I am excited to share a little about my bullet journal life. I stumbled upon Bullet Journaling in August of 2016 when I bought a Leuchtturm journal because I liked the army green cover. When I saw that it was dotted, I had no idea what to do with it. A slip of paper fell out of the sleeve with Leuchtturm printed on it. I googled Leuchtturm and discovered it was a fan favorite of bullet journalists. Then I fell down the rabbit hole.
Setting up my own system for planning and tracking? Yes please! This was the answer to years and years of buying planners only to toss them aside when I got tired of following a preplanned page. Bullet Journaling was a life changer.
I have taught high school English for 20 years. My bullet journal sits open on my desk every day. I tend to use a lot of colors and doodles in mine, so it is quite an attention getter. I allow students to flip through it, I answer their questions about it, and on occasion, I even allow them to do a doodle or sign their name in it with one of my fancy pens!
The first year I shared it with students, I had a small class of AP English students show up with dotted journals and ask if we could dedicate class time to bullet journaling - we did! Every Friday (if they had completed their AP work for the week), I brought in all of my markers, turned on some chill music and we would talk and bullet journal together. I helped a young man struggling with depression set up a mood and sleep tracker; a young woman with multiple college options set up a pros/cons list; inspired by Pinterest, a couple students made “date idea” lists for their weekends and “books to read” lists. One student was learning about the flags of different countries and set a goal to draw and color every country’s flag in the world. Our bullet journals were creative, productive, and bringing community to our classroom.
My principal received a phone call from a parent (of a student who wasn't even in my class) who had heard about bullet journaling from one of my students and had started doing it as a result. Her mom was so grateful as her daughter was getting organized and not spending so much time on her phone! Kids I don't even have in class know me as the teacher with the bullet journal. Former students send me pictures of their bullet journals and share how they are bringing the habit to college with them. I get messages from kids who stumble upon journaling supply sales at the craft store. My high schoolers are tracking their college applications/plans; they are setting goals; they bring their journals to me to show off their planning and goal setting.
(Permission granted from my students)
When teaching a unit on Sketchnoting, I used my bullet journal to model a way to take notes on a TED talk then shared with my students and challenged them to give it a try.
After 3 years of bullet journaling and seeing the impact it had on my students, I was encouraged to pursue an additional teaching endorsement in art. I earned that endorsement and I created an art class (which over 150 students signed up for) that will include a unit on bullet journaling/art journaling/sketchnoting etc.
As a teacher, I use my bullet journal in many ways. From taking notes at a staff meeting:
To planning out my week and to-do list:
My bullet journaling style has ranged from traditional to exploring my creative expression. Rapid logging allows me to quickly plan out and prioritize the tasks ahead. I use rapid logging and a daily log both for my school bujo and personal one. I teach four different subjects so having a daily log is critical to making sure I am ready for each class.
With two daughters in a different school district, I use a school year-long future log to map out important dates and it allows me to see potential conflicts in our schedules far enough in advance so that I can make appropriate arrangements.
Migration is a strategy that has significantly improved my productivity and balance. When it is time to migrate, be it the day, week, or month, I am encouraged to reflect on my priorities and what reallyneeds to be given attention. I see where I am putting my energy and time during this process; I evaluate if my energy and time are congruent with my values. It is truly a powerful process.
I tell my students that I am a “recovered perfectionist” thanks to bullet journaling. This is a powerful conversation as I teach advanced high schoolers who put immense pressure on themselves to perform at high levels. I share how creating collections and setting goals on paper (getting it out of my head) helps me see possibility in what I can achieve. Breaking my goals down with the 5,4,3,2,1 exercise helps me not be overwhelmed and I get such satisfaction with taking care of those 1s and 2s consistently.
About the time I started bullet journaling, I also started a study of Stoic philosophy. I love that in The Bullet Journal Method,Ryder shares about memento mori, or remember death. I write that quote in every new journal I start - it is a reminder to my “recovered perfectionist” self that time is ephemeral and my priorities and values need to reflect that. It has directly impacted my teaching by allowing me to focus on what really matters in the work I do with students. My instruction is more organized and intentional because I prioritize and discard what is distracting and unimportant.
I had never thought to track habits before bullet journaling - but once I started, I saw patterns emerge of ways in which I could improve my life as a teacher, mom, and woman. I have taught my students to track habits - sleep, exercise, self-care, homework time. I have had many conversations once they see their patterns about how they can improve balance in their lives. As a teacher, I make thousands of decisions a day. Tracking habits, creating collections, using the logs and other practices are critical pieces to maintaining balance in my teaching and personal life.
To say that bullet journaling has changed my life is an understatement. From my own personal organization to the countless students that have followed my lead, bullet journaling has led to stronger relationships and connections with students and given me and my students strategies to feel empowered and in control of our lives.
About the Author
Toni is a teacher at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie, WA where she's used the Bullet Journal to change the way she teaches and impacts students. She currently teaches AP 11th English, 11th English, 12th English, 9-12 Art.