How Bullet Journaling Made Me Write Again
A consistent way to writing that combines productivity and mindfulness
I used to be a journal keeper, especially when I was much younger and had plenty of time on my hands. But as I got busy with work and started a family, I stopped writing. I kept only a notebook for work, writing my list of to-dos, notes from meetings, and reminders to myself. Occasionally, I wrote about our travels in a separate notebook, and about our children in another notebook.
A year and a half ago, after leaving corporate life, I read about bullet journaling. I decided to try it, and now, I am on my 16th journal, and writing everyday (well, almost).
I’m happy to be writing again, and writing consistently. My journals are not only a list of to-dos, but about the day’s highs and lows, and yes, occasional travels, and frequently about the kids.
There are five aspects of bullet journaling that make it an effective writing method:
It’s a daily discipline of writing and reflection
Bullet journaling has been described as a way to organize thoughts, a next-level diary, a rapid notes log. Its creator, Ryder Carroll, sees it as a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.”
Beyond writing a list of to-dos, the practice of bullet journaling includes a review and reflection. Check a task when done. If not done, move the task to another date, or ask oneself if it needs to be done at all.
Writing notes, especially in long-form, is optional, but I do it. Writing helps me reflect and clear my mind, and also records things I’d like to remember someday. Like funny things the kids say, their sweet moments, and our fun activities together.
The practice of bullet journaling is a loop of beginning and end, making one more mindful and self-aware.
It’s an all-in-one journal
I don’t keep separate journals anymore for work, family, and travel. I use just one journal, and that makes me more organized. We like to keep things in compartments — work, home, health, hobbies — but in reality, we incorporate these various aspects into one life.
The bullet journal method makes it easy to write and organize because I only have to think of one journal to write in. It thus becomes a story of our days. What I did, where I went, the children’s antics, and their drawings inserted in the pages.
It has an index to organize
An all-in-one notebook sounds daunting and unorganized, that’s why the index is essential. It’s a table of contents for what’s in your journal, and you can put anything.
My index includes a list of books read, notes from meetings or webinars, writing ideas, and most importantly, notes about my kids. One of the reasons I’m writing again is to document my children’s growing up years. So I keep a sub-index about them: funny things they say and do, their little heartaches, playtime, bedtime, joyrides, their drawings. When they grow up and want to read my journals, they can quickly find the pages and hopefully enjoy reminiscing.
It’s more than a to-do list
I started bullet journaling to be more organized, but more valuable to me is the planning and review.
At the start of each week, I make a Weekly Goals spread so I can plan and keep track of what I want to accomplish for the week. I don’t always finish everything, but writing it removes the mental load to remember to do it.
Recently, I started making a Weekly Schedule after realizing that a schedule will be more effective than a list of to-dos. The weekly schedule is the next step to productivity after listing my to-dos. By organizing my time, I increase the chances of finishing my tasks because I have allotted time to do them. I don’t have to feel guilty about taking time off for myself when I read or exercise, especially when I’ve done my tasks for the day. And I don’t have to worry about not finishing other tasks yet now, because I have scheduled a time to do them.
By making time and adjusting, I find that I actually have more time.
It adapts to you
The bullet journal method is a guide, but ultimately, it’s your own bullet journal. You can fashion it however you like it. You start with a blank page and write your way forward. Some days require just a few pages, other days need more pages, and that’s fine. You write one day at a time. You can add a list, discontinue it, start a new one. Or add a new section and see if that works. When I feel my mind is muddled, I write and empty my thoughts to paper, and my mind clears up, lighter and more at ease at the expression of whatever has occupied my mind.
And this is why I write everyday now. The daily practice of planning, writing, and reflection helps me to live more aware. Through bullet journaling, I can be more productive, mindful, and intentional — all of which I aspire to be.