BuJo Culture: Why more people are turning to art journaling to cope with lockdown and stress
New York-based designer Ryder Carroll, who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child, wanted to devise a system to help him move past his learning disabilities. While figuring out a way to be more focussed and productive, he developed the idea of Bullet Journaling, a versatile and efficient system which could function as a to-do-list, a diary, notebook or a sketchbook. In his words, this dotted journal is meant 'to help you track your past, organise the present and plan for the future.' For the uninitiated, this often colourful and artsy books filled with symbols and shorthand might seem a tad confusing at first but once you dip your toes in it, it's hard not to see why it's become one of the most sought after methods to plan, reflect as well as to meditate.
A quick Instagram search for #bujo (short for bullet journaling) easily throws up over five million results, which is proof enough to show how big of a phenomenon this revolutionary organisational system has become. Thanks to mounting stress levels with a generous serving of existential dread, the lockdown seems to have led many in the way of BuJo. “Since the lockdown, the demand for the category has been skyrocketing. Even our social handles have shown increased engagements from artists sharing their work with us. It turns out people are finally taking the time to be creative and using art as a means to relieve stress,” says Sinduja Sivarajah, Marketing Head at Factor Notes, an online stationery brand.
Getting in order
Although the trend seems to have seen a rise since the pandemic, the art of BuJo has been around for a while. Poland-based artist Julia Pezowicz tells us she got in on the BuJo culture ever since she moved out of her hometown to pursue higher studies. “I started Bullet Journaling back in summer 2017. I had realised that if I want to keep up with starting adult life, studies, work and my hobbies, I will have become more organised. After a bit of searching for a calendar that would fit my needs the best, I came across some photos of Bullet Journal spreads that inspired me to give it a try,” says the 23-year-old. “Making my own Bullet Journal not only helped me with being organised but also made me feel motivated to come back to my abandoned hobby which was drawing and painting,” she adds.
Closer home, Delhi-based calligrapher Simran Dhiman shares how the habit has changed her life, “Ever since I started BuJo, I have become more systematic. I make sure to make categories and divide the daily, weekly and monthly work so that I can sift through them easily and prioritise work accordingly. Besides work, it also helps me track my physical and mental health. It is a task, yes. And some days, it takes extra effort to sit down and do it, but I'd say it's totally worth it!”
Calling the activity reassuring and motivating, Mumbai-based creator Shanti S Javadekar says BuJo helps her keep track of her emotions as well as daily progress which is otherwise forgotten.“The trend of BuJo is now at an all-time rise because all of us have the time. We are finding ways to be mentally okay and channelling our thoughts in a journal helps us keep occupied and stay peaceful,” shares Shanti who adds that she spends at least an hour everyday lettering quotes in her journal.
Although commonly used for organisation and time management, a BuJo also lends itself well when used as a habit tracker or as a tool to monitor your mood, feelings, energy levels, health symptoms, life events, among others. People even vouch to have coped better with stress and anxiety after tracking their thoughts on paper. “It makes me take my time to think about all my plans in advance — this way, I am less likely to stress out about some deadlines or other important events because I already planned out what and when I am going to do to make it happen. Some people are able to do the same thing with premade calendars but those never worked for me since I did not feel motivated to fill them up. I was getting bored with it very quickly. It rarely happens with my BuJo because once I take my time to make a spread, I feel a need to get good use out of it,” shares Julia.
Sharing her thoughts on how Bullet Journaling can be therapeutic, psychologist Mini Rao says, “I always advise my patients to have a journal/diary to release their feelings through writing. For people with busy work schedules, it's essential to have an organised schedule as their timings are often off the charts. Setting your goals, long term and short term, writing about what you achieved that particular day can give a huge boost to your self-confidence. A bullet journal keeps people grounded, lets them know where they are headed, makes them more focused and gives them a confidence boost about achievements from before. I am a huge advocate of writing so I have no qualms in saying, writing is therapeutic and bullet journalism is the way to go forward.”
