Your Procrastination Solution: A Guide to the Bullet Journal


New (academic) year, new me… no? But alas, the overwhelming workload and dreaded procrastination inevitably creeps in. While procrastination is not an easy fix, its effects can be mitigated by a popular planning method: the bullet journal.

In 2013, Ryder Carroll created the bullet journaling (bujo) method. The bujo method quickly exploded on social media, with aesthetic handwriting galore.

Although I have tried various print and digital planning systems, I always come back to the bullet journal as my go-to productivity tool. With years of bujo mistakes in mind, I’ve compiled some of my best tips into one guide to start your productivity journey.

Stationery

Unlike the mountain of highlighters and brush pens typical of social media influencers, you don’t “need” much to start the bullet journal – a simple pen and notepad combo will do!

That being said, you can spend all of your life savings on stationery, if you really want to. Whoops. Before you jump into your spending spree, I’ve put together a list of my favorite bullet journal supplies.

The newspaper

Due to the growing popularity of bujo, a ton of bullet journals are now on the market! But with all the choices, how do you pick the right one?

  1. Amazon Premium Dotted Grid Notebook

Amazon has a good selection of affordable bullet journals, but I wouldn’t recommend anything with a page thickness below 120gsm… unless you want to be stuck with ink leaking through.

The Dotted Grid Notebook Journal Premium – seductive name and all – provides the page thickness and strength of a durable journal. It’s my personal reference and it’s a great starter diary, especially if you don’t want to break the bank.

  1. Jumping fox

I love Jumping Fox’s lined notebook – its creamy pages and sturdy linen covers justify the slightly higher price tag. Believe me, this notebook survived my angsty journalism in high school, so it can survive anything.

  1. Notebook therapy

If you want a sophisticated bullet journal, check out Notebook Therapy. Although Notebook Therapy Journals are a bit pricey, their quality will make you swoon. Treat yourself!

Pens

Hoping to find an ergonomic, quick-drying, and good-looking pen, I scoured stores for years and in doing so built up a whole collection of pens. I have cataloged some of my favorites below.

  1. Pentel Energel ink pen

I will use these pens until the day I die. I use them for writing cards, creating math study guides and, of course, for the bullet journal. Despite their silky ink, they dry extremely quickly, and to date I haven’t smeared it yet.

  1. MUJI Gel Pen

A classic! To be honest, I avoided MUJI pens for years because I thought it was another overrated social media trend. I now reluctantly admit that these pens write as easily and aesthetically as everyone claims.

Highlighters and Brushes: The Fun Stuff!

The items in this section are not necessary to create an amazing bullet journal, but as Marie Kondo says, “it brings joy”.

  1. Zebra Midliners

These highlighters are certainly comparable to any other highlighter pen, but the soft pastel colors make me salivate. Although Zebra Midliners are totally useless for the basic bullet journal, I have 25.

  1. Tombow Brush Pens

Another classic! Truth be told, I had a hard time using them at first – their tips are soft, which makes them harder to use. I had to spend time familiarizing myself with the pens before I took control of them and really enjoyed them.

  1. Tombow Fudenosuke Calligraphy Pens

Among the markers in this section, the Tombow Fudenosuke pens are arguably the most prominent. These pens have a firmer tip and are easier to use, so they follow me everywhere – I can’t bear to part with them. I use them for almost all of my newspaper page headers.

Basic spreads

Now that your wallet is empty (but your pencil case is bulging!), Your bullet journal adventure awaits.

As with supplies, the complexity of bullet journal deliveries varies depending on your needs … or your inexplicable desire to procrastinate.

As you become more familiar with the bullet journal, you can customize your spreads, but here are a few basic pages that I would recommend for beginners.

1. Grid spacing guide

This page is always on the first left-hand page of my bullet journal and is used as a sort of rule for my other pages. I painfully count each point and separate the page into halves, thirds, quarters and so on. Although it takes a while to create these directives initially, it makes my weekly spreads much more efficient: I go back to this spread whenever I want to split my page into thirds, for example.

An example of a future newspaper calendar.

2. Future journal

Do I know what I want to do with my future? Absolutely not! But thanks to this handy spread, I know all of my friends’ birthdays, that counts for something! This mailing is ideal for long-term planning and for noting important dates.

3. Objectives and recommended media

It’s not New Years Eve, but why not set some goals? I find that writing resolutions keeps me on track; my bullet journal puts me under pressure. Also, on the right page, I note recommended books, shows, and music. This spread is perfect for building life programs for yourself.

4. Monthly deviation

This monthly calendar keeps my life together. As I jot down later events in my future journal, such as birthdays or holidays, I use the monthly breakdown to keep track of smaller, more timely events, including school deadlines or reunions. Without it, I would have absolutely no sense of time and would miss all of my meetings. Needless to say, I recommend creating a monthly spread!

5. Habit tracking

Habit trackers are used to, well… following the habits! On one side of the page, I write the habits to follow (such as journaling, eating healthy and exercising); if I end this habit, I mark it as done. On the other hand, I watch my sleep schedule and hope that motivates me to sleep early. Although I sometimes forget to complete my habit tracker, I like to appreciate the progress I make (or little…) each month.

6. Weekly propagation

Weekly broadcasts use the quintessential style of bullet journal to-do lists. There’s something so satisfying about checking off a task on an aesthetic page that keeps me on track. This setup is good for planning short term tasks and goals.

7. Fun spreads

If you’re feeling particularly fiery, spice up your productivity pages with your favorite quotes! Or scribbles. Or… drops? Doodle as you wish! Fun spreads are a great way to organize your thoughts and keep your journal!

Closing thoughts

What do you do when you are chronically stressed and disorganized? To give up? Scream into the void? Crying to your pet rat? No, start the bullet journal!

Seriously, the bullet journal can be a great organizational tool and therapeutic outlet. No matter how much time you spend on your bujo, keep in mind that the bullet journal should give you more than you need. You can spend hours creating elaborate weekly spreads to unleash creative energy, or you can spend minutes jotting down a simple to-do list – both are great options, as long as it works for you. Ultimately, the bullet journal should never seem like a task in itself, but rather should be a valuable tool.

All photos included in this article are courtesy of REBECCA ZHANG / The Stanford Daily.


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