My apartmentmates and I have settled into life at school. We cook. We clean (usually). We divvy up fridge space and share utensils and pots and pans and a single bathroom. We may live off-campus, but we are still deeply involved with activities on-campus. At the same time, we’ve all got packed schedules: one of the girls I live with is a biomedical engineer on the pre-med track, and the rest of us are pursuing multiple majors and minors.
Personally, I’m balancing my off-campus life with a 19-credit semester, running a sports club, and maintaining membership in my other extracurriculars. But I’d be lying if I said I were organized. This year marks the first time I’ve ever used a planner in my life, and to be honest–I have no idea why I ever insisted on keeping everything in my head. Writing everything down makes it so easy to remember what I have to do next.
I recently got into bullet journaling, which is a fancy way of saying that I bought a notebook and started drawing lines in it. It seems weird, doesn’t it? We live in the digital age; everything is in the cloud and on Google and it all syncs beautifully with your phone and your laptop, but here I am telling you that I left all of that for plain ol’ pen and paper. Why?
Well, for starters, bullet journaling has an insanely easy structure that makes it an absolute piece of cake to build from. There are basic pages that serve as the backbone of your journal:
- Index: makes it so nothing has to be written consecutively. Every page of your journal is numbered, and everything gets recorded on your index pages (people typically use two). For example, I have my September spending log on page 7, but I made my future log (see below) after I started September, so that’s on pages 12-15.
- Monthly Log: at the start of every month, you write the days of the month down the side and use that to keep your monthly events/due dates/tasks at-a-glance.
- Future Log: since the bullet journal focuses on one month at a time, it’s hard to plan for things that are several months down the road (such as my exams and hockey games). That’s where the future log comes in! You can make it mind-numbingly simple and just write a box, the date, and the event, or you can get a little fancier and section your future log into months so you can put each event under its respective month.
- Daily Log: the meat and bones of your journal! You write your day here. I approach it in a purely task-driven manner, and I’ll write in events that I have to do as the week goes on, but I leave room for notes & reflections on my day as well.
Of course, bullet journaling seems weird and a little boring until you actually start and realize you can customize your journal for your own needs. Plus, you don’t figure this out until you really get into it, but I’m gonna spoil it for you: writing things down forces you to only write the things that are important to you for the sake of saving time and space. I was able to cut down on so much clutter in my online calendar by making myself fit everything I needed to do into a third of a notebook page. I definitely got intimidated by all the beautiful journals people were doing, with fancy calligraphy and layouts and colour-coding and fancy folding habit trackers. So I did what any sane human would do: I stopped looking at #bulletjournal on Instagram, bought myself a Moleskine (on sale!), and threw myself into the deep end.
As you can see, my bullet journaling attempts were incredibly basic and bare-bones (the pen colors didn’t even match!). However, as the weeks went by, I found myself spending more time caring about how my journal looked. I still freehand everything, but now I take the time to make my lines neat and tidy, because when things looked pretty I actually gained satisfaction from writing in a journal that surrounded me with the aesthetic pleasure of it all.
I can honestly say that writing everything down has made me way more careful and much less forgetful. You may find a different use for it–everyone does bullet journaling differently–but give it a try! You might be surprised (: