The index and key are the foundation of your Bullet Journal and will define how you plan going forward.

How To Start A Bullet Journal- Index and Key

Welcome back to my series, How To Start a Bullet Journal! In this post, we are going to learn all about the Index and Key. These are both important parts of a Bullet Journal, especially if this is your first ever Bullet Journal!

If you have just stumbled across this blog post, and have no idea what a Bullet Journal is, I suggest you jump back to the beginning of this series, How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Basics.

Today, we will be opening up our notebooks, and using the first page! By now, you should have some kind of notebook and pen picked out. If you are still unsure about this whole Bullet Journal thing, rummage around your house for an old notebook with some empty pages. Even a notepad will do for practice!

In all of these lessons, you are only need to have basic supplies like a piece of paper, and a pen. However, there are a couple of cheap tools I used as well to add small amounts of decoration and separation. I used a grey Crayola Super Tip marker to highlight some of the text in various spreads, and a couple of stencil designs. These are completely optional!

If you have your pen and paper and are ready to go, then let’s get started!

How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Series

The Basics

The Collections

The Index & Key (You Are Here!)

The Future Log

The Monthly, Weekly & Daily Spreads

A Tracker & Expense Log Layout

I know that starting a Bullet Journal can be extremely overwhelming, and there is so much information! If you don’t have time to read each of these blog posts, you can grab the free downloadable guide here!

The Index

What is the index, and how is it used?

An index is a chronological list of the contents in your Bullet Journal.

The index is an important part of the Bullet Journal Method. By keeping an Index of where you were in your Journal when you created a certain spread allows you to go back to it at a later date. For example, maybe in the middle of May, you created a list of Whole30 meals. Now you are in January of the following year and have decided to do Whole30 again. Now you want to find that spread where you listed the different recipes. You can browse your index, and find the exact page number where that collection was placed.

How To Create Your Index

Numbered Pages

One of the most important parts of an index is having your pages numbered. Some notebooks you get will have your pages numbered for you which will save you a ton of time. A couple of popular Bullet Journaling notebooks that have numbered pages are the Leuchtturm 1917, Scribbles That Matter, and some Dingbat models (the ones labeled: “Dotted With Bullet Journaling Features”). If your journal does not have numbered pages, you just need to go through and number them! It is up to you if you will do this all at once, or as you go through your journal.

Index Pages

The next aspect of creating an index is having the index setup. Again, some of the notebooks that are popular in the Bullet Journaling community have Index pages set up for you, making it easy to just fill it in as you go. Some of these notebooks include but are not limited to Leuchtturm 1917, Scribbles That Matter, and some Dingbat models (again, the ones labeled “Dotted With Bullet Journaling Features”). Even if your notebook has blank index pages included, you may still wish to create your own.

To create an index, you first need to decide if you want it located at the front or the back of your journal. You will also need to decide how many pages to set aside. For most, 2-3 pages should suffice. For me, I do not log every spread I create. I only index my collections, and where my monthlies begin. This will be a bit of trial and error for you as some people like to index every page, while others only index what they go back to look for. You will only discover your method once you have started!

Creating Your Index

In my Leuchtturm 1917, I use the index included in the journal, pictured below.

Leuchtturm 1917 Index

Now that you have your Index setup, you will just fill it in throughout the year as you fill your Journal.

The Key

What is the key, and how is it used?

The Key is another very important part of your Bullet Journal, especially if this is your first Bullet Journal. A Key is a list of what the signifiers in your Bullet Journal represent. Signifiers are the symbols you use; ie. a checkbox, or a bullet point.

By creating a key that you will use throughout your Bullet Journal, you are creating structure and clarity. You will be able to tell at a quick glance what everything is, as everything will have a set meaning behind it.

You may only need to set up a key for your first Bullet Journal. Once you know your system, you may not require a record of it.

Choosing Your Signifiers

Now, if you want to use the original signifiers created by the creator of the Bullet Journal, Ryder Carroll, I am going to direct you to this blog post. There, Ryder explains his signifiers, and the use for each one. This is a great foundation to start off of, and I suggest everyone checks the original system out so that even if you use your own symbols, you know how to structure them!

I never used Ryders’ signifiers, as I am more of a checkbox kind of gal. I suggest you use whatever symbols you are used to using for list-making. If you are not sure, feel free to use the same signifiers as Ryder, me, or anyone else who has shared their key online! (I would suggest looking on Pinterest or Instagram!)

For my signifiers, I use checkboxes for my tasks, an open bullet point for events/meetings, filled in bullet points for notes, a star for ideas, an exclamation mark to mark importance, a triangle for appointments, a question mark for something I need to explore further, and a heart to mark my goals. I know this sounds like a lot, but you will see how I use these in future posts!

How To Create Your Key

Now that you have picked your signifiers, you need to create your key! Some journals have a page set up for a key. Scribbles That Matter, and Dingbats both include key pages.

Before you create your Key, you need to decide where you want it located. I have seen it created on the back of the cover, after the index, at the back. It can go anywhere! Just make sure it is somewhere that you are easily able to flip to for future reference.

In my Leuchtturm 1917, I put it on the first page following the Index. I found this a great way to get over the first blank page fear, as it is very simple to create!

In my Discbound Bullet Journal, I put it after my future log (which we will be creating in the next post!).

To create a key, you are going to want to title your page, so that you know what it is. I keep all of my headers very simple, so I just titled it Key.

Next, you are going to want to list all of your signifiers, and what they all mean! And that is all there is to it!


Now you will notice my key has a couple of extra elements. I didn’t like how blank the bottom of my page looked, so I wanted to add a little extra something to it. I went onto Pinterest and found a cute little quote that I really liked, and did some faux calligraphy to make it pop. Then, using one of the keys from my stencil set, I created the outline for the key next to the title. These steps are completely optional! Adding this little bit of decoration only took me an extra five minutes. We will be covering how to add bits and pieces of creativity to your Bullet Journal in a future post!

Next Steps

It is time for you to go create your Index and Key. I know that these are not very exciting spreads, but they are extremely important if you are trying to live a mindful and organized life through your Bullet Journal!

In the next lesson, we are going to create our Future Logs, which is another very important element of the Bullet Journal system!

If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below, and I will be sure to answer your questions!

Until next time!

How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Series

The Basics

The Collections

The Index & Key (You Are Here!)

The Future Log

The Monthly, Weekly & Daily Spreads

A Tracker & Expense Log Layout

Utilize a Key and Index in your Bullet Journal to keep it organized and easy to use!

I know that starting a Bullet Journal can be extremely overwhelming, and there is so much information! If you don’t have time to read each of these blog posts, you can grab the free downloadable guide here!

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