Behind the Bullet Journal

January is a time for goal setting, and perhaps one of your goals is to finally get organized. Perhaps You’re tired of the fact that your ever-growing list of tasks gets lost among a stack of sticky notes and You’re frustrated at losing important bits of information. Or maybe you keep meaning to document all your flashes of genius but those moments end up evaporating before you can write them down. You might think, “if only there was an app for that.” But the latest trend in getting organized has gone old-school?in the form of a notebook and a pen. This might seem a step backward, but people are realizing that apps can’t do everything. The practice of bullet journaling is filling the void to organize people’s lives in a fresh and trendy way.

Bullet journaling is an amalgamation that combines the versatility of the day planner or personal organizer (something that the Filofax craze of the 1980s capitalized on), the practicality of a to-do list, the personality and flair of writing in a journal, and even the documentation of blogging and scrapbooking. The official system for bullet journaling was created by Ryder Carroll, a New York-based designer who has struggled with ADHD since childhood. In interviews, he says that the bullet journal (known as BuJo for short) was developed out of necessity. He struggled to cope with trying to remember and complete daily tasks, so he created an analog planner that let him make visual connections at a glance to simplify what he needed to accomplish. He spent years tweaking his system before launching the trademarked Bullet Journal system about five years ago. Since then, thousands of people have embraced it with gusto. Ryder’s system involves techniques like Rapid Logging, Indexing, Daily and Monthly Logs, Tasks (accompanied by specific symbols called Signifiers to denote the level of completion of that task) and Notes. To understand how to use this system, there are many YouTube videos and online tutorials available to help. Adherents say that it is an effective tool that lets them organize their lives with clarity and direction.

The official system works well for many people and lends itself to a myriad of applications, from artists who are planning projects to career professionals who need to juggle a lot of information at once. But it also works for anyone who wishes to give it a try. There is a huge and unofficial offshoot of the official system where people have taken what works for them from Carroll’s techniques but then they customize what they need to find a system that works for them. Bullet journaling has also become a catch-all phrase used to mean any form of journaling that emphasizes condensed information. This short-form of documenting daily life is used in a myriad of ways and new uses are being found all the time. Notebooks have become fitness trackers, reading and television logs, pregnancy records, and even meal plans. They contain inspiration for creative writing or visual art projects, not to mention a place to record those random deep thoughts and doodles that occur throughout the day. People are also free to use their notebooks to write longer paragraphs, but the point is that bullet journaling implies something that is fast and short. It borrows from the micro-blogging world of Twitter and Snapchat and encourages entries that are as short as a sentence or even just a few words. Journaling in short form goes against “traditional? lengthy journal entries but the main advantage for writing little and often is that it takes off much of the pressure of trying to write something profound each time. Short-form journaling can be done on the go and whenever a small amount of time can be found to write, something that appeals to those with busy lifestyles. The requirements are basic, but BuJo?ers say that the choice of both notebook and writing utensil is important. Finding the right tools can make all the difference in sticking with it long term.

But the greater appeal of bullet journaling is that it allows for wide scope for creativity beyond the basics of the plain page. Fine-liner or gel pens, washi tape, stickers, and other embellishments are great additions for those eager to show their creative side, but there is no requirement to get fancy. In fact, getting too artistic might even end up becoming intimidating and a hindrance to those who are new to journaling, which goes against the original intention of making it easy. A quick internet search on bullet journaling will bring up a myriad of examples of how short-form journaling can be used. The community aspect of bullet journaling is revealed through Pinterest, internet forums and online articles. Bullet Journal writers often post examples of their layouts and create printable pages for others to use.

Ultimately, what matters most about this practice is that is not about creating pretty pages but establishing a regular habit. Life coaches and psychologists say that writing in a journal can promote mindfulness, clarity of thought, purpose, and direction. Journaling can also increase mental health and well-being because the act of writing down thoughts and feelings brings them to the surface, which decreases worry and anxiety.

Although the beginning of January is the obvious time to start journaling, it can be started at any time. A notebook and a pen are simple tools on their own but they contain a lot of power to explore new possibilities.

For further reading:

Carla loves all things paper. She has a habit of impulse buying washi tape, patterned cardstock and other crafty items. She swears she will get around to using her stash…one of these days.

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