10 pages that set the bullet journal apart from your normal diary

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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In a year that felt like the stability in the world continuously unraveled, there was one very orderly system that blossomed - the bullet journal. 

What started as an diary organisation method used by a designer in New York, has evolved into a multilayered note-taking system that has sparked blogs, dozens of Instagram hashtags (#bujo, #bulletjournal and #bulletjournallove to name three) and a return of coloured gel pens.

It has become a bespoke system of charts, calendars and tables that fans claim help alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and trigger inspiration. For bullet journal devotees, it’s a strategic hard copy of every little note and thought that’s stored somewhere in their brain. Let’s just say it’s very different to your usual new year diary update.  

From ‘emotion trackers’ to ‘book shelves’ we look at the ten best and most useful pages to emerge from the cult trend. 

Main image: iStock

  • Emotion tracker

    If you asked yourself "how are you today?" chances are you wouldn't be able to answer it with one word. Using just a few dots, the emotion or wellness tracker helps to keep track of how you're feeling. It's ideal for those who don't have the time for a daily journal or often feel lost for words. Being mindful has been linked to increased happiness, and a daily log of emotions helps you to identify when you feel your worst, best or a mix of it all. 


  • Play time

    In 2015, colouring books topped best seller lists across the world, with the promise of combating stress and reinventing the joy of play. Bullet journal users have found a way to bring therapeutic doodling into their notebooks by designing their own mandalas, sticking free printouts into their books or perfecting their handwriting by writing inspirational quotes. They can dip into them on coffee break, on their commute or during a few free minutes. 


  • Gratitude log

    Studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal one to three times per week might actually have a greater impact on our happiness than writing about the day. “Focusing on the positives helps me to appreciate the good things in my everyday life, and to tap into what is really important to me,” says bullet journal blogger Kim.


  • A "goodbye" list

    “Pardon my vulgarity but I decided to create a page seeing 2016 out and build a list of all the shitty things that happened this year. I'm ready for this year to be behind us,” wrote one user on Facebook group Bullet Journal Junkies. Sometimes you need to actively jot down the things you're bidding goodbye to. 

    Image: Bullet Journal Junkies

  • New habit tracker

    Whether it's cutting back on sugar or launching a new craft-based hobby, keeping track of new goals has become a bullet journal staple. While Instagrammer Model Miss Journaling visualised her fortnight-long sugar ban, other bullet journalists create a calendar page with a logical time-frame (from 21 days to a year) to track the progress of their new objective. 

    Image: Instagram/modernmissjournaling

  • Brain dump

    Never mind how big or small the task is, just write it down. That is the premise behind a regular “brain dump” or “freewriting” page. Bullet journalist Emily Scott says, “I've written [brain dumps] in a journal consistently (approx. five times a week) for four months! I'm so excited that this has become a regular routine for me now.” She says it’s helped her to alleviate stress (“Anything that is bothering me or I find overwhelming gets poured into my journal. I get it all out”), realise what she wants out of her career (“I can't count the number of ideas that have come through thanks to brain dumping”), and sleep better (“since I don't lay awake at night thinking of all the things that I need to do”). 


  • Book shelf

    Bullet Journal users visualise their literature wish list or keep track of the tomes they have already read on a single spread. This is especially useful if you do most of your reading on a tablet and miss glancing over the books you’ve conquered. 

    Image: Instagram/purpleplannerpaperie

  • Memorable day summary

    On a separate spread for holidays and special days, bullet journalists jot down key words, names and phrases next to a date. It helps to jog their memory when it becomes a blur. “This log represents all of the new places I visited here in Austin. It's a great way to get a snapshot of where I've been and what I've eaten and drank,” writes illustrator Jennifer Reyes.


  • Meal planner

    It happens all too often: after a long day, you really want to sink into the sofa and watch telly, but first you have a date with the fridge to figure out what on Earth to make for dinner. This is why bullet journal users are big fans of weekly meal planning schedules. "It used to be on a piece of paper floating around the kitchen and now it's much easier to refer to when I need it" says graphic designer Katia Moffatt. Carrying your menu in your bullet journal means you can easily look at what you need when wandering through the supermarket aisle. 


  • Cleaning log

    To manage domestic tasks alongside their workloads, bullet journal bloggers such as Tiny Ray of Sunshine create calendar pages divided by day and chore: “It's pretty great because it has a very small amount of things to do daily,” she says. “The daily section also acts as a tracker to see when the last time you did something was.”


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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.