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5 Lessons I Have Learned By Bullet Journaling

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Bullet Journaling is a novel analog organization system that allows users to track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. It is gaining in popularity and has been declared a health trend for 2016. A prolific planner, I have been a BuJo user since early 2014. Over the past two years, my love of the simple yet elegant system has grown tremendously. Below, I share 5 lessons I've learned by Bullet Journaling (and why I believe you should try it too!).

Lesson 1: You don't have to digitize every aspect of your life if you don't want to. As a millennial, I've been told time and time again that there's an app for my every need. My need to obsessively organize and track is no exception. A few years back, when mobile applications were just starting to take off, I made my transition from paper to digital planning. A quick Google search revealed dozens of to-do apps that promised to "keep track of everything [I] needed and wanted to-do." I was elated! Someone had built a better mousetrap and I was ready to beat a path to their door. After a year or so of using a to-do app, however, I realized it wasn't for me. I found digital note-taking to be tedious and time-consuming, I wasn't able to customize my schedule as much as I wanted to, and my tendency to forget my cell phone charger at home made it impossible to access any tasks and deadlines that I needed to know. Consequently, I tested a variety of paper planner systems before finding and adopting Ryder Carroll's style of journaling (AKA Bullet Journaling). Initially, I felt awkward pulling out an old-school notebook in public while my peers powered up their laptops, tablets, and cell phones. That feeling quickly passed and I've since come to realize that a digital solution is not always better than an analog one.

Lesson 2: Writing down your goals increases your chance of achieving them. Science has shown that people who write down specific and measurable goals are more likely to accomplish them. In a famous study conducted at Harvard University, graduate students were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their futures. After 10 years, the 3 percent of graduate students who had written down their goals were found to be earning, on average, 10 times more than the 97 percent of graduate students who had not.

I'll admit, I knew this one even before I started Bullet Journaling. In theory. It wasn't something I internalized, however, until I became a BuJo addict. The Bullet Journal encourages users to continuously set and evaluate goals via Future, Monthly, and Daily Logs. Having your goals written down on a page in a journal that you regularly glance through keeps them forever fresh in your mind, forces you to clearly define what they are and how you'll achieve them, and enables you to quickly and easily track your progress.

Lesson 3: You know you're doing something right if you're making mistakes. I'm very Type A (if I wasn't, I probably wouldn't be writing a blog post on BuJos). Fittingly, I'm constantly ruminating over some worry or other, real or imagined. I can't help but dwell on past embarrassments, mentally reprimanding myself when I recall a particularly cringe-worthy moment. What's worse is my response to my own mistakes. Rather than seeing them as stepping stones, I generally view them as failures -- to be avoided at all costs.

To a newbie, Bullet Journaling may seem rigid in structure. Indeed, it's use of Legends and Table of Contents suggests that it's a system suitable for the perfect pre-planner and no one else. If that were truly the case, however, a self-proclaimed perfectionist like me would never be able to tolerate, let alone enjoy, it. The Bullet Journal doesn't just accommodate mistakes -- it accounts for, and even encourages them, reminding users that they are a normal and vital part of daily life. It's specially designed to ensure that tasks can be easily migrated from one day to the next, that days can be skipped if they need to be, and that notes can be added as necessary (because things don't always work out the way that we schedule them).

Lesson 4: Concentrating on your own life is a lot more fun than focusing on someone else's. Social media is no longer merely a tool; it's a way of life. Nowadays, it's nearly impossible to go a few hours without being privy to the private lives of family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. While a consistent stream of information ensures that we're constantly connected with others, it can simultaneously alienate us from our own lives. Consequently, for the first time in history, we've become consumers, rather than producers, of memories.

Bullet Journaling has pushed (read: forced) me to focus inward on my own actions and experiences, opinions and thoughts, and aims and hopes. It's allowed me to articulate my short- and long-term goals, track my daily activities, and document my progress. Through the reflective practise, I've been able to recognize and celebrate my accomplishments and strengths, while identifying and assessing my weaknesses. In a sense, I've been able to reclaim my life in my own name. And that is exhilarating.

Lesson 5: All of the days in your life are not created equal and that is okay. As I've gotten older, I've developed a strange relationship with time. On occasion, I feel young and free, as though I have all the time in the world. Yet, now and again, I am filled with dread, fearing that time is running out. For me, there's something so reassuring about using a daily planner that doesn't pre-assign a set number of pages to a set number of days. Bullet Journaling gives me the freedom to devote more pages to jam-packed days and fewer to uneventful ones. In doing so, the system allows for greater control over and reflection of the way I spend my time.

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Bullet Journaling is a novel analog organization system that allows users to track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.

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