I Tried a Bullet Journal…And It Changed My Life
Journals, we all tried to write one either in our teens or maybe later in life but few really continued to write it on a regular basis.
It’s quite understandable why people more often than not end up giving up on keeping a journal and it’s mainly because they either don’t have the time or the inspiration to do so.
So why would you want to write a journal in the first place?
Well, a journal is a great way for you to keep track of all the tasks you need to do and also to write your thoughts on a piece of paper so you can later come back to them and see your progress.
Also, if you have a very busy schedule, a journal will surely help you with organizing your time more efficiently and knowing exactly when and what your next task is.
However, writing a journal isn’t an easy task to do and requires organization and planning, but people tend to write it how they think is easy or best suits them.
What if I told you that there is a method that requires minimum effort but is systematic enough that it can help you keep track of your tasks and thoughts and once you get a hang of it you will feel like you are taking control of your life?
The answer to that question is the Bullet Journal.
WHAT IS A BULLET JOURNAL?
The Bullet Journal is a note taking method developed by Ryder Carroll back in 2013, but only recently, starting from 2015, caught the attention of the Internet.
So it’s out there for a long time now and many people have tried it and they are all satisfied mainly because it lets you create your own unique style of writing a journal and makes it more manageable to keep track of things.
As Ryder likes to point out the journal really does allow you to keep track of the past, order the present and plan for the future.
You can write this journal with a special notebook that Ryder designed especially for Bullet Journals but you can use any notebook of your choice as well.
Now there are many different ways of how you can keep your Bullet Journal and you can customize the method depending on your needs.
The Bullet Journal is great for:
- Notes – School notes, work notes, random facts notes, you name it.
- Calendar – Keeping track of events and tasks you need to do this month.
- To-do list – Simple and easy day-to-day list of tasks.
- Sketchbook – Record your progress on a drawing.
- Meal planner – If you are on some kind of diet or just want to remember what you had for breakfast.
These were just suggestions so feel free to use the journal for your own needs and once you get into it you can create your own method which works for you.
HOW TO START A BULLET JOURNAL?
I’m going to explain Ryder’s basic method and the method I created myself incorporating his suggestions so you can get the picture of how to make your own journal.
Let me start off with key elements of the Bullet Journal:
- Index – The first four pages of your journal should be titled Index and they are used for keeping track of how many tasks you have in a certain month or how many books you need to read.
- Future log – The next four pages are your future log for the tasks you plan to do.
- Monthly log – The left side is your monthly calendar and the right side is the task list.
- Daily log – Days dates and entries.
- Entries – Short bulleted sentences (tasks, events, and notes).
Now that we covered the basic model of the journal I’ll explain how this all works.
The index is self-explanatory but all in all, you just title the first four pages as Index and keep track of page numbers, number of monthly tasks and so on.
Basically, you first create your future log by diving each of the four pages into blocks with 3 months on each page which will give you a total of twelve months on all four pages.
The future log is used for transferring the tasks you didn’t do the last month but we will catch up on that later.
Next is the monthly log and how it works is you write the name of the month as the title on the left page and then write down vertically the number of days downwards and also the first letter of the days.
Then on the right side, you create a to-do list which you want to finish this month and you’re done.
The daily log is set up in a way that you write the date and below you write the tasks, events, and notes using different bullets.
For example, the tasks are indicated by a dot, events by a circle and notes by a straight line.
When you start writing your journal and complete the task you needed to just simply put an “x” next to the bullet in your daily log marking that you have done it or when you haven’t completed a task take into consideration if it is worth your time.
If you want to complete the task in short-term transfer it to the monthly log or if you want to do it in the long-term copy the entry to the future log, if not cross it out.
The way that this works is that you keep track of the tasks you’ve done and the ones that you didn’t do but plan to complete them in the future. It also highlights your priorities and makes you more productive and less busy.
At the end of each month, you can write topics for related tasks and notes and organize them on the back so you can see your collection of similar tasks and notes for future reference.
And that’s basically it, the basic method of keeping a Bullet Journal.
