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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Bullet journaling here to stay


Bullet journaling benefits organization, mental health

Every so often, internet fads and Pinterest trends actually have some merit and staying power. A few years ago, the term “bullet journal” began trending among hashtags and blog posts alike. However, these dotted notebooks have allowed for serious organizational and mental growth for those who actively use them, leading to the continued use of bullet journals today. These journals may have gained popularity for their aesthetic layouts, but the viable and proven benefits to using them have transcended the ephemeral hype of an internet trend and have established them as respected tools for academic, career and mental success.

Bullet journals can be described as hybrids of yearly, monthly and daily planners, with a use for note taking, journaling and even sketching or doodling. To begin bullet journaling, one simply needs a blank or dotted notebook. Because there is no predetermined format, bullet journals allow for the individual to discover a way to set up their journal that works best for their own personal needs. The journal can range from rigorous scheduling to haphazard note taking or even functioning as a personal diary. It can be all of these things or none of them, depending on what one decides to place on each page. There is always the opportunity to alter the format or purpose of the journal, which is something that most standard planners do not allow for. The bullet journal is not only customizable to the individual using it, but to their daily moods and whims as well.

Because the bullet journal is so multidimensional, it has lead to improvements in people’s organizational skills. Having every important task or event in one space allows for more efficiency and productivity. Additionally, people have also noticed improvements to their overall wellbeing and mental health while using bullet journals. The habit of reflecting upon one’s day while planning for the future reduces stress and instills a sense of control over one’s life.

With these benefits, it is no wonder that bullet journaling remains a respected organizational tool, especially among college students. On the UC Davis campus, many students enjoy bullet journaling and have personally experienced the advantages.

Gwendolyn Little, a third-year animal biology major, has been bullet journaling for the past two years. She sees it as a hybrid between a planner and a journal.

“I mostly use it as a planner,” Little said. “It helps me organize my life.”

In her bullet journal, she has a sleep tracker and a daily reminder to take her medications. She finds that the journal is a useful tool for self-care, and it keeps her responsible for handling her physical and mental well-being even in times of stress.

Little uses her journal as an artistic outlet. Some people allow their creative side to flourish within the blank pages. Little decorates her journal with thematic sketches and paintings, allowing her to destress and reduce anxiety over whatever is scheduled beside the pictures in her journal. It helps her feel better about whatever is worrying her.

The time she spends making her journal look aesthetically pleasing also motivates her to use the journal daily and keep her schedules up to date.

“I definitely like want to use my bullet journal more [than other planning alternatives] because I put the time into it,” Little said. “I can set it up how I want.”

Valentina Bunnell, a fourth-year communication and Spanish double major, uses her bullet journal in a similar way. Along with being an organizational tool, she has found that it lets her artistic side come to life with sketches and drawings. She also dedicates space for daily journal entries.

“[I write about] emotions and stuff,” Bunnell said. “It’s good for me because I get really stressed and being able to write everything down, like, puts [me back in] control.”

After seeing Youtube videos about the journals, Bunnell decided to give it a go. She has been using them for a few years now and has kept all her old notebooks to look back and see how they, and she, have evolved. Bunnell likes to look back at the journals because they are a culmination of so many aspects of her life at different points in time.

She has also noticed the benefits of bullet journaling on her mental health and believes everyone could benefit.

“[When I feel] panicky or overwhelmed, using [the bullet journal] to kind of put it back into perspective is very helpful,” Bunnell said. “I definitely think that literally anyone can do it. You just have to put a little bit of time into it.”

Second-year English major Victoria Choi is another student who bullet journals. Choi discovered bullet journaling on Pinterest and bought her first dotted notebook in 2016. She has continued to use them ever since.

Choi finds the journal easy to maintain and thinks it’s an overall welcomed addition to her daily schedule.

“It’s a simple, sort of nightly ritual,” Choi said. “You just catch up on your day, you plan for the future. It’s very relaxing, and it’s a way to unwind.”

Choi described her journal’s aesthetic as minimalistic. She designs it to be very task and schedule oriented.

“I have sections in my bullet journal, like a task list, a to-do list, things for the future,” Choi said. “And I have every day sort of sectioned off, so I can write down the things that I need to do, like during the week, and I can sort of have this all laid out for me to see.”

For her mental health, Choi appreciates the bullet journal because it allows her to track her moods and overall well-being from day to day. Following the Year in Pixels technique, Choi colors in a square each day in a designated section of her journal. She chooses a certain color that reflects her overall mood or feelings from the whole day. When looking back at the start of her year, she is able to see the boxes progress to more positive color trends as time goes on.

“Something that is really helpful with having a bullet journal for me, specifically, is that you can tangibly see the ways you’ve changed,” Choi said. “So if you were in a bad spot at some point and then you’ve noticed that and you’ve written that in your journal, it’s really, really, uplifting in the future to sort of look back and see how far you’ve come.”

All three students have found that the personalization of the bullet journal has helped them in more ways than other standard planners or journals have. This is because the bullet journal relies on flexibility and accommodation, which is a more human approach to organization. No ones day looks exactly the same all 365 days of the year, yet standard planners format each day as if they did. Any college student on the quarter system knows that some weeks look very different than others in terms of how busy, stressed or organized one needs to be (midterm season, anyone?). The bullet journal adapts and changes to mimic the way one’s life does.

Having important plans or notes in one spot certainly has merit in reducing stress and anxiety. Making lists can be cathartic, and planning out one’s day and week has been proven to make life seem less overwhelming. Bullet journals allow for change, movement and growth. With each turning of a page, it allows one to start anew. Plans change. Goals change. Mindsets change. Bullet journaling allows for this and even encourages it.


Written by: Alyssa Ilsley — arts@theaggie.org



  1. My favorite thing about bullet journaling is that, unlike using phone apps for planning or writing down tasks, it has almost no distractions. That aspect makes it very useful when it comes to organizing thoughts and tasks.


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