Editorial Notebook

Finding structure, organization in a bullet journal

My day-to-day life had no structure when I was growing up. I would wake up, go to school, and go home. And I would sit there. I’m not really sure what I did to pass the time. Then, when I got to college I thought, “Why can’t I accomplish as much as my peers? What do they have that I don’t?” The answer, in short, was that I never learned discipline.

I’ve known about my discipline issue for years, but I never tried to do anything about it until this past summer. My friend gave me a book titled Your Memory Fragments: How to Become the Ideal Person You Imagine as a birthday present. While it did inspire me to start a journal, I couldn’t figure out a sustainable way to write regularly—I was writing whole-ass narrative entries, sue me—until another friend told me about bullet journaling.

That’s when the pieces fell in place and I started to organize my life in a tacky $5 journal I bought from Walmart. I absolutely adore bullet journaling now, and I think everyone should do it. For those who are unaware, bullet journaling is a trending method for journal organization. PSA, though: it’s not all about the #bulletjournalspreads aesthetics you see on Instagram. I only use the bare minimum described on bulletjournal.com, and it works for me. That includes a monthly, daily, and future log, as well as an index with markers to reference topics that I revisit often. You can use it as a calendar, and get a holistic view of your month. You can use it as a task list, and keep track of things you need to do. You can use it as a planner, and write things down months in advance. You can use it as a log, and document everything that happens in your life. Of course, you can also use it as a journal; I find writing my thoughts out by hand to be more cathartic and sentimental than typing in a notes app. I also like that I’m not staring at a screen, I get to practice my handwriting, and I can customize the format of it unlike any prepackaged mobile app or planner.

I know that bullet journaling isn’t going to solve all of my problems, especially since a lot of them are related to my physical health and habits. I occasionally experience mental fog and loneliness. I need more regimented food, sleep, and exercise schedules. I need to learn to be a more outgoing, thoughtful friend and family member to the people I care about. But I know those are things I can work on day by day, and month by month, and year by year—and my bullet journal is going to be there to help.