The Real Reason The Bullet Journal Is So Effective

With its bells and whistles, the organizer app on your smartphone might be a gift from the digital gods, but those who remain married to their pen-and-paper planners say bullet journaling is the way to go as it has clear benefits that you may not have thought of. The system was invented by Ryder Carroll, who encourages journal keepers to create, among other things, an index, a future "to do" list, as well as more detailed monthly planners to keep track of what needs to be done (via The New York Times)

In some cases, colored pens that make your inner child squeal with joy are not just recommended, they are strongly encouraged. The system may sound laborious but it isn't — numerous bullet journal advocates advise the novice to adopt what works and abandon what doesn't (via LifeHacker). 

If the bullet journal's more fiddly format seems intimidating, there is the option of adopting a less aesthetically pleasing, albeit just as effective method. It's a good idea to use the bullet journal as a way to whittle down your to-do lists by grouping them according to the circumstances under which they might be accomplished and then crossed off. For instance, errands that need to be done outside your home can be classified under one category, and a line item on supermarket shopping might have a subsection that contains a full grocery list (which can be very helpful if you find that you spend too much money on food when you go to the store). In a similar way, an item reminding you of a meeting with your boss or supervisor might also feature an agenda.

What can a bullet journal do that a digital journal can't?

Getting organized is just one of the benefits of keeping a bullet journal, as the physical act of writing gives you an added edge. Psychologists who have conducted several studies about the way our brains respond to writing say there are distinct benefits to putting things down on paper, especially when compared to tapping away at a laptop or pecking on a phone keyboard. "When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated," says psychologist Stanislas Dehaene to The New York Times. "There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain. And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn't realize."

"With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what's important," Yale psychologist Paul Bloom also tells The New York Times.

If we haven't sold you on the idea of a bullet journal yet, there are other benefits to the method. Its inventor, Ryder Carroll, tells the Financial Times, "It is asking people to think about how they are spending their time and energy on a daily basis. And that can be a big shift for people who live in a very reactive world that is constantly looking to distract you. It's easy to just react. The bullet journal is there to tell you: 'You can stop and think about what you're going to do next. And you might learn something about yourself when you do.'"