When I was 12 years old, I first entered middle school with a lot of thoughts. My parents were on the verge of divorce multiple times throughout my middle school times. The wealth inequities in my private middle school became clearer in my 12 years-old-something minds, between my peers and I. Between the ones whose fancy electronic devices backed up by their old money parents and me, the one whose tuition barely surfaced by my try-hard parents. I have a lot of attention-stealing excuses at the time, but I know for sure that good grades will save me. Therefore, I set up an ancient version of the bullet journal in my pocket notebook. In every homework and assignment I was given, I would take notes of due dates and any mistakes I made and plot for improvement. Before any exams, I would write down my common mistakes, and make sure that in the exam, I won't repeat it again.

I did this same routine for about 4 years of middle school, and it reflected through my perfect grades back then. When people saw me, they see a popular girl who also scores highest in every exam in consecutive years. Little do they know that my secret magic wand was my bullet journal.

In high school, I did a similar thing when I started studying abroad in the U.S. But the education I have in the U.S is very different. I have to study and carry life on my own in this country. I continued to write down motivational quotes in my bullet journal, tracked my schedule, wrote specific tips to each subject to keep reminding me. But when it comes to AP classes, I felt overwhelmed. The prolonged overwhelm was until the Spring of my Sophomore years in college. I realize that I spend too much time thinking about the process and the method rather than the action-taking part. The most important gap I have throughout this time is that although I try every single way to keep my life organized in one 300-pages, I still couldn't focus on taking ACTIONS. I get dreaded when a teacher assigned homework or papers. I get dreaded to take exams. I lost touch with my passion for studying no matter how much I try.

In my junior year of college, it was again the concept of bullet journal, but with a little twist, that saves me. I got laid-off from an on-campus job and was on an academic probation. Hence, I had to figure out a solution to my attention deficit behavior. So, I turned to the branded Bullet Journal starred by Ryder Carroll for help. After that, I followed @bohoberry on Instagram for style inspiration and invested in a Moleskin dotted notebook. I was extremely motivated to revamp my goal-setting habit by tracking my study hours and filtering all the overwhelming thoughts in my head. Furthermore, the new bullet journal helped me to destress by embracing my inner artist through every monthly spread. I was obsessed with the process at first and have to fill in my bullet journal every day to keep my sanity. But it doesn't work for a long period just like my middle school times.

Throughout the time, I realize there is something better: it's by talking to people and by being open about my challenges and my momentum. This is the most efficient method rather than trying to structure our existence that is impossibly prone to spontaneity. This is a really important skill that I believe every college student should have. College students nowadays are too afraid to speak up about their own struggles and instead find ways to formulate themselves.

For now, I still use a miniature version of bullet journaling to keep myself minimally organized and push myself when I want to learn new hard skills. I only used Google Keep and Google Calendar to make sure I don’t forget any key dates — deadlines — create a to-do list on my way to work (Sorry I don’t make a to-do list before I sleep, and I’m trying to change that). Besides that, I j use a very simple planner from Muji to cross out my to-do list. For anything that I am striving for, I would write in my diary and plan it accordingly.

The human brain in terms of planning, learning, working is oddly computer-alike. It works well on a momentum slope, but it gets tired when the same thing keeps loading in without its software being updated and debugged. I have just one simple piece of advice: follow your intuition when a certain routine/ habit wears down, change your method, and evaluate it by talking to others.

Few other methods I have been using is:

  • Using a mini whiteboard
  • Notion for work/habit organization
  • Muji planner for school-work organization and vision board
  • Google Calendar for Timeboxing

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Linh Ho

Linh Ho

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Tech, MedTech, PharmaTech, Optimized Lifestyle Enthusiast.