Bullet Journal Syntax - Threading

Updated: Jun 25

Contemplate the notebook: it has discrete page spreads; you only look at one at a time. However, the thoughts that are mapped out on these spreads are far from discrete. Rather, they are a continuous, developing creation, often with no real beginning or end; and there can be many such streams within one notebook.


The organisation of bullet journals relies on discrete page-spreads to organise collections. Each spread is titled after a collection. When a spread is filled, the collection can continue on the next blank one in the notebook. This means that the pages assigned to a collection will usually not be chronological - the collection has to jump ahead, past the pages occupied by its fellows sharing the notebook. This exacerbates the problem of page spreads being discrete. There can be more or less continuous thought separated by chunks of other material.The main answer to this problem is threading.


Traditional threading

Threading is the practice of linking one location in a bullet journal to another. Because the main unit for collection is pages, threading is usually done by referring to another page, like so:

30 / 17


This example is for the bottom right corner of the right page of a spread. The current page is 17 and the next instance of the collection is on page 30. When drawing page numbers by hand (some books have them per-printed instead), a clearer delineation is needed, perhaps like this:

(30) 17


However, if page 17 is linked to page 30, then page 30 should also be linked to page 17 (the below example is on the bottom left hand corner of a the left page of a spread):

30 (17)


If collection ever uses only one page on a spread instead of the two, then threading could look something like this:

30 (17 / 45)

This means page 30, with the collection being continued from page 17, and continuing on page 45.


A Variation

Contemplating how I use my own notebooks, I realise that it's often necessary to turn to a new page even mid-sentence. This raises the question of how you indicate continuation, and how you indicate continuation from another place. I have recently been trying out a variation on the threading idea to answer this question.


I sometime frame the top and bottom of my pages with a threading-line. A solid line in the bottom right corner, with a number after it, indicates that the collection is continued at that page number. If the line ends with a few short dashes then it means that I am still on the current log. For instance, A solid threading-line for a weekly log means that the next page is the next week; but a line with dashes at the end indicates that I am still on the same week.

A '>' symbol in place of a number means that the threaded page is simply the next page in the notebook.


If I am literally mid-entry though, for instance continuing a list of points from one page to another, then I place a small arrow with a dotted shaft on the line. This is a modular option to say 'this won't make sense unless you turn to the next page'.


Threading-lines are more valuable for showing that something is a continuation from another place, though. I find that when I finish reading a page, I want to turn to the next, but I am less likely to go backwards - to stop reading once I have started and seek the beginning point (I guess this is because reading is a forward-moving action). The threading-line for indicating continuation from uses the same forms, but it goes at the top left of a spread, next to the title or at the top of the entry.


Dates

The threading-line reminds me later that me that I was continuing from someplace else. This is incredibly important for entries that are titled with the date. If an entry is titled 23/6 - Mon, but goes onto the next page, then you will have an awkward decision point: do you title the continuing entry at 23/6-Mon even though it technically already has a title and this could mislead you to think that the entry only starts here? Or do you leave the entry untitled, which also creates ambiguity? Of course you will do neither, and simply use a threading-line syntax, like so for the first title, which is likely mid-page


--------26/3-Mon----------------------------------


And like so for the second (continuing) title, which is likely at the top of the next page in the collection:

(17)- - - 23/6 - Mon ----------------------------------


This date-titling problem is what gave rise to the threading line syntax. I am using weekly logs more now so my own use is more general rather than focusing on dates.


In a similar point of clarification, you might want to carry a collection onto another page, even though you have, say, half a page left. The space would indicate the the current log is finished, e.g. the week is over. However, you could aid your own navigation by clarifying that with a solid threading-line, like so:

--------------------------------- (30)


An Update

Since writing the above, I have been using the threading-line in a similar style to the date title.


To mark a log continuing on page 30:

-------------- 30 - - -


To mark a log continuing on the next page:

--------------- > - - -


To mark a log continuing from page 17:

- - - 17 -------------


If the log does not need a read-on or read-from prompt then the dashed line is replaced with a solid line.


Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages:

  • Adds to the feel of continuity in a notebook.

  • Better at indicating continuation from.

  • Visually obvious.

  • Can prompt read-on action.

Disadvantages

  • Layers could be confusing and need to be reduced from those presented here (just two may suffice rather than three?).

  • Excessive compared to traditional threading.

  • May clash with some page spread styles.