Today, nearly every aspect of one’s daily life is digitized. From remembering minute tasks to significant events, we have become heavily reliant on our cell phones. They are our personal assistants—they contain our checklists, maintain our calendars, and remind us of upcoming events. We can even download apps specially designed to track our nutrition, document our exercise routines, record our moods, and so much more. Our cell phones have become our digital companions—so why would we want to revert to paper and pen when it comes to keeping our lives organized?

This is where bullet journals come in. Like other organizational tools, they can contain daily to-do lists, calendars, thoughts, and goals. They are currently a craze that has popped up across social media in recent years. Their popularity stems from their aesthetically pleasing designs; people start with blank pages, and with the aid of a colorful array of pens, they can end with artfully crafted layouts. As a replacement for app based planning, what sets a bullet journal apart is how the individual chooses to design it. While these journals have a set of standards in terms of organization, they differ from traditional and digital planners in terms of layout. Instead of being confined to cramped, preset boxes, an individual can choose how to divide a page for their organizational needs. The artistic style of the journal helps to transform the contents from mundane to stylish so that one finds joy in checking their to-do list.

As mentioned previously, bullet journals have a set of organizational standards that uniquely link each journal together.  These guidelines teach one how to bullet their to-do list items, thus where the journal gets its name from. According to bulletjournal.com, rapid logging is the name of the “language” that the notebooks are written in. It’s a form of shorthand that keeps the journal organized by distinguishing the categories of notes. To-do tasks get a closed round bullet, notes you don’t want to forget get a dash, and events get a small open circle. Furthermore, to document one’s progress on their tasks, completed ones get an “x” drawn through the bullet. Incomplete tasks that have been assigned to one’s monthly log get a “>” drawn through them, while incomplete tasks that have been scheduled in one’s future log get a “<”. Tasks that have been deemed irrelevant get a line drawn through the entire item. This practice of moving unfinished tasks around is referred to as migration.

In terms of the journal’s setup, it is organized by collections. The index serves as a table of contents. The future log is a set of pages containing dated entries for tasks and events occurring outside of the current month. The monthly log is a set of two facing pages. One page contains a calendar featuring each day of the month listed down the left hand side. The most important task or event for each day is listed by every date. On the opposite sheet is the task page, which displays an inventory of things to do and events to attend for the entire month. The daily log takes up a large chunk of the notebook since it is where users “rapid log” their tasks, events, and notes. The log is continuous, meaning that if one day does not fill an entire page, you start the next day wherever you left off previously. Finally, custom collections are where people can use the journal to get creative since they are free to fill the pages as they please. These could range from fitness trackers and food logs, to diaries and sketchbooks, to mood trackers and book lists. The notebook’s format is designed to maximize function without sacrificing creative licensing.

So, why would people adopt this method of planning and organizing over using their cell phones or a store-bought planner?  According to bulletjournal.com, it is a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” As someone who has just begun a bullet journal, I have experienced the positive effects on my mind. It has provided me with a convenient avenue to practice mindfulness. Each day, I must set aside time to unplug from my phone and thoughtfully consider my day. Jotting down thoughts and ideas in a bullet journal helps to relieve stress in a way that the glaring bright light and addictive qualities of one’s cell phone can’t quite do, and in a personalized fashion that planners off the market can’t offer either. It’s not just about organizing one’s life, but also about decluttering the mind.

 

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