Bullet Journal, Minus the Hype, Is a Really Good Planner
Search for #bulletjournal on the social network of your choice and you can admire a sea of neatly-written notebook pages designed to keep track of everything from daily to-do lists to inspirational quotes. Come on roll your eyes. But bulletproof magazines are a great productivity tool if you learn how to adapt them to your life. Colored pens are not required.
What is Bullet Journal?
Bullet journal is just a notebook containing a huge variety of planning schemes. You can create calendars and to-do lists, and use them as a diary, brainstorming notebook, and more. If you’ve ever bought a planner but didn’t like the design of the pre-printed pages, then Bullet Journal is your opportunity to create a planner that matches how your brain works.
The video that kicked off the bullet magazine craze describes a set of conventions followed by many, but not all, bullet magazine specialists. You create an index to help you find the things you want, several pages to help you plan the year, and a two-page spread for important dates and tasks for each month. (Many newsletters also have a spread every week.) Then you write down the plans and events for each day in bulleted lists — hence the name.
As described in this video, most of the bullet magazine is just a calendar. The beauty of this handwritten calendar, however, is that you create it on the go, so you always have a place for whatever you want to write. Future events are recorded in a long-term calendar that occurs earlier in the book than today’s page, so every page is blank from today to the end of the book.
Why Bullet Journal Works So Well
Here’s how that flexibility pays off. I jotted down my daily to-do list this morning and as I worked today I moved on to the next blank page to ponder some ideas for this post. Later that day, I used a blank page after that to start a checklist for a multi-part project due to be completed at the end of this month. Previously, when I used pre-printed planners like PlannerPad , I had to grab a second notebook or spare piece of paper to keep track of these things. The Bullet journal approach keeps all my thoughts in one place.
The index ties everything together so you can easily find these notes later. Just leave the first few pages of your notebook blank and add topics and page numbers for anything you might want to find again. Yes, it might mean manual pagination, but that’s not a problem. It only takes one minute to flip through the bottom-right corner of a notebook and write down the odd numbers.
Adaptability is another advantage of the system: every day does not have to be the same. I plan my day by the hour if I have a lot of activities and meetings on that day, but if I only have a few things to do, I’ll go back to the short list instead.
Take what works for you and forget about everything else.
Boolean journals have extended this system in hundreds of ways. One popular add-on is the habit tracker , a grid where you can see how often you’ve meditated, exercised, or flossed this month. You can also chart your progress in saving money, list the books you want to read , or devote individual pages to doodles.
For some, making a diary beautiful is a hobby. These are the people who post on Instagram that they chill out with their diary and colored pens to “talk to me” a little at the end of the day.
It’s not me. It doesn’t have to be you. I use one black pen. It takes me no more than two minutes to customize the page during the day. Sometimes I miss a day and don’t feel guilty about it. And when I questioned me, tons of newspaper magazines told me that their books were “ugly” or “dirty.” Sometimes this means that they try to fill them with beautiful art and severely condemn themselves if they don’t like how it turns out. But many, like me, just have pages of scribbles. It is important that scribbles are where they are needed, and when we need them.
I do not use the annual calendar from the official instructions. I also forgot to make the monthly pages for July and August. But thanks to my daily pages, as well as the lists and brain dumps I have scattered throughout the book, I know exactly what I need to work on today, what is left over the past week and what ideas for articles I have come up with over the past few months that I haven’t posted yet.
Change the system enough and some doubters will say that you do n’t really keep a journal . If you collect thoughts and memories, maybe this is really a diary or an ordinary book . If you’re not using the original video’s marker system, it might just be a DIY planner with no catchy name.
In the spirit of adaptability, I’m going to rule that it doesn’t matter what you call it – you should use the word that helps you the most. If you think of your book as a bullet magazine, you will look for ideas on bullet magazine blogs and communities. Right now, this is the place to find inspiration that works for me, which is why I use that word. On the other hand, if you Google DIY Planner, the ideas that come up are slightly different: more bindings and more printed material, for example. Use any terms that help you find (and optionally share) ideas you like.
You don’t need to switch to full analog
If you like keeping track of events and tasks on your phone, you don’t need to stop. In this case, you may be wondering what is the point of a physical laptop. In fact, there are tons of reasons why I still stick with the paper magazine .
First, a paper notebook minimizes distractions. If I pick up my phone to add a note, most of the time I look at the notification bar, check my email, see if anyone is saying something interesting on Twitter, look for Pokémon, and then wonder why it was me. … took my phone. If I just need to write down a thought or task, I can do it without distraction in the notebook that sits on my desk.
Handwriting also has its advantages: for example, we can memorize things better when we write them instead of typing them . Sometimes it’s easier to find something by flipping through recent pages than by scrolling endlessly through digital documents. Here, everyone will have their own preferences , but I find that I am better at working even on a computer when I have a pen and paper.
The electronic and paper systems complement each other really well. You can take notes in your journal about tasks to complete when you are at your computer (“add swimming lessons to your calendar”), and you can set reminders on your phone to ping you when it’s time to review your notes and create the next one. list of tasks for the day.
You can also use a system like Evernote to back up or share your paper journal notes. This is Evernote Moleskine’s idea , but you can also just use the app to take snapshots of any old notebook.
You don’t need fancy accessories
Journalists have favorite accessories that may come in handy, but they are not necessary. Here are what they are, and some alternatives that don’t require you to explode a craft store salary:
- The Moleskine and Leuchtturm 1917 laptops are great for everyday use as they have durable covers and are easy to carry in your bag (thanks to the elastic and back pocket for loose items). They also receive points for being available in a graphical or dotted grid, making it easy to draw rectangles and vertical lines. But both of these laptops cost $ 20+. If you are a notebook lover, they are well worth it, but you can also just buy a hardcover notebook with graph paper for about $ 5.
- Fancy pens like my Lamy fountain pen are good if you like that kind of thing. Any old pen will do. Just make sure it blends well with your notebook paper: if it seeps or leaves deep prints, the back of the page may become unusable.
- Colored pens are handy for color-coding items in your journal (like work or personal), but then you’ll have to carry a box of pens with you. You can easily shoot the magazine with the same color pen. If you’re still impatient to find rainbow-colored habit trackers, try using a different colored pen every day. For example, if Monday is red, you only need to wear a black and red pen.
- Washi tape , a kind of decorative paper tape, can make your pages look pretty. Adding a washi ribbon to the edge of the page also makes it easier to find when flipping. But you can just as easily mark the edges of the page with a pen, paper clips or stickers, or simply grind the page, which does not require any special equipment at all.
A bullet journal does not have to be an art project to be a functional system. However, it’s okay if beautiful things motivate you. You’ll want to find your sweet spot where you don’t feel guilty about decorating, but you will still find your planner a comfortable and happy place to collect your thoughts. And if that means it’s ugly, enjoy it: it works, and everything is yours.