“We have to externalize our thoughts to declutter our mind” – Ryder Carroll
Do you have random lists scattered all around your home? When you go to bed, do you think of everything you should have done that day, but didn’t? Do you miss the simplicity of pen and paper? Bring on the life changing, brain organizing, the one and only Bullet Journal. Oh how my life has changed for the better since discovering this simple but genius method. I will never buy a one size fits all planner again.
Do yourself a favor and check out this video before reading the ten ways that the Bullet Journal has streamlined my life.
1. CLEAR MIND
Being an adult means your mind is a very busy place. We are constantly thinking of things we have to do, things we should do, things we forgot to do and it is stressing us out big time. Purging all of those thoughts via pen and paper is incredibly relieving and the first step in sorting through our mental chaos. When you do this regularly, your mind is free to move past those tedious thoughts and onto bigger and better ideas.
Before I discovered the bullet journal, I would get into bed at night and be bombarded with countless, stressful thoughts. What a terrible way to end the day. Now, I find that my mind is free for reflection or to further explore ideas I’m interested in. It is like I am able to bypass the petty aspects of my life and focus in on the substantial parts that have been out of grasp until now.
2. CREATIVE OUTLET
You don’t have to be a wanna be artist to enjoy having a creative outlet. If you loved doodling on your notes back in high school, then you will love adding this artistic aspect to your BUJO (oh yeah, thats a thing). Just go on Pinterest and search ‘bullet journal‘ to see some exquisite spreads.
Warning: don’t let the beautiful pins stop you from beginning your Bullet Journal. It is fun to add color and design to your journal, but if you go too far down the Pinterest rabbit hole, you might get overwhelmed and never start. I found it was best to start with the simple version that Ryder explains in the video above and then slowly start to add more creative details and spreads as you go along.
I’ve always been a journal keeper… until I had kids. Who has time for that? Well now I do, sort of. I don’t journal consistently, but sometimes I will write a few sentences down at the end of my daily log. I love that I don’t feel pressured to do this every single day and just do it when inspiration hits. I write about a whole range of subjects, but usually I just summarize the best parts of my day in the hopes that I won’t forget them in the future.
I also write about the cute and frustrating things my kids did that day. Ya’ll know that those memories are bound to fade by tomorrow, so jotting them down as they happen is perfect for busy parents. Here is a real example from my BUJO: “On the way home from hanging out in Manayunk, Jane asked us if when she grows up, will we still be her parents. So sweet and sad”. This is super useful if you want to make baby books for your kids, but just can’t find the time or energy to do it. You can refer back to these tidbits when you have the time to get crafty as fuck (you know, in like 15 years or whatever).
4. MOMMY BRAIN FRIENDLY
If you are a mom, you probably can relate to the phrase “mommy brain”. I think I need to rename this phenomenon, “worried I have a brain tumor” because there are some days where I am seriously concerned about my inability to form sentences. It’s a god damn miracle that this blog is even happening people! Seriously, while writing this post, I have had to google what I am trying to say in order to find the word that has escaped me. My three year old occasionally comes up with words faster than I do.
While the bullet journal can’t give me my old brain back, it can help me organize my thoughts and make it so I won’t forget appointments or playdates since I plan out each day the night before.
5. A LIFE REFERENCE
I revisit the pages of my bullet journal time and time again. When I am writing a packing list for my family, I will look back at a previous packing lists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Every tax season, I scramble to remember how to locate everything I need. This year, I wrote it all down as I completed each task and included detailed notes that I can refer to in the future. This almost makes me excited to do taxes next year (okay no, that will never happen). I can see when I last cleaned the bathrooms or vacuumed so I know which cleaning task I should prioritize. I jot down little things like when I put in new contacts so I know when it’s time for me to open a new set. I also take notes during important phone conversations which has proved to be quite useful. All these points of reference help me stay on top of the little things that otherwise might through the cracks.
6. EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE
No more looking around the house for that piece of junk mail I scribbled an important number on. Keeping everything in one place is such an obviously great idea, but somehow I never figured this out until I discovered the bullet journal. I used to record my notes and to-dos all over the place- phone apps, pads of paper, sticky notes, email, the list goes on. Never again. Every idea, list and doodle goes into my bullet journal where I can easily access it when need be.
7. FEELING ACCOMPLISHED
Every time I complete a task, I feel a little more accomplished. Being able to look back at the previously completed tasks makes me feel like I am on top of my shit. When you finish a task, as small as it may be, it motivates you to keep on going. That thrill of accomplishment makes you want to schedule that dentist appointment just so you can “x” off that task. If you decide to put it off, you have to rewrite that task for the next day. After doing this a few days in a row, you finally get the damn thing done just so that you don’t have to write it down for the fifth time. The system works and you will feel good about your day when you review everything you’ve accomplished.
Before I drank the bullet journal kool-aid, I rarely dealt with those pressing issues that should have been high on my to-do list but were too stressful to focus on. If I couldn’t manage my daily tasks, how the hell was I going to find the motivation to confront the bigger to-dos like finding a new doctor or setting up a Roth IRA account?
Now that I am able to stay on top of my daily chores, I find it less intimidating to add these more consuming tasks to my monthly spread. It also helps that when I add it to a month in my future log, I am not specifying which day I will undertake the task. I am simply setting a goal for myself to get it done sometime within that month. Once it is written there, it is way more likely that I will complete it.
8. IT’S ADAPTABLE
Possibly the best thing about the bullet journal is that it’s adaptable to you and your interests and lifestyle. Every bullet journal is going to be drastically different because it reflects it’s author and their priorities. Here are some examples of what subjects have made an appearance in my bullet journals: quotes, savings goals, restaurants to try, names to remember (one of my all time favorite ideas- I write down peoples’ names after meeting them in the hopes that it will help my remember them and it totally works), birthdays, packing lists, ideas of things to do with my kids, Christmas gift ideas, my baby’s sleep logs, notes from the books I’m reading, family trees, my home’s floor plan layout, food logs, various fonts to try, things I want to learn more about, cleaning logs… maybe this should be it’s own blog post. My point is, there are so many things you can do with this and you get to pick and choose what works for you. There are no limits and that is why this is the only journal/planner for me.
The structure of the bullet journal is defined by its flexibility. You can start a list on one page and continue it ten pages later. You fill your bullet journal as you go and never have to worry about limited space which is a big concern in other planners. I find this especially useful for my daily log which varies in length throughout the week.
I’ll admit it- I am really bad at unplugging. I am getting better lately, but it still takes a lot of effort to not glance at my phone to see if I missed a text or to check Facebook for the hundredth time. Bullet journaling is a much needed break from screens and power cords. I don’t have to update, download, restart or charge my notebook. It sits there peacefully on my coffee table, waiting until I have a moment to check in and say hi. Pen and paper are comforting and reminiscent of simpler times.
10. YOUR PRIORITIES COME TO THE SURFACE
Have you ever been asked what you want and answered “more time”. I can see exactly where my time is going when I review my bullet journal. All I have to do is look at the tasks, events and appointments that fill the pages and see what needs to go. It is hard to change anything in your life until you examine what you are doing right now. To save money, you need to see where you are spending those paychecks. To lose weight, you need to track your calories in verses calories out. Same thing goes for time. What do your days consist of? Does that make you happy? Or do you need to do some life editing? (Check out this post I wrote about how to do just that).
I hope these insights into how the bullet journal has streamlined my life motivates you to give it a try. You don’t need a fancy notebook, (although if you want one I highly suggest the very popular dotted Leuchtturm) and if you give it a go, you might find that you will be able to sleep a little better at night.
If I can’t convince you, maybe Ryder Carroll can. Check out this TED talk by the bullet journal creator: