How Bullet Journaling Can Change Your Life (And How To Start!)

open bullet journals

It’s time for a pop quiz. Do you…

a. Have endless to-do lists scribbled on sticky notes around your house?

b. Use your own secret shorthand to jot down ideas and notes?

c. Thrive when you set goals?

d. Have a deep love for planners?

e. All of the above?

If you answered any of these with a resounding yes, you’re a prime candidate for life changing bullet journaling . Hello, most organized life ever.

What Is Bullet Journaling?

open bullet journal

This inspiring (and kind of addictive) art form was created by digital project designer Ryder Carroll, and is essentially a planner-meets-diary-meets-creative-outlet.

It’s a great calendaring technique, but it’s not just for planning your days — you can also make spreads for your dream travel destinations, your bucket list, track your mood and, ultimately, live a more mindful life. All through the magic of putting your ideas on a page!

What You Need

Bullet journaling goes way beyond a pen and paper (if you want it to). Some common supplies you can play with include:

  • A dot journal
  • Pens, both black and colored
  • Highlighters
  • Markers
  • Photographs
  • Tape and glue
  • Even watercolors and other paints!

Go-To Layouts to Get Started

We get it: looking at these intricate graphs and layouts might get a bit overwhelming. But if you’re having trouble figuring out how to take the first step into bullet journaling, we’ll break it down for you.

The Basics: Index and Future Log

bullet journal indexes

Before you really dive in, take a minute to get organized by creating a one-page index of the journal, so you can easily navigate through your entries. This is your chance to think through the “big picture” of how you’d like to use your journal, and what kinds of spreads you want to include. This step is so important, and without it your tracking journal can quickly become an anxiety-inducing monster (which is quite literally the opposite of its purpose).

bullet journal calendar

Another popular spread to incorporate into your journal is a future log. This is a bit different from a calendar (don’t worry, we’ll get to those in a sec), as it helps keep track of the major dates to have on your radar — birthdays, project deadlines, test dates, holidays, etc.

Dynamic Spreads

bullet journal spread

Dynamic spreads are a journaling technique created by yours truly. They have two vital elements: dynamic notes written on sticky notes (so you can swap ’em out anytime), and a permanent header. This saves space in your journal, while still providing room for those recurring lists you need in life, like to-do lists, grocery lists, and packing lists (if you’re a big traveler).

Pro Tip: Because these lists are needed frequently in our day-to-day lives, keep ‘em close to the front of your journal. That way they’ll be easier to find than if they’re buried and separated by meeting notes or other single-use entries.

Constant Collections

bullet journal map

These are a bit like the dynamic spreads, but permanent. Use them for unchanging lists you’ll want to refer back to — contacts, a weekly yoga schedule, the times of your art class, and fun stuff like favorite books or coffee shops.

Planner Pages

bullet journal planner

We’ve reached the nitty-gritty of bullet journaling: the planner pages. There are two views you can create — the monthly overview and the weekly logs. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Make a layout of the month ahead and use it to define important events and dates.

bullet journal weekly planner

Then follow with four weekly spreads, where you can enter the more granular events in your schedule. Essentially, you’re making your very own creative planner. To break it down even more, you can create dailies and even make an hour-by-hour schedule.

Got the basics down? Now it’s time to get rolling! Grab a journal, pick up your very best writing utensil and (most importantly) don’t overthink it. It’s not about making it perfect, but it IS about making it a habit!

Photos by Ink by Jeng.

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40 Responses to “How Bullet Journaling Can Change Your Life (And How To Start!)”

    👨🏽‍🎨 i use erasable coloured pens, this takes the pressure of making mistakes, and correct/edit your entries. The set i have, even comes with erasable highlighter. How cool is that 😍

  2. Vicky

    I would love to learn more about this. I love the idea of using a planner. I get them but usually end up forgetting about them after a couple of weeks.

  3. Lisa Wallace
    Lisa Wallace

    What is a dot journal? Is it something that is published or is it something you make? How do you make an index if you don’t know what you’ll be writing and where?

    • Brenda

      A dot journal refers to a book with a grid of dots on the pages so you can easily draw straight lines and tables. You can use blank pages and rulers or templates, or journals with grids instead of dots.

  4. Lisa Wallace
    Lisa Wallace

    I still don’t understand how to combine a calendar with bullets. And I have no idea how to use bullets – the placement and the use. Does one start with an actual daily planner? Clearly, I need help with this! Is there a class for this or is there a more detailed written instruction?

  5. Lina Karman
    Lina Karman

    WHERE CAN i GET THESE PAGES??????? I don’t see any place to find downloadable pages…. Help!


      👨🏽‍🎨Hobby Lobby, Michaels or walmart, Amazon. Or i can give you one, i have many i got on clearance. 99cents store also have many selections at a good price. 🕺🏽

  6. Marty Deer
    Marty Deer

    I am interested in finding out more. I have so many things and hobbies going on that I have to check each morning what I’m doing that day.

