Bullet Journaling in 2023

Jon Porter writes about moving from a bullet journal back to digital task tracking for The Verge. Like me, Porter always found himself attracted to the aesthetics of the bullet journals that people would display on social sites or blogs.

The bullet journal’s core is practical, but I was also drawn in by the aesthetics. YouTube is filled with videos of people painstakingly laying them out, filling them with delicate illustrations and little visual elements they slowly fill up over the course of the year. I dreamed of having a small notebook filled with neat handwriting and maybe a sketch or two, like the ones Naughty Dog has its protagonists carry in its games. I imagined my bullet journal as being as much of a scrapbook of my daily life as it was an organizer. 

I also imagined myself using my bullet journal as a scrapbook of my daily life or a commonplace book, full of elaborately decorated quotations. Porter didn’t get to that point, though.

The reality of my truly terrible handwriting meant this never really came to pass, but that didn’t stop my notebook from becoming a half-decent planner.

I ended up in the same place, with the bujo becoming a good planning device. Like Porter, I eventually found my bullet journal falling into disuse.

It wasn’t that I grew tired of the writing, but eventually, I got sick of having to carry around a physical notebook. A friend would remind me about a film I wanted to watch while we were in the pub, and I’d have to note it down in a notes app before transcribing it into my physical notebook later. Or I’d be passing a grocery store on the way home and not have my physical shopping list with me. Eventually, the allure of keeping things digital on my phone and with me at all times grew too strong.

I’m picking my bujo back up, though, because I’ve found it helps me focus on tasks, without getting distracted by digital apps. It helps even if the task is one that I have to do on the computer. If I’ve got it written down in my bullet journal, next to other tasks, I tend to do the task and then be done. That prevents me from getting lost down a rabbit hole of whatever the internet wants to show me.

Where I really find the bullet journal valuable is when I’ve got a screen time limitation on my devices, so I put them away at 9:30 pm. I’ll pick up a book and read it, perhaps making notes in my bullet journal. If an idea that I would like to research comes up, instead of going to a device and losing track of time, I’ll write it as a research todo in my journal. I find that not only works to keep me off my devices and help me focus, but also helps me go to bed earlier.

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Related: If you do want to make your bullet journal more attractive, Mark Fig from Men Who Bullet just put out a video on using watercolors in your bujo (I think I love his stamps more than anything else).