Almost 5 years ago, I embraced high school and all the joys that come along with being a high school student – tests, assessments, impromptu quizzes, mufti days and the lugging around my PE uniform. About a term ago, I entered senior high school, and wow did the landscape change.

Gone was the “It’s only year 8; nothing counts” and in came the tidal waves of HSC assessment tasks, deadlines and the perilous struggle up Mt Ranks.

In the first HSC term, I continued acting as though I was a still a Year 11 student. I expected the transition from being a senior to a senior senior student to be very smooth, and initially it was. There was a little bit more on my plate, but nothing that stopped me from getting my daily 9 hours of sleep.

But that was when I was riding at the top of the wave; little did I know that in a couple of weeks’ time, the wave was going to move faster and faster until it broke.

For me, the problem was disorganisation amidst the examination period. One week there were no assessments, and the next I had something on every day! I thought I was organised; I really did. I set reminders on my phone, jotted dates down on my to-do list and every other thing passed down in hushed whispers by generations of Year 12s to ensure I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night remembering I’ve got an English assessment the next day.

That’s when I stumbled across the bullet journal.

The bullet journal, or bujo as it is lovingly known, is the “analogue system for the digital age”. In essence, it is a diary, to-do list, journal and calander in one. Why spend money and time using five different items, when you can merge them all into one?

Most bullet journalists use LEUCHTTURM1917 dotted journal, however, you can use any book lying around: lined, blank or grid. I personally prefer the dotten journal because it is the perfect balance between being blank enough for me to do anything on the page, and giving me some guidance to make boxes and write straight on.

One of my favourite things about the bujo is that it is so free. Unlike other journals / diaries that have a strict format that you have to adhere to, with the bujo, you are in control of everything. You can chose to have your daily spread (see the images below!) and then the next page to dedicated as a brain dump for your English creative! And even better, you can design every page to your likes — no more compromising!

For those who are new to bujos, I strongly recommend for you to check to the official bullet journal site in which Ryder Carroll, the creator, breaks down the basics of his system.

While this system is undeniable inventive, it isn’t exactly tailored for high school students.

So you’ve made me obsessed with bujos and now I can’t use them?!

Not necessarily! I love bullet journaling; I’ve added some school-related spreads that modify it to my needs.

Here are some changes you can make to your bujo that make it the perfect school companion!

1. Key

Colours, colours, and colours! When you begin your bujo, it’s a good thing to invest in a nice set of pens and highlighters that make it easy to track subject throughout the journal. My personal favourite are Muji pens and Mildliner high lighters (the pastel ones are my personal favourite); however, the Steadler pens are also amazing!

In my bujo, I’ve assigned each subject a specific colour:

Maths (Advanced, Extension 1 and 2) = Blue

English (Advanced and Extension 1) = Yellow

Science (Biology and Chemistry) = Pink

Miscellaneous = Green

If you want, you can assign every subject a different colour, but I find that it becomes a little harder to track / easier to accidentally code a task the wrong colour.

Remember: the bujo is customisable – it’s up to you to decide what to do with it!

But, how do I use this?

It’s simple really. All you have to do is write down all your school tasks using the coloured pen it has been assigned. This system allows me to see if I’m giving all my subjects equal attention or if I’m neglecting a subject. You can also add signifiers, such as exclamation marks, to indicate that a certain task is more important. Here’s an example:

Exercise 4.3 Q1-18. Due 6 April

Natural selection practical report. Due 8 April 

Analyse chapter 2 + pick out key quotes

!! Mix Tyson’s heartworm tablet with his food TODAY

2. Grade and Rank Tracker

I personally find that having a spread with all my grades for each subject on it really helps me keep on track. If I’ve done less well in Task 1, for instance, then I know that in Task 2 I’ve got to really try to raise my overall percentage and rank.

