I’ve done a blog post in the past that had a few bullet journal ideas in it – but it was really more of a beginners guide to bullet journaling. I’ve since tried all sorts of journaling and planning methods, from the Erin Condren planner to morning pages and beyond. I still find bullet journaling one of the most flexible and creative ways to transform a blank page into whatever it is you need that day. Bullet journals are truly up to interpretation – it’s what makes them so useful.
Bullet journals are sort of like Kleenex, in that there’s an actual brand name and then there are a host of other designers and brands who have entered the category. The actual bullet journal was designed by Ryder Carroll, an Austrian designer who has worked with major brands like Adidas, Express, IBM, and HP. Carroll’s invention of the bullet journal stemmed from his own need to find a productive planning and journaling system that worked for him. Diagnosed with learning disabilities in his childhood, the invention of the bullet journal and bullet journaling system was an answer to his own challenge.
I used to journal a ton as a kid. I don’t know about you – but I’ve actually often found it hard to commit to journaling as an adult because I often am not in love with the physical journal itself. Journals come to be a safe, personal space. A place to truly brain dump. To me, I need to feel connected to my journal. It’s sometimes tough to find connection with a pre-made, uncreative journal.
Bullet journals solve this problem. Not only can you select an actual bullet journal in a color or fabric you like, but you get to make the interior entirely your own. You can draw and doodle on the inside. You can print photos and create collages. You can fill your bullet journal with loads of unique spreads that feel entirely yours and personal to you.
Bullet journals make great replacements for traditional paper planners. Paper planners are typically pre-printed and pre-arranged, meaning if you don’t like the layout for the week or month that’s too bad. It’s unchangeable.
I’ve typically used the Erin Condren Life Planner as my ride or die planning tool. I’ve truly used the Erin Condren planners for three to four years now fairly consistently. Out of all the paper planners I’ve used, I’ve found them to be the best quality paper, the most able to be personalized, and the most organized. That being said – they’re crazy expensive at $70+ and they’re a bit inflexible. Erin Condren currently offers a horizontal and a vertical option for the Life Planner. Again, I do love these planners – but bullet journals are far more flexible and a small fraction of the cost.
Inside your bullet journal, each page is your own. This means that if simple daily or weekly to do lists work best for you – go for it! If a more traditional looking weekly spread is more your vibe – it’s all you.
The other amazing thing about using bullet journals as a paper planner is that you don’t end up with useless, blank pages if you skip a week or two. I always hated that if I “missed” a week of using my Erin Condren planner, it was essentially wasted paper and space. Because Life Planners are so expensive, skipping a week of planning almost felt like a waste of money. This problem is completely eliminated in bullet journaling because if you don’t need or want to plan that week – you just start fresh with the next week and don’t have any useless, pre-labeled blank pages laying around.
Traditional journals and paper planners don’t always make for a great habit tracker. First of all, we typically have several habits we’d like to track at once. Many paper planners and journals don’t even have space to track habits period. If you’re hoping to keep an eye on everything from how much water you drink to how often you work out – a special habit tracking bullet journal spread could make this dream a reality. Plus, you’ll have your handy habit tracker in the same spot as your planner, to do lists, journals, and other items of importance. That’s the beauty of a bullet journal – everything you need is in one place.
Bullet journals are amazing for both inspiration and motivation.
Bullet journals are a free, creative space to collect things that inspire. Some spreads can be entirely focused on impactful quotes, for example. This makes for one, easy page to reference to get a quick inspirational boost reading some of your favorite quotes. I also love to create manifestation collages or inspirational collages. For example, if I’m trying to manifest something in my life, I’ll often create a bullet journal collage spread filled with relevant photos. Every time I flip to these pages, I find myself leaning into that very thing I’m hoping to manifest.
Tracking your progress against certain tasks can also be very motivating – which is exactly where tracking bullet journal spreads come in. Tons of people love to track their water intake, for example, and use bullet journal spreads to do it. By seeing just how much water you’ve drank for the day, you’re more present, mindful, and motivated to drink more. From meal planning healthy meals to tracking your mood to improve mental health, bullet journals can serve as the perfect space for both inspiration and motivation.
Before browsing through endless lists to find every journal layout imaginable – you have to actually choose your bullet journal first. Although the original bullet journal method by Ryder Carroll started it all, these blank slate notebooks have taken the journaling world by storm. Yes, you can now buy an actual bullet journal from Ryder Carroll’s shop. But there are hundreds, if not thousands of bullet journal options now on the market.
Bullet journaling is a method that in theory can be done in just about any journal.
That said – I am personally pretty picky with what journals I choose to use when it comes to bullet journaling. I like to write on pages that are thick and high quality. I hate when markers or pens bleed through to the other side, so really only opt for journals with quality paper. I also want to want to write in my journal. If the journal isn’t aesthetically pleasing, I’m unlikely to feel uninspired to use it. Bullet journaling is a fun way to express yourself, and the look of the journal itself is just another form of that expression.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not enough for your journal just to look good in an Instagram pic. Your journal has to be functional. Opt for a journal that is high quality and designed in a way that won’t create any barriers for use.
Bullet journal pages are total blank slates. Here’s a catch all list of 100+ unique practical bullet journal ideas to try.
