Written by QCMHA member Dione Ng
For the past five years, I’ve been using the bullet journal system to wade through the messiness of my life. A bullet journal is an agenda, habit tracker, memory log, and diary all in one place. According to Ryder Carroll, the creator of the bullet journal, “The only thing that the bullet journal needs to be is effective, and how it can best serve its author is entirely up to them.” Using a series of personalized symbols, you can use your bullet journal to organize every aspect of your life. For me, I use different symbols for school reminders vs. life reminders and to keep track of my tasks. I also start a new bullet journal every academic year (September - August) as opposed to a regular year because it suits my needs better.
At first glance, it seems complicated and timely but it’s totally customizable to your needs! For example, I keep track of my meetings, assignments, and appointments by using a method called the rolling weekly. On the left side, there are the days of the week, and on the other, there is a task list with the corresponding days across the top. These tasks are usually things that need to be completed before the end of the week but have no specific date assigned to them. I begin by listing them as bullet points, and then cross them off as they are completed by drawing a line to the appropriate date. I also make note of what week of the semester I’m in to help me keep track of when midterms or finals are coming up. The left-hand side is where I jot down events that happen specifically on that day like appointments or meetings.
In addition to using it as an agenda, I also use it as a creative outlet. For me, the process of drawing out title pages, choosing colour schemes, and planning out the different pages is so therapeutic. It may take a long time and take away from the efficiency of the system, but it settles my mind and makes the month seem much more manageable. It’s also nice to see something you pictured in your head come to life on paper.
I also like to look back at the end of every year and reflect on the events of each month. With how insane 2020 has been, it helped me recognize that there was also a lot of good. Of course, you don’t need to have fancy title pages or different colours to make your bullet journal useful. In fact, the original Ryder Carroll system was as minimal as you can imagine. He also has his own website if you want to learn more about it. As a whole, there’s no “right” way to journal.
As the years have passed, my bullet journal has evolved based on what I need in my life and it’s also proved to be an incredibly effective outlet for stress. When you have an overwhelming number of tasks, breaking it down, writing it out, and going one at a time helps to make things less daunting. With everything becoming increasingly more digitized, slowing down with your bullet journal makes all the difference. I keep all my old bullet journals and still look back on them sometimes as a way to think about the things I’ve done and the things I will do. As Ryder Carroll said, “each Bullet Journal becomes another volume in the story of your life. Does it represent the life you want to live? If not, then leverage the lessons you've learned to change the narrative in the next volume.”