The Memory Behind Bullet Journaling

I originally wrote this article for Arts Help. You can find the original publication HERE

Bullet journaling has been available for decades; however, it was not until the last few years that it became a widespread trend. Geared towards those who are more on the creative side, bullet journals lend themselves to a custom organization and varied content all in one notebook.

Creators use them for yearly calendars, daily planners, budgeting, emotion trackers, book trackers, creativity boosters, goal setting, and more. The act of physically writing down a schedule can improve memory, and according to multiple studies, so can doodling.

Bullet journals may be a great resource for creative-minded people looking for a way to organize their thoughts whilst maintaining their natural instinct to create.

https://www.process.st/bullet-journal-ideas/

Because bullet journals are bought completely blank, the artist has total control and can include whatever content they deem useful to their personal life. In the example two page spread pictured above, the bullet journal’s artist was able to create a schedule organizer customized to their needs.

What makes bullet journals are open to artistic interpretation, and can house a variety of styles. In the example above, the artist chose minimalistic decorations which brings creativity to the schedule without being overly distracting. 

Although bullet journals may seem like they are just custom planners, they are indeed much more. The intention behind bullet journals is to create a notebook that is a fusion of artistic doodling and organization of thoughts.

When creating a personal bullet journal, the artist designs the entire notebook. The design includes colour palettes, stylistic choices like minimalism or glam, and choice of medium. Bullet journal decoration ranges from thin markers to painting and glitter glue. 

https://bulletjournal.com/blogs/bulletjournalist/isabelhoops

She utilizes all the benefits of bullet journals. She created a drawing that brings her personal joy (happiness in its creation and happiness while viewing). In addition, she created a designated space for her schedule. Her drawing does not impede on her organization, it rather enhances the white space.

Her bullet journal design relies on three goals:

  1. Should perfectly complement the picture
  2. Remain functional despite the artistry
  3. Retain plenty of space for appointments and lists

On her personal art site, Susanne writes, “Looking back, it’s amazing to see how the pages have evolved over the years, both functionally and artistically. Through my journal, I’ve become even more organized and gained a renewed confidence in myself and my creativity – sometimes I even dare to call myself an artist”.

The individuality behind each bullet journal is a large part of the creativity. However, it is the expectation of “doodling” or small artistic designs around one’s schedule that makes the journals stand out. Studies have proven that doodling promotes focus, memory, and stress relief.

For instance, in a study from 2009, two groups were given a phone message to listen to, but only one of those groups was given materials used for doodling. The group that doodled while listening to the phone message remembered 29% more information than the group that did not doodle.

The study was conducted to show how artistic behaviours like doodling impact different areas of the human brain. In a similar study from 2017, scientists asked people from various backgrounds to complete different artistic pieces: doodles, free drawings, and colourings. The scientists recorded the oxygenation to the participants’ medial prefrontal cortex–the more oxygenation, the more that portion of the brain is activated.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019745561630171X

The study showed that doodling produces the most activity in the medial prefrontal cortex which is the part of the human brain that mostly controls memory. Therefore, bullet journals utilize art like doodling, drawing, painting, design etc. to improve the creator’s memory of their schedule, budget, daily activities, and more. 

Bullet journals are an underutilized tool; however, they may be most beneficial for those who often find themselves doodling during meetings or distracted during video calls. Sometimes those who are prone to doodling do not work well with traditional organization tools like standard calendars and planners (electronic or paper).

Bullet journals are the answer to the individuals who are looking for a more creative organizational outlet. They may be especially perfect for artists in business. When running a business, the owner has to keep track of orders, schedules, budgets, contact information, and more. A bullet journal can be a great place to keep a wide range of information while improving the user’s memory. 

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