Bullet journal

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This pair of pages shows printed entries in a Bullet Journal. The left-hand page shows a variety of progress bars indicating the amount of work completed on different tasks. The right hand page shows typical bullet journal notation using bullet points (•) for incomplete tasks, exes (x) for completed tasks, and right-facing angle brackets (>) for "migrated" tasks moved to this list from another list. The right-hand page also includes a list of appointments for one week, listed by day and time.
Example page from a bullet journal, showing some typical notations.

A bullet journal (sometimes known as a BuJo) is a method of personal organization developed by designer Ryder Carroll.[1][2] 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,[3] but it also partially comes from the use of dot journals, which are gridded using dots rather than lines.[4] First shared with the public in 2013, it has become a popular method, garnering significant attention on Kickstarter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest.[5][6]


Bullet journals are usually handwritten, and kept in a single notebook. The core tools of a bullet journal are:

  • an index
  • rapid logging
  • logs
  • collections
  • migration[1]

The index functions like the index to a book, or a table of contents, pointing to where information on different topics is located.

Rapid logging uses a system of symbols (e.g. dashes, asterisks, circles, etc.) to simplify, abbreviate and organize information. These symbols can be explained in a key, typically located in the front of the journal. Information can be organized into tasks, events, notes, and other categories.

Logs are to-do lists, organized on different time-scales, including daily, weekly, monthly, and future logs. Logs are often called spreads, since they typically spread across two adjacent pages.

Collections make up the bulk of a bullet journal, and organize information by content - these can be logs, lists, trackers, etc. Other popular collections include habit and mood trackers, fitness or diet trackers, list of books to read, restaurants to try, etc.

Described as the "cornerstone" of bullet journaling,[3] migration is the practice of periodically updating lists to new lists, such as carrying over unfinished tasks from one month's log to the next.[1] This helps users stay organized, productive, and on task by allowing them to prioritize what things need to get done, and what can be placed on hold. Migration can also refer to the process of moving into a new notebook.


The method requires only a pen or pencil and a notebook, though many users are more elaborate. Commercially produced notebooks exist that are designed for bullet journaling, but any blank notebook will suffice.[2] Users who focus on the creative element may use a variety of supplies, including a ruler, colored pens and markers, pencils, stickers, stencils, washi tape, etc.[7]

The bullet journal system aims to provide a framework for users to plan out their lives and increase productivity. Inherent to the bullet journaling system is flexibility - there is plenty of room for users to customize the system to their needs.


Proponents describe the bullet journal as both an effective planning method and a "creative outlet" with a focus on "simplicity and clarity."[8] Good Housekeeping described it as "equal parts day planner, diary and written meditation."[2]


An example of a bullet journal.

Since the introduction of the original bullet journal method, the online community has morphed the bullet journal into all different styles: minimalistic, artsy, doodle, super-organized, and scrapbook, to name a few.[9] What differentiates styles is how elaborate pages are, whether that's in terms of content or appearance, or in how the user approaches the system. For example, the bullet journal may be used for its functionality, organization, or as an outlet for creativity.

Digital bullet journaling has also become popular, especially in the online community. Although bullet journaling is traditionally done with pen and paper, many users have created digital bullet journals using a variety of note-taking apps or apps designed specifically for digital bullet journaling. Although the method is the same, there are a few reasons users prefer digital over paper, including:[10]

  • greater ease of customization - no need to buy various writing supplies;
  • backup and sync feature - allowing users to bring it wherever they have an electronic device;
  • built-in search function - easier to find information;
  • audio recording feature - many note-taking apps have this feature, which can add another dimension to note-taking;
  • paper use reduction - saving money and reducing environmental impact.


A bullet journal is a way to schedule by day, week, month, or year; it can also be used to keep track of task progress. It may act as a medium for written and drawn meditation, as an artistic outlet, and as a diary. Many people get inspiration from Instagram users who post their own creations, in the hopes of inspiring others. For those who want to stay on top of their academics, but like to draw as a hobby, this is a great and easy combination. It can also be used to track mental health-related ideas. This could include spreads with mood and habit trackers. Finally, if a person keeps it up for a long time, it can be used to reflect on memories and events that occurred in the past.[11]


Many students have taken up bullet journaling to help them succeed in all levels of school - high school, college, graduate etc. On YouTube, there are many "study with me" videos, which feature YouTubers studying, as well as sharing tips, tricks, and favorite supplies. Closely related are studygrams, which are Instagram accounts dedicated to studying and taking effective, organized and aesthetically pleasing notes.[12] Bullet journaling has been featured in many of these videos as a way to get organized and stay productive in school. In 2019, Study with Me: Effective Bullet Journaling Techniques, Habits, and Hacks To Be Successful, Productive, and Organized - With Special Strategies for Mathematics, Science, History, Languages, and More by Jasmine Shao and Alyssa Jagan was published.[13] This book was inspired by the popular "study with me" or "studygram" phenomenon.[13]