    • Gramm8

      I would like to learn how to do this digitally . Right now I’m using about 6 different app to track everything. Its crazy. But I don’t carry a purse and thats what smart phones are for.

  7. Jeanette Groppe
    Jeanette Groppe

    I HATE journaling, so how do I get around this? I have tried several different methods and they all fall apart after a week. Ugh!

    • Heather Beatty-Eastman
      Heather Beatty-Eastman

      I would recommend that you decide what you want to track or journal first. I use a bit of “bullet journaling” and some “planner pages” in my planner. I also use a mix of some pre-printed sheets that I designed myself (including calendar pages, weekly pages, address list, birthday list, etc) and some hand written pages (for diary-keeping, note taking, list making, recipes that I want, etc.)

      I also use a disc-bound system instead of a notebook as shown above so that I can move things around as I need them. My grids and calendars can change as my mood changes too – or if I want to track something new.

      I use digital scrapbook paper for backgrounds on my printed pages. I do like the dot-grids and make my own dot-grid paper on the printer too. When I first started, things looked bare – just a calendar and a few weekly pages. But now I keep a variety of information in there.

      If you want to keep a diary but don’t know where/how to start, find a book of prompts (or a list of prompts from online) and commit yourself to writing just a little every day.

      The other thing that might be helpful is that you can start small – I use 1/2 sheets for my page size. It’s easy to carry and easy to fill.

  8. Tamara Riach
    Tamara Riach

    Looking for a jump start and direction, the first step seems to be the hardest. Tools on hand and looking for the organization skills to make this journal a go to project

  9. Susana

    I’m dreaming of getting that organized one day, and I bought tons of physical and digital planners over the years, but all are left blanks as I don’t know where or how to start !
    Any suggestions, inspirations, and or ideas are very much appreciated !

  10. S. Santos0490
    S. Santos0490

    I am intrigued. I have reminders, lists, and meal plans all around my desk.

  11. Elizabeth

    Any recommendations on a digital version of this? Where I can write with an apple pen but maybe have some of the layouts already done? I’ve looked a little bit got overwhelmed.

    • Nan

      I feel the same way you do. I have empty planners laying around making me feel bad. But I always have my phone with me. An electronic version would be great.

    • Brenda

      There a lot of Facebook groups for digital planning from beginners to the experienced.

  12. Kris Thompson
    Kris Thompson

    Funny this showed up. My Christmas gift from my granddaughter was a journal and the Ryder Carroll book!

  13. Sara Lloyd
    Sara Lloyd

    How do I find this class?? I searched for ‘Bullet Journaling’ but got “no results “ for the search!

  14. egrace

    I am very attracted to bullet journaling but I need someone to hold my hand for a couple of months.
    I need to start very simply and have all these pages in front of me so I can use options, solutions others have worked out.

  15. krista

    I also have many things to journal about now in my life that are better expressed if I take time to write them down. A lot of life changes I don’t know if I was ready for.

  16. Sheree McKee
    Sheree McKee

    I look forward to trying this out, I’m just not sure if I should combine work with pleasure? Two separate journals? Or a combination?

    • Lili

      I have been bullet journaling for about 5 years now, for work and personal. I’m sharing my experience, and I hope it helps you decide what’s best for you.

      The whole practice is very personal, so it really has come down to trial and error about what works for you. For me combining work and personal was a complete disaster because I manage various work projects so my to-do lists and notes are plenty, and my personal stuff was sometimes getting lost in the midst of “send this file to client” and “quality control that.”
      Also, depending on what you’re tracking or journaling about, I’d prefer not to share it publicly. I’d worry about leaving it somewhere or open at my desk, where anyone can walk by and peek at it. Not necessarily maliciously, but you know… again, it’s very personal; it can be more than a to-do list. I didn’t want “OBGYN appt” next to “Call with a client at 3 pm,” you know? lol

      And now, with working from home, it has been an even bigger incentive to keep them separate. It has given me a clear line of what is HOME time and WORK time is. I know when I close the work-bujo work is done!

      Good luck on your BuJo journey! I’ve loved it so far. 🙂

      • April DF
        April DF

        Thank you so much for this insight. I had started BuJo two years ago trying to find some organization in my work and home life. I was spending too much time at work and not enough time at home! But having them combined into one journal was daunting and I quit doing it because it was too overwhelming. My work life just kept creeping into home life and overshadowing all the amazing things I should be grateful for at home. I just recently this week wanted to pick it up again and you have given me the answer to my question and prayers. I hope anyway. Here’s to making BuJo work!

    • Grammy

      Want to try this. Need to get organized. A calendar doesn’t always give enough info.