bullet journaling 101 - what is it and how does it work?
Health & Wellness Healthy Living

Bullet Journaling 101

(Last Updated On: August 24, 2020)

The thought of compiling every thought, task, goal, aspiration, and life event in one convenient place is intriguing for me, so I decided to do some research on the subject of bullet journaling. And as I know nothing about the specifics of this technique, I’m a student of bullet journaling 101.

If you’re in the same camp, let’s learn about this together. Who knows? Maybe we’ll decide to become bullet journaling aficionados.

By nature, I’m fairly well organized and maintain several list-type tools, some online like Trello, Google docs, and ClickUp, and others are written the old-fashioned way, with a pen and notebook. The system works for me as long as I remember to actually open up the apps on my computer, and pull out my lists.

So there is an appeal to having one notebook (literal or digital), just one, with everything in it.

The lists I maintain are mostly task-oriented, some include goals, but they don’t include the ‘me’ stuff. You know…my thoughts, dreams, and personal goals. Those are in my head, swirling around at all times of the day (or sometimes night).

Can I get it all down, all of it, in one place? Hmmmm. Intriguing thought.

Before we go any further, lets start with an accurate definition:

Bullet Journal is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll. The system organizes scheduling, reminders, to-do lists, brainstorming, and other organizational tasks into a single notebook. The name “Bullet Journal” comes from the use of abbreviated bullet points to log information, but it also partially comes from the use of dot journals, which are gridded using dots rather than lines. First shared with the public in 2013, it has become a popular method, garnering significant attention on social media.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_Journal

Yes, Ryder Carroll is the person who founded this personal organization method. Here is a quick introductory tutorial and explanation that Mr. Ryder created, about 4 minutes long, if you’d like to hear and see the authentic process explained in his own words:

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to purchase a product, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you! Disclosure Policy

Bullet Journaling 101: What, Why, & How

Why Keep a Bullet Journal? Why is it Effective?

why keep a bullet journal?

Here are a few reasons why a bullet journal can be helpful:

  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Foster mindfulness and presence
  • Improve memory and focus

As I research more about the benefits of maintaining a bullet journal, it becomes apparent that it is both an organizational aid and potentially a life-changing tool.

Mr. Carroll defines it as a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” Think about that for a minute.

To me it is saying that while we’re taking the time to document what we need to do, where we need to go, when we need to get it done, we’re also accomplishing these other things:

  • ridding our mind of having the responsibility of keeping track of all this stuff
  • allowing ourselves to also let the dreams, goals, aspirations, wishes, and wants to become a part of where we’re going
  • freeing ourselves to be more aware of our present, as well as our future self, by documenting all of this rather than just ‘dreaming and wishing’
  • providing a vehicle that has some parameters but is highly personalized for us

Components to a Bullet Journal

In the bullet journal (BuJo for short) method there are some specific components that are key to the process. Let’s take a peek at some of them them as part of our bullet journaling 101 class. 🙂

INDEX PAGE: this is the table of contents at the front of the notebook to help you keep track of everything you’re adding to your journal.

BULLETS: the short phrases that you’ll use to document the specific task, thought, item, goal, etc.

SIGNIFIERS: these are the symbols you’ll use to provide additional context, emphasis, or importance to your bullets.

Some common signifiers look like this –

signifiers for bullet journaling
bullet journal signifier examples

Of course, you are the definer of the signifiers, and to keep yourself organized, you’ll create a key…

KEY: a chart that explains what each signifier means. For example, a circle could mean that a task is incomplete; an exclamation point might signify that it’s a great idea, etc. You’re the boss of the key, though, so it’s up to you.

SPREAD: a single page or facing pages where you’ve gathered information.

TRACKER: a chart, table, or drawing where you record and track information.

LOG: a daily, weekly, monthly, or future log (for stuff that is further than a month out).

BULLET: short phrases that describe the task, goal, thought, etc.

COLLECTION: organized running lists, such as a daily or monthly log.

MIGRATION: the process of transferring information you have logged, and want to continue tracking, to a new collection, or possibly a new journal.

I know…this bullet journaling 101 class is supposed to be a quick overview, but even so, there are some fundamentals that need to be included if you’re going to consider going down the BuJo road!

Anatomy of a Bullet Journal

(the quick and simple version!)

how to set up a bullet journal

Index Page: we start here by numbering each page in the journal (before doing anything else), then as you begin to log information, you’ll give that page or pages a title, then go back to the Index Page and record what you created. That is how your Index is born.

