The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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Getting Started with Bullet Journaling for Seniors

If the collection of sticky notes on your fridge or the shopping list written on a scrap of paper makes you feel disorganized, bullet journaling might be the answer for you.

Touted as an all-in-one solution, bullet journaling can help you organize and plan for what matters most to you – tracking spending, creating an activity schedule, or remembering special events.

Learn more about bullet journaling and how you can get started. 

What Is Bullet Journaling?  

At its core, bullet journaling is all about using a notebook to organize, plan, and live intentionally. It can be a beneficial tool for seniors trying to recognize loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries or establishing a new activity schedule and routine as assisted living residents. 

Digital product designer Ryder Carroll created bullet journaling as an analog alternative to keeping notes on an electronic device or in your head. Deceptively simple, bullet journaling is based around a key using the following three symbols: 

  • A bullet point for tracking tasks •
  • An open bullet point for tracking events °
  • A dash for other notes - 

Together, these symbols help form the “rapid logging” system, a quicker method of writing notes than traditional journaling. 

If you browse social media, you’ll likely see pictures of intricately designed bullet journal pages with beautiful calligraphy. While bullet journaling encourages creativity, you can make your journal as simple or complex as you like. 

There are “official” bullet journals with dotted rulings; however, you can use any notebook you like best. 

How Bullet Journaling Is Different From Using a Planner or Journaling

If you're already in the habit of writing things down, you may wonder about the differences between a bullet journal, a regular journal, and a planner. 

Bullet journaling is best for those who need a flexible approach to remembering tasks, logging activities, and planning upcoming events. The bullet journal method allows you to impose certain structure to notes and important information without being limited by time constraints. 

Day planner books provide a much more rigid structure, offering fixed dates in month, week, and day formats to organize information. To reference any particular information when using a planner, it's important to know the day and/or time of the event in question. Because planners are structured in fixed time intervals, they're best used exclusively for organizing schedules. When using a day planner, you may also find yourself rewriting lists from week to week or month to month, using valuable time to reorganize what you anticipate is upcoming. 

Where using a planner is highly structured, journaling is much less structured. A journal inspires you to create a record of thoughts, feelings, drawings, and ideas. With no given organizational boundaries, the blank page of a journal or diary is perfect for filling with whatever comes to mind — recording real-life experiences, writing creative shorts, doodling, remembering dreams, offering up gratitude, or taking notes. Because of its free-form nature, journaling is not the best method for making plans, keeping track of lists, remembering dates, and referencing other important information.

In contrast with day planners and journaling, the bullet journaling method is the happy medium between the highly structured, potentially limiting planner and the open pages of a blank notebook or diary.

Bullet journal

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How To Create Your Bullet Journal

The beauty of bullet journaling is its flexibility – allowing you to create a system that works for you. There are four core steps that every bullet journaler should take to start. The AARP describes them as:

  1. Create an index. Number all the pages of your journal (or use a pre-numbered notebook) and list a table of contents at the beginning to help you quickly find things.
  2. Create a future log. Follow the index with key plans and dates for the upcoming year. 
  3. Start a monthly log. Add noteworthy events and priorities. 
  4. Begin a daily log. Keep track of events and to-dos, and mark off tasks as you complete them.

Once the basics are implemented, you can experiment with what would best suit your needs. Here are just a few of the things you can include in your journal, depending on your goals, lifestyle, and preferences:

  • Logs to keep track of things like exercise, eating habits, sleep, and more.
  • Reading lists with books you want to finish.
  • Goal charts to help you track and reach your goals.
  • Words and meanings to learn new words.
  • Wishlists to keep track of things you want.
  • Quotes to add inspiration and meaning to your day.
  • Self-care ideas to set aside time for yourself.
  • Medical appointments to serve as reminders of upcoming visits.

Despite what you may see if you research bullet journaling online, beautiful and detailed artwork is not required to make your bullet journal work for you. The goal of a bullet journal is to help you organize and plan within a flexible, functional system and what that looks like is entirely up to you.

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Why Should I Keep a Bullet Journal?

Many people who keep a bullet journal say journaling is more than just an easy way to stay organized. It is also a way for them to cultivate mindfulness as they regularly plan, make lists, revisit previous ideas, and more.

Once you’re in the swing of using a bullet journal, you may even find that the process of reviewing, revising, and rewriting notes, lists, and plans (also known as migrating), helps you to focus your efforts, feel productive, and have more agency in your day-to-day life. These structured reflections can be a very powerful tool for meditation.

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The process of bullet journaling is a screen-free, healthy use of time, which also promotes positive, overall health outcomes. Like with any journal, there are a multitude of ways that bullet journals benefit your overall mental and physical health, including: 

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve mood
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase well-being
  • Better process emotions

More Lifestyle Ideas From The Bristal

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may enjoy our next story, Benefits of Volunteering in Your Seniors Years.

This blog was originally published in 2020. It was updated in July 2024.


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