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Writing for Yourself: How to Journal Well & Learn More

Missing assignments, forgotten appointments, a mountain of responsibilities – sound familiar? It does for me; back in my Junior year of high school, I was a disorganized mess! I was part of an AP class that I hated and participated heavily in my school’s theater program as a stage designer and prop-maker. I was severally burnt out keeping up with what I thought was the bare minimum. That year, I decided something needed to change; I felt nostalgic for the easy days of elementary school when all I needed was a holographic, 2000s, Premier agenda in a Jansport backpack to manage my time.

Then, I saw a video that completely changed my trajectory, and I found what I still contribute to my success in school – and today, I am prepared to share it with you. Journaling.

Starting Off Right with To-Do Lists & Bullet Journaling

Maybe you’re not as easily influenced as I am – but when The Bullet Journal Method

by Ryan Correll debuted in 2015, I bought in hard. And the best part was it didn’t take anything more complicated than a journal and a ballpoint pen.

Bullet Journaling appeals to those of us who prefer to have an easy to refer to to-do list throughout the day, the week, and the month to keep us on track. It’s highly customizable, as it’s up to you to create just about every spread yourself, and it can be as low-effort or high-creativity as you prefer. The more time you spend decorating, the more you tend to grow attached – as an example, see the billions of posts of highly aesthetic Bullet Journal spreads on social media.

But the method didn’t start out color-coded or over-designed. At its core, Bullet Journaling is a way to bring minimalism and order to your sense of productivity so that each thing is in its place, and when you accomplish something, you can reward yourself by ticking off the box. Once it’s a habit, it becomes a lifestyle.

The Bullet Journal method really works for me. I have it engrained into my whole day. Morning, noon, and night. It can take a while to get to that level of familiarity, but once you have it, it’s pretty effortless. I tend to set up a basic to-do list and then decorate later with highlights and stickers rather than at the moment I put it down.

Now, I personally at least rarely miss appointments or forget about assignments. I highly recommend everyone read “The Bullet Journal Method” or visit the website, where all the same information is laid out for those looking to get started. For more information, you can check out:

The Day in Review with Summaries

But let’s say you’re busier than that – your class schedule and work schedule don’t make it practical for you to bring one more notebook and pen everywhere you go. Or to have your nose in your phone, taking note of what you’ve done and not done just yet. Your day is a bit more hectic and full than that, and by the time you’re in bed, you just want to lay there and rest.

Journaling can provide better rest by calming your mind and relieving you of all the busy thoughts locked up inside.

Instead of doom-scrolling or just watching TV, try winding down with a journal for ten minutes an hour before bed. Give yourself the space to tell your journal about everything you did.

Tell your journal all about the school day's lectures, personal events, something you read, and what you want to do tomorrow. Vent out onto the pages, and marvel as what at first may feel challenging becomes a relaxing exercise that you look forward to at night.

It may seem suspiciously simple, this exercise. It doesn’t require quite as much rigor and consistency as a daily agenda of activities. How could it benefit someone so much? In my experience, this comes down to mindfulness and checking in with oneself. Mindfulness had a bit of a craze during the pandemic; everything a person did or thought was supposed to relate to it somehow, to keep yourself sane! But it’s more than a buzzword – it’s a way of life. It’s honesty with yourself, so you can recognize when you’re starting to struggle or starting to succeed! This goes with all areas of life, especially in one’s academic career. If you’re explaining to your journal how confused you felt in the lecture, this could be a sign that you need to go to your professor’s office hours or visit the tutorial center. No matter your highs or lows or frequency in use, a journal is an important tool.

Freedom in Free Writing

Your mornings are too busy, and you’re ready to crash during the night – what if your only moments to yourself are on the weekends? The above methods may still work for you and help you plan your week accordingly. However, there’s also the idea of weekly free writing.

Free writing is precisely what it sounds like. Ignoring prompts, or maybe spinning a wheel of a super long list of prompts if you feel like it, and just doing something new. Something without the rails of expectation on you.

Assignments can stir anxiety, a drive for perfection, and make a person avoidant because they’re afraid to make mistakes. Free writes allow breathing room for messiness, for a version of your creative mind that doesn’t have to answer for dropped commas or spelinge erors!

Finding out what happens when you pick up a pen and touch a blank canvas can be intimidating, but it’s a gift to yourself you won’t regret trying out. Especially when it coincides with feeling better. Remember, journaling in any medium or method is an essential act of self-care.

Becoming a super scholar doesn’t happen overnight; I certainly haven’t yet achieved that title. But, I would consider myself well-organized. And it really doesn’t take much to see a great deal of improvement. And once you’ve seen it, I hope that you continue with it, making whatever journaling method is best for you your own!



For the Beginners:

"A Total Beginners Guide to Keeping a Journal"

For the YouTube Crowd:

"How to Bullet Journal"

For Supporting Mental Health:

"The Great Book of Journaling"

For App Lovers:

"5 of the best journaling apps to log your thoughts and experiences"

For Book Bound Enthusiasts:

"Journaling Supplies"

For Luxurious Tastes:

"The Theme System Journal"

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