What is a Bullet Journal? A Simple Overview

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If you spend any time on social media—especially sites like Instagram or Pinterest—you've probably come across pictures of bullet journals.

The neatly handwritten notes and carefully designed pages might seem difficult to replicate or too pretty to be useful, but I've found that a bullet journal is actually a simple and effective way to plan my day.

Maintaining a daily journal is a great habit to get into, so let me show you how the bullet journal can help you simplify your busy life!

What is a Bullet Journal?

Created by New York-based designer Ryder Carroll, the bullet journal is an organizational notebook system that can keep track of anything you want in a coherent and easy-to-manage way. It can be a to-do list, a sketchbook, an event planner, an idea catcher, or whatever else you can think of.

In fact, bullet journals are often all-of-the above.

The bullet journal is meant to be a fast and customizable alternative to traditional journaling methods, which take a lot of time and effort. According to Carroll, a bullet journal is an “analog system for the digital age,” and all you need to get started is a pen and a notebook.

What are the Benefits of a Bullet Journal?

The whole premise of bullet journaling is that it is a fast and simple way to record your life, and it accomplishes this through what Carroll calls “rapid logging.” Rapid Logging is a simple note-taking language that will make journaling fast.

There are four parts to rapid logging:

  1. topics
  2. page numbers
  3. short sentences,
  4. bullets

By eliminating long sentences and paragraphs, you can take notes in just a few spare moments, and be done.

A bullet journal is completely customizable. If you want to write long sentences or decorate each page, there is nothing stopping you.

By combining ease of use and personalization, the bullet journal inspires both creativity and productivity while keeping everything organized.

How to Get Started with Bullet Journaling


The most basic element of a bullet journal is, of course, the bullet. Bullets, which are written as short objective sentences, are essential to rapid logging.

There are three kinds of bullets:

  • Tasks
  • Events
  • Notes

Tasks are “to-do” items, such as “do laundry” or “take out trash,” and are represented by a dot.

Events are represented by a circle, and can be logged before (e.g., “Dad's birthday”) or after they occur (e.g., “got the job”).

Finally, notes are represented by a dash. They can be any fact, thought, idea, or observation that you want to remember.

You can add on to bullets with signifiers, such as a star to mark priority or an exclamation point to mark your best ideas. I think it's best to keep bullets simple in the beginning, though, so you can get used to the system.


After bullets come the modules. There are four basic modules in the bullet journaling system:

  • Index
  • Future log
  • Monthly log
  • Daily log

The index is where you will keep track of the rest of your pages by logging their titles and page numbers (always be sure to number your pages, because no entries in a bullet journal need to be consecutive). Check out these bullet journal index ideas to get you started!

In the future log, you can record events happening months away, or tasks you want to get to at some point, but not immediately. Here's our roundup of some of the most creative ideas for your bullet journal future log.

The monthly and daily logs are where the bullet journal becomes especially useful. On the left side of your monthly log, write down every date and day of the week in a vertical line.

This is an overview of the whole month, and you can write down everything coming up next to the day it's happening.

For example, if you have a meeting on Monday, September 15, your September log could read “15M Meeting.” Entries here should be as short as possible—you can add more detail in your daily log.

Looking for ideas? Here's our collection of monthly bullet journal spread examples.

Finally, the daily log is for everyday use. You won't record your daily logs ahead of time, because you don't know how much space you'll need until that day.

At the top of the page, write down the date, and then record your tasks, events, and notes throughout the day. If you don't fill the page, just go on to the next day in the free space below.

Now, if you're wondering what's the best time to bullet journal, try making bullet journaling a part of your evening routine. Watch the video below to learn about the 9 evening routine habits of the world’s most successful people.

Who Would Be Interested in a Bullet Journal

Any and all of the above might mean a journal is right for you. Why not check out one of the different types of bullet journals below and see about making your own.

Where to Buy a Bullet Journal

Any journal can be a bullet journal, as long as it has the features that will meet your journaling needs.

If you're just starting out with bullet journals, a Moleskin is a great option, as its blank pages are versatile and can accommodate lists, drawings, paragraphs, and calendars—just about everything you can think of.

If you're looking for more examples, we've reviewed the best bullet journals on the market.

If you're not ready to invest in an actual journal, check out these free bullet journal printables.

Final Thoughts on Bullet Journals

Bullet journaling has changed the way I use my daily journal. I can just open up my notebook and see what needs to be done each day, what I've already completed, and the goals I'm tracking.

Every important date, task, and idea is stored in one place, and I can find what I want in a matter of seconds. No other journaling method I've used has been this effective!

For more bullet journal inspiration, be sure to check out these articles:

Finally, if you don’t know the “right” way to journal, then check out this seven-step process for building a journaling habit that sticks.

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