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The productivity hack that actually makes your brain feel better

bullet journaling
Photo: Instagram/@rozmakesplans

Even if we use reminder apps and our Google calendar religiously, admit it—there are certain days when you completely space on that one task. If your trusty (but not quite as airtight as you thought it was) system isn’t working the way you need it to, consider the  bullet journal—also known as “BuJo.”

If you’re not familiar with the buzzy Marie Kondo organization method for planning (which has a cult following and hundreds of thousands of posts on Instagram), bullet journaling is a streamlined, one-stop hub for your calendar, to-do lists, and notes.

It’s not like the type of planner you can pick up at the drugstore. Created by Brooklynite Ryder Carroll, BuJo is an actual customizable method, and it’s so intricate that it has its own key.

bullet journal organization
Photo: Instagram/@beginner_bullet_journal

But there’s a method to the madness, and behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin (author of The Organized Mind and the forthcoming A Field Guide to Lies) recently spoke with Science of Us about why.

The complexity actually makes the journal more effective: it forces you to make charts and use symbols (you make it yourself, after all) and therefore utilizes both motor and cognitive skills which helps relieve your brain from the stress of focusing on one thing for too long. And as you probably know from experience, writing things out (and even drawing them) helps you remember things better than simply typing them.

“When you’ve got a piece of paper in front of you, it sort of encourages you to expand your visual field and expand your imagination,” says Levitin. Since bullet journaling is time-consuming and forces you to visualize your calendar by hand, it can lead to creativity that you just don’t get from a to-do list on your computer.

According to Levitin, “externalizing your memory” makes it easier to accomplish tasks. “In other words, don’t just try to keep track of things in your head,” he says. “Somehow get what’s in your head out there in the world, whether that means writing it down in a journal or little three-by-five index cards, covering your desk and your fridge and your walls with Post-its, [or] making voice memos.”

Plus, if you put everything you need to remember in one place, you’ll likely be reminded of another important thing once you open your notebook to look at something else. Sounds like something I need to jump on ASAP. Anyone else?

Bullet journaling’s great for your productivity, but did you know journaling can make you a meal-planning pro (among other things)? For more hacks to use in the workplace, here are eight things successful women do (almost) every day