What Are Bullet Journals & Why Are They So Popular?

12th May 2017

Journaling dates back to the 10th century and was popular for keeping your personal thoughts and experiences written down. Bullet Journals are somewhat an extension of this practice; however the concept has been modernised and it now encompasses your to do lists, your appointments, your contacts and your sketches, as well as the original diary extracts. Bullet journals are a collection of your diary, notes, calendar and address book. It is a thorough organisation system that people rely on to get them through day to day life.

Bullet journals were created in 2013 by the brand BuJo. Ryder Carroll, a digital designer, had spent years perfecting an organised planning system that helped him with learning and managing his everyday lifestyle. Inspired by a stressed friend planning a wedding, Ryder Carroll, who always had a tenancy for organising his own life and activities via a written system, decided to share his tips with the world on a website. He developed a system of signifiers so people could simplify their to do lists, using a key/code.

Bullet journals have now taken the world by storm. Ryder’s organised system has soared in popularity and now people aplenty are using his clever keys to plan their daily schedules.

It might seem strange in a technological world that so many people have resorted back to writing by hand in journals, however when you associate the health benefits of spending time offline it is not surprising at all. For many, bullet journals are a therapeutic practise that allow all of their ideas and thoughts to be collated in one place. When organising our life, we often record things via several phone apps, notebooks, scrap pieces of paper and sticky notes. A bullet journal gives people the opportunity to express their creativity and organise things neatly in one place.

One of the most unconventional things associated with bullet journals is that they’re often shared publicly. They don’t have to be public but if you do a Google search now you’ll see plenty of photos of people’s actual journals. Bullet journals are including things perhaps more personal than your standard diaries but people are opening them to others as they showcase their creativity and share their tips. They are as much about creativity as they are about personal thoughts and schedules, and that’s unique.

Why Are They So Popular?

Bullet journals boost productivity. Rather than having a million notes and half crossed out lists scattered everywhere, their simplistic and easy to use system helps you organise everything in one place. Their very concept is about neatness and organisation and they help people strive for this.

They’re also a creative outlet. People can record anything they want – from sketches to favourite quotes, it allows people an opportunity to create something unique and special.

Bullet journaling is also a welcome break from the technological world and that’s helpful for improving mental health. It gives people an opportunity to focus on themselves.

They’re also more realistic and easy to keep up with. Writing in a diary everyday is a lot of work and with busy lifestyles, it’s not always viable. Bullet journals don’t have the same pressure. They’re not an obligation to record a certain type of entry, they are flexible extensions of yourself so you can write whatever you want, whenever you want.

Bullet journals are advantageous for many reasons and it’s this offering to people that makes them so popular.

What Are Bullet Journals Used For?

Bullet journals are used for planning all aspects of everyday life, and usage is completely subjective to each individual. Bullet journaling is more of a system that you can apply to your lifestyle and activities. Whether you’re planning a wedding and want to manage that sole project, or you want to become more organised in general, you can use bullet journals to regain control of your situation.

Many people include shortened diary extracts so they can keep track of their memories but that is only a small part of their usage. Task lists, checklists, calendars, trackers, notes and sketches are just some of the other things people use their journals for.

how to keep a journal open

What Topics Can I Include In My Bullet Journal?

There are no limitations on what you can and cannot include in your bullet journal. The most popular topics are weekly schedules and to do lists yet since the increase in popularity and the amount of people using them, ideas have started to spread to more creative collections. Here’s a list of some ideas for what you can include in your own bullet journal:

  • Goals – writing down a list of your goals, or a bucket list, alongside a tick box waiting to be checked off, makes them feel more real and attainable. We often think we’d like to do certain things but the thoughts often trail away and they never seem to become a priority. Having goals written down, with perhaps an accompanying action plan, shows you exactly what you want to accomplish so you can make the steps necessary to move forward with these.
  • Spending and savings trackers – write down a budget for your finances and keep a spending diary. Record where your money goes and use your budget to help you keep on track.
  • Movies to watch/books to read/TV programmes to catch up on – your journal is a great place to note these down, ready for when you next have some spare time.
  • Weight & BMI tracker – if you have weight loss goals, you can record your progress in your planner. Some people create fun charts to help them see their performance.
  • Dinner ideas and meal planners.
  • Period trackers.
  • Workout schedules and routines – bullet journals are known for their doodles, artwork and sketches so you could also draw the moves from your routine.
  • Event/birthday calendar.
  • Favourite quotes.>
  • Address and phone numbers – you might have these stored in a phone but battery life is unreliable and it’s always useful to keep a backup of addresses and important numbers in case your phone gets lost, stolen, damaged, or the updates go wrong.
  • Cleaning schedule.
  • To do lists – these can be so diverse; future purchases, youtubers to watch, websites to read, new things to try, etc. You can create checklists alongside them and keep track of your progress.
  • Daily/weekly/monthly logs – time is always of the essence and we wonder where the hours go. Create a bullet point list of things you do each period or create a table of things you would like to do within a period and mark off how many times you manage to do them. For example, you could include things like ‘go to the gym’, ‘try a new fitness class’, ‘bake’, ‘cook a family meal’, ‘wake up at 6am’, ‘fall asleep by 10pm,’ ‘don’t spend anything’, ‘drink alcohol’, ‘eat sweets’, ‘clean the house’, etc.

You can use your bullet journal for whatever you want. A bullet journal isn’t a type of journal that dictates that you must write a day by day account of your life. Bullet journals are a type of organisation system that you can develop based on your own needs. It’s a helpful planner that you can customise. We’ve shared some topic ideas for inspiration but use it however you want.

What do I need to start Bullet Journaling?

In theory you can start your Bullet Journal with no more than a notebook and a pen or pencil.

But you’re more likely to continue with the habit and get the productivity and mental health benefits from journaling if you love using the stationery you choose. For that reason we’d recommend a high quality journal, or even a personalised leather notebook.

The tradition started by Ryder Carroll is to use a notebook with dot-grid pages. These offer a great compromise between blank pages (best for drawing), lined (best for writing evenly) and a full grid layout (best for numbers, rigorous order and planning). But you could just as well choose blank or lined pages if you expect to stick to writing or fill your journal with mostly freeform creativity.

Speaking of creativity, Bullet Journals can vary enormously between analytical sobriety and unbridled artistry.

Colour can transform an otherwise mostly organisational tool into an object of beauty, even when employed purely as a visual aid to navigate through the journal. We recommend having some felt tip pens on hand for organisation, and some finer colouring pens for doodles or decorations. Even if you feel you lack artistic talent, with the help of the dot grid you’ll be able to make neat boxes, title banners and flourishes that make journaling an immensely satisfying experience.