I like to format my Grade Tracker in a table:

  English Maths Science
Task 1 46/50 42/50 39/50
Task 2 19/20 80/100 85/100
Task 3 14/20 39/50 71/80
Task 4 87/100 89/100 92/100
Overall percentage  87% 83% 86%

However, you can choose to format it in your bujo in whatever way you want! 

My one is a clean-cut table with some doodles around the sides. I know others who have made their table into an artistic masterpiece! (But I’m not a good artist, so anything beyond a stick figure is amazing to me).

Add some washi tape, some cute stickers and a heap load of Tumblr inspo, and you’ll have an amazing – and useful! – spread that’ll have your friends starting their own bujo.

3. Procrastination Spread

Ahh yes, this familiar fiend that shadows us. Other than assessment shock, procrastination is one of the worst things that happens to me, and I’m willing to guess some none of you too! We know when we’re doing it, we know we should stop, we know the consequences, but we do it anyways. But on the other hand, I firmly believe it’s an integral part of the high school experience (at least that’s what I tell my teachers).

But how do I use this?

This spread can be weekly or monthly; it’s up to you how you want to use it.

My personal suggestion is, if you’re a serial procrastinator, then go for the daily or weekly one. It really just depends on how you think you need to track it.

It is simply a bar graph with an assigned key that you shade in to show how much time you’ve spent procrastinating. The key varies depending on how much you like to live the high school experience; it can be 5 / 10 / 30 / 60 minute segments (or anything else that suits you). Here’s an example:

Using a procrastination tracker is really useful to show you how much time you’re really spending on school work and how much time you’re spending on Netflix or Facebook!

4. Set SMART Goals

SMART goals can be used to shape your goals so that they are well-defined and achievable!

Here’s how they work:

Specific – a specific goal should clearly state what you want to accomplish, why it is an important goal, and how you intend to accomplish the goal.

Measurable – a measurable goal should include a plan with targets and milestones that you can use to make sure you’re moving in the right direction during the process and should clearly tell you when you’ve completed the process.

Attainable – an attainable goal should be realistic and include a plan that breaks your overall goal down into smaller, manageable action steps that use the time and resources available to you within the timeline you’ve set.

Relevant – a relevant goal should your aim.

Time-based – a time-based goal should include a defined period of time as well as a specific timeline for each step of the process.

Here is an example of a not-so-SMART goal:

I want to achieve a 99 ATAR.

Here’s what’s wrong with it:

  1. An ATAR is a rank. How is one person able to estimate their position relative to the state without knowing the capabilities of other students?
  2. How are you going to achieve this ATAR? There is no mention of the strategies needed to acquire a 99 ATAR.
  3. Why do you need a 99 ATAR? Does getting into your desired course require you to get a 99?
  4. Is a 99 ATAR attainable for you? This question isn’t meant to undermine your abilities – it’s only a reflective question that everyone should keep in mind when setting any goals.
So, what does a SMART goal look like?

There is no single or right way of making a SMART goal.

One easy method to defining your own SMART goal, is to write down each letter down your page, and then fill it in with sentences. Once you’re done, you can put all those ideas into one, concise sentence. Here’s a template:

S: I aim to achieve…

M: I will measure the success of my goal by…

A: I will do… This is realistic because…

R: Doing such will allow me to…

T: Within the next…

My SMART goal is…

That’ll be all from me this month! If you have any questions about the Bullet Journal, SMART goals or anything else, drop us a message on our Facebook page! 

Good Luck!

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Dharni Patel is not really limited to being a 2017 HSC student; she’s a certified science nerd and baker, and to her knowledge, still holds the record for the most missed basketball/netball/anything-ball shots in her community. When she’s not buried in textbooks and gripping her beloved calculator Calci (4 unit maths does that to you), you’ll find her grazing the pages of Cosmos, playing with her 11-month Labrador Tyson or just planning how she’ll walk to accept her Nobel Prize in Chemistry (but she’ll settle for a Nobel in biology or medicine if she must).