per month). Label the month at the top of each.
- Using horizontally dotted lines, separate each monthly column into its standard weeks (i.e. Monday to Sunday). Your spread should now resemble a cascading masonry pattern.
- For months with fewer than 31 days, you can fill in the leftover rows at the bottom of the column. You do you, of course!
To use it…
- Whenever you jot down a future commitment, plot its page number in your calendex. The column = the month and the row = the date.
- To briefly indicate what type of event you’re plotting, you can either write a one- or two-word description alongside the page number or even use color-coding.
- You don’t have to migrate anything from your calendex since its plotted contents are merely bookmarks to the actual entries.
Examples of Future Logs – bulletjournal.com
Future Log: The Alastair Method – bulletjournal.com
Future Log: The Hope Method – bulletjournal.com
I am just starting. For the life of me, I can’t think of why I’d need a future log when I will have monthly logs. The only things that wouldn’t be assigned by month would be projects, and for these I plan to create individual pages with nested steps. In other words, to reverse a question posted above, if I keep monthly logs, why do I need a future log?
I am also completely confused about the distinction between Rapid Logging and Brain Dump. They seem very similar.
I don’t want to be overwhelmed by bullet journaling. I like learning from others and respect the “tried and true” but these are techniques I don’t understand.
Hi Alexa! Good on ‘ya for starting.
If you decide to create your monthlies all at once (i.e. set up the next 6-12 months), a future log might seem redundant, especially if all your reminders can fit into the monthly logs.
You’re absolutely right in that brain dumping and rapid logging are very similar. The only difference in my experience is that rapid logging habituates the process of dumping out your stream of consciousness. As in, each and every day, incrementally, instead of setting aside a time when you feel overwhelmed. It turns the auto-pilot on for brain dumping. I also feel rapid logging is more refined because it’s 1) tied to a “system” and 2) takes less work to organize the dump.
Hey, if all this future logging stuff seems overwhelming, my suggestion is to put it off. Just set up your notebook the way you like it and make the best of your monthlies. The individual pages with nested steps sounds like a fantastic plan, too!