Bullet Journaling: The Trendiest Way To Organize Your Thoughts  

Is going analogue the best way to stay organized and boost productivity in the digital age? Despite the saturation of electronic gadgets, it seems pen and paper haven’t gone the way of the dinosaur after all. The bullet journal is the latest DIY trend to sweep the Internet, taking Pinterest and Instagram accounts by storm. Known as “BuJo” to its growing number of followers (shorthand is the hallmark of bullet journaling), the low-key approach to journaling and note taking champions old school methods over modern apps.

But what exactly is a bullet journal? Is it a daily planner, a calendar, a to-do list or is it more like one of those leather-clad key lock diaries? It’s all the above. Bullet journaling is a hybrid method of journaling and note keeping that uses bullet points as its core structure. It features shorthand and rapid logging over long sentences and is an easy way for chronic list-makers to compile and organize their thoughts. Many swear by its flexibility and customization opportunities as a clear way to keep on top of their schedule. Here are the reasons why a bullet journal is crucial to staying organized and mentally healthy.

How Can You Buy a Bullet Journal?

Bullet journaling is a low-key, DIY trend. The journal can be as fancy or as basic as you want. All you really need to start bullet journaling is a blank notebook and pen; however, it’s best to get a notebook or journal that’s practical and sturdy enough to carry around with you. In other words, you want it big enough to be useful and small enough to fit in a purse. Some BuJo fans swear by a Moleskin journal, while others favor a Leuchtturm 1917.

Journals and notebooks have different types of layouts and designs, so find a style that best suits your personalized shorthand. Remember: a bullet journal is a personal space to express yourself, so while it’s easy to start comparing and contrasting different layouts and styles on Instagram, it isn’t a social media popularity contest. There’s no right or wrong way to create a bullet journal.

Bullet Journaling 101

(Image via Rachel W. Miller / Ellie Sunakawa / BuzzFeed)

Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based engineer, is credited with developing the bullet journal. Carroll describes bullet journaling as a “framework for tracking the past, organizing the present and preparing for the future.” The beauty of the bullet journaling system is its flexibility, adaptability and customization. A bullet journal doesn’t have the pre-printed layout of a daily planner or calendar. Each new page is a blank canvas, and each new month can look different than the last. Let’s break it down. A bullet journal has four main sections:

  • Daily Log/Diary. This is where you keep track of 24 hours of tasks and events. Grocery lists, to-do lists, appointments, daily chores and leisure activities. Once you finish a task, mark it complete. If you don’t finish a task, move the task to the following day or week or strike it from the record. You can also use this section as a diary to track your thoughts and feelings throughout the day. Whether excited or nervous, use the space to express how each entry makes you feel and let your words flow freely.
  • Monthly Log. The monthly log is a calendar as well as a list of tasks, goals and events. It gives you an in-depth overview of the current 30 days.
  • The Future Log. It’s best described as the big picture, or detailed lists of the year’s major events, goals, hopes and dreams. Do you want to apply for a mortgage or buy a new car? Do you have a New Year’s resolution to join a gym, lose weight, run a marathon or eat more organic foods? This is the section of the journal where you’ll plan what you want to accomplish in the next year. At the same time, the future log is also the section of the journal where you’ll write all non-urgent lists, say, cities or countries you want to visit or names for unborn babies.
  • Index. Think of it as the Table of Contents. The index helps you find your journal entries and content. How does it work? Leave the first few pages of the bullet journal blank and title them “Index.” When you use the journal, add the topics of your entries and their page numbers. For example, a list of restaurants you want to try might be on page 10, and a list of current movies you want see on page 59. Bullet journaling is about customization and versatility. You can also create symbols to signify different events. For example, drawing an eye might mean that your thought requires more research or information. Or an empty box might be placed next to a task only to be checked upon completion. Here are a few to get you started, but feel free to get creative! The best way to keep track of the symbols and their meanings is to create a key and house it within the index.

Why Choose a Bullet Journal Over a Daily Planner or Calendar?

Bullet journaling is more efficient than traditional methods of journaling because it adds creativity to the mix. The creative and customized part of bullet journaling improves motivation. Writing in a traditional daily planner or calendar gets tedious; it’s all work and no play, which causes you to quickly lose interest.

The bullet journal is different. Part planner, part sketchbook (you can replace traditional bullets with stars, asterisks or any shorthand symbol you want), a bullet journal is the perfect mix of arts, crafts and organization. In fact, some BuJo aficionados call it “organization art.” It attracts those who enjoy things like scrapbooking and collaging as well as those who love checking off completed tasks. Bullet journaling is not only a way to organize your thoughts, compile lists and set daily and monthly goals; it’s also a creative outlet.

Less Reflexive, More Reflective

According to Vogue, bullet journaling is designed to make you less reflexive and more reflective. In other words, bullet journaling might be a list-making craze, but it’s meant to make your days less crazy. Users are supposed to contemplate their unfinished tasks and decide whether or not those tasks should be moved to a new list or dispensed with altogether. In fact, bullet journaling has been called the modern spiritual cousin of KonMari, the ancient, Japanese method of organizing and tidying up. And then there’s the Zen-like importance of pen and paper, old school methods that are quickly disappearing in the digital age. Bullet journal creator Ryder Carroll says that when it comes to ordering your thoughts, paper is much better for mental self-care than using an app. Of course, how you use your bullet journal is entirely up to you.

Bullet journaling boosts productivity and peace of mind. It’s a creative and useful way to organize the ticker-tape of our brains and bring order to our busy lives.