A Guide to Bullet Journaling for Graduate Students

By: Kennelia Mellanson 


The Bullet Journal (BuJo) is the “choose your own adventure” of planners. The creator, Ryder Carroll, is a product designer from Brooklyn. Unsurprisingly, he created a planning system which gives you the space to design your life. To date, #bulletjournal has over five million posts on Instagram, and the “How to bullet journal” tutorial has 11 million views on Youtube. Its virality speaks to the simplistic and accessible nature of the system. To begin the system, you only need a pencil and a book of your choice. The BuJo upstages the typical “off the conveyor belt” agenda by allowing you to choose and then re-choose an array of modules. The value of this flexibility serves you to take stock of your life and aspirations.

“My planner is my one oasis of calm amidst the chaos my life has descended into”


The basic modules of the system are simple:

  1. The Future log: Plan the future and log life events (e.g., Birthdays, vacations, and appointments)

2. The Monthly log: Plan goals and tasks on a short-term scale. (e.g., Articles for journals, and experiments)

3. Daily Rapid Log: Note the day’s tasks and rituals (e.g., Exercise, eating, and working).

Anything not accomplished in the day can be migrated to the next day, week, month, or year. Many procrastinators who employ the system might find that they migrate tasks a lot! The building shame and guilt around incompletion is a tool to engage in self-awareness. Ryder suggests that one should assess a perpetually migrated task. Do you need to do it or can you delegate it? Is it imperative to your productivity, or is it busy work?

The practice of BuJo asks you to prioritize. Also, it makes you cognizant of the time limitations and challenges you face. It is the optimal project management practice for the weary graduate student. To be a graduate student is to make a job of following intellectual curiosity while being conscientious enough to produce data to publish. They must think about projects in the short and long term while also facing the likelihood of the failure of these projects at any time. Moreover, the graduate student has a laundry list of graduate courses, tutoring requirements, and necessary “human”-ing. 


While the basic modules are adequate, I suggest the addition of a project management module for the graduate student. The Gantt chart (see image below) is a tracker that includes a list of tasks for a given project and a progress bar for each task chronologically ordered by a timespan given to the project. It is in your best interest to list results-oriented tasks, and the timespan must include a buffer for completion. With the completion of each task, the progress bar is filled in, and momentum builds. The value of the tracker comes from the mindful planning of many projects that sometimes appear to have no end. It is a visual contract that the grad student signs off on and can then structure their daily lives around.

With the long-term use of this system, the management of time and tasks becomes imbued with wisdom learned from logging your life. The BuJo helps you, the grad student, thrive in your academic journey using a practice of life design, self-policing, and mindful ritual.

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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