A Primer on Bullet Journaling

ScriptDash was a service I used. Didn't know where to put the stickers they sent me, so...
ScriptDash was a service I used. Didn’t know where to put the stickers they sent me, so…

Your Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr may be abuzz with the bullet journaling craze these days. However, all the pretty writing, highlight and pen colors, stickers, and doodles are beyond aesthetics. The bullet journal is an incredibly valuable multitasking tool for anyone with a pulse. It’s an organizer, diary, notebook, and more wrapped into one.

Touted as “the analog system for the digital age,” the bullet journal system was developed by New York-based product designer Ryder Carroll, who wanted to share his method of journaling and note-taking with the community after finishing a large contract. Through years of trial and error, Carroll’s current method has now become a phenomenon for people to organize and track both their professional and personal lives.

My introduction to bullet journaling came just last month. In short, I was experiencing an awful episode of depression and anxiety (Which explains why I used a bad word in my journal’s title page! Though I guess I use bad words all the time) and sought out any opportunity to help me feel more at peace with myself and the world around me. I had seen a BuzzFeed article about bullet journaling some weeks beforehand, but looked past it originally. For some reason, the thought came back to me during a particularly dark day during that episode, so I Googled “bullet journaling BuzzFeed” for that article and came up with one where it specifically addressed that bullet journaling can help greatly with your mental health. I had a few colored gel pens, and a small notebook from a Facebook networking event that I never used. I was already set up for success. It’s been about a month now since I made that fateful decision. Now I can honestly say I look forward to every day because of my bullet journal.

My journal is still in development. You’ll see that the lettering isn’t too fancy and my handwriting is a bit messy. I don’t exactly use the method presented on the official site either. However, this is the system that works for me. Summarizing a statement from the BuzzFeed article, don’t make a bullet journal just for the sake of showing it off on social media—make one for you. You can take inspiration from here and elsewhere, but at the end of the day, create something that works best for you.

Here’s a look at the pages inside my current bullet journal!

A daily planner and diary

Daily Page - birthday

I explain more about what the symbols mean at the end of this post. Obviously, this page is from my birthday. You can see the events of that day, plus to-do’s and the fact that I got both my meditation and exercise in.

A daily checklist

Daily Checklist - Bullet Journal

I actually have two mini-lists: the top portion consists of things I should be doing every day, and the second part contains optional self-care activities. I strive to do at least three out of the six things listed in that portion of my checklist every day.

It may sound dumb to list the mundane tasks like showering and brushing my teeth, but me not doing such everyday tasks may be linked to a depressive episode, so I make sure I track those habits.

I plan on compressing this checklist into some kind of monthly view for future journals so I don’t have to take up so many pages and do so much writing to make this list.

An outlet for venting about dumb things that happened + a gratitude log.

Rant - Gratitude Log -Bullet Journal

This two-column page allows me to keep ’em short and sweet. It keeps things in perspective to show that the things that bother me usually don’t matter too much at the end of the day anyway. On the other hand, I’m reminded to always be grateful for the little things.

Month-at-a-glance for big things going on

Month-at-a-Glance - Bullet Journal

When I start a new one, I plan on buying highlighters to signify due dates for bills and other deadlines.

Things to remember from a therapy session

Image source: Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed
Image source: Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

I only have one of these so far and I don’t feel comfortable sharing it, but my layout is pretty much the same as the one pictured here, from the BuzzFeed article I linked earlier.


I shoved the following sections to the end of my journal for evergreen use.

What to pack on a trip…

Travel Packing List - Bullet Journal

This one is pretty much reusable!

What to buy at the store…

Shopping List - Bullet Journal

AKA the things I actually need from Target and Walgreen’s before I go crazy with anything else.

An appendix of self-care ideas…

Self-Care Ideas - Bullet Journal
These aren’t as naughty as they sound, I swear.

So when things go to shit, I have a page to refer to (Along with the things already listed in my daily checklist).


Bullet Journal Key

This is where the “bullet” in “bullet journal” comes in! I use these symbols to designate all my tasks, thoughts, and feelings for each day. Most of them are universal to Carroll’s official method, except for a few I made up myself.

At the end of each day, I review my daily tasks and checklist, fill out my RAWR!!! and gratitude log, and add to-dos for the days ahead!

Do you bullet journal? What do you use your journal for, and how? Feel free to share pictures, blog posts, and resources in the comments!

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