Then, create your Bullet Journal Key, the symbols or signifiers you want to use (like your own, personal secret language) to organize your system and let you know at a glance what the entry is all about.

It’s helpful to keep the number of keys to a minimum, at least to begin with, until you become more familiar with how your personal bullet journal will function for you.

Organize the list of symbols into a simple chart, your BuJo Key, placing that at the front of the journal and adding it to the Index.

Now comes the heart of the journal, an important element in our bullet journaling 101 course…the actual logs and collections.

One method of creating your future, monthly, and daily logs is to start with the furthest out in the timeline and work your way backward to ‘today’:

  • Future Log – what are your 6 to 12-month goals?
  • Monthly Log – what do you want to accomplish this month?
  • Daily Log (this is created new each day) – what needs to get done today?
  • Other Lists – shopping list, mood tracker, self-care plan, books to read, etc.

Remember that every log and list you create will be indexed so that you’ll always know where to find it.

And, there is no perfect way to create your Bullet Journal! Maybe you want to focus on personal growth instead of to-do lists.

What is the Best Notebook to Use for Bullet Journaling?

As you would expect in our bullet journaling 101 overview, the notebook that will be best for YOU to create your bullet journal is highly personal.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of decision. For starters, it’s helpful to see some highly rated best sellers from our Amazon friends.

As you peruse them, pay attention to the:

  • overall size of the notebook
  • how many pages
  • what the paper is comprised of (thickness, texture, etc)
  • what else might be included with the journal

Handmade Leather Journals

A very beautiful and classic option in journaling is offered at Soothi.com. Their web (and Insta) presentation is as lovely as the journals they offer, so take a peek at the site to see what I mean.

The folks at Soothi believe that journals are the starting point of discovery. Here’s what they say:

A journal is more than a work surface. It’s a landscape. A self-portrait. A stage. It’s a launch pad. A treasure chest. H0me-base and H.Q. It’s where it all starts. Where the magic happens. Where dreams becomes reality. It’s the one dedicated place, throughout history, across the globe, where we all go to think, learn, write, sketch, plan, invent, improve and reimagine.  

Soothi offers leather bound journals for a variety of purposes, including bullet journals. I absolutely love that they use repurposed salvaged leather that has been embossed using a vintage press. How cool is that?

The bullet journals include ultra-thick 100 gsm handmade cotton paper pages in a dot grid format, and offer several personalization options.

Learn more about the bullet journals from Soothi.


As I was researching bullet journal options I found another intriguing site, Promptly Journals. They have an interesting concept and approach that you might find attractive and useful.

Promptly offers guided journaling, with prompts appropriate for the type of journal purchased included for you, to inspire and help make documenting and connecting effortless and stress-free.

Shop our Gratitude Journals now at Promptly Journals!

Promptly offers journals in a variety of categories like self-care, memory, connection, and healing, as well as journals crafted for age groups:

  • Kids, Teenagers, & Young Adults
  • Newlyweds, Pregnancy, & Young Parents
  • Seasoned Parents & Grandparents

If the thought of hand writing your aspirations, goals, dreams, and to-dos is more manual effort than you can handle, consider the app offered through Promptly. With journal prompt reminders, space to free write, photo integration, all the security you would expect, gorgeous printing options and more, this journaling app could be just what you need!

Learn more about guided journaling from Promptly Journals.


Journaling Resources Delivered to Your Door? Yes!

Silk and Sonder was another discovery I made while researching for bullet journaling 101.

What is Silk and Sonder? It’s a beautiful and thoughtful combination of:

  • bullet journaling
  • wellness
  • self-care
  • hand curated, guided planning
  • calendar spreads
  • habit trackers
  • gratitude prompts
  • mindfulness practices
  • featured interviews
  • themed quotes & poems
  • …and more

All of this and more, created to order, beautifully presented, and sent right to your door each month. Yes, it’s a wellness subscription service that helps you not only organize your life, but also gain clarity and find flow, something that we all need in our lives.

If you love the idea of a beautifully printed and organized notebook for your journaling but aren’t creative enough to do that on your own, you’ll love what Silk and Sonder has to offer!

I love that you can gift a subscription to Silk and Sonder, with several options available. And there’s an option for kids (age 6+) also, called Sonder Kids, that helps spark their curiosity, process their feelings, and play. Awesome!

