If you’re remotely interested in journaling, life hacks or anything productivity related, chances are you’ve seen bullet journal mentioned somewhere. I heard about bullet journal when it was just out of the Kickstarter phase, watched the videos, and moved on. I never kept a diary for more than 2 weeks when I was a kid, so I didn’t even think that an analog system would have much use in my life.
Two years and dozens of productivity and journaling apps later, I came to terms with the fact that I have commitment and discipline troubles. I thought I had nothing to lose then and gave bullet journal a try, since I have nothing to lose in May 2016. Four months later, I’m amazed that it is still a part of my daily life. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t stuck to something for such a long time.
I suppose it just werks, and seeking the reason is not really important. But considering that this little assistant has helped me get my life together, I feel like I’m under obligation to search for the answers to the question “why”.
First, What Is Bullet Journal?
If you’ve already used Bullet Journal, you won’t need my explanation. If you haven’t heard of it, there’s no better place to be convinced to give it a try than the official website by the creator, Ryder Caroll.
Bullet Journal is not the name of a particular journal. It’s purpose is not even to plan your life or boost your productivity. In a nutshell, it’s a brain dump system, a practice designed to optimize your life and help you focus on what really matters amidst zillions of choices nowadays. It was born after 20 years of trial and error by a designer with AHDH who found that traditional notetaking didn’t help him focus very well.
Why the Bullet Journal Works
- It’s flexible and adaptable
There’s no such thing as the perfect planning system. Premade planners are rigid and fail to take into account the unpredictability and intangible aspect of personal tasks. With Bullet Journal, you can transform it into whatever you need it to be. It’s brain dump, habit tracker, to-do-list all in one place instead of hoping to remember in which apps you put that serendipitous idea popping up while you fell asleep last night.
I doubt that Bullet Journal would enjoy such an enthusiastic following if it were not so flexible and adaptable. Each day, each week, each month doesn’t have to be the same and you can always rethink, replan and reprioritize with Bullet Journal. Indeed, I don’t have only one daily setup or weekly spread. I mostly follow a pared down bullet list every day but occasionally I get finicky about how I use my time and I plot out my day hour by hour. No full-fledge planner or app can accommodate the level of customizability.
2. It lets you focus on what works and ignore the distraction
Digital tools take time. The more features they have, the more effort is expended. They also require you to take out your smartphones regularly. I notice that my excitement over the cool functions of digital apps vanish quickly, I soon felt like doing chores and then underutilize or abandon the apps.
Bullet Journal is really designed to make your life easier.
3. Pen and Paper Helps You Process Your Thoughts Better
The jury is out. Pen and paper is not just a hobby for nostalgic people who love penmanship and long for a time bygone. There have been several studies confirming the value of old-fashioned notetaking in boosting memory and the ability to understand. From my anecdotal experience, electronics lead to mindless processing, and manually writing in a notebook focuses me on what I’m doing in a way that no computer-based activity can.
4. It Propels You to Use Your Time More Effectively
There have been complaints that Bullet Journal is time-consuming. In fact, a true Bullet Journal doesn’t require you to draw anything. Even if it takes more time than digital tools, I find that I pay more attention to what I need to do when more work is involved.
Writing down the header for everyday and the calendar made me realize with a pang of regret that time is what life is made of. Time flies anyway, so the time is always ripe to do something. The time you spend on writing down daily tasks and rewriting/migrating creates an accountability system. Sometimes, time spent is not wasted.
5. It Makes You Come to Terms with Your Weaknesses and The Consequences of Your Actions
Big surprise: I’m a master procrastinator. I’ve always been aware of it, but it wasn’t until I started Bullet Journal that I fully grasped the consequences of succumbing to instant gratification and disregarding time management. I was shaken to see a lot of white space on the daily spreads, activities cluttering in the evening because I don’t do the most important things first, which lead to almost no progresses after months.
I definitely missed the lessons in school about staying organized, planning and being consistent. Bullet journaling is like a stern, objective life coach who suggests me how to find answers instead of telling me what to do.
A few months ago, I never thought that I’d sing praises about a little notebook and a deceptively simple system like Bullet Journal. In truth, I’m aware of what Bullet Journal failed to do and I use it together with some apps, like an orchestra in tune. What makes Bullet Journal stand out in a world of countless productivity apps for me is that it reminds me to take stock of my life and direct my focus on doing something meaningful before life passes me by.