Many people love to decorate and customize their bullet journals with a variety of craft supplies. The first time I had ever heard of washi tape was when I started my bullet journal journey. Washi tape is essentially a decorate tape. Think tape meets cute sticker and you have washi tape.
Washi tape can be used for a variety of things in your bullet journal. Washi tape can help create dividers between sections in a bullet journal weekly spread. Washi tape can also add fun borders to more creative spreads.
My husband loves to make fun of my sticker obsession. LOVES. But I can’t help it – I actually am obsessed. I love using stickers when it comes to implementing new bullet journal ideas or setting up spreads because I am not an artist. I see so many gorgeous bujo ideas all over YouTube and Pinterest, but most require some form of drawing or doodling. For those of us who can’t draw to save our lives – this is incredibly discouraging.
Like, if my spreads can’t be that gorgeous…what’s the point?
Stickers, to me, help fill in that gap! When I want to add a little extra flair to a spread or page, I can reach for a fun sticker or two. If I have a need for beautiful lettering for a title or a specific header section of one of my spreads, I don’t have to hand letter myself. Stickers solve all my creative, aesthetic problems when it comes to bullet journaling.
I typically purchase my stickers from various ETSY shops because I find that smaller shops are more open to creating very niche, specific stickers. For example, I personally need stickers for YouTube, blogging, podcasting, and other forms of content creation. I like using these stickers on spreads dedicated to content brainstorms, YouTube video notes or scripts, or even on my weekly spreads to show when I have a piece of content going live. It’s tricky to find such niche stickers on other sites besides ETSY.
If I’m just in the mood for a few fun stickers, the sticker books from Bando are some of my favorite. Bando has released so many versions of their sticker books at this point that I’ve lost count. What I can say is all the versions are new, fun, refreshing, and amazing. These stickers are far more about fun over function. Bando often partners with smaller designers and artists to create stickers for their books, so you’re really getting a wide variety of creative stickers when adding this book to your collection.
I’ll admit that to me, the “need” for a variety of highlighters and pens when bullet journaling is a bit of a con. I’m not a huge fan of having to tote around a pencil bag packed with a variety of writing utensils. That being said – various colored highlighters and pens do make for an aesthetically pleasing and hyper organized bullet journal.
Highlighting within your bullet journal spreads can help to add emphasis. For example, highlighting the day of the week in a weekly spread can create a visual divide between the days so that the page doesn’t end up looking like a solid wall of text all blending together. Highlighters can also be used just to add decoration to your page, either by adding fun borders or by doodling.
I typically just use my favorite standard pen when writing in my bullet journal. Many people have specific preferences when it comes to their pens. The main thing I’d focus on here when choosing your writing utensil is to ensure it doesn’t bleed through your bullet journal pages. Nothing ruins a bullet journal faster than messy ink bleeding through your gorgeous spreads. The other thing to keep in mind is it’s wise to choose a pen that is comfortable to write with for longer periods of time. It might seem a little strange to focus on comfort when talking about a pen, but if you’re constantly cramping up when trying to create new spreads you’ll be less likely to want to use your journal in the long run.
I’ll just keep it totally honest – I don’t use my bullet journal all that regularly. I’ll pick up my bujo occasionally and start to get back into it, but I’ve never been able to stay diligent. When deciding if you want to walk down the bullet journal path, it’s definitely important to be aware of the potential barriers so that you don’t invest loads of cash into a habit you may not be able to keep up.
The largest barrier for me when it comes to bullet journaling is also what many people consider the biggest pro: that bullet journals require set up. Many people love the flexibility bullet journaling offers in designing spreads that are personalized to their needs. While I 100% agree this is a great aspect to the bujo, I also think it’s hard to deny this means more work for the user. Researching, planning, and executing different bullet journal spreads takes time. Unless you’re a bullet journal ideas minimalist, some spreads can become quite intensive. To me, I found the set up process often arduous and started to prefer already set up agendas and planners instead.
This one is very personal to me – but as a perfectionist I often find bullet journaling adds a sense of “pressure” to me when I try to create spreads. I see so many intricate, well designed spreads online that I often find myself slipping into comparison syndrome. I also hate that when I make “mistakes” in spread designs, they’re just kind of stuck there for me to look at forever. I hate ripping pages out of my journal.
I think sometimes when I reach for my bullet journal, I just find myself feeling like I’ll never be able to make spreads as those I see online. So why bother?
Obviously this is a defeatist mindset. Plenty of people out there absolutely love the creative aspect to designing new spreads. Many people also execute their bullet journal spreads in a very minimalist way that doesn’t require a heavy hand when it comes to lettering and drawing. I just personally haven’t found the balance. Yet.
The other reason I’ve been slightly inconsistent with my bullet journaling is that I’m the type of person who doesn’t always carry a notebook with me. Notebooks often end up being desk accessories that I have handy when I’m working from my own desk – but they’re not with me day to day while I’m on the go. This unfortunately means I don’t always have my bullet journal “when I need it.” I was mostly using my bujo for weekly planning, to do lists, and content ideas. Unfortunately sometimes content ideas strike when you’re not at home and if I didn’t have my journal on me, I’d end up just dumping my idea into my Notes app on my phone or into my digital calendar.
If you’re a regular bullet journal user, share your bullet journal ideas in the comments below!
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