You can change the concept any way you like but now I’ll show you my method just so you get the feeling of how I incorporated this method in my own style.
When I started to write my Bullet Journal I skipped the index altogether because I don’t like numbers, I know it sounds silly but for my needs, it’s just pointless I didn’t see any use from it.
I didn’t use the future log like the basic method explains but I somehow incorporated it into my schedule.
Now for the monthly log, I used the basic method where you write the dates on the left side and tasks on the right but I also added bullets next to important dates so I could keep track of maybe an upcoming birthday or an exam.
I also used the daily log and the special bullets for each type of entry really helped me to organize my tasks better and have a nice overview.
The only difference is that I didn’t copy my leftover tasks to the future log, but instead I used the future log as some kind of goal-tracker.
What I mean by that is I would write down my goals for the months in the future log and if I haven’t completed them I would transfer them for the next month.
So basically I used the daily log for my tasks and notes, the monthly log for events and the future log for writing my goals to keep me motivated.
Another thing that I incorporated was that I wrote down my college schedule and my daily study sessions which are around four to five hours long so I know when I’m done with my studying and with my tasks how much time for myself I have left.
It’s quite simple this way for me to see my progress and it also creates a lot of space and free time for other activities because I always know what I need to do that day.
Feel free to use either the standard method or even my own or if you want you can also create your method because it will best fit your needs.
WORK VS. PERSONAL BULLET JOURNAL
I want to talk about the difference between a work and a personal journal, or whether you need to have a separate journal at all.
This is your personal preference but I want to explain some details.
1. Work Journal
If you are quite busy and want to organize your time more efficient a work journal is the right thing for you because you can keep up to date on important business meetings, deadlines, and events.
The Bullet Journal method is really good for this and will help you to be more productive in your workplace.
On the other hand, having two separate journals may be a toll sometimes if you are used to carrying a lot of stuff in your bag so keep that in mind.
2. Personal Journal
A personal journal is a bit different than the work one, mainly because here you can write notes and tasks that aren’t associated with work so you don’t mix up those together.
Also, it is quite handy to have space where you can clear out your thoughts on a piece of paper which you can look back later.
Combining the two journals into one doesn’t appeal to some people mainly because they want to divide their work life from their personal life and that’s understandable.
WHY SHOULD YOU COMBINE THEM?
This is just my opinion, but I found it that when you combine your work journal with your personal one you have everything in one place and you spend less time trying to find the tasks you need to do.
I never kept two separate journals but I noticed that the work tasks in my journal never got in the way of the personal tasks I put myself to complete and I’m guessing it’s because I was motivated to do all my tasks that day regardless of them being linked to my job or my personal life.
As I said this is just personal preference but it doesn’t hurt to consider those things when you first start writing your journal.
THE BENEFITS OF A BULLET JOURNAL
I want to talk more about the benefits now because I want to share my story with you how this journal really helped me be not only more productive but also effective in completing my day-to-day tasks.
1. Increases Productivity
Everyone who’s gone to college experienced stress in some way or another and for me, this wasn’t a big deal, but I sometimes felt very unmotivated to start doing actual studying and it cost me a few exams that I could have passed from the first try.
But that all changed when I started writing my journal and to be honest I was a bit skeptical at first but once I realized that it was the solution to my problems I kept using it to this day.
It completely changes your way of thinking because you create a schedule for yourself, I think of it as a set of challenges for proving to myself that I can finish what I started every day.
I’m the type of person who works on pressure, if I have some time to myself I will probably slack off so keeping myself busy is quite important if I want to be more productive.
Having the ability to keep track of your progress will not only motivate you to continue being productive but also will sort of “keep you on your toes” so you will always be prepared to finish a task.
2. Encourages Consistency
This is an important trait that the Bullet Journal taught me.
Now it’s clearer to me than ever that in order for me to succeed I need to display perseverance and keep my head high in order to reach my goal because the hard work really does pay off in the future.
Because of the way this journal works I am constantly reminded every day when I open it that I have tasks that need to be done today and that creates a feeling of satisfaction when I complete even the simplest of tasks because those “little wins” do add up and make a more challenging task appear not so hard to accomplish.
