Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Kathryn Harper

Media Relations Manager

Scientists Tell You Why Making Your Bed Is Disgusting — And Bad for Your Health 7 Benefits of Bullet Journaling 7 Ways to Succeed at NaNoWriMo 5 Reasons You Should Participate in NaNoWriMo 6 Unexpected Benefits of Knitting

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next