Every New Year’s Day, just like everyone else, I kick off Day 1 on the calendar by vowing to be a better version of myself—healthier, more diligent, more organized, etcetera. And year after year, these goals wind up falling by the wayside within a couple weeks. But this year, something was different: in 2018, I started bullet journaling, and somehow—against all odds—I’m still doing it. I’ve never been one to stick to a planner or diary, but my bullet journal has done the impossible: it has helped me get organized—and, more importantly, stay that way. And it’s fun to use!
Before you start conjuring up images of intricate journal layouts with washi tape and ten different types of delicately-drawn flowers, let me stop you right there. I’m not an arts-and-crafts type, I never will be, and part of the reason it took me so long to start bullet journaling was because of how intimidating I found all those picture-perfect #bujo posts. Sure, there are a thousand ways to customize it according to your needs (and most of those can be done without any scrapbooking skills whatsoever), but ultimately a bullet journal requires no artistic finesse at all.
Essentially, all you really need is a pen or pencil, a journal, and a system of symbols. (Bullet Journal creator Ryder Carroll suggests specific symbols, but this is your notebook, so use whatever symbols you like best as long as you can remember them!) These symbols help you differentiate between to-do tasks, events, and notes to yourself. That’s right: a bullet journal is a planner, a calendar, and a diary all in one! I write three pages of free-association journaling every morning, so I include that in my bullet journal, but you don’t have to. Some people draw out little calendars as part of all of their monthly spreads; I don’t bother with those. There’s space for whatever you want to include in your journal.
That flexibility is why I love my bullet journal so much. Once I let go of all those ambitious layouts I kept gazing at on Instagram and Tumblr, I found that bullet journaling was actually pretty low-maintenance—if you can’t draw, don’t worry about it; if you skip a week or two, there are no scary, empty planner pages staring up at you as you try to get back into the swing of things. And if I forget to write something down, there are enough cross-references throughout the journal that I’ll usually be reminded of it at some point during the day.
I’m just beginning to branch out into “collections”, or special pages you can add to your journal to track things like meal prep or habits you’re trying to form. (And, no, I’m still not planning on using washi tape or fancy markers.) So far, I’ve mainly focused on getting comfortable with a journaling system that doesn’t judge me. But now that I’ve started to succeed at organizing my life, I’m ready to take the next step: pursuing my goals.
At this point, sure, maybe it’s a little late for all that “new year, new me” stuff. But it’s never too late to start getting organized, and trust me, it feels really good to feel like you have a handle on your life for once. So if you’ve been thinking about giving bullet journaling a shot, I say: ready, aim, fire!