By the Bullet: Notes on Bullet Journaling for Novices

A bullet journal layout from the Instagram account @nicolegracestudies, which accrued thousands of likes in just a day.

by Auréane Roullier

In past few years, bullet journaling — a painstaking hand-written planning process — has enjoyed a rise in popularity.

Social media accounts have been created solely to showcase colorfully decorated journals of lists and calendars over a white and placid background. Bullet journaling has also become associated with Tumblr and the people in its communities, associating it with a particularly trendy aesthetic. (Aesthetics are a big part of Tumblr culture. Many Tumblr blogs are based around particular aesthetics such as repeated colors, themes, and/or objects.)

The trendier bullet journals become, however, the more big and numerous the doodles, stickers, glitter, and other decorations grow, which causes the journals to actually become less effective. The meaning of bullet journaling becomes lost in translation.

Bullet journaling was invented by Ryder Carroll, an American author and digital product designer. On its official website, the bullet journal method is described like this:

[The] Bullet Journal® is actually a methodology. It’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. It’s designed to help you organize your what while you remain aware of your why. The goal of the Bullet Journal is to help its practitioners (bullet journalists) live intentional lives, ones that are productive and meaningful.

Carroll created an actual notebook formatted as a bullet journal for the most optimal use. The pages have a dot grid layout, and the notebook is decorative while still manageable.

Bullet journaling intends to make lives easier through “listful” organization. Bullet journals include calendars, goal, plans, and other lists pertaining to the journaler’s life.

Tumblr, in turn, simultaneously pulls people in and pushes others away. For a lot of people, Tumblr has negative connotations, meaning anything having to do with Tumblr is seen in a negative light.

The journals shown on Tumblr are mostly composed of images and decorations, which may make people thinking of starting a bullet journal renounce the idea. Potential users might think that a bullet journal must include artistic ornaments that they fear or resent making.

These decorations, though beautiful, beat the whole point of bullet journaling because they take up so much space and time. The efficiency of space and time are two things that make an effective bullet journal so appealing. You don’t need much of either for it to work.


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