As the year draws to a close, I wanted to share a little tradition of mine – The Yearly Migration. On the first day of January, I always start a brand new notebook. It is more than just a blank slate, it’s like moving homes. You’re off to a better place, leaving behind the junk, only keeping the things you love.With each notebook, I learn more about myself- what’s worked and what has not. I take these lessons and apply to them to the new notebook. This iterative process is actually how the Bullet Journal system came to be.

January 1st is the changing of the guard. Before breaking in the new book, I take some time to luxuriate though, and yes, sometimes commiserate with the old notebook. Time’s passed, life’s moved on, a lot has happened. I review the pages authored by who I was through the lens of who I am now. Invariably my “prescription” has changed, and with it, my focus.

I’m often asked, “what do you migrate into a new notebook?” The short answer is: only what still matters. Use December to close what David Allen wonderfully describes as “open loops” – tasks that keep nagging you or have become stagnant. But don’t try to shoe-horn in everything you didn’t get done throughout the year. There is enough to worry about during the holiday season. This is the time to edit down the things you’re working on. Have a lot of open tasks related to a specific project? Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and see if the project is worth it. Will it make you, or those you love happy? Same goes for lists. Do you really want to read every book on your reading list?

I had mentioned that I only transfer what still matters, but that doesn’t only apply to content, it also applies to the Collections. The Bullet Journal looks very different now than it did five years ago. One of the things that continues to make the system so effective is that it’s evolved alongside me. To this day, I experiment with new ways of doing things- especially now that the Bullet Journal method is supported by such a vibrant community. There are always clever new ideas to try out!

Once I’ve completed all this deliberation, the next phase of the tradition begins: gently breaking in the spine of the new notebook. After that’s done, I start to migrate collections into the new book. Rather than migrating every item, Kim Alvarez recently suggested a modified form of “Threading” that allows you to reference collections in old notebooks. To do this, simply number your old notebooks. Then, when you want to reference an old collection in your new notebook, write down the old notebook’s number followed by the page number of the collection. For example “7.125” would mean you’re referencing a collection in your 7th Bullet Journal on the 125th page.

Once the collections are settled, I’ll set up January’s monthly log and add any lingering tasks from the previous year. Finally I write the start and completion dates on the fore edge of the old notebook. It’s the final act before it’s added to my library of old notebooks.

So that’s my little tradition. If I had only one tip for you, it would be this: always simplify. Figure out ways to be less busy so that you can be more productive. As with all things Bullet Journal, do what works for you.

What will you change in your #bujo2016?

TL;DR: Yearly Migration:

– Close loops, but focus on weeding out your lists.
– Scope out your next journal so it will be ready January 1.
– January 1: Review and study your old notebook: what worked and what didn’t, ask yourself “what did I learn?”
– If you have a hardcover notebook, break it in.
– Transfer edited lists and Collections. Migrate only what still matters.
– Set up your January monthly log.
– Thank your old notebook and add it to your library.

About Ryder Carroll

Ryder is the creator of the Bullet Journal. He's a Brooklyn-based digital product designer and art director.
  • I love this, Ryder! I’ll be sure to use those nifty spine labels that come with the Leuchtturm1917s to mark the dates of their duration as well as the number of notebook to make for easy referencing.

    Here’s an example of a new collection ‘hub’ that could be placed in the new notebook to house collections in past Bullet Journals that are still relevant if people would like to keep referring to those in an easy way. Thank you for including the ‘Notebook Threading’ idea! 🙂

    I also love that you asked, “Do you really want to read every book on your reading list?” I have found over time that the books on my ‘want to read’ list has changed over time as my interests change, so the answer to that would be a blatant ‘No’ haha. I really enjoy your emphasis on simplifying. This helps promote productivity by getting rid of the shackles of old things we think are tying us down because we think we ‘should’ do them. Just because it’s written down doesn’t always mean it needs to get done. Reguar review and migration will be the determinant of that.

    Thanks for another great article! I’m excited for the new year. I will work hard to close the loops this month!

    • Ryder Carroll

      Thank you for sharing Kim. I find very few of the things we task ourselves with remain relevant. At the same time, we rarely question our to-do lists. We run the risk of burdening ourselves with meaningless chores that don’t leave us feeling very satisfied or motivated. Be skeptical of all todo lists!

      • Very true and thoughtful. “We run the risk of burdening ourselves with meaningless chores that don’t leave us feeling very satisfied or motivated,” ain’t that the truth! That statement sits well with how I’ve been feeling lately with a few of the experiments I’ve been trying out. Sometimes what we think is important turns out not to be in practice and what is important doesn’t need to be over-planned. Time to pare down further over here, thank you for your words of wisdom as always Ryder. “Be skeptical of all todo lists!” – I love that! Great words to live by 🙂

  • Todd Brockway

    Hey Ryder! Love this article and love this site. I just received my Bullet Journal in the mail today. What a work of art!!!! I have always loved notebooks and pens. I’m a very digital guy but I love good quality notebooks and pens. Anyway I’m currently using a Moleskine weekly planner, I’ve been really fond of Moleskine for the last few years now and have quite a collection. I think I might have a new addiction though, these Leuchtturm1917’s are amazing and great job setting them up for the Bullet Journal. Anyway I’m applying your above suggestion and saving it for January 1, 2016. I think I’ve read everything here on your site. It’s easy reading and I love the subject matter. Best wishes with all you do…. Todd Michael

    • Ryder Carroll

      Thank you for your kind words Todd. Always very much appreciated.

  • Hugo Cravo

    Great text! I really like your method. But i can’t decide if it is better than use my smartphone to save tasks, notes, everything… Why is it better to have a notebook? Thank you!

    • Ryder Carroll

      It’s just different, and for some people, that difference allows them to be more mindful of what they need to do. Hand writing has also been proven to trigger different areas of the brain that help with retention.

  • BT N

    Bless you sir for putting a TL;DR <3

    • Ryder Carroll

      Sometimes we just don’t have the time.

  • This was and is a concern of mine. Will see how the process goes for me, come Jan. Glad to get the Bullet Journal. It’s under the Christmas tree. 🙂

    • Ryder Carroll

      Many thanks!

  • anatomyjane

    Any chance of a restock this week? By the time I got to the site to order next years they were sold out 🙁 I guess I’ll pick up a different notebook but I’ve come to love my ks bullet journal so much…

    • Ryder Carroll

      We are all stocked up! They’re now available through the store.

  • Marissa M.

    For those that do migrate collections, do they end up in a series at the beginning of the next book then? I like having a monthly view of my calendar at the beginning so I would have 24 pages of calendar, and then x amt of pages of collections that made the migrating cut, and then I’d start the dailies…is that the idea?

    • Ryder Carroll

      My suggestion would be avoid”hoarding” pages. Best to start with migrating collections from your past Bujo into the new notebook and then start your year. I just never know how many pages I need. Hope that helps.

  • I love being able to number my old journals for reference. Since I tend to refer back to old journals a lot, putting a note that topic XX is covered in 201603p196 (I use multiple journals a year) makes life much easier.

    • Ryder Carroll

      That’s a nice addition. There are many people out there who that is true for!

    • rsdelacruz

      Nice method to reference previous journals!

  • Thanks for the great insights. I especially liked the idea of Threading. I do something similar with my old journals, but it usually looks something like “Check the Blue Mead notebook for this idea” instead of a simple numbering system. Threading is definitely a better way to go.

  • SamT

    I use journal to take notes for different projects or meetings. I may need to reference at a meeting in the future. Should I rewrite all those notes or carry multiple journals?