Do It Yourself: Bullet Journal

Getting your life together looks a lot different than it did before the pandemic. Enter: the Bullet Journal

Claire Brnjac // Arts and Culture Editor

I have a problem getting organized. Ask anyone: I always seem to have a problem keeping my room clean, and my Notes app is filled with many half checked-off grocery lists. Since I’ve been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), the struggle for normalcy, and a system that actually works gets harder and harder every year. 

Enter: The Bullet Journal. A system devised in 2013 that only needs a notebook and a singular writing instrument but has limitless potential as you get more comfortable structuring your life. Amanda Pham, a panel secretary, recent university graduate, and my friend, expressed the idea to me while I was lamenting the lack of structure in my life. She picked up the habit after needing something to do and was inspired by the many “How To: Bullet Journal Spread” videos—like this one from YouTuber ohnonina—that continue to rocket to the top of YouTube’s algorithm. I’ve explained her methods down below, taking some pictures of my own spread as I do it. Bullet journaling is not specifically hard, but it does take some time, patience, and a little creativity. Maybe some stickers too. 

Step One: Medium

Find a journal you like. Blank and dot grid patterned pages are usually the most popular options for bullet journals, as there is limitless creative potential in what spreads or lists you could make. Moleskine or Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks are usually standard, if a little pricey, but any old notebook will work. 

Step Two: Utensil of Choice

Pens or pencils of any colour will work for your documenting needs. For more intricate spreads, you can sketch it out beforehand with a pencil, so you’re sure of placement. Pham’s favourites are Crayola SuperTips Markers, as they’re relatively cheap and don’t bleed through pages. 

Step Three: Spreads

You can really do whatever you want from this point on. When I first started out, I found myself creating uncomplicated lists, where all I wrote down were things I needed to do for the next day. That spiralled into making lists for new movies, new restaurants, or new music I wanted to check out. Amanda’s lists went from another simple kind of layout—a month grid, where she planned all of her days a month in advance. Other popular layouts are budgeting trackers, where you split up your income for the month, in-depth journaling about favourite television shows or movies, or tracking how many books you’ve read. They can be as well decorated and aesthetically pleasing as you like, or purely utilitarian. 

Step Four: Decorating

Many people turn toward Washi Tape, a Japanese cloth tape that can be patterned with animals, leaves, or just colours, to decorate their journals. Additionally, bullet journaling is a great dumping ground for all the stickers you’ve collected over your lifetime. Coloured markers and highlighters are great accent pieces as well—it’s all about experimenting with what you enjoy seeing and what you enjoy making. 

Step Five: Consistency

The hardest part of starting a new hobby is maintaining said hobby. There needs to be integration of bullet journaling into your life in an impactful way. As one of the main tenets of ADHD is forgetting, this step is the hardest for myself. Creating a routine (and documenting in the journal) let me integrate bullet journaling in a non-obtrusive way. Amanda, who doesn’t have ADHD, dedicates a couple hours a month to her monthly grids, so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed with the creative possibilities. 

Bullet journaling can be extremely helpful as a creative outlet and a way to relax. Even if you don’t have ADHD like myself, there’s something calming about decorating a page and making lists and putting stickers down. It feels a little bit like a daily/weekly/monthly setting of priorities, and sometimes, that’s all it has to be. 

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