Proponents of the bullet journal system have also used it to organize their work lives and careers, since the system promotes productivity and is easily customizable.[14] Bullet journals can be used to keep track of tasks, schedule appointments and meetings, manage projects, take notes, track how time is being spent, etc.[15] Some have even used it to keep track of goals for annual reviews.[16] Thousands of videos can be found on YouTube on how to use a bullet journal for work.[17]


There are a variety of ways that people can use a bullet journal to track or log finances. The flexibility of the bullet journaling system allows people to keep a record of their spending or their savings goals, in as much or as little detail as they wish. Tracking finances in a bullet journal can look like anything from creative savings charts, daily spending logs, 'No Spend Day' calendars, or monthly budgets and bill payment trackers.[11]

Mental health[edit]

Bullet journaling to manage mental health has also become very popular, due to the tracking features of the bullet journaling system. By recording information over time in one place, it can lead to insights about users' moods, habits, mental health triggers and more.[18] Other helpful spreads include goal setting and gratitude logs, which can encourage users to stay motivated and positive.[18] Additionally, a bullet journal can be a designated outlet to work through strong emotions or difficult times.[18]


Ryder Carroll began looking for a simple method of personal organization in college in the late 1990s. Diagnosed with attention deficit disorder as a child, he wanted a system to help "move past his learning disabilities."[5] By the time he graduated from college, he had devised the bullet journal method. A friend encouraged him to share his method, and he began sharing it online in 2013. It attracted attention on social media, earning $80,000 in Kickstarter funding to create a centralized online community of users. It was the subject of over 3 million Instagram posts by December 2018.[5][6] The method has been influenced by Carroll's experience as an app, web, and game designer, as well as by his interest in scrapbooking.[5]

Carroll gave a TED talk about bullet journaling at the 2017 TEDxYale event, titled "How to declutter your mind - keep a journal."[19] Carroll also published a book on the system, The Bullet Journal Method, in 2018.[20]

Economic impact[edit]

Since the introduction of bullet journaling, its growing popularity has contributed to an increase in sales of traditional stationery products, such as notebooks, pens, etc. As of 2018, there was an 18% increase in the sale of notebooks in the US compared to the year before.[21] There was also an increase ranging from 5% to 17% in the sale of various types of pens.[21]


  1. ^ a b c Watters, Ashley; House, Abshier. "What is a Bullet Journal (BUJO)?". For Dummies. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  2. ^ a b c Schumer, Lizz (March 2019). "Bullet Journals". Good Housekeeping. 268 (3). ISSN 0017-209X.
  3. ^ a b Alvarez, Kim (2016-01-21). "Thorough Guide to the Bullet Journal System". Tiny Ray of Sunshine. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
  4. ^ Sigler, Jennifer Leigh. "First Comes Love: Ritual and Domesticity in the Aspirational Leisure-Labor Economy of the 21st Century." Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 2019. Ann Arbor: Proquest. Web. 20 Nov. 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d Mejia, Zameena (2017-08-02). "How the creator behind the viral bullet journal turned his own life hack into a full-time business". CNBC. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  6. ^ a b León, Concepción de (2018-12-27). "The Art of Bullet Journaling and the Improved To-Do List". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  7. ^ Adamson, Sydney (August 2018). "Bullet Journaling 101". Girls' Life. 25 (1). ISSN 1078-3326.
  8. ^ Moffett, Billie Jo (2018-11-08). "Bullet Journaling: Putting Pen to Paper » Public Libraries Online". Public Libraries. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  9. ^ Journals, Bullet (2017-07-29). "5 Different Types of Bullet Journals". Blossoms and Bullet Journals. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  10. ^ Solid, Tom (2019-04-28). "Why Digital Bullet Journals Are Better Than Using a Pen and Paper". PaperlessMovement. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  11. ^ a b "Beginner's Guide to Bullet Journals". Healthline. 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2021-02-07.
  12. ^ "All About StudyGrams". StudyBlue. 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2019-11-18.
  13. ^ a b "Study with Me". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  14. ^ Coworking, Novel (2018-09-03). "How to Use a Bullet Journal for Work". Novel Coworking. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  15. ^ "How to Use Your Bullet Journal for Work | Rock Your Professional Life". Kalyn Brooke. 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  16. ^ PrettyPrintsAndPaper (2016-02-13). "Using A Bullet Journal at Work". Pretty Prints & Paper. Archived from the original on 2019-12-04. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  17. ^ "bullet journaling for work - Google Search". www.google.com. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  18. ^ a b c "How Bullet Journaling Can Help Us Manage Our Mental Health". The Blurt Foundation. 2018-08-16. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  19. ^ How to declutter your mind -- keep a journal | Ryder Carroll | TEDxYale, retrieved 2019-11-20
  20. ^ Carroll, Ryder (2018). The Bullet Journal method: track your past, order your present, plan your future. New York: Portfolio/Penguin. ISBN 9780008261375. OCLC 1066062588.
  21. ^ a b "Bullet Journaling Trend Lifts Sales of Notebooks and Writing Instruments". The NPD Group. Port Washington, NY. June 26, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.

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