Bullet journalling has been around for a few years and is getting ever-more popular. I don’t intend to give step-by-step instructions here, as there are already so many good “how to” guides on the internet (I have linked to some below). Instead, I’m going to explain why I like the bullet journal (“BuJo”) system and why I think it can be helpful for busy or stressed people.
I have been bullet journalling for a year. It started when I realised I was using a rolling To Do list app on my phone which usually had about 30 items on it and most of those repeated regularly. I had already checked which things were really necessary, as discussed in a previous post The Tyranny of ‘To Do’s, and they (almost) all were. As I ticked each item off, they simply shifted to the bottom of the list ready to be done again the next day/week/month. It meant I wasn’t feeling like I was actually achieving much. It also meant that each time I looked at the app I felt both slightly overwhelmed by all the items on it and frustrated that so many items were sitting there but could not be tackled yet.
I needed a new system. Enter bullet journalling.
Bullet journalling appealed to me because it was simple, flexible, and I could use my pretty stationery. The idea with bullet journalling is that you lay out your calendars, lists, to dos etc in a way that feels most helpful for you. The indexing system means you end up with no blank pages, but you can always find what you are looking for immediately. How many times have you picked up half a dozen diaries or planners in a shop, but rejected them because they didn’t have quite what you needed or you couldn’t get on with the layout? Bullet journalling enables you to make up your own.
Even better, you only need any notebook and pen. Many companies sell beautiful notebooks and will insist that you “need” dots/lines/certain paper/certain pens but you don’t. Please don’t feel you must have specific (and expensive) supplies before you can begin.
Nor do you just use it as a diary. You can use bullet journalling to track your habits (such as exercise), plan financially (keeping track of your spending or saving), event planning (such as a big party you need to organise), list ideas (such as knitting projects)… A bullet journal can be anything you need or want it to be.
Bullet journalling is creative. Not just in how you choose to create your system, but in any art you add to it. You can find many examples online of people who produce artistic spreads if you’re looking for inspiration. There are also plenty of bullet journalling discussion groups on social media if you need help or advice.
This system can be useful for busy people because it encourages planning out and getting through things efficiently and productively with the “rapid logging” system. While you are free to spend lots of time making your bullet journal pretty, you don’t have to. Setting up a monthly spread does take some time, but saves time and trouble later. This is because you have already made decisions about how and when certain things will be done. You can tackle each day’s list without worrying about other things that will be happening later. This can also be really helpful if you are using pacing techniques to manage chronic illness.
The act of writing things down with pen and paper makes you more likely to really think about them. You are less likely to do that when it is so quick and automatic to type something into an app. Considering carefully what you are committing to is an act of self care.
You can use your bullet journal for anything you need to. While I have decided to keep mine just for my personal things, you can use yours for work as well.
The important thing is doing what helps you the most. It might take you a while, and you might go through a few different systems before settling to one. That’s okay, there is no absolute right or wrong. As the creator of the bullet journal, Ryder Carroll, said, “Forget about what you see online. It’s not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels and most importantly, how it works for you.”