For a long time, one of the phrases that was echoing all around me was – bullet journal. While I had been journaling off and on and found writing cathartic, this did not look in any way similar to what I associated with a journal. However, having heard enough people rave about the benefits of bullet journaling, I thought it made sense to try it out for myself.
My experience with Bullet Journaling
As the bullet journal founder Ryder Carroll says in this video, Bullet Journal is a handwritten way to “track the past, organise the present and plan for the future” . The video can be a little intimidating with all the systems it tries to create and personally, I took a lot of short cuts which make it far more sustainable for me.
Once I decided I wanted to start bullet journaling, my next stop was Pinterest. The number of beautiful awe-inspiring hand-made designs can be pretty overwhelming until you put a system to it. So I put together a secret board and started saving all the designs that I liked. Finally, I chose the things which I thought were doable considering my not so artistic abilities and the time it might take.
While the bullet journal traditionally warrants a dotted line notebook, in the dearth of such an option I bought a pretty economical spiral checked notebook. What I did splurge on was a set of pretty 8 colored pens which included black and royal blue ones as well. I now use the royal blue pen for all the writing in the journal and the black for all the boundaries in any of the boxes that I make.
Sneak peek into my Bullet Journal
I have done away with symbols for my journal to make it more flexible. While I try to make it a planner as much as possible, the bullet journal is proving to be far more efficient as a tracker of the past for me.
Some of the sections that I diligently update are:
Highlights of the day
One page in the journal is devoted to a week with the page being divided into 7 sections, one for each day. Traditionally, this page is supposed to be used for planning your day with a set of fixed icons. However, gradually I have become comfortable with using it to record the highlights of the day and mostly using an asterisk unless the pointer calls for a different icon. There are times when I literally have to rack my brains to come up with one when the day has seemed pretty much business as usual. However, I make it a point to have at least one thing added to the section every day. If I miss a day or two, I still make it a point to add something from the day gone by.
This is my favorite and the most colorful section of the journal. One page tracks my record for a month, of habits that I aim to cultivate.
Half a page is devoted to the gratitude log, every month. Since the time I have read about the importance of regular gratitude, I realized that mentally saying it to myself might not be enough. It now finds a comfortable place in my bullet journal.
I list down reminders for birthdays and anniversaries for a month under the gratitude log. I really enjoyed putting the birthday reminders in a balloon and the anniversary reminders in a ring.
For a long time, I recall feeling that nagging sensation where I seemed to be reading a lot of books and watching a lot of content or listening to podcasts with no idea of what or when. I tried to maintain an excel sheet but it really did not work. Considering how this is my go-to journal every evening, I feel that sense of closure when I finish a book or listen to a podcast when I then record that in my journal.
Benefits of Bullet Journaling
I hope my experience with bullet journaling has given you a taste of what it entails. Personally, I can vouch for the benefits it’s had in my life and how much I love it:
What I love about the bullet journal is that it is extremely customizable. You can totally make it your own. There is no need to follow fixed guidelines. The only thing which will make it sustainable is that you do not over complicate it or overwhelm yourself. Experiment and fix on a template that works for you. If you are looking for inspiration, with this post I have now made my bullet journal Pinterest board public.
2. Comes within a nifty budget
While you can easily splurge on the logistics and there are a ton of beautiful expensive options out there, I think the joy of turning a simple checked spiral notebook into a log of your life is unmatched. My notebook cost me Rs. 170 ($3) while the set of colored pens cost Rs. 240 ($4) and I was set for months.
3. Quick set up and maintenance
While the initial research and wrapping my head around it took time, it’s a far more efficient way of tracking your life than the conventional journaling. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to draw out the monthly templates while the daily updation takes me no more than 5 minutes.
4. Makes me feel artistic
I am not an artistic person. I can’t doodle, sketch, draw or anything close to such creative avenues. But I love what I am able to do with the bullet journal. Writing down the books I read and tracking my habits in that beautiful colorful checked manner gives me the pleasure of feeling artistic.
5. Sense of accountability to myself
I have often read about the important role played by accountability partners. For me, my bullet journal acts as a main accountability partner. I ensure that my bullet journal is on the couch where I sit to watch TV which then becomes my trigger to update it. While updating my subconscious mind gets subtle hints about the habits, recording gratitude as well as reading books or listening to good podcasts.
6. Helps in progress towards goals
As Leo Babauta says in Zen Habits, “Break your goals into habits, and focus on putting those habits into autopilot”. If one of my goals is to lose weight, then it finds a place on the habit tracker as two habits – “work out” and “no added sugar day”. If I want to manage my money better, I track it through the goal of “track expenses”. Once I have coloured the particular box, I feel the compulsive need to ensure I actually do what I have committed to in the journal. Also, just the act of colouring the box feels like a reward for having made time for the habit.
7. Makes each day feel precious
How often do we lament – time flies? Bullet journaling gives a sense of importance to each of the potentially nameless days. I can now look back and realise just how rich my life is and that has been empowering. One day I was raving about my new found love for bullet journaling to my colleagues and one of them quipped – do you really have a highlight for each day? Come to think of it, it’s easy to brush off all days as insignificant and not worth a mention. But, the bullet journal forces me to think a bit and puts a method to the madness of my days and makes me remember some or the other moment that may well be the highlight of the day.
While I was travelling in April, I sort of got out of the habit. However, I have slowly built it back and it’s paying rich dividends.
I have written this post and shared my bullet journal hoping to inspire more people into the fold. Mine might not be the most artistic one, but it just goes to show that anyone can start with bullet journaling. Bullet journaling is something that has truly made me lead a far more enriched life. It’s easy to start and doesn’t cost much especially considering the results are far more than money can buy.
Are you ready to start bullet journaling yet? What’s holding you back? If you have tried your hand at bullet journaling, how’s your experience been? Let me know in the comments below.
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