The zen of bullet journaling
‘BuJo’ helped Amanda Hammond turn time management into an enjoyable hobby.
Did you know that studies have shown disorganization leads to stress? I bet even without having done a lit search on the topic you know from experience that it’s true. I know I have. In fact, as a first- and second-year PharmD candidate, it seemed nearly impossible to avoid the anxiety that came along with time whizzing by, out of my control—and with my efforts to catch up falling flat. I heard it again and again from faculty and mentors alike: “Stay organized and manage your time.” But that’s easier said than done.
I hit a low point when by the fall semester of my second year, I arrived late to class when a guest speaker was presenting, e-mailed a meeting agenda to the wrong advisor, and even accidentally studied the completely wrong content for two separate quizzes. I felt a long way from my undergraduate career, where balance seemed so much easier. After some thought, the difference between then and now became clear—time. Not less time, not even mismanaged time, but unaccounted-for time. The hidden hours spent on Netflix, the minutes here and there texting friends, endless time lost because when my cat sits on my lap, I am powerless to get up. I realized I was using so much time that I wasn’t keeping track of. My undergraduate program, where exams were a little bit easier and life was a little less demanding, had never challenged me to be truly intentional about how I spent my time. It was clear I needed to start trying.
And that start came in the form of an analog system known as “BuJo.”
Part planner, part personal journal
On the recommendation of a friend, I started bullet journaling. For those who aren’t familiar with the bullet journal system, it’s a method of organization centered around a notebook. This notebook, one that you personally design page by page, is somewhere between planner and personal journal. In my opinion, it combines some of the best elements of both. A bullet journal can contain daily plans, your month at a glance, poems, doodles, to-do lists, and notes, all on the same few pages and in any order you decide. Basically, it’s equal parts schedule, diary, and zen all in one.
Where’s the zen you ask? It’s in the creation. Constructing a planner page by page, and often all by hand, can seem really intimidating, but to me that’s what made it work. By taking time every few days to create pages in my bullet journal, I was able to turn time management into an enjoyable hobby—something looked forward to. By including elements of creative expression, self-reflection, and fun into how I stayed organized, it was easy to make it a regular part of my routine. With a little time for organization built into my day, it was easier to catch up and stay on top of my responsibilities and of course, ensure I got quality cat time daily.
Now I am a huge fan of bullet journaling and there’s so much more to it than I could fit into this article. I think it’s important to mention that bullet journaling wasn’t the first, or second, or third method I tried. So, if you take only one message from my story, then walk away with this: try to find some small way authentic to your interests to make planning your time a little more fun. Once you do that, you will realize that time doesn’t fly by you unless you let it.
Amanda Hammond is a final-year PharmD candidate at the Mercer University College of Pharmacy and a member of the 2019–20 APhA–ASP Member Engagement Standing Committee.