3. Implements Organization
This was my biggest problem because I couldn’t organize my time properly and I wasted it without even knowing how much I can do in one day.
And once I brought the Bullet Journal in my life I quickly started to manage my time more effectively, not wasting a single second on unimportant things.
With more time you can be more productive and with more productivity, you are creating a pattern of behavior which is consistent so you can imagine it as a circular flow of your work and how it all affects your whole life.
Without organization, this wouldn’t be possible.
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
When I was starting out I had doubts mainly because I wondered how could a journal help me be more productive if it requires writing which I already didn’t like doing.
However, I gave it a shot and at first it seemed a bit silly to me to write down my tasks like “Call my private English professor” or “Study history from 14h to 15:30h”, but later I found it very useful to know who to call and how much time I have for studying so as I continued with it I started to like it more and more.
I would like to share some of my tips for people who want to start their own Bullet Journal so you don’t make some mistakes I did and don’t waste paper.
1. Take it slow
First things first, you need to realize what kind of journal do you need.
Do you need it for work, for school or just to keep track of your thoughts?
Once you figure out what you want you can then start to write your Bullet Journal and I suggest that you watch Ryder’s videos on how to start the journal so you get the basic idea of how it all works.
Then you can add your own ideas and methods which will be unique to you.
So first take things slow; do some researches on the journal, think of what tasks would you write on a daily basis, it can be as simple as making the bed or doing the laundry but it will help you to start somewhere.
Later when you add some harder tasks you will get the hang of it even more and will be able to complete the tasks in no time.
Before starting your own Bullet Journal, first think about these questions:
- What kind of journal do you need?
- What kind of tasks fill out your schedule?
- Are you willing to commit to your journal in the long run?
- Will you be able to complete all the tasks you give yourself?
- Do you even need a journal?
No worries, if you don’t know the answers to these questions now you will surely know them when you give the journal a try even if it means quitting after one week because then you will know that a journal isn’t for you and that you can organize your time without one.
However, some people, like me, aren’t so lucky to have our time organized in our heads so a journal sure is useful.
2. Pick up the pace
When you write a journal for about one or two weeks you will start to notice that it has started to be a habit to wake up every day and write your tasks and notes in your journal and later in the evening you check what you have completed and see your progress.
In this stage, you can start to implement more challenging tasks and start to set goals which you want to accomplish this month and try to stick with it.
Be precise and do your tasks, also be consistent and don’t let anything distract you.
What you are going to notice also is that you will start to speed up not only the process of writing a journal but also completing your tasks.
Like I mentioned earlier you will create a pattern in your behavior which will stimulate you to work even harder.
This is very important because it’s a huge milestone for a person to be able to be in control of his life and organize time well enough so he has time for everything.
3. Look back
When you enter this stage you already mastered the previous stages and you embraced the journal as a part of your daily routine.
Now you will take a step back and just look at all the things you’ve done in the past and will surely be well surprised by your progress.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
When you look back at your previous tasks and specifically notes you will use them for future reference and will see maybe a difference in your way of thinking when you started the journal compared where you are now.
It’s also a good way to assure yourself that you are improving your life and don’t worry about the unimportant things because you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.
In the end, I just wanted to say a couple of things why the Bullet Journal changed my life:
- It made me more productive and aware of my duties.
- It stimulated my motivation so I wouldn’t try to slack off any time I got the opportunity.
- I found it handy to have a journal by my side so I could write down ideas right when they occur.
- People started to look at me like I’m more responsible and serious when it comes down to working and studying.
- Because of everyday writing, my handwriting has improved (it was hideous).
To summarize, the Bullet Journal really did help me a lot and it still does and I’m sure that anyone who is willing to try it for just a week will either not like it because it’s not their thing, or will fall in love with it as I did.
The fact that you can make your unique method and your own personal journal which is made that way to soothe your needs is, in my opinion, the biggest appeal of the Bullet Journal.
So if you are interested in starting your own journal give the Bullet Journal a try, and I hope that you will like it as much as I do.
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