If you do a Google Image search of the phrase “Bullet Journal,” the first things that pop up will most likely be several hundred images of terrifyingly organized, aesthetic weekly planners that look like something out of a Pinterest catalogue. But bullet journaling isn’t, in fact, just for twenty-somethings with Etsy stores to run. It can be a really helpful organizational tool for anyone who needs to get their stuff in order.
I have a long history of being really, really bad at keeping track of things. I’m incapable of surviving without a to-do list to remind me what my schedule for the day looks like. It doesn’t matter if it’s a task that I do every day—I have to write it down, or I’ll forget to do it. Unfortunately for me, though, I’m also the type of person who gets bored really quickly. So no matter what to-do list app or daily planner I’ve tried, I’ve inevitably gotten tired of using it and stopped. Which leads to a complete drop in productivity until I find the next app to tide me over. And then the whole cycle repeats itself until I got bored again.
Enter the bullet journal.
The bullet journal is a system of journaling developed by Ryder Carroll. While there’s an official Bullet Journal that you can buy, gridded Moleskines are a perfectly valid alternative.
The appeal of the bullet journal system is that it’s made to be adaptable and catered to the needs of the specific user. It has several key components: the index, the key, and the logs. Each of these can be modified to fit your individual preferences. The index keeps track of where all of your to-do lists and logs are. The key allows you to create a list of symbols that will tell you how to classify tasks (such as whether they’re urgent, can be done tomorrow, are for work, etc.).
As for the logs, there are three different kinds: future, monthly, and daily. The purpose of the future log is to let you lay out events happening in coming months. Monthly logs let you look at a month specifically and map out things that happen on certain days. Then the daily log functions the same way a regular old to-do list does, with its emphasis being on the daily grind. Jessie McCabe, who runs the YouTube channel HowToADHD, explains the system better in this video:
A bullet journal doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be fun to spruce one up with colored pens and markers, but if you’re anything like me and you hate it when organizing your life takes more than, like, fifteen minutes, you don’t have to go that route. You can get rid of parts you don’t like and add extra things you do. For example, given that I barely know what I’m doing today, I thought it was really pointless to worry about the future, so I scrapped the future and monthly logs. What I did need, though, was a list of important dates (like birthdays), so I dedicated two pages to that instead. My bullet journal also features a list of TV shows I want to watch, books I want to read, and habits I want to start. Other fun examples of optional pages can be found here.
If you need to get your shit together, consider trying this out. While at first glance it can look intimidating, the system is surprisingly really simple once you get the hang of it. No need for any complicated stuff— your bullet journal can be organized and functional, just like the college student we all dream of being.