The pricing is quite affordable as of this writing at less than $20 per month with discounts for quarterly and annual commitments. If this format of guided self-care and journaling support provides what you need to be your best self, the value is priceless, my friend.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SILK AND SONDER HERE

Learn More About Journaling

FUEL YOUR PASSION WITH EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

bullet journaling courses from lifebywhitney.com

There is so much more to journaling than what I can pack into our short, bullet journaling 101 overview.

Sometimes the best course of action is to look to a pro, someone who has a thorough understanding and grasp of the topic. It’s particularly useful if you have a sincere desire to learn more and make bullet journaling, or any type of ongoing journaling, a part of your life.

Take a peek at what you can learn from Whitney, founder of LifeByWhitney.com. She has created some amazing learning tools and resources for anyone who wants to make journaling a meaningful part of their life.

First, a free 5-day email series, Journal Kickstart Challenge. It’s perfect if you’re just getting started, or need a little bit of motivation to get back on a regular journaling path.

Here’s what you’ll learn and do:

  • Find inspiration
  • Decide on your journal’s purpose
  • Learn WHY you want to journal
  • Help you get organized
  • Decide what’s most important
  • Create a master plan
  • Customize the way you plan
  • Determine your priorities
  • Get your to-do’s in order

Even if you’re just mildly interested in the concept of bullet journaling, it’s an effective way to see if this is for you. And, it’s free.

Whitney also offers a course for anyone who decides that, yes, they want to get the most out of bullet journaling and conquer their goals, personal and professional. (side note: we’re never too old to learn new skills, attain our goals, and develop as women, my friends)

Journal You bullet journaling course

It’s titled Journal You, and is packed with resources such as 40 lessons, 100 printables, 10 teachers, and more. If you’re serious about journaling, take a look at the details for Journal You.

Well, this bullet journaling 101 overview has been an educational experience for me. As women in midlife, we have so much to offer, so much to live for.

Bullet journaling, simple journaling, or anywhere in between, can help us continue to grow as healthy women, setting and achieving our goals and moving forward in life. I’m up for that! How about you?

Candi Randolph Midlife Blogger


Like This Post? Share It!

bullet journaling 101 - what it is, why you need one, how to create yours

«

»

9 COMMENTS

  • Hi Candi what a comprehensive post and I now understand what a Bullet Journal is. I have to admit though journalling and I don’t have a good relationship. For some reason I have a mental block when it comes to journalling. I will however, read through your post several times and try to implement the bullet journal process. Thanks so much for sharing at #MLSTL and I do love that Soothi journal it is beautiful xx

    • Candi Randolph
      AUTHOR

      Hi Sue, I am right there with you! I decided to research and write this post so I could learn more about bullet journaling and what it means. I’m considering giving it a go. xo

  • Joanne Tracey

    I’ve just past my 3rd anniversary of bullet journalling – well my version of it. It’s not pretty, it’s not creative but it works for me. #MLSTL

    • Candi Randolph
      AUTHOR

      Hi Joanne, I’m glad to hear that you have a history with bullet journaling and that it is a system that works for you. Thanks so much for stopping by for a read!

  • Hi Candi – I’m a very organized person, but I’ve never kept a bullet journal. I seem to have a journal/diary, a calendar, a note pad, and a blogging notebook. They all do different things and I like keeping them separate. Obviously everyone has their own styles and this looks like a great system – especially for those who like to plan well ahead – whereas I’m just living day to day atm 🙂
    #MLSTL

    • Candi Randolph
      AUTHOR

      Hi Leanne, my system for keeping organized has some similarities to yours. I’m considering the bullet journal system to see how it would work for me to put everything in one place. It would be a change for sure!

  • Michele Vosberg

    I tired to use a bullet journal. I disliked have all the different lists for all different projects in one place. Now I use a modified version- a different journal for each major project. It allows me to still keep things together, but not have to dig through my grocery list to find a task list for a project. I still use too many post it notes, but my things are organized and I can easily find them.

    • Candi Randolph
      AUTHOR

      Hi Michele, I think the key for us all is to use a system that works for us, and it sounds like you’ve got one! Thanks so much for stopping by for a read. 🙂

  • Lucia Davison

    I love bullet journaling! It’s an awesome way to keep myself organized outside of my phone calendar. I am a paper person so I prefer having everything written down so that I could see it visually and be able to scribble here in there. I’ve been bullet journaling for years and it’s been amazing.

what do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *