by Doreen Fryling

If you’ve ever found yourself going down the rabbit hole of images of bullet journals and thought, I can’t do that, you’re right. You can’t. Well, maybe you can, but all of those pictures of gorgeous journals has nothing to do with why the bullet journal is beautiful.  It’s beautiful because of the simplicity and flexibility of its design.


I love my bullet journal so much that I’m writing this post in hopes that I can help someone else.  I have been using one for six months and it has CHANGED MY LIFE.  I don’t even use it every day, but that doesn’t matter because it has taught me how to organize my time and my thoughts in a better way.


  • The bullet journal was created by Ryder Carroll. Here’s the website with a fabulous demonstration of how to use it. If you’ve never seen a bullet journal, this is definitely worth checking out.
  • You do not need to make your journal pretty in order to make it useful. Mine has ZERO doodles/pictures/lines made with rulers and I LOVE it.  My only artistic contribution is randomly writing in different colored pens.
  • What makes a bullet journal work is that you have to sit and write stuff. That’s right. The old-fashioned way. This is actually why I don’t use it every day, because I don’t always need to or have time to use it. But when I do, it completely focuses me to figure out what needs to be done or becomes the home for things swirling around in my head.


Part of the beauty of the bullet journal is that it evolves with you over time. You don’t quite know how you’re going to use it at first. But then you have a moment where you think, I should write that down, and you suddenly have a place where you won’t lose your thoughts.  As I’m getting older, this has definitely become a necessity. An index that you create as you fill the journal keeps track of your pages. I thought I was going to use it for certain things and realized that I really needed it for other things. Another reason it works is that it is completely flexible to your needs, but always maintains a level of organization that allows you to be functional. You can make any page anything you want it to be: a list, a calendar, a journal for ideas, note taking space, or a habit tracker, to name a few.


I don’t know how an inanimate object is such a good teacher, but this thing is. It has taught me to prioritize better. It has taught me to be patient with my ideas. It has taught me about my habits and how I spend my time. I have learned from keeping a bullet journal how to appreciate the daily tasks I do (so much laundry, grading, exercise (jk), cooking, errands). The bullet journal actually encourages me to log everything I’ve done, even after the fact, so that I can see how I’ve spent my day. It’s taught me to approach everything I do with a new mindset, even when I’m not writing it down.


The bullet journal helps me set a realistic task list for the day. If I don’t get to something, I can either move it to the next day, move it to my monthly list, future goals, or heck, just take it off my list. I used to keep a running list of to-do items, but it always got out of hand. I never got all of those things done, yet always wondered where my time was going. Now, I can determine what are immediate needs and what can sit on a list until I have time to get to them. I feel less overwhelmed by the sheer number of things I have to tackle.

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This. This. This. I used to have an idea and worry that I would forget about it. Or worse, I would write it down on a piece of paper, only to have it die a slow death in the bottom of my purse. Now, I can write something down and let it go until I can attend to it.  I re-open my journal when I have time and the mental energy to think about things instead of always feeling like I have a million things swirling around in my head. My bullet journal gives me a sense of security and organization and the means to actually capturing thoughts instead of worrying about forgetting them.


I use the bullet journal to track my daily habits and it’s really helped motivate me. It’s also been a good warning system, if I have a couple of days of inactivity. And there’s something oddly motivating about checking off a box that you’ve completed or a habit that you’ve reinforced. I feel so much more productive, which helps my overall mood and encourages me to continue being productive.


If you want to use one, you have to be open to not knowing what to do with it at first. Start with a couple of pages and see where it takes you. Don’t get bogged down with products either. Pick a journal and pens and just go with it. I have now starting using a separate bullet journal at work. That has helped me separate my work and home life and has focused my work productivity tremendously. I still use a calendar on my phone, but writing out the month and seeing what I have every day has helped me identify large chunks of time and realize that I am not overscheduled, just living a full life.


Don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want anyone to see. You should assume someone is going to read it. You should also assume you might lose it (although I keep it in my purse at all times and always make sure I put it back there). If a page has something really important, you can back it up by taking a picture of it. If you’re stressed about anyone seeing what’s in your bullet journal, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.


I come from a long family line of list-makers. And my spouse is perfectly content with his digital organizational system. But this is the first system I’ve used that has been long-lasting and has actually gotten better over time. It’s not that I wasn’t productive before. Somehow (I don’t know how), I got things done. But now, I FEEL better about my day-to-day existence.  Unnecessary stress is gone thanks to my bullet journal.

If you’re in need of a better system, I hope you get to experience the beauty of a bullet journal. Spend a little time researching how other people use their journals and then practice using it every day until you find a rhythm that works for you.

UPDATE: I’ve just started my sixth journal!  I really LOVE it!