The first time I heard the phrase “bullet journal,” I thought people were talking about those journals from movies. Our main character has just been shot, presumed dead. But wait! The bullet got stuck in their journal! Luckily, it had been in their breast pocket the whole time (usually put there by another main character earlier in the movie). I wasn’t totally wrong, but I definitely wasn’t right.
The name “bullet journal” comes from the act of creating bulleted lists in a journal to help you “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” According to Carroll, bullet journaling is a catalyst for “intentional living,” a way for overstressed people to focus their time and energy for a more orderly life. If that seems like a big promise from just a notebook and a pen, let me explain how the method can help you organize your life, stress less, save you money, and even get happier.
Organize your life
Bullet journaling is based around a concept Carroll calls “rapid logging,” which is basically just making bulleted notes while never writing full sentences. You can bullet anything, but Carroll’s system is based around tasks (what you need to get done), notes (what you don’t want to forget), and events (what’s going on). You then organize them by week, month, year, or just a general “future.”
That’s mostly it. The real reason people have gone coco for BuJos (as of this writing, #bulletjournal has been used over 2.75 million(!!!) times on Instagram) is their organizational versatility. Because you’re not constrained by what an app or Excel file can do, anything can be bullet journaled. And you can do it with flair! Your Soulcycle schedule can be in a bike tire. Your grocery list can be covered in fruit doodles. Or if you’re like me and can only draw cartoon fish, your BuJo can, like a half-hearted prom, have an Under the Sea theme. No matter your creativity and artistic abilities, bullet journals are great for taking the whirlwind in your head and organizing it down on paper.
Lower your stress
Carroll says that after you’ve learned the basics, bullet journaling becomes a type of mindfulness practice, like meditation. The writing and organizing help to clear your mind and reduce stress, similar to the effect of the adult coloring book trend of the past few years.
But bullet journaling’s benefits go even beyond those of a coloring book. In addition to that meditative state, you’ll also benefit from the well-being boost you get from writing about life goals. Plus, these journals give you a chance to externalize your memories, giving your brain the ability to focus more on the present. All proven ways to lower your stress levels.
When’s the last time someone who wasn’t your grandmother wrote you a check? While digital banking is great, checks did have an advantage: Their physical nature made money more tangible. That’s where bullet journals come in.
While writing down everything your spend is IMO overwhelming and unnecessary, you can use your BuJo to create visual aids and inspiration for saving your money and spending it smartly. Saving for a vacation? Draw a palm tree and color it in as you save. Buying holiday gifts? Write down your budget and all the people you’re buying for, then draw little presents and put in how much you spent on each. By visualizing your money, you’ll be more connected to it, which might help you spend less or just spend more mindfully.
If being more organized, less stressed, and more flush with cash aren’t enough to make you happier, bullet journals have a few more happiness tricks up their book jacket sleeves. Make a page where you only write down what you’re grateful for. Or a page that’s covered in compliments people have given you. Or write three good things about yourself each day. Or make a to-do list of very easy-to-accomplish tasks that you can cross off when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or anything that will help you. That’s what makes keeping a bullet journal so great. Once you know the system, you can do anything you want with it as long as it makes you happy.
No one organizational method works for everyone. But there is an organizational method for everyone. So grab a pen and a blank journal because that’s all you need to give bullet journaling a try. And if nothing else, Instagram bullet journals are always pretty to look at.