Art by Isabel Toteda

Bullet journaling serves as outlet for students to de-stress, plan upcoming months, make creative designs

Scrutinizing Pinterest for a burst of inspiration, junior Hannah Yau chooses from a vibrant palette of stationery and opens her bullet journal, laying out her intricate design for next month’s spread. 

Bullet journaling, an artistic way of planning and tracking events through the use of monthly spreads and to-do lists helps many people like Yau stay on top of their schedules in an artistic way.

“I bullet journal to keep myself organized, but I also use it as a creative outlet,” Yau said. “Even though it’s pretty systematic, I get to experiment with lettering, layouts, themes and drawings which is fun.” 

While typical journals might consist of a monthly calendar spread with an overview of the events for the month and are often designed to match a theme, bullet journals can include drawings and features such as mood, sleep and habit trackers. 

“I did a lavender theme in April this year,” Yau said. “Even though the theme was pretty simple, I made a mood tracker and playlist spread which I was proud of. One spread that I want to make is kind of a vision board for the rest of junior year. I’ll probably include things that I want to try, some goals I have and some photos and quotes that inspire me.”

Junior Grace Choi said she makes some of her bullet journal spreads about her favorite music, featuring songs she likes. 

“I make spreads about K-pop, like recent comebacks,” Choi said. “I also have made spreads just for a daily log if I feel like I need to let out my feelings.” 

To accessorize journals, bullet journalists often uses stationery and highlighters known as Mildliners — colorful pens and watercolor. Gandhi said she also uses Tombow brush pens for calligraphic lettering. 

Since pages in a bullet journal are primarily hand-drawn, Gandhi said it’s an especially time-consuming hobby, but the long hours are well-spent and bring her many benefits. 

“Instead of spending my time on a phone or other device, I can bullet journal instead,” Gandhi said. “It definitely helps me reduce my screen time.” 

Choi said she enjoys the freedom to customize her journal to accommodate her needs and tastes. 

“It can be as simple as you want or super decorative and complex,” Choi said. “It’s a really good way to let out your creativity and have fun because, for me, journaling is how I was able to use my lettering for something actually useful and also just a way to relax after a stressful school day.” 

Yau agrees and said traditional planners and journals are more constrictive.

“I tried to use a store-bought planner before I found bullet journaling, and I always ended up not using them after a semester or so because each page was already set in stone, and it got boring and mundane,” Yau said. “With bullet journaling, it’s so personalized that I can just make a spread that I need at that specific moment and try new things when I find I’m not liking a certain layout or theme anymore.” 

Paly alumna Ellen Chung started teaching bullet journaling classes at the Mitchell Park Teen Center in the spring of 2019. During these classes, she said she taught skills such as calligraphy, organization and doodling as well as how to make journal plans for academic life or for fun. 

“The workshop is a safe space for creativity, relaxation and for teens in the local area to make new friends,” Chung said. “It’s a space for teens to learn about this creative craft and about how to bullet journal and apply it to their daily lives and also just to have a space where they can de-stress from school.” 

While Chung said she primarily uses her journal for academic planning, she said she enjoys making spreads for daily reflections, commemorating memories and playlists where she would draw various album covers. 

“I wanted an avenue through which I could be creative and also be more introspective and reflect while also being organized through my daily life and academic life,” Chung said. “I found that bullet journaling really helped me to de-stress while reflecting, so I think it’s a very valuable tool.”