Motivation: starting a bullet journal

Last week, I experienced several days of complete discouragement, and I ended up doing almost nothing concerning Japanese, I even skipped studying Anki for several consecutive days (which I rarely allow myself to do).

To get back in the saddle, I decided to start a bullet journal for Japanese. When I first heard of bullet journaling some time ago, I was very interested in it but soon became very doubtful concerning whether it was for me or not. At the time, I just watched the introductory video without really reflect on the pros of the bullet journal.

To me, it looked like another way of creating a to-do list. I have tried numerous systems to organise my study and be more productive, but I never stick to any to-do list, task manager, time tracker, or other productivity tools that exist out there. The to-do lists that I created myself invariably turned into an unpleasant reflection of my procrastination, and I ended up feeling guilty and even more disheartened than before.

On the other hand, having no system made me feel like I have great ideas but never put them into practice. For example, I would like to make intonation exercises and even promised myself that I would transcript dialogues to see how many kanji I can write and so on. But these things are not a priority right now and weeks go by without seeing any of these resolutions fulfilled.

The bullet journal

After days of complete apathy, I needed a way to organise myself and looked more deeply into bullet journaling. After reading most of the site and blog of the bullet journal, I thought that starting a bullet journal devoted to anything related to Japanese (included this blog) might be a solution.

As it is my first bullet journal, I followed step by step Ryder Carroll’s instructions on I soon realised that I would have to add a “weekly log” to my journal, as suggested. I am only a beginner in bullet journaling, and I still don’t know if it will work for me. However, I can already say that I like some features, which I think, combine well with  studying Japanese and writing a blog:

Actionable item

Of course, the bullet journal is here to help you compile all your monthly and daily tasks, but Ryder Carroll also speaks of “actionable item”. Tasks marked with a dot are just items that require an action from you, contrary to notes or events. I like the term “actionable item” because it does not bear the (to me) negative connotations of “things to do”, “deadline”, “assignment”, etc.

Migrate without guilt

In most systems that I have tried, tasks had to be done, and undone tasks were pointing at me disapprovingly. “Migration”, or transferring your task to another day, was not supposed to happen, it was an accident. In the bullet journal system, however, “migration” is a “cornerstone” of the whole system.

More than simply listing tasks, I see it as a way to write down any inspirations, ideas, resolutions to not forget them. You then see when would be the best time to do them (scheduled tasks) or if they are worth your time at all. You complete what you can achieve on a given day, week or month and migrate the tasks you could not complete to the next month.

This is a great way to reflect on procrastination. I often blame myself because I end up postponing, again and again, the same task. In fact, it may be that this task is not so meaningful to me, I am not procrastinating, I am just not interested in it. In this case, I should just get rid of this task to concentrate on the things that are really worth it.


The ability to incorporate “collections” inside the bullet journal is a fantastic feature. I like having all my ideas concerning Japanese in one place. For example, I already created a page devoted to this blog and post ideas. Every time I think of a new subject to my blog, I write it in the “blog ideas” collection of my bullet journal. I also plan to create a collection for “books to read”. Whenever I come across reading recommendations (mainly on WordPress’ blogs) or a book in a bookshop that interests me, I will write it there. Finally, I will also create a collection for my JLPT study plan (i.e. how many lessons I have to study in each of my books vs the remaining days).

Don’t lose track of the bigger picture

Having both a daily log and a monthly log allows me to keep track of time. When self-studying, it is easy to let the days fly away without even realising it. In the end, we get nowhere, not because Japanese is difficult, but because managing one’s time is difficult.

Bullet journal vs agenda

Why not just use an agenda? This is the question that I am asking myself, even after I started my bullet journal… Most agendas have what you would call a monthly and daily logs and some of them even incorporate blank pages to add “collections”.

I still don’t know if bullet journaling will prove more efficient than just keeping an agenda. I have a little personal agenda for the end of 2017 and next year, but as I am experimenting the bullet journal, I plan to use it for any personal data except Japanese study.


As suggested on, I will try the system for at least two months and see if it helps me in my studies. As I am sticking to the original and simple version of the bullet journal (no drawings, no design, no colours), it takes me only a couple of minutes each day, so I know that I am not spending more time organising my studies than actually study. I will certainly come with an update in two or three months on this subject!