The Case For Bullet Journaling

By: Raizy Neuman  |  August 31, 2020

By Raizy Neuman, Website Manager

In the current era of COVID-19, I often hear comments from people who have sadly put away their planners until the start of the new term, claiming that there’s just no reason anymore. Nobody’s going anywhere, nobody’s doing anything, they say, so why bother planning? Now, while I fundamentally disagree with this paradigm of planning, I am going to take hold of this opportunity to plug something that I am super passionate about — bullet journaling!

Ah, but what is bullet journaling, you ask? You say you don’t have any interest in writing in a diary using bullet points? Hold on, and keep reading, because it seems like you may not yet know the definition of bullet journaling. Wikipedia’s definition of a bullet journal goes like this: “Bullet Journal[ing] is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists, brainstorming, and other organizational tasks into a single notebook.” In other words, it’s essentially a build-your-own-planner, but so much more. Bullet journaling involves an empty notebook, either dotted or graphed, and handmade calendars, beginning with a yearly overview (known as a “future log”), and continuing to funnel down as the year progresses, with a “monthly log,” “weekly log,” and “daily log.” One is free to add in trackers (e.g. habits, mood, sleep),  standard journaling, and photos, as well as lists of anything and everything, from “Books To Read” to “Worst Netflix Shows.” 

Bullet journals are often (though this is not a requirement) decorated, filled with colors and sometimes artwork. One of the most popular arguments I’ve heard as I enter my fourth year of bullet journaling is that some people “aren’t artsy enough” to do it. I have two points to make to this notion. For one, like I said, it’s not a requirement. In his overview video of the process, Ryder Carroll uses a simple black pen; art does not make the system more effective (though for many, including myself, it makes it significantly more enjoyable, as well as personal). Also, I strongly believe that everyone has the ability to make art, and even if what you create may not be as “aesthetically pleasing” as another’s work might be, keep in mind that your bullet journal is for you and only you. Your fun and your art making should not be hindered by society’s definition of “art.”

Another reason why people are reluctant to begin a bullet journal is that they’re afraid that they’ll start it and won’t be able to keep at it. To that, I ask a question. How sad, how unfulfilling would life be, if we avoided things just because we were nervous about them? When it comes to bullet journaling, I think the key factor is not putting too much pressure on yourself. Messing up, or missing a day, even a week or two, is inevitable. What’s important is making the bullet journal work for you, not the other way around. One of the leading factors that backs a bullet journal versus a planner, I think, is its flexibility factor. It’s not about making it perfect, it’s about creating a system that’s yours. If you miss a bit in the system, you can adapt it, because it belongs to you.

Bullet journaling has kept me grounded, especially now. While I may have less campus-related activities to schedule, I still track my daily life and continue to feel productive. When it’s all in your bullet journal, there’s a certain sense of accountability that just doesn’t come with a standard planner. Because you create the spreads yourself, there’s a much larger feeling of ownership and responsibility to fill them out which is a huge incentive to complete the tasks and goals you’ve set out for yourself. Let me tell you, there is nothing like the feeling of checking off a task in your bullet journal.

There are millions of bullet journal (or “BuJo”) posts and several groups on social media, and some can seem daunting. I would implore, though, that you don’t get discouraged by them. The bullet journal system was designed to be personalized, not copied. There’s no pressure to include any spread or feature that you’re not comfortable with, because it’s your book (I, for example, rarely include daily logs, I just stick to my monthly and weekly ones). 

I find one of the best parts of bullet journaling to be its therapeutic aspect. No matter what’s going on in the week, month, etc, you’re always going to make time to sit down and work on creating new spreads. I have found it extremely healthy, as a simultaneous method to relax and to feel productive. There is productivity, of course, in the self-care of taking time for oneself, but there is also productivity in the actual creation of the spreads.

If anybody needs help with setting up their first bullet journal, you know who to reach out to. I hope I’ve convinced even one person to give it a try, because this system is life-changing. I’m forever grateful to have found bullet journaling — no matter what’s happening in life, from a midterm to a pandemic, I know that I have the ability to keep track.