What is a bullet journal and do I need one?
I like to think of myself as being pretty organised: I colour code my phone calendar, I post birthday cards and I’m always on time for appointments. But more often than not, this thing called life can feel pretty overwhelming — and I hate spending so much time on my phone. Sound familiar?
Last month I attended a bullet journalling class and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of organisation, colour coding and life management. And there wasn’t an app in sight.
What is a bullet journal?
Search #bulletjournalling on Instagram and you’ll be met with 4.4million colourful posts from enthusiasts showcasing their efforts. This, combined with the 3.5million #bujo posts, proves the trend isn’t going anywhere just yet.
The bullet journal concept was born from the mind of Brooklyn-based designer Ryder Carroll, who claims that the pictures and charts helped him to organise his brain through ADHD.
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A bullet journal is essentially a notebook that you use to organise EVERYTHING. It’s going back to good old-fashioned pen and paper to document and track your finances, your water consumption, your social week, your tasks, your life admin and so much more.
But what makes it interesting is the hand-drawn illustrations and decorations. No “uploading”, no swiping — just pens, stickers, washi tape, doodles, and thoughts all put to paper — in incredible detail.
What’s more, its detailed structure helps you to plan goals and dreams for the year ahead. And at a time when mindfulness colouring is our go-to to unwind and downtime is imperative for our mental health, it seems bullet journalling could be key to settling an overwhelmed mind.
Your pages are split into categories and tasks/goals/actions are demonstrated via short-hand symbols for ease. Tasks are represented by a bullet, calendar events by a circle and notes by a dash. You get the picture.
Self-confessed “bu-joers” can spend hours making theirs look like works of art to make the whole concept of life management a little more exciting.
My bullet journalling class was held at my local community centre by Transformational life coach Kerry Hales. The coincidentally all-female class, from a mix of industries and backgrounds, confessed to carrying around multiple notebooks, using different calendars for family/work/their partners/their periods and feeling completely overwhelmed with their ever-growing to-do lists.
Kerry provided us each with a brand new notebook and talked us through each step. The general consensus? That this life-changing technique was going to make our lives a little easier. And isn’t that what we all want?
I love a trend and I adore stationery. But I have to be honest — a combination of travelling, holidays and therefore not being home has meant I haven’t picked it up since. I’m back to my phone, colour-coding my days and setting digital notifications for bill payments.
That’s not to say I won’t practice bullet journalling. A counsellor once told me that a bout of trauma I encountered meant that I like to feel in control – and my calendar ensures I feel just that.
My point is, do whatever makes you feel content and organised. If you do decide to bullet journal and it’s not Instagram-worthy, who cares? It’s your life and let’s face it — life isn’t always straight lines, perfect fonts and colour coding. Sometimes it’s just lots of scribbles — and that’s okay.
3 top tips for bullet journalling
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1. Be ok with it being messy
“There are many ways to make bullet journalling work for you,” says Kerry. “But adding pressure to make it look pretty, especially while you are getting to grips with it ‘working’ will make it too precious. Bullet journalling is all about making life more organised, so you can use your creativity specifically. Yes you can make it pretty and add in as many creative pages, drawings as you like. But this is a tool that we need to get you using first. Put away the perfectionista – she has no business here.”
2. You will fall off the wagon…
“After setting up and getting really excited about your new toy… you will get over it and possibly stop using it for a while,” Kerry adds. “Be okay with that. Habits are notably hard to change. Reconnect with the WHY you are using this tool. What will it do for you and your life? Getting organised will allow you to create more time and space for you to concentrate on what you really want to do. But – and this is a big BUT – if you aren’t sure what that is, we can fear this space, instead of welcoming it. So, when you do fall off the wagon, take a moment to look at the why, and own it.
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“Bullet journaling is a way to support you, it is not a sentence to being organised – it will release you from the chaos of being disorganised. But know that, as much as you want to leave chaos out of your life… it is a habit that you will need to work on.
3. Be ruthless
“After each day, review and cut through so much of your notes,” says Kerry. “There will be a few gems in there that need actioning – but not all of them. Strike through all you do not need, which will highlight the real points of any notes.
“Add the actions to your Task List or to Project pages and get rid of the notes. I mark a big ‘X’ across the page to ensure I don’t bother looking at it again. It keeps you up to date and not looking back. No more looking back.”
Kerry Hales is a Transformational Life Coach specialising in discovering what you really want in life and finding a way to get it. Kerry has many ways of working with her clients including online classes in the love of journaling, decluttering and her month long class called… ‘Shift Your Shit… in a month – a reboot to awaken who you are now and focusing on how life is today’. Find her at kerryhales.com