What Is Bullet Journaling?

bullet journal definition

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If you're feeling a pull toward getting organized and living a more stress-free life, starting a bullet journal might seem like a great idea. Is it that simple, though? Advanced layouts and designs might inspire us, but the BuJo process can be daunting (and stressful) for beginners. 

We might look at our current tabbed planner and wonder, what is bullet journaling anyway? The symbols, doodles, and activities might seem like a pointless waste of time if we don't have the right background information and perspective.

This guide will explain what bullet journaling is, what it isn't, and provide some much-needed insight for those of us that want to get started but don't know the first thing about it. 

What Is a Bullet Journal?

Bullet journaling is a method of organizing your thoughts that was created by Ryder Carroll. Some people assume that a bullet journal is a place to doodle in random ways that don't seem to make much sense. However, Carroll insists that there is a distinct methodology that he's developed over the last several years. 

Bullet journaling is a mindfulness practice.

According to Carroll, bullet journaling is "best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system." The goal of a bullet journal is to give you a place to explore what you need to be doing and why. As such, a bullet journal can enhance productivity, increase mindfulness, and help you achieve your goals. More importantly, the process might even help you establish new goals and values that you might not have discovered otherwise. 

Bullet journals are more customizable than a pre-designed planner.

The difference between a bullet journal and a regular, pre-designed planner is the ability to customize your bullet journal to your intention. First, you're encouraged to take stock of your stuck points in life. Determine which life buckets have particular significance to you (like parenting or work-life balance), then decide where you could use more help (like emotional regulation or weight loss). One bullet journal might have a fertility tracker, whereas another could have a mood tracker. No two are going to look or function in the same way. A store-bought planner doesn't have that same room for customization or thoughtful reflection. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Bullet Journaling

What if I'm not an artist?

While the artistic spreads might get more Instagram likes, bullet journaling is about function over form. As long as your spread makes you feel more organized, it doesn't matter if the text is sloppy.

Can I use the bullet journal as a diary?

Yes. You'll find a lot of shorthand in bullet journals, but there are no rules that say you can't write more thorough reflections of your day. Some people will include poetry, quotes, and anything that inspires them. 

What is the point of bullet journaling?

Bullet journals serve two purposes. First, they are intended to help you become more organized. Second, the act of bullet journaling is a practice of mindfulness. Active reflection and staying in the moment while creating your layouts can help you become more mindful and perhaps even reduce stress.

How to Get Started

Brainstorm your intention.

If you want to create a bullet journal from scratch, brainstorm how you want to use your bullet journal. Will you stick to filling it out daily or twice a week? What pages will resonate the most with you? This reflection will help you determine what bullet journal layouts and collections you will include.

Purchase the necessary supplies.

Once you are committed to bullet journaling, you can incorporate all sorts of pens, markers, and tape. Hold tight. All you need to get started is a blank journal or notebook and a pen. 

Learn about rapid logging.

This system is a shorthand language used in bullet journals that saves time and space. 

Set up your initial collections.

A bullet journal should include specific collections that you can customize. Ideally, every bullet journal should start with index, a monthly log, a daily log, and a future log. You can expand your collections from here.

Familiarize yourself with symbols.

Along with rapid logging, you'll want to learn common BuJo symbols and their context. When you're bulleting, you'll use a different symbol for each bullet. Once you memorize these symbols, a daily entry will take you less time, and it will look a lot less cluttered. The main symbols include: 

  • Tasks: the "•" dot symbol is used to indicate an incomplete task. 
  • Events: the "O" circle symbol is used to mark a short description of an event. 
  • Notes: the "–" dash symbol includes facts, ideas, thoughts, and observations.
  • Priority: the "*" asterisk symbol highlights any line that is a top priority and is known as a signifier symbol. 
  • Inspiration: the "!" exclamation symbol is meant to highlight valuable insight gained while bullet journaling. 

Once you have your basic layout and some ideas, check out some beginner bullet journal inspiration and don't be afraid to experiment. Good luck!