In October of last year, I started a bullet journal for the first time. It was dedicated to studying Japanese. I promised that I would come back some months after to see if this method worked for me or not.
Though I am not strictly bullet journalling anymore, it did immensely improve the way I organise myself.
The daily log: the greatest improvement of all times
The main feature of the bullet journal is to create daily lists of tasks with bullets. This is called the daily log, but if we get rid of fancy terms, it really is just a to-do list.
Although I never have been able to stick to any to-do list, going through the whole bullet journal system and create a “daily log” allowed me to plan my day and stick to my plan for the first time in my life.
I have started numerous systems to have my tasks done, mostly with apps, but would do it for a week or two at most before giving up. I would systematically end up associating my to-do list with negative emotions, going through my tasks would be annoying and not doing it would be reprehensible. Yet, it has been 5 months now that I write my daily log every day and achieve almost all that was listed in it.
What is different?
I don’t know what made all the difference. Maybe it comes from writing by hand and using a paper journal instead of an app. The problem with an app is that, while I always have my phone within reach, I try to reduce the times I pick it up. If I am to look at it everytime I want to check a task, I might end up losing time on YouTube or Twitter instead. A paper journal is inoffensive. Moreover, I feel more committed when I write by hand.
One other explanation would be the whole “bullet journal” system. Instead of starting a to-do list for the nth time, I devoted myself to my bullet journal for several months, trying to apply its features: monthly log, collections and so on. It was not a good resolution started on an impulse and forgotten the next day. I really had fun doing my bullet journal and watching videos or reading blogs about it. (even though I never decorated it, I feel much impressed and inspired by people who do).
Everything in one place: why it is not for me
When people enumerate the advantages of the bullet journal, they often say that you can keep everything in one single place. I can see that this is an advantage for many people, but to me, it just meant stop buying fancy notebooks!
I love having a lot of notebooks, each devoted to one thing. When I walked into a stationery shop (and in Korea, where I live, they have an undecent choice of cute stationery), I would think “but I don’t need anything, I have my bullet journal” and feel a light resentment at having “everything in one place”.
At one point, the whole system scattered. It must have been when I decided to convert my agenda into a dedicated daily log journal. In this agenda, the whole week is spread on a double page, and each day is provided with enough space to write down a bullet list. In fact, the design of this agenda gets on with the daily log perfectly. I know that one advantage of the bullet journal is that there is no pre-determined space. You can adjust it to your daily needs. But I feel rewarded everytime my list reaches the bottom of the devoted space for the day. How much I filled the pre-determined space also allows me to see how many things I have achieved on a certain day. Having the whole week spread on a double-page is also an excellent way to glance back at my week and see how well I did. (I tried to reproduce how it looks like on this post’s featured image.)
Even though I could have used my bullet journal to do it, I started using other notebooks for dedicated tasks. For instance, I have a notebook to collect Japanese names, and I use “My Book” to write in Japanese, etc.
I still use what was my bullet journal as a plain notebook. I use it whenever I need to make drafts, for this blog for example. I also use it to keep track of all my resources and things that I want to do. This takes the form of a “habit tracker”, though I don’t want to make new habits, only be sure that I don’t forget something and study all my resources at least once a week. Anyway, it is now a brainstorming notebook and I don’t even index things in it anymore.
To conclude, I have adopted the daily log, and it totally improved the way I organise my day. This improvement alone was worth investing some time and money (I bought a Moleskine 😳) into bullet journaling. But apart from the daily log, I dropped everything else: I don’t do any monthly or future log, and the concept of “collections” does not make sense anymore because this is all there is in my journal now.
I am quite satisfied with my actual notebooks, I am not a “bujo-er” but I am glad that I made this bullet journal experience. Taking some time to think of a planner system, trying it for several months, watching videos and reading blogs about it helped me find my own system. We create productivity tools to be more efficient at work, but sometimes, we also need to devote some time thinking of the organisation itself!