Choosing the right planner at the start of the new year is a critical, albeit incredibly personal decision. As for me, I'm a notebook hoarder, so I might be a little biased, but journals are getting a lot of attention in the health and wellness space, specifically ones that allot you more room to explore your creativity. One of my favorite YouTubers recently uploaded a video all about bullet journaling, which definitely piqued my curiosity. What is a bullet journal and why have I never heard of this writing tool until now?
I remember in high school, we were given a day planner at the beginning of the year. It was, essentially, a paperback, spiral notebook with an eagle (our mascot) spreading its wings across the cover page, sketched over a backdrop of red, black, and gold. Back then, planners were your standard pad of paper on which you would jot down homework assignments, email addresses, and write song lyrics when you were spacing out in class. Fast-forward to now, and planners are so much more than organizational tools given out in office buildings.
Bullet journals aren't just for scheduling meetings and making plans. They're handwritten listicles, stress-induced doodles, and diary entries. These are the tools you can use to organize your life, as well as escape from it when the going gets rough and the only thing left for you to do is scribble out the feels. Consider a bullet journal as an open-ended outlet you can use whenever, wherever, and however you need to. Here's why you need one in 2018.
If you haven't noticed, I'm kind of a planner snob. Over the years, I've narrowed down the features the right notebook must possess in order to satisfy me. Personally, blank pages irk me; I crave structure, but I also prefer layouts that allow me some freedom to play with word sizes and doodle.
The pages of bullet journals aren't entirely structured. They're formatted with bullet points across the page as a core format, but as for writing prompts or blank calendar spreads? Zero. This makes for a seriously versatile planner that's excellent for organization freaks such as myself who need just a hint of guidance, as well as creatives who thrive on an open canvas.
Even if you doodle over them anyway, lines in a journal can feel so restrictive. Bullet journals give you the freedom to make each page 100 percent, unapologetically yours.
If you don't feel like writing one day, try sketching instead. If you prefer photography to calligraphy, arrange a few snapshots across the page. Blank spaces don't have to be daunting; they can be inviting, too. The point of bullet journaling is to create more with less, and to explore your creative side with whatever materials you prefer to use.
I'll be the first one to admit that even though I splurge on expensive planners every year, I leave at least half of the pages blank. Sometimes, when planners are designed with prompts and questionnaires that take up the entire page, it can be frustrating because you either a) have no interest in filling them out or b) find these quirky details irrelevant to your life.
According to the official bullet journal website, these planners encourage creativity, but also support rapid logging if fancy page layouts and graphics aren't your thing. Rapid logging sounds technical, but the concept is actually really simple: jot down quick notes on whatever, whenever, and create your own symbols to categorize your thoughts.
That whole it's-your-journal-you-can-do-what-you-want-to bit isn't just a marketing ploy. These notebooks leave what you write and how you organize your thoughts entirely up to you. However, there is an organizational code of conduct to upscale your documentation.
According to BuzzFeed, the breakdown is simple: To start, use a bullet symbol to mark the things you need to do. As tasks are completed, draw an "x" through the bullet. A "less than" symbol over the bullet means said to-do task is in the works, and a "greater than" symbol over the bullet means you didn't necessarily get to it that day, so you're holding off until further notice. Once you've got the basics down, feel free to experiment with your own symbols.
I wouldn't say I have a particularly bad memory, but it's not the greatest, which is one of the reasons why I keep a journal in the first place. Still, if you're keeping a journal on the reg, by the time the new year rolls around, you have 365 pages worth of names, dates, and thought processes documented.
Rather than skimming through chunks of pages so you can find that one book by that one author that you read sometime that one spring, creating an index at the beginning of your journal can be majorly helpful. Here's how it works: Write a key explaining the symbols you use throughout the journal, and as each different topic comes up, jot down the page number where you referenced each subject.
I'm a list-maker. I make lists in my planner, my journal, on pieces of loose-leaf, or even on my phone. Sometimes, I make multiple copies of the same list in multiple places. Clearly, I have a problem.
But some people find to-do lists overwhelming, especially if they start jotting down every little thing that needs to get done, like brushing their teeth or making the bed. The free-form nature of bullet journals takes the weight off of looming to-do lists because you have the wiggle room to make them aesthetically pleasing. Think of it this way: You probably wouldn't RSVP "yes" to a party that had a dull-looking invitation. The more enticing your to-do list looks, the more likely you are to check things off efficiently.
I can feel the eye rolls seeping through the computer screen, but hear me out. While, yes, I am a writer, I am in no way, shape, or form, a fine artist. My drawings of human hands are something out of a Tim Burton cartoon, and as much as I love photography, I'm an amateur.
You don't have to be an artist to take advantage of art as therapy, and bullet journals are the perfect outlet to turn to when your mind is operating on overdrive. Best-selling author, illustrator, and co-founder of Sketchbook Skool Danny Gregory told MindBodyGreen that drawing relieves stress by inspiring you to tap into your "playful spirit," help you see that your imperfections are perfection, and by making your emotions tangible.