So what’s this whole bullet journal thing all about?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several months, you have probably heard of bullet journaling.

However, if you haven’t actually seen or used a bullet journal yourself, understanding exactly what is a bullet journal and what is involved is a little trickier.

Basically, a bullet journal is a way to combine all of your thoughts, schedules, to-do lists, budget trackers, meal plans, and miscellaneous life notes into a single neat little notebook.

It’s a way to organize all of those different things you try to keep up with on a daily basis.

Bullet journaling is not only fun, but it also has real world benefits such as reducing overall stress and anxiety.

Here’s a brief video explaining what a bullet journal is by BuJo® creator Ryder Carroll:

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase through my links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my site!

When did bullet journaling start?

The original Bullet Journal® system (also known as BuJo® for short) was created by New York product designer Ryder Carroll.

He developed the system by himself over many years to be the most effective system for personal management, and finally launched in 2013 to share his invention with the world.

But, the Bullet Journal® system doesn’t stop with Ryder Carroll! Bullet journaling is supposed to be an evolving tool that you are free to adapt in any way to meet your needs.

That’s why nowadays people use beautiful bujo spreads for everything from trip planning to school projects to fitness tracking, on top of the traditional daily and weekly spreads.

Do bullet journals work?

Absolutely. Bullet journals are designed to help you live your best life.

Almost everyone who starts a bullet journal finds that it benefits them a lot.

Remember there is really no right or wrong way to do it. It is supposed to make life easier for you, not more difficult, so don’t feel pressured to have it organized or look like all the others you see on Instagram.

Here are some different ways you can benefit by having a bullet journal:

Everything is in one place

First of all, all your different to-do lists, schedules, and notes are in a single journal. Many people do already have journals or digital to-do lists with this type of information, but it’s not so convenient having one for finances, another for home chores, and another for business to-do lists.

The bullet journal lets you have everything in one place since you are using symbols and short phrases instead of long paragraphs of notes.

If you’ve ever found yourself rummaging through piles of post-it notes or scrolling desperately through the notes function on your phone, you could probably benefit from a bullet journal that will keep everything you need to know in one place!

A post shared by @matchaa_studies on

Bullet journals are easy

A bullet journal is very easy to put together.

You can do this how you like, but typically you start by creating the index, which is also becomes a broad selection of what to include. Then you number your pages and start writing.

You can track your regular habits

Since you are writing in the bullet journal daily, you are able to track your habits and see what needs to change.

It can help you see that you spend too much money on coffee and eating out, or that you aren’t exercising enough.

It’s also great for forming new healthy habits, such as mediating every day or remembering to drink eight glasses of water.

Which notebook should I buy for my bullet journal?

Before you start your bullet journal, you’ll obviously need a journal to use.

The best thing about bullet journaling is that you don’t need any special journal. You can literally use any old notebook you have lying around.

Choosing one that has nice large pages is a good idea. Also, if you plan on adding lots of collections and lists, choose one that’s thick enough.

Look for one that can stay closed when needed, but when you open to individual pages, the spine isn’t so tight that it is hard to write in it.

Also look for thick pages in case you decide to decorate some of the pages and don’t want any pen marks bleeding through.

The most popular notebook among bujo enthusiasts is the Leuchtturm 1917. The Leuchtturm 1917 journal is perfect for bullet journaling because it has several pre-printed features such as a blank contents index and numbered pages. It also has a sturdy hard cover (so it stands up well to being carted around in your bag all day) and ribbons to mark your place. It comes in a whole rainbow of cute colors.

A popular second choice are the A5 Moleskine notebooks. These are available in a soft cover, which some people prefer. They also come in a range of colors, although not as many as the Leuchtturm.

But remember – you really don’t need a fancy notebook! Especially if you’re just starting out and you’re not sure if bullet journaling is for you.

Just grab a cheap ring-bound notebook from the dollar store, and get started!

What should I put in my bullet journal?

While you can create the bullet journal however you like, it does help to have some direction for getting started.

Here are some components to try and include in your bullet journal:


Every bullet journal should preferably have an index at the front. This lets you know what area different sections of the journal are located, such as grocery and meal planning, or finances.

After you add a new section, you’ll want to add the page number to the index. Then you can quickly find the information you need without flipping back and forward!

Page numbers

Naturally, since you have an index, you also need to have page numbers. You can be as creative as you want, but make sure every page is numbered and it corresponds with what is in the index.

Some journals such as the Leuchtturm 1917 have pre-printed page numbers. If I’m working into a blank journal, I tend to just write the number on the right-hand page to save time.


Signifiers are symbols that you assign to different types of notes. It can be helpful when you want to use them in place of longer phrases.

For example, this could be a happy or sad smiley face for your moods, a heart for a date with your significant other, or a Christmas tree when scheduling holidays.

You can get creative with signifiers and make them your own!

A post shared by Stephanie (@scrubs_n_coffee) on

Future log

Since you create your bullet journal as you go along, you can’t flip ahead to future dates like a traditional journal. So you’ll need a place to jot down future appointments and things to remember.

Leave a couple of pages blank at the front of your journal for your ‘future log’. You can write down the date and appointment as you make it. Some people divide this section into months, or even draw out mini calendars. Others simply keep a running list.

As you create a new monthly spread for each new month, you can fill in pre-booked appointments from your future log.

A post shared by Rhean (@bulletby_r) on

Can I have a bullet journal if I can’t draw?

Many artsy folk have really taken to bullet journaling as a way to express their creativity.

If you first heard about bullet journaling through Pinterest or Instagram, chances are you’ve been swooning over the gorgeous spreads with perfect hand lettering and cute doodles.

A post shared by Look Bullet (@lookbullet) on

So if you can’t draw for toffee, you might be wondering if bullet journaling is for you.

The good news is, bullet journaling is what you make of it!

Bullet journals are supposed to work for you. They’re supposed to make life easier, for you.

If arty doodles and creative borders help you relieve stress and enjoy yourself go for it.

If you’re not a creative person, or you simply don’t have the extra time to spend on making your bullet journal attractive, no worries.

The original bujo creator, Ryder Carroll, was in favor of a minimalist bullet journal. You never saw flowers or doodles in his journals.

If the thought of making your journal pretty stresses you out, don’t do it! Your journal will work just as well with minimal words and lists in a plain black pen.

That said, if you do like the idea of getting a little more creative, but you’re not sure how to start, there are plenty of pretty bullet journal shortcuts you can take. Try using cute washi tape to add borders, or highlighting page headers with a pastel pen to perk things up with limited fuss.

(Check out my favorite bullet journal supplies here!)


With this basic information, you will be well on your way to getting that bullet journal started. If you’re ready to learn how to set up a bullet journal, click through to my next post!