How Bullet Journaling Changed My Life - And Can Change Yours Too

I began bullet journaling as a freshman in college. It was a way to be creative and not feel bad about spending my time on self care instead of studying or doing homework. It made me extremely productive and helped me keep track of what I had to do. Before this, I had never consecutively used a planner for more than a month. The idea of a planner is great, but I found it hard to keep up with writing down homework when half of my assignments already had the due dates online. My creative, therapeutic and easy solution? Bullet journaling. 

A bullet journal is a dot grid notebook, typically used to organize tasks. The man who created this concept, Ryder Carroll, wrote The Bullet Journal Method, a book that details how dot grid notebooks can be used to organize and transform your life. The bare bone concept is to rid users of pointless sticky notes, grocery lists and other reminders that float around and are easily forgotten. Combining my work, school and personal tasks, notes and events into one form was surprisingly easy and alleviated a lot of stress I had trying to juggle everything. 

Since its publication, bullet journaling has become increasingly popular. For many, it has evolved from merely a tool for productivity, into a creative outlet, daily tracker and diary. The official Bullet Journal YouTube page has a lot of great information for beginners looking to learn more about the productive elements a bullet journal can provide. There are three main goals to Carroll’s method: 

  1. Track the past

  2. Order the present

  3. Design the future

Using elements like the future log and monthly log give bullet journalers an easy look at what is to come and how to best prepare. For students, this helps display your exam schedules in advance along with your work schedule or any other events you have going on. Before bullet journaling I would only look at my school schedule but had trouble comparing it to my other calendars without getting stressed. This gave me an easy way to organize everything. 

For #2, order the present, weekly logs are used. They detail daily events, tasks or notes which can either be completed or migrated to a new day. This helped me visualize how busy I would be for the upcoming week and find out when I could optimize my free time. As for the basic categories used, events is a broad title for appointments, meetings, celebrations or anything else happening at a specific time. Usually they are marked with a circle point. Tasks describe what you would like to accomplish that day. Finishing an assignment early, doing laundry or baking a cake could all go in this category. Tasks are usually marked with a square. Lastly, notes are pretty self explanatory, and they are marked with a dash:

      - Tried zucchini noodles and actually liked them, maybe pick up tomorrow? 

      - Marge bday soon - think of gift

I really enjoy #1, track the past. It is totally up to you how much you would like to track. Having your weeks detailed out will already give you a lot to look back on and help you remember when specific things were, but there are many more ways to further track your past. Personally, I enjoy using the one line a day method, where it takes me less than two minutes a day to write a sentence about what happened. I have only missed a few months of doing this since 2019. It amazes me to look back on what I was doing and thinking my freshman year of college, and I know in a few years I’ll be thinking the same thing about what I’m currently doing. Many people also track their moods. I previously did this and found a distinct pattern in my moods, which I was able to fix by going off of my birth control. I never would have realized what was going on without my bullet journal. 

Overall, when people see what can go into a bullet journal, they’re scared that it will take too much time out of their day. After the initial set up of your future log if you choose to use it, weekly set up, if you choose, doesn’t have to take more than five minutes. You’d be amazed at how much you can do during the week and plan for in no time at all. The creative side of bullet journaling, which consists of typically the same planning, just using brighter colors, fun fonts and monthly themes to base your weeks off of, can easily scare beginners into thinking bullet journaling is a huge time commitment. I could say in confidence that the average bullet journalist’s BuJo looks nothing like the majority of those seen on Pinterest. 

If you’re looking for a way to organize your life, take the jump and try it out! There are great quality options online and most likely in your local craft shop that range from $5-$9.  I recommend sticking with it for a month, and then deciding if it’s for you. Once you get the hang of the system, you’ll be planning your weeks, months and years in milliseconds. Honestly though, a fully planned out future log, monthly and weekly to set up your new bullet journal can easily be done in an hour, which is an amazing way to boost productivity and keep your life organized. I know I spent a lot more time reopening syllabi, looking for the picture of my class schedule in my cluttered camera roll and staying up way too late to finish an assignment that I had forgotten about before I started bullet journaling. If you have decided to start your bullet journaling journey, enjoy it and good luck!