Bullet Journalling: A How To
By Laura Perkov
The beauty of the bullet journal system is its flexibility. No matter what your lifestyle is, you can figure out a spread that works for you. Meticulously decorated journals on Pinterest and Instagram can make them seem super complicated but, in its simplest form, the bullet journal is a collection of to-do lists in a notebook; all you really need is a pen, a notebook, and some stuff to organise. With exam season just around the corner and major essays piling up by what feels like the dozen, here’s a quick and easy guide to the different types of bullet journal spreads: how I use them, and how you can change them to suit your needs.
Most bullet journals start with an index that lets you know where things are. Because my spreads are only relevant for that particular week, I don’t find them particularly helpful – if I need to refer to a page multiple times I mark it with washi tape. And just like that, I have already altered the bullet journal formula to suit my own needs!
The next spread after an index is a future log, where you write down the events or due dates for the next three, six, or even twelve months. I start a new journal each semester, so I use a six-month spread with regular calendars, and relevant dates under it. You can also create a list, with dates and events written vertically down the page.
If you’ve checked out #bulletjournal on Instagram, you might have seen monthly logs. Monthly logs are an expanded version of the future log and are helpful as an overview of the coming weeks. This can take the form of a calendar or list and also include to-do lists for tasks that need to be completed that month, habit or progress trackers, or notes.
Depending on your needs, you can then have weekly logs, daily logs or a combination of the two. This is where experimentation comes into play – finding out what works is a lot of trial and error. I use a weekly spread with elements of daily logging: events and to-dos on the left under days of the week, and a list of readings and tasks to complete on the right.
In addition to using this system to organise tasks, you can create spreads for budgets, realising goals and resolutions, and tracking progress in assessments – look online for inspiration, or just get creative!
Try not to be intimidated by other people’s Insta-ready journals, however, and remember that your journal is just that: yours. It can be as messy, decorative, colourful, or minimalist as you like. So, find one of those empty notebooks you have stashed in a drawer somewhere, and get writing – it might just grow into something you can’t live without.
Bullet Journalling: Why You Should
Most of us are overcommitted and over-exhausted students who strive to be stress-free, more productive and always in control of our lives. But let’s be realistic. Unless you’re a new superhuman brand of student, you are probably regularly running late with a cup of coffee in one hand and your phone, laptop and three different planners balanced in the other.
In my quest for productivity, I think I’ve tried every app, Kikki-K diary and mindfulness playlist out there at least once. I started off my journey to productivity by trying out a variety of listing making apps such as wunderlist, anydo and todolist. Despite my best efforts, I never lasted more than three weeks with any of these apps. No matter the format, I always ended up at the point where I would become too overwhelmed by my never-ending lists and either give up or start listing things such as ‘eat breakfast’ and ‘shower’ to make myself feel better.
My next phase in my quest for productivity involved apps that help to keep you accountable such as nowthen, coldturkey, freedom and forest. Nowthen acts as an ongoing colour-coordinated stopwatch that calculates how many actual hours you are spending on each task, taking out the time you spend on social media or procrastinating. Coldturkey and Freedom are fantastic apps that block your access to Facebook, Slack, emails, etc. until you realise that, even though they are definitely a distraction, you definitely need them to move forward on many projects.
My next solution was to stop using technology all together. I started to wade my way through countless different journals, Filo Faxes, planners and pre-made to-do lists. Regardless of the planner I used, I felt like they were a burden to keep up to date and they often made me more stressed – just another responsibility.
It wasn’t until I found bullet journaling that I found my one, true productivity love. Over the last nine months, I’ve realised how beneficial it has been for improving my well-being. I would be lying if I said I was now completely stress-free, but for a complete stress head like me, even the smallest changes have made the largest impact.
The biggest way bullet journaling has helped me is just letting me unload my brain onto the pages, so I only need to focus on one thing at time. It feels flexible and accommodating; If you forget to bullet journal for a day or two, it doesn’t matter because unlike other journals, there are no awkward gaps to remind you. Everything has its place in my bullet journal — if something doesn’t have a place, I can make space for it.
Unlike my experiences with other productivity fads, bullet-journaling is, for me, realistic and forgiving. It shows my progress and how I have changed and grown. It has taught me that imperfections are a part of life and that I don’t need to hide them. Most importantly, my habit trackers help me to understand why I might not be doing okay and make sure I’m doing all the important life things outside of work – the ones that are easy to forget when you get ‘productive’.