It all started with a sarcastic comment from my Dungeon Master during my last Dungeons and Dragons campaign session.
After we all chastised our poor DM for her drawing abilities of a map lying in front of us, she responded that she'd like to see us try, which launched us into a conversation about drawing, creativity, and general artistic abilities. Somehow, bullet journaling came into the convo, but not very positively.
The members of our campaign who'd heard of it before all disliked it for a lot of the same reasons which keep many other people from trying it out. They complained about the time commitment, need for artistic skill and the seemingly random way it calls you to organize your life. They explained the formatting—starting with monthly and weekly calendars, then adding an index to help you navigate all the different lists that could go into one journal—and how that kind of organization would only stress them out.
I, on the other hand, had one of those rare moments where it felt like a light switch had turned on in my brain.
In fact, it sounded an awful lot like what I already do on my phone.
One of the best ways I've learned to address my mental health is by listing all the tasks I've needed to do and staying organized. Unfortunately, this compulsiveness to keep everything aligned has turned into a bit of an obsession, so I have about 6 apps and dozens of folders, albums, and lists devoted to organizing every aspect of my life. Though it did relieve some stress and helped me stay productive, it did get a little overwhelming to have so much information stored in so many different places.
As soon as I looked up bullet journaling for myself I knew I would love it. It's now been almost a month and I am entirely hooked.
The only downside to the pastime is that it truly is a hit or a miss with people, so it's definitely OK to be immediately turned off if you check out these points and your head starts swimming. But if you're like me and your brain is as jumbled as your sock drawer, bullet journaling might be just right for you, too.
I never watched the introduction video, but from my understanding, the bullet journal was literally created for this purpose. Personally, my monthly calendars are just an excuse to be creative. However, many people find practical, attractive ways to use it functionally and still make it look great. I also get good use out of my weekly calendars and daily to-do lists.
The organization of it all is really what fuels my obsession. When I was using upwards of 5 apps to remember and plan things, it was very impersonal and every app had something I didn't like about it. This way, everything is in one place and it can appear exactly how I want it!
3. Good Pastime/Hobby
Because I'm on summer break at the moment, every morning has started out with eating breakfast and catching up on the daily trackers in my journal. Beginning the morning like this automatically makes me more positive, energetic and excited to start the day.
4. Practice Handwriting
I have a pretty well defined boy side, which means that I never developed the full, bubbly handwriting of the rest of the girls growing up. To be frank, it's nothing short of chicken scratch. Adding this artistic element to something so every day has helped me refine my untidy scrawl quite a bit.
5. You Get To Color
One of the most fun things about a bullet journal, if you choose to include trackers of any kind, you can literally design yourself a coloring book. As of now, I get to color in a flower, stripe in a flag or food item every day which I created entirely for myself.
If you're like me, it's easy to let tasks like picking up something miscellaneous from a store I never go to, remembering small things my dogs may need and completing stuff to do around the house fall by the wayside as the week goes on. With this method, I can now assign one of those atypical tasks to myself each day so that loose ends all get tied up somehow.
7. Motivation And Goal Monitoring
As of now, my main goal is to reach 10,000 steps a day in an effort to get in better shape before going to my local Pride festival. Although it may sound dumb, getting to fill in a line each day after I've reached my goal is immensely satisfying and is enough to motivate me to get up and walk around a bit throughout the day.
8. Habit Maintenance
Because steps aren't the only thing needed to get into shape, I've also starting using my book (as I've come to call it) to track how often I get fast food in a month. Just like the emotional tie I have to filling in a stripe on a flag, adding one of those orange dots to my calendar is very disappointing. Again, that reminder in my head is enough to tell myself "there's food at home" throughout the day.
Like many other people in my age range, I'm no stranger to mental health troubles. Anyone whose ever dealt with this knows that having structure in your life is key. Here, I can make check lists and map out schedules, but the act itself provides structure. You have total free reign, and, personally, I designated an allotted amount of time each day to journaling, so having that stability has been really helpful.
A quick Google search of bullet journaling will probably pull up a handful and a half of different ways users have established to track their mood throughout the month. Personally that doesn't appeal to me, but I've adopted this same concept to track my gender, dysphoria and how I expressed that day. I already did this on yet another application, so having it here along with all my other lists is extremely pleasing and 10 times more attractive than using Excel.
11. Record The Things You Love
Another unexpected attribute I'm enjoying in my book is the affect on my mood. I'm a notorious cynic, so I devoted one collection—or two-page spread decorated the same way—to positive thoughts that may occur and positive moments I want to remember. Because of this, I've noticed definite improvement in my thoughts in general.
Nothing is more satisfying than a job well done. Something that journalers say pretty consistently is that you will make mistakes and it's part of the process, so it feels that much better when you complete a beautiful collection with not a drop of white out on the page.
13. Outlet for Emotions
Ironically, I started my bullet journal the day before a bad breakup. Since then, it's not only served as a way for me to be productive and organized, it's come to function as a diary, too. Experts assert the massive benefit of keeping a journal or even just writing down difficult thoughts, so because I'm already a pretty consistent writer, that part is just an added bonus.
One of the funnest parts of bullet journaling is the thriving community online. Personally, I use Pinterest and Instagram for getting inspiration, tips and to chat with other journalers. This keeps the creative juices flowing and answers tactical problems that will inevitably arise.
15. Gets You Off Technology
It's old fashioned for sure, but there's nothing like silencing your phone for an hour and picking up some colored pencils instead. For the most part I try to just blatantly ignore that everyone and their mom is addicted to technology, so this was another unexpected benefit of starting my book that I didn't even have to make a conscious effort to enforce.
16. Encourage Good Behaviors
This year I've been trying my hardest to reduce my carbon footprint. That said, I'm trying to integrate one meatless day and one day where I don't purchase anything into my weeks to try and make some kind of difference. My bullet journal is just the thing to motivate me, cause I get to cross off a whole week on a calendar every time I get it done. Even if those single days themselves won't reverse global warming, it still makes me feel like I'm contributing somehow.
Another psychological benefit of the bullet journal, and hobbies as a whole, is the smooth, uninterrupted time you have to put into it. Because you have to sit, stay organized and be focused, this is an excellent opportunity to wind down for a bit and mindfully focus on the task at hand instead of the rush of the day.
18. Problem Solving And A Little Bit Of Math
I just graduated with a bachelor of arts in English Literature, so my ineptitude with math is probably self explanatory. As much as I hate it, I know it's good for me to be working with measurements, adding, subtracting and dividing to make sure each page looks flawless.
19. Personalization and Control
All of these facets of the bullet journal are enjoyable, but what really does it for me is how utterly individual my book is. Sure, I use people's ideas for layouts and doodles as much as the next guy, but having total autonomy over what's included, how your needs are addressed and what things are going to look like is delicious. I know there's no other journal out there just like mine cause there's no other Ken out there just like me.