If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen the “bullet journal” coming for a while now. Created by Brooklyn digital product designer Rider Carroll, the bullet journal — or “BuJo” to aficionados — purports to be a revolutionary development in personal organization and motivation.
Basically, all one needs to start a bullet journal is a notebook and a nice pen. What makes the system different from a regular old dayplanner is the fact it is a log rather than a to-do list, so it fits anything you’d like to enter into it; and it had an index, which lets the user drill down onto tasks from low resolution (a year out) to high (action by action). It’s also endlessly customizable, which has led to tons of content on sites like Pinterest and Instagram showing off users’ decorative calligraphy and washi-tape-wielding skills.
With BuJoMania sticking around, experts taking a closer look at the system, to see what’s behind its longevity with adopters. According to Cari Romm at The Science of Us, the bullet journal is based on the time-tested strategy of externalizing your thoughts — writing out the things you need to do on paper, so your brain is freed for other tasks. But on top of that, the bullet journal has a twist:
“It’s sort of a spin on environmental cuing, or the concept of placing reminders where you’ll encounter them organically (like placing an umbrella by the door before you go to bed, for example, if you know it’s going to rain the next day). Put your whole life — your work to-dos, your social calendar, your grocery list — in one place, and the odds are higher that you’ll open the notebook for one thing and end up seeing a reminder for something else.”
What I find most interesting about the bullet journal is the fact that it’s so decidedly analogue — a subversion its creator, a digital product designer, must have been acutely aware of. To my mind, that makes the journal’s contents more permanent — so when you change them, you have to acknowledge their former state. The bullet journal ends up being, in addition to a life tool, an interesting metaphor for life.