How My Bullet Journal Became a Tool for Self-Care


Chances are throughout the past few months or years, you’ve seen the term “bullet journal” popping up in more and more corners of your social media. To put it simply, a bullet journal is a customizable organization system, which could include a planner, a to-do list, a shopping list, a sketchbook, a journal and many other things that suit your own needs.

When I first came across a bullet journal, it was through my sister, who put meticulous effort into hers, from pasting in magazine clippings, to including a doodle page, to adding in a list of books she wanted to read. She seemed so organized, and I was impressed with the amount of effort that went into that simple notebook.

At first, I didn’t think such a system could work for me, but when I made my first bullet journal, I was pleasantly surprised. Since I’m in school, it started out as just an assignment tracker with a shopping list. Over the last two years, it has evolved to include the following:

1. A habit tracker.

I use this to motivate myself to take my vitamins, eat more vegetables, brush my teeth, spend less money and even write.

2. A to-do list.

This is more of a standard list that doesn’t really change: Do laundry, clean my apartment and clean my hamster’s cage.

3. A reminder list.

Upcoming appointments, tasks I need to do but that don’t necessarily have a time limit. Notes that don’t otherwise seem to fit anywhere else go here.

4. A spending log.

This has since been transferred into its own notebook, but for a long while, I used my bullet journal to track when I spent money, where I spent it, how much and whether I used cash, credit or my debit card.

5. My work schedule.

During my summer job, rather than writing down my homework assignments (I had none), I used my bullet journal to keep track of my work schedule, from my hours to what position I would be working.

6. A migraine tracker.

I used this to write down whether or not I got a migraine, how intense the pain was and how much sleep I had gotten before the migraine.

7. Weekly goals.

If I wanted to motivate myself, then I would add in a small section where I would set small goals for myself, whether it meant going to the gym or writing 500 words in a short story.

8. Yearly goals.

These bigger goals include getting a job, learning to drive and reading 20 books throughout the year.

9. A movie, TV show and book tracking list.

All through 2016, I wrote down every single movie and show I watched, as well as every book I read. I think the most impressive part of this was that I watched exactly 100 movies, and I’m curious to see whether or not I’m going to beat that record in 2017.

10. A gratitude log.

Starting this year, I’m going to be writing down what I’m grateful for every day. Whether or not this is something small, like chocolate, or something big, like my family, I want to focus on the positive in my life. This is something I believe could be beneficial when I’m in a depressive mood.

While my bullet journal is constantly changing depending on my weekly needs and whether I want to try something new, I’ve found that keeping a bullet journal has improved my organization tremendously.

If you’re interested in keeping a bullet journal, I have some advice:

1. The most important part about your bullet journal is that it works for you.

It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s “bujo.” Comparing it to others takes the fun out of it, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself.

2. It’s OK if it’s messy.

If you look up pictures, then most often you’ll see perfect bullet journals with no mistakes. The reality is that bullet journals are messy. I have White-Out on hand whenever I’m setting mine up. Sometimes, you have to scribble things out. Sometimes, you don’t want to use a ruler, and there are asymmetrical lines. Sometimes, your ink smudges. Don’t worry about it.

3. Trying something new doesn’t always work out, and it’s OK if you want to change it.

I’ve added in parts to my journal and taken them out the next week because they didn’t work for me. The best part about a bullet journal is it changes based on how it works for you.

4. You don’t have to update it weekly.

If you’re busy, then you can set up your bullet journal once a month. If you have more time, then you can make daily set-ups for your journal. If you’re like me, then you can just do it weekly and take it as it comes.

5. Have fun with it. 

Sometimes, it can seem stressful to have to set up your journal, but it can be a relaxing task. It feels creative. You can doodle, add stickers, write down quotes and use colorful pen. It’s all up to you. Enjoy it because otherwise it may seem like a chore rather than a genuinely helpful object.

For me, a bullet journal has turned into a way for me to get ahead of my schedule and enforce my self-care in a way I hadn’t been able to do before, from my physical health to my mental health. For you, maybe it will just be a way for you to keep track of your appointments and your favorite movies. Maybe it will become an integral part of your self-care. Either way, if you choose to start a bullet journal, I hope you have fun and that it helps you as it has helped me.

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