Customize for life
A bucket list, a motivational spread, anxiety tracker — your BuJo can take any form you desire. While some do with a simple key & colour coding method, the ways to test your creativity in this canvas is limitless. Sketches, lettering, calligraphy, cartoons, stickers...there is no hard and fast rule as to how to keep up your BuJo game. “To make my bujo pleasant to look at, I use scraps of paper, tags, washi, bills, tickets, basically anything. I swear by using every scrap of paper. It can be time-consuming but I personally feel the process is rewarding,” shares Simran who adds that she’s a self-confessed stationery hoarder. “Besides a dotted journal and any gel/ball pen to write with (which are must-haves), the limit of things you can use is endless. I do brush calligraphy, sometimes paint with watercolours and acrylics into the journal as well, besides using sticky notes and washi tapes.”
However, if it all seems too much at once, the beginners could always start small and try different methods over time. Julia adds, “I started by decorating my journal with a black fine-liner alone. I kept that up for almost a year but once I got used to this medium, I wanted to try another one. I started to use markers, coloured pencils, brush pens, gouache paints and even watercolours. My style is rather cartoony. I love making doodles and creating patterns, they make me happy.”
Function over form
That said, if you are new to the world of BuJo, it's but normal to feel little overwhelmed by the hundreds of pretty spreads that you see on your feeds. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of it, after all, is not to end up in your Pinterest wall or your Instagram reel. Whether or not you decide to showcase it to the world, the primary function of your journal is to serve you.
Your BuJo needn’t look exceptionally beautiful or photograph well and it certainly doesn’t matter if you drew the sketches by hand, took multiple attempts to get it right or just used stickers instead. It’s all about bringing the chaos of your daily life on paper so you can create a streamlined system that will help you celebrate your goals and have some good fun, while at it.
If you aren’t as pleased with plain, monochrome journals and are in favour of some colours, here are a few supplies (and brands) you could use to make the #bujo experience more fun.
Journal (Menorah, The Mood Twisters, Factor Notes)
We love these handy dot-grid journals that come with premium quality paper of 90 GSM, pretty and sturdy covers and are ink-pen friendly with little to no bleeding. Avg Price 300 and upwards.
Journal stencil (Mengcube)
We feel this 12-pack stencil set will make for a great addition to your art kit as it features letters, numbers, icons and other BuJo templates suited for A5 notebooks and journals. Priced at `2,890.
Washable markers (Touch cool)
This 60-piece marker set is something we love for its firm nibs that offer optimum ink flow and drying rates. Additionally, it's waterproof and smudge-proof as well. Priced at `2,499.
Card ink pen set (Faber Castell)
We recommend this artist pen set of eight pieces for its waterproof and fade-resistant quality that make it a dream to work with. Price: `840.
Washi tapes (Nichiban)
A great tool to add colour to your pages, we suggest you try this set of 10 tapes come in beautiful patterns. The added bonus is that it's removable, repositionable and can be reused. Price: `1,299.
Stamp set (Yansanido)
We love this adorable wooden rubber stamp set of 25 pcs that come in a cute wooden box. They are easy to use and of the perfect size for letters and calendars. Price: `2,038
Watercolour brush pens (Talens)
We are in awe of this liquid watercolour brush pen set of 15 that gives brilliant and bright colours and for allowing execution of seamless artworks. Price: `2,900
Are you new to bujo and a little overwhelmed by all the remarkable art that you see on your socials? Check out these cool hacks to make your bujo pretty and interesting. Try using:
Personalised key using symbols and colour coding
Calendar stickers instead of drawing
Post-its for temporary notes
Fold-out key to be a guide to the whole book
Washi tape on edges to find pages fast
Stickers if you don’t trust your drawing skills
Use white gel pen because to err is human
Tape envelopes inside to store important pics/receipts