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Bullet Journal Your Way to Success this Semester

The introduction of the bullet journal has kick-started a craze of aesthetically pleasing pages all over the Internet. But what exactly makes a bullet journal so special? Bullet journals synthesize to-do lists, planners, and diaries. They let you simultaneously track your life and maximize efficiency in a timely, easy, and satisfying way (while racking up those insta likes)!

The idea is to have three separate logs: a future log to take down any important things by month for an entire year, a monthly log to take down important things for specific days of a month, and a daily log for all the nitty gritty stuff. There’s also a number of symbols to indicate whether something is an event, a to-do, an idea, etc. (all these things can be found on the bullet journal site if you want somewhere to look to get started). You fill in these journals with quick and simple bullets to get points across as opposed to the wordy paragraph and sentence styles of the classic diary.

The best part about this concept is its flexibility. While the bullet journal site outlines a guideline of how you can use one, bullet journalling is really about what works best for you and each journal is highly personalized. Once you choose the notebook you want to use, you can decorate it with fancy tapes, stamps, stickers, and all sorts of colours. You can design it specifically to meet your needs by customizing the logs or adding things in addition to them. Some people create tracking pages for goals, keep note of their want-to-dos (a list of books you want to read, for example), or monitor their daily habits.

For mine, I got a quite perfect Leuchtturm1917 at one of the stationary shops on Granville Island. It was a medium size (small enough to fit in my purse, but not so small I wanted to throw it across a room), thin, had a premade index and already numbered pages, and came with stickers I could put on the binding once it was full and label with the years. The pages were dotted into a grid subtle enough to not be distracting, but still aid in writing straight and drawing boxes. 

I did some (crude) personalization by taping cut outs of art from the bando planner onto the outside and adding some good ol’ motivational Halls wrappers on the inside cover because I knew I couldn’t count on me alone to cheer myself on.

I set up my future log dividing four pages into thirds (one for each month of the year), and my monthly logs consisted of two pages (The first, a calendar with a to-do this month section just below. The second, a tracking sheet for things like hours of sleep, emotions, etc.).  The daily logs were a full page each with sections for to-dos, notes on what I did that day, meals, and three boxes for daily words, daily gratitude, and a daily doodle. I used the back of the book to keep lists of things, such as writing ideas and kept a small clear ruler inside the book for when I was drawing lines.

However, the problem was that I am not at all the organizational and structured type and having to sit down and set up pages every day and fill them in stressed me out. So, I quickly gave up on the ambitious endeavour like with every other journal I had tried to start in the past.

What makes bullet journaling so great, though, is it can accommodate flightier and messier thinkers too. I realized I needed to take the to-do list meets planner meets journal concept and redesign it to fit my needs as opposed to forcing myself to be unpleasantly structured like in the examples I’d seen.

First, I replaced the future and monthly logs with a regular wall calendar that could be used alongside my journal so I wouldn’t have to take the time to meticulously ruler out a perfect calendar in the book each month. This calendar has all my due dates, appointments, etc. for the entire year.

Then, I threw all structure out the window for the rest (and stopped using all those symbols in favour of simple dashes). I gave myself permission to only do what I needed and wanted to write down. This method took away all the pressure and stress that I’d been experiencing before and allowed my thoughts to land on the page in a way that much better resembled my own mind.

I keep an ‘Upcoming’ box in the top corner of every new page that lists all the due dates or appointments for important things that are happening for the next month. Then, outside the upcoming section, I list everything I need to get done for the entire next week. Finally, I have a section of things I want to get done when I can, but aren’t necessary or priorities just yet.

Every night, I write the next day in a remaining blank space, and take down the stuff I’d ideally like to get done for that day. I add any notes I want to make about my day throughout or during my nightly reflections. I doodle and record insights and words on these pages too! This change of method has helped me so much in staying on top of my priorities. It allows me to be organized without feeling contained by a stressful routine.

If you find a system that jives with you, bullet journaling can have a huge impact on your productivity! It helps you to stay organized, and the list format of its design promotes productivity because you get a high every time you cross something off (even if it’s a small and unimportant thing). They can also be an invaluable tool in addressing your mental health. When you’re able to track symptoms or moods alongside what is going on in your life, you can look back and find possible correlations between these moods and symptoms and other things, or have a clear log of your mental health that you can show to your counsellor, doctor, or psychiatrist. 

Check out the website, look up some cool bullet journal ideas, and pull out a pen and see if you can create a system of your own that works for you! Happy journaling (:


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Emeralde is an undergrad at Simon Fraser University majoring in Resource and Environmental Management and English. Follow her on Instagram @emeralde.od for updates on her Between the Sheets series.
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