Guest Blogs

“Bullet Journaling is Saving My Sanity in Quarantine.”

“I’ve been bullet journaling for two months — by far the longest period I have managed to stick with any system. With what I’ve experienced so far, I believe that the bullet journal is made for non-linear, restless ADHD brains like mine. Here’s why.”

bullet journaling key

I am an adult with ADHD, a full-time scientist, and a mother to two wonderful kids (one of whom has ADHD, too). I’m always busy, to say the least, and constantly searching for creative ways to tackle life.

Personally, the stakes have never been higher than they are now in this global pandemic. Staying afloat and remaining in control have become my top priorities. Finally, after desperately searching for tools to help, I landed on bullet journaling — and I’m never looking back.

Bullet Journaling for ADHD: Why It Works

As I transitioned to working from home (like millions of others) at the start of the pandemic, I had trouble separating work from home and managing my stress. Some mornings, I would waste hours figuring out how to start the day. And even though I was working hard all day, I still felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. In all, I was constantly overwhelmed, and had to find a way to clear my mind and stay productive.

Then I discovered the bullet journal — a organization method that involves a notebook, unique symbols, and many, many bullet points (or quick notes) that succinctly capture short- and long-term goals.

It’s now been two months since I started bullet journaling — by far the longest period I have managed to stick with any system. With what I’ve experienced so far, I believe that the bullet journal is made for non-linear, restless ADHD brains like mine. Why?

[Click to Read: 8 Paper Planners That Will Change Your Life]

1. Bullet Journaling Eliminates Noise

A lot of bullet journaling is dealing with the noise in your head by writing it all down. All the “I should do this” and “I need to make sure I remember that” thoughts take up energy and cause overwhelm, but writing them down helps to control the noise.

I recommend reading The Bullet Journal Method (#CommissionsEarned) by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the system (who also happens to have ADHD!). Apart from common “bujo” (short for bullet journal) terminology, you’ll learn that the system is not only about planning your day, tracking tasks, or creating beautiful, artistic pages like you might see online. It is also about having a place you can go back to and reflect on what really happened instead of relying on your memories.

2. Bullet Journaling Launches You into “Productive-Mode”

If I’m struggling to transition into work mode, or feel like I have so much to do and don’t know where to start, the bullet journal helps me create a do-able plan that helps me achieve much more than I initially planned. Here are the steps I follow every day:

  • Open my journal
  • Write down the date
  • Add an inspiration or intention for the day
  • Review my weekly page to see tasks I may have missed along with upcoming tasks, and transfer them to today’s tasks (further designate any tasks as “must-do”)
  • Look at my events calendar, and note important meetings on my daily spread

By the time I finished these steps, I have a clear picture of my day and priorities.

[Read This: Productivity Rules for ADHD Brains Stuck at Work]

3. Bullet Journaling is Unique to You — Which Makes It Fun

Part of the fun with bullet journaling is creating gorgeous, customized spreads across your book, and getting to use a variety of supplies to do so. Spending time decorating your bujo can also help you stick to it. For others, it’s a chance to be creative, in itself a relieving and calming activity.

I like to use colorful highlighters while I bullet journal. It makes the page look happy and “friendly” — putting me in a better mood about the day ahead. I also separate pages with a ruler; one side for my schedule, and the other for tasks.

4. Bullet Journaling Doesn’t Have to be Perfect

Bullet journaling isn’t solely about creating colorful pages and spreads, and it’s not necessarily about jotting every single task either. In fact, flexibility is the key to bullet journaling. Some of my pages look organized and nice, and some only have a few scribbled lines. Some days I write a full schedule, track every task, and remember to review at the end of the day. Some days I have the date and one task, no tracking.

The ultimate goal is to reduce overwhelm and keep track of what matters to you. Surely that is precious and valuable all on its own.

Bullet Journaling: Next Steps


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Updated on October 8, 2020

3 Related Links

  1. I’m amazed that anyone with ADD could manage to make Bullet Journaling work. I looked into it once, but just READING about it sent my brain into tailspin. For those not familiar with Bullet Journaling, it’s an incredibly complicated organizing system. Instead of a basic organizer where you can keep a schedule, you have to memorize (or create and memorize) a long list of symbol and color codes which you then use to label all your tasks. And then there’s the complicated system of page types, each type with a different purpose. If all the listing and organizing and memorizing doesn’t manage to take up your entire day, you’re supposed to actually journal in it as well. Even after the time it took to learn the system (which would be a lot), you’d be spending probably an hour a day messing with it – organizing and reorganizing tasks and labeling them and color coding and making journal entries, not to mention keeping track of all the colored pens and highlighters without misplacing them. Every bit of it requires exceptionally good focus and executive function — the two things people with ADD most often lack. If you have ADD, read about it online before you go out and spend money on a bullet journal!

  2. Like Adi, bullet journaling is the ONLY thing that has ever worked for me, or perhaps I should say, creating my own system based upon Ryder Carroll’s principles is the only thing that has worked for me. Ryder laid out some basic ideas but he stresses this is a do-it-yourself endeavor. I actually do not use the official bulleting method that gave it the name, but I sure love the habit trackers and brain dumping etc. I love having no preprinted gridlines or calendar pages screaming “failure” if I have a month when I don’t use it. I add color and fun stickers or washi tape here and there if so inclined, but one should NEVER see that as a requirement. Im now on my fourth year, with my bujos and every year’s bujo is different from before as I figure out what works and what doesn’t. It has been life changing in a positive way for me. Cost wise, its incredibly cheap. My first one was a little bound notebook I found laying around the house. I spend 12 dollars for a fresh journal each year plus a little for fun stuff IF I choose to, but this year I haven’t. If you are approaching this method feeling like you have to do this or that you are missing the whole point of the plan-it-to-work-the-way-you-want journal (aka “bullet journal”). Now excuse me – off to scribble in my bujo as this day begins! 🙂

  3. I’ve had AdHD Inattentive all my life – I’m a disorganized, forgetful, tardy disaster both outside and inside my mind. I was diagnosed at age 39 and still struggle daily – 11 years later but I understand why. My sons do much better than I did and get far more support from their schools and family than I did, thank goodness. I thought Bullet Journals were for perfect, organized, artistic people but in February 2020 I looked into the basics (bulletjournal.com) and realized I needed to try this. I got a basic journal (with tiny dots) and a black pen. Nothing else. I loved it. Then my state and job shut down for 2 months (Thanks, Covid) and I did’t need to keep track of ANYTHING! But I felt zero guilt because I just skipped March and April and started up in May – unlike a pre-printed datebook or calendar (read: guilt!) I am able to put anything I want in my BuJo. I put in True Crime facts, History notes, Earworms, Favorite Quotes, Zentangles, Paid Bills, Lists of Podcasts, Netflix & Amazon shows to watch, Word Definitions, etc. It’s casual and easy and I even added a little color. But no fancy fonts or art. And I don’t show anyone my BuJo. It’s just mine. Messy handwriting and random thoughts. You can do it, too! Use a basic notebook and your favorite pen. Keep it simple and make it your own.

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