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Journaling Technique Improves Organizational Skills, Students Say

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Bullet Journals

Bullet journals help students organize their daily and weekly to-do lists. 

Checkmarks of completed tasks and appointments can be found on the pages of one UA student’s detailed bullet journal, each page organized and coded to keep track of anything and everything.

Daily water intake, reading logs and study hours are aspects that might not seem important to keep track of on a daily basis, but some students said that writing their habits down in a bullet journal helps them stay organized and stress-free.

Bullet journals are notebooks that merge appointments, deadlines, to-do lists, hobbies, goals and habits into one book, much like an agenda, but each page is handwritten.

“Being able to have all my to-do lists, events, appointments, habits, memories and everything else that goes through my mind is really nice,” junior Kelly Walls said.

Some bullet journals also have creative pages, some of which online feature layouts that correspond to certain topics. For example, filling in hand-drawn ticket stubs with movie titles or adding recently-read books onto a traced out bookshelf. One page might show empty TVs that can be filled in with the shows one is watching and the episodes they want to see.

Having goals and plans on a physical schedule engineered and illustrated by the same person who will be interpreting the pages is the best way to accomplish them, freshman Erin Giffin said.

“I love creating new layouts, adding colors and fitting it to my personal interests. The layouts encourage personal growth in whatever topics that person chooses,” Giffin said.

A traditional bullet journal is often made up of four sections including a daily log, monthly log and future log, to keep track of small-scale versus big picture tasks. The fourth section is often an index that details where to find each section and what the various colors and symbols mean within the planning.

“I found that when I was honest about the work I was actually putting into my goals it made me more motivated to do better the following week or month. Also, as a perfectionist and avid note-taker, bullet journaling offered an easy way to organize my progress,” junior Shelby Osbourn said.

The habit tracker section of a bullet journal keeps track of habits and resolutions to follow. This can include a time to wake up in the morning, a time to be in bed and certain study hours, Walls said.

Bullet journals are usually written in notebooks that contain paper with easily measured out details, like graph paper where each square can be utilized, or dot paper which is easier to trace out shapes and letters of equal proportions.

There are also free templates and customizable layouts on various websites online, like 101 Planners and The Petite Planner, that can be printed out and added to a notebook for quicker bullet journaling and reducing the amount of work.

“I think templates are helpful and a great resource for beginners but personally, I prefer the minimalist and personalized approach more,” Osbourn said.

For planners who prefer to bullet journal from scratch, there are many video tutorials and instructional guides online to help with converting ideas into layouts.

“Scratch bullet journaling is the most fun and personal way, but it is very time consuming, so I eventually switched to pre-printed layouts,” Giffin said, who has been bullet journaling for the past year.

While many bullet journal images on sites like Pinterest or Instagram can look intricate and intimidating, the main focus of the practice is the organization and structure it provides, Walls said.

“At first it was stressful because I was worried about making it perfect. But after a bit, I reframed my thinking of it and told myself that I don't need it to be pretty, aesthetically-pleasing or perfect, I just need to like it for keeping me organized,” Walls said.

Because bullet journaling is such a broad form of writing, topics like hopes, dreams and fears, that might not often be written down in planners, are encouraged in a bullet journal. This method of journaling can have long-term psychological benefits, even just a better mood in general, according to research on the online psychological journal, BJPsych Advances.

“My favorite part of bullet journaling is looking back on past months to see how I was doing with my personal goals and reflect on that progress in order to motivate myself further in the future,” Osbourn said.

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