Bullet journal not your days but your dreams

November 16, 2017 — by Connie Liang and Sanjana Melkote

Reporters try out bullet journaling as a method of destressing. 

Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us motivated to finish our ever-growing piles of work every day is the satisfaction of aggressively scratching another task off our lengthy to-do lists.

But as we whipped out our school-issued planners to write down our homework assignments, we glanced over at another student’s minimalistic Moleskine notebook, which opened to reveal a bullet journal filled with a beautiful flurry of doodles, lists and charts intertwined in perfect spreads. It left us wondering: Do our planners have the power to influence our attitude toward the work that lies ahead of us?

Is there a difference between the mindset of someone whose planner is an abomination of scratches and lines and a person whose planner looks like a picture straight out of Pinterest? We set out to find the nuances of bullet journaling.

Originally developed by Brooklyn-based digital product designer Ryder Carroll over years of trial-and-error, the bullet journal is a customizable planner format described on bulletjournal.com as “the analog system for the digital age.”

In 2013, Carroll launched his website, sharing instructions and a video tutorial on bullet journaling. An updated version of the original video, posted in 2015, has since gained more than 6.3 million views on YouTube, as bullet journaling continues to gain traction.

Carroll developed the format of the planner, and users can adhere to it or stray into their own creativity when laying out their spreads. Creating a bullet journal is very cost-efficient, as it only requires a blank notebook and a pen. It offers individuals the chance to simplify their lives and create a unique organization of daily tasks, reminders, events and personal goals.

Carroll established a conventional “rapid logging” notation for bullet journalers that includes four basic components in each entry: the topic, page number, bullets and short ideas. This notation provides those who use the journal a quick and easy way to record and remember daily events; the overall framework of the journal is outlined by the index, daily log, monthly log and future log.

Despite this standard spread, bullet journaling encourages individual customization and has evolved to fit the needs of all who use it in whatever format best suits them.

Students like freshman Celine Chen praise the bullet journal for ushering in increased productivity levels and stress relief.

Having received a bullet journal starter kit for her most recent birthday, Chien has used it for six months and finds it to be effective in helping her keep track of her life both inside and outside of school by logging in her practice hours for music, sleep and studying.

“It’s relaxing for my eyes to take a break from blue light [electronics] and have a hardcopy of everything using just pen and paper,” Chien said.

In an attempt to relieve our own stress, we decided to give bullet journaling a shot. However, we found that between being occupied by homework and school-related activities, we barely had time to update our bullet journals aside from quickly writing down a few notes at the end of the day.

In fact, over the weekend, we both forgot to update our journals, and for the rest of the week, we completely abandoned our journals and reverted back to jotting down notes in our school planners, on post-it-notes and even off the top of our heads.

Especially when school-issued planners provide specific layouts with red and blue days, we feel bullet journaling doesn’t benefit us much more than using the regular planner does on a daily basis. On the other hand, we found that some aspects of bullet journaling can be extremely helpful when visualizing goals and long-term projects.

As we tried to keep up a future log, it helped us recognize our aspirations outside of school and realize the overlooked worth of our personal goals even when we are overwhelmed by an academic workload.

Having a colorful spread of our dreams is a nice reminder and gentle motivation to give importance to what makes us happy as well as our responsibilities.

So while we can relish in the opportunity to repeatedly scratch out our everyday assignments, our long-term goals can be treated as something that’s not just another task on a seemingly endless list.

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