How the bullet journal is changing my life

Instead of searching for a day-planner that’s right for you, try making one yourself

Hi, I’m Ramna, and I’m an over-planner.

Before I started bullet journaling, my to-do lists had to-do lists. My planner was less a planner and more a flurry of post-it notes, coming apart at the seams. 

Not being certain of where I’m going to be in the immediate and distant future makes me anxious like there’s no tomorrow. For a person whose life is constantly overflowing and changing to suit my glaring lack of commitment, a regular planner never seemed to be enough. Then, I discovered the Bullet Journal.

The Bullet Journal system was created by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based digital product designer. Unlike store-bought agendas that are already sectioned by months and weeks, this system is customizable, forgiving and individual.

The fundamental elements of a bullet journal include a ‘future log,’ which is a place to map out important events and dates months in advance. The monthly log then helps you organize each month — it consists of a calendar and a task list for the month, and you can design it however you want. The daily log, designed for the to-do lists and reminders of everyday life, filters these month-at-a-glance reminders into individual days. Since it’s a blank slate, the next day starts wherever your last day ended.


brew can do it!!!! ☕

A post shared by Ramna Safeer (@ramnasafeer) on Jan 17, 2017 at 5:06am PST

It’s a magical orgy of to-do list, sketchbook, planner and journal, and all you need to start is a notebook and a pen.

In the last week of December, I went into full research mode. The more I looked into it — Instagram accounts, Facebook pages and the deepest recesses of Pinterest — I realized the extent of the bullet journal community.

Instagram accounts dedicated to bullet journals showcase rows upon rows of essential bullet journaling supplies. Facebook groups for die-hard followers feature posts like a commemoration to a lost bullet journal. The post has hundreds of comments of real, genuine sympathy for the grieving community member — one commenter writes, “So sorry for your loss,” followed by three exclamation marks and many more crying emojis.

All I could see were extravagant spreads, with calligraphy headings, pristine penmanship and doodles that looked more like actual artwork. As a chronic perfectionist, I was intimidated — my goal was to gain a handle of my stress, not stress myself out even more.

What if I missed a couple of days? What if I made a mistake? Would I have to rip out the entire page? What if my pen bled through the page?

What if I missed a couple of days? What if I made a mistake? Would I have to rip out the entire page? What if my pen bled through the page?

Eventually, after a lot of second-guessing and scrolling through the Pinterest accounts of middle-aged suburban moms, I picked up a charcoal grey journal at the bookstore and invested in a couple of fine point pens. I started bullet journaling.

More than a month later, my bullet journal goes everywhere with me. 

A few days ago, I posted a photo on Instagram with my bullet journal and a fancy latte next to it. I immediately got a message from one of my good friends. “You’re totally a part of the cult,” he said.

I was in denial. That’s funny, I said, but not possible. Then, I opened my burgeoning pencil-case, newly bought calligraphy brush pens and fine point black markers spilling out. I picked out a favourite pen — the Muji 0.35 black pen, to be exact — and continued scheduling my day instead of doing the things I had scheduled.

The thing is, I’ve tried everything. There’s a part of my bookshelf dedicated to the planners I’ve acquired — and eventually abandoned — throughout the years. A year ago, I tried going digital. This is the 21st century, I thought. I was going to be a true millennial and let my devices run my life, but even that didn’t work.

The great thing about the bullet journal is that it reflects my life and my interests; it’s full of my favourite colours, there’s a whole page dedicated to all the books I want to read yet have no time for, there are photos of my family and friends taped in every few pages and my days look exactly like I live them.

I can put in a brainstorming page or a doodle or an essay outline in the middle of a week, because that’s the way my mind works. My bullet journal is me in book form.

And yes, I think I’m officially in the cult.

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