Bullet Journaling: Faddish or Functional?

Bullet journal layout by @write_it_on_the_wall.

“A bullet journal is a part of your daily life. It has all your world inside it, so flipping through the pages and writing in it every day is a practice that lets you always remember your goals,” Rita “@write_it_on_the_wall” Maluska, age 30, said.

Maluska is one of many millennials who has taken to Instagram to share pictures of her bullet journal, an organizational trend that allows users to plan their tasks and goals.

Bullet journaling provides Millennials a medium to sketch, highlight their objectives, and document their aspirations.

Ryder Carroll, CEO and founder of the original Bullet Journal, launched his company four years ago. In 2016 the bullet journal’s popularity spiked, causing a community of bullet journalers to emerge on social media sites including Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr.

Bullet journal layout by @qualcosadierre.

Roberta “@qualcosadierre” Ranieri, age 22, said bullet journalers use Instagram as their preferred medium to interact with the bullet-journaling community. She said that although the community primarily consists of female millennials, people of all ages have begun to bullet journal.

Ranieri said Instagram is popular among bullet journalers because it is image-based. “Images are the most effective method of communication,” Ranieri said. She said images allow her to build relationships with her 27,500 followers.

Instagram also enables bullet journalers to inspire others with designs. Maluska said she is able to share her page layouts with her 29,000 followers, as well as see other journalers’ creations.

Maluska said she uses her bullet journal to express herself through organization. She customizes her bullet journal to include her ideas, deadlines, school projects, dreams, and hopes. She began using a bullet journal because she felt creatively constrained using a regular planner.

A bullet journal contains dotted, rather than lined, paper. The journal’s layout, filled with “bullets,” offers users an easy way to create straight lines and symmetrical designs.

Although many bullet journalers decorate their journals with colored markers, patterned tape, and watercolor paint, others choose to keep their journals minimalistic.

Kathryn “@showmeyourplanner” Chin, age 40, said she is not creative like her fellow journalers. “My bullet journals are messy,” she said. “But it works for me and it keeps me super organized.”

Chin, who is not a millennial, said she does not have time to spend decorating her journal because she is a full time teacher and mother. She said she quickly scratches down her school schedules, appointments, and tasks. She said she reserves pages in her bullet journal to write down ideas for her blog.

Bullet journal layout by @showmeyourplanner.

Bullet journalers can add pages to fit their needs. Typically, a bullet journal will include an index, a tasks page, and a monthly planner page. Some bullet journalists add water logs to track how many cups of water they drink, or future logs to track their goals for the upcoming months.

Bullet journal layout by @tbhstudying.

Seo “@tbhstudying” Jung, age 15, who has 39,500 followers, said bullet journaling made it easier for her to accomplish her long-term objectives because it offered her a creative release.

“It really helped with stress relief because it felt relaxing to just plan out my day and doodle in my bullet journal. Because of that, I was able to get back on task and focus more on my schoolwork and projects,” she said.

Another bullet journaler Cristina “@my.life.in.a.bullet” Tamas, age 24, said that more people should bullet journal because it can increase their likelihood of reaching their aspirations.

“I strongly believe that once you put your goals and dreams onto paper, you are more likely to try to accomplish them,” Tamas said.

Many psychologists would agree with Tamas, including Dr. David H. Krantz, age 77, a psychology researcher at Columbia University.

Krantz researches how setting goals influences decision-making. Krantz said he believes that every decision people make, like the decision to go shopping, is driven by their goals. “That’s just how the human brain works,” he said.

Krantz said writing down monthly and yearly objectives could benefit individuals who have difficulty accomplishing them. “Emphasizing monthly and yearly goals is one way of keeping them sharply in mind,” he said.

One psychologist, however, said he believes the act of setting goals does more harm than good. Dr. Ray Williams, age 74, said that failing to achieve goals could damage a person’s self-esteem.

“Writing down the goals can provide a lot of pressure to keep checking to see how you are doing, and judging yourself if you haven’t reached them. Just the act of writing them down is a form of judgment,” Williams said.

Williams said written goals could be harmful as they limit a person’s adaptability and flexibility. “Written goals don’t allow for daily and constant adjustments to your intentions and general outcomes on a day-to-day basis. We can never completely know what’s going to happen in the future, and we need to flexibly adapt in present time.”

Williams said that to avoid the harm of goal setting, a person must set reasonably achievable daily goals. “Focus on positive reinforcement between milestones of a short distance,” Williams said. Positive reinforcements can encourage a bullet journalist to continue accomplishing their tasks.

Bullet journal layout by @my.life.in.a.bullet.

Tamas said she recognizes that planning can feel overwhelming, so she breaks her goals down into small steps with realistic deadlines.

She said she thinks bullet journaling is popular because it is flexible and can cater to anyone’s needs. “Whether you’re a minimalist or a creative spirit, organized or messy, have five or 500 minutes to spend planning, there’s a way to make it work for you.”

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