A bullet journal (aka 'BuJo') is a customisable notebook used to "track the past, organise the present and plan for the future” in a way that reduces complexity and provides clarity.
There are a few basic principles to bullet journaling:
Carroll struggled with learning disabilities and developed this method as a way to manage his life better. He calls it a “a mindfulness practice that's disguised as a productivity system” and says he enjoys how bullet journaling allows him to pause, capture information quickly and de-clutter his mind.
In South Africa, sales of bullet journals started picking up in January this year, says Jamie Roller, category manager of trade Books at Takealot. “That's normally the time when people start buying new diaries and journals for the new year. The sales have stabilised a bit after the first quarter but are still strong. Publishers were already telling me about this new craze in the middle of last year, so I think there was plenty of hype built up,” she said.
On Takealot, over 80% of the customers that have shopped for ‘bullet journals’ are female. “From my understanding, this is more of a hobby or student tool as opposed to a rigorous productivity tool,” Roller said. “Mostly since there's a lot of coloured pens and doodling and so on, but I think people also use regular journals for bullet journals - like Moleskines and the like - and that is a big and growing brand for us.”
With journals priced from as little as R29 for an A5 blank journal to as much as R395 for a professional bullet journal, this diary keeping method is accessible to anyone with a pen and a flair for doodling their to-do lists.
We asked some members of a local Facebook BuJo group why they use this method.
Ashley Knight, a business mentor, strategist and self-confessed planning addict, has been using this method for three years. She says her bullet journal keeps her information all in one place, with no overlap or duplication. She says she really enjoys the creative aspect of this method, it inspires her and has a positive affect on her work. Knight also makes use of online planning tools, such as Trello, traditionally used by computer programmers, but a pen and paper system appeals to her tactile senses and is more flexible.
Eunice, a 28-year-old Montessori teacher, describes her bullet journal as her “life”. “I struggled for years with a normal diary. It never worked for me. Like, never ever,” she says.
Using the more “forgiving” bullet journal system allows her to track to do lists, schedules and events. “I can decide if I need monthlies or dailies or weekly's whatever I feel like. Plus it's an awesome way to keep track of a number of things: in my current journal I have a habit tracker, a savings tracker, a debt tracker, a master grocery list, an order tracker, a wishlist, a pen pal tracker and all relevant birthdays.”
Chandré, a manager at a media consultancy, uses her bullet journal to track big projects and things that need to be done. She says her journal is used as a space to keep and track her to-do list and to write down ideas.
Bullet journaling has many critics too, of course, who believe it is just a pretty diversion for procrastinators. Its staying power will determine whether they have a point.