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7 Benefits of Bullet Journaling

7 Benefits of Bullet Journaling

I love a good planner. There’s just something about the physical act of writing that helps me remember things more clearly, whether it’s something I have to do, someone’s birthday, or just the name of that book that I wanted to buy. I’ve owned dozens of planners throughout my life, always started with good intentions, only to find myself abandoning them a few weeks later in favor of to-do lists on post-it notes instead.

That’s a problem, though, because I tend to lose my to-do lists. A lot. I started searching for a good planner system that really fit my needs. I wanted one that wouldn’t be expensive in case I ended up abandoning it yet again but was versatile enough to work for both my work tasks and my class schedule.

Eventually, I found an article about the bullet journal. It’s extremely customizable, because you just buy a notebook (or, like I did at first, just use some loose-leaf paper for a while) and fill it in the way you want it to look. After testing it out, I bought a hardback Moleskine notebook with graph paper and quickly found myself benefitting from my new system.

1. It’s customizable to your needs and budget

I needed a unique planner since I planned to use it for a full-time job and full-time graduate school. All of the other planners I had used were good for one or the other, but not both. Using the bullet journal meant that I could divide up the weeks, days, or hours exactly how I needed to, even if that changed week to week.

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It also helped me stick to my budget. I didn’t have to spend $100 on a planner with custom-designed pages. I just added a $1 ruler to my shopping cart and now I can draw in my own pages. Some people use washi tape to decorate their bullet journals or to help them color code things, but it’s just as easy to use inexpensive highlighters or colorful gel pens instead. For a first-timer, you didn’t even need to buy anything. You can use the system with paper and pencils that you already have around your house.

2. It’s easy to learn and set up

It can seem intimidating to look at a blank notebook and realize that it’s up to you to fill in the design and the content, but the bullet journal is actually very easy. You don’t have to make it pretty, even though a lot of the online inspiration is overwhelmingly gorgeous. The official website has a very simple design, with just a few different icons to keep tasks, personal, and notes visually separated.

The first page of my journal is dedicated to the key. It has each symbol drawn with the definition beside it, plus I have what my different ink colors mean (I have one for each class, so I can quickly see what homework is due). You can include whatever you want in your key – if you don’t like the official icons, make up your own!

3. It keeps everything organized

I love how simple the planner is visually because it makes the important part – my to-do list – stand out very clearly. It’s easy to see at a glance what you need to do that day, and you can create monthly pages so you can see more long-term what you need to be doing.

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It also keeps everything in the same place, so you won’t lose your to-do list between days. At the end of each work day, I make a short list for the following day about what I need to do. That way I don’t have to spend time first thing in the morning trying to remember what I need to be doing, or trying to remember where I left the list – it’s right there in my notebook, exactly where it’s supposed to be.

4. It lays everything out where you can see it

This is especially good for people who are visual learners. Everything is always within sight – something that you can’t get with a digital planning method.

I also like being able to track my productivity across time. Since everything is kept inside one notebook, I can see what I struggle with and what patterns I’ve fallen into. This was a great insight for me, and one that I would never have been able to get if I’d stuck with my haphazard post-it note method.

5. It inspires productivity

I hate seeing undone tasks in my planner. If I can see that I still have to email a professor because that box isn’t filled in, then I’m going to get it done that day so I can mark the task as complete.

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It’s also nice to get to the end of the day or the end of the week and see that everything has been completed. It’s a nice sense of accomplishment that can help me relax over a weekend.

6. It’s great for keeping lists

I find myself constantly adding lists to my journal. I just turn to an empty page and start making a list: a packing list, a list of books that I’ve bought but haven’t had time to read yet, a list of movies that I want to see, a list of article ideas that I want to write…anything that comes into my head has a place in the planner, so it won’t be forgotten or lost.

7. It’s great for tracking long-term goals

The third page in my planner is a calendar for 2016 with “write every day” written across the top. Each day that I get some writing done, I mark off on this page, and try to keep the chain going each day. This was one of my new year’s resolutions, and once December 31 rolls around this year I’ll know for sure how well I kept that resolution. I won’t have to guess, it’s plainly written out in my planner.

I also have a page of all of the birthdays and anniversaries in my large family so that I can try to get cards sent out in time. Each time I do, I can put a little check mark next to the date, so I know whether or not I’ve succeeded.

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I’ve used this planner every day for four months now, and I already don’t know how I lived without it. It’s such a versatile little book that I can’t help but reach for it whenever I have an idea or can’t remember something important – and without fail, whatever I need is right there on the pages.

Featured photo credit: taz + belly via flic.kr

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Kathryn Harper

Media Relations Manager

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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