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What is a bullet journal? Here's how to get started

Including the best notebooks to help you get started.
Woman bullet journaling in her bedroom
Getty Images

We're all looking for ways to be more organized and productive in our daily lives, especially as the new year approaches. While some people have benefited from mapping out their daily tasks in a planner, others have found a more personalized approach that works better.

Bullet journaling has made waves on the internet over the last few years — you've likely scrolled past a few artfully-designed schedules or custom goal maps, without ever realizing what it was. Shelby Abrahamsen, a bullet journaler who runs the lifestyle blog Little Coffee Fox, said she had been using regular planners for years with little success when she realized she needed a more stimulating and exciting planning method — and bullet journaling provided just that.

"This system is completely flexible to my ever-changing needs and I can go wild making it messy, colorful and beautiful," Abrahamsen said. "Because of this, the bullet journal can hold my attention and keep me on task. Most of the time, at least."

What is a bullet journal?

Bullet journaling, otherwise known as "BuJo," is a "mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system," according to the official Bullet Journal website. The method, created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, is a way to streamline the process of planning, journaling, ideating and more by creating one space to do it all.

According to Abrahamsen, the basic elements of a bullet journal include a monthly or yearly spread, where you can plan for the future, a section for more pressing plans such as daily to-do lists or weekly overviews and a section for collections, which can be anything from a grocery list to a project brainstorm.

"Once you have your blank journal, you can fill in these elements in whatever order you like," she said. "You can keep things very precise and neat, or you can have each new page be something completely different. As long as it works for you, you’re doing it right."

As you get more comfortable, you may want to test your creativity and experiment with stencils or colorful designs. But for beginners, the first step is finding a good journal. Below, we're sharing 11 options that will help you kick off the process.

Bullet journals you can shop right now

Papier Colorblock Dotted Notebook

Opt for a splash of color to help you get excited about using your new bullet journal. This notebook from Papier comes in seven different colorways in paperback and hardcover options. It also has a bookmark attached to the top so you'll always know where to pick up the next day.

Minimalism Art Premium Hardcover Notebook Journal

With an impressive 4.8-star average, this bullet journal comes in nine different colors and has 122 numbered pages. It even has a Table of Contents that you can fill in to help you easily find what you're looking for. "I 100% recommend this for those who are on a tighter budget but wants quality notebook for their journal/bullet journal," one shopper shared.

Dingbats Wildlife Dotted Hardcover Notebook

The dotted version of this notebook is available in nine colors, each featuring a different animal print on the cover. It's the perfect notebook for the person who's always on-the-go with an inner pocket, a pen holder, a bookmark and an elastic closure to keep everything together.

Artfan Bullet Dotted Journal

This flat-lay dotted journal has all the features you need to remain as organized as ever including not one, but two bookmarks, numbered pages, four index pages, a pocket in the back and a little label that you can customize for the cover or spine. Reviewers love it for its size and the weight of the pages that keep ink from bleeding through.

LEUCHTTURM1917 Medium A5 Dotted Hardcover Notebook

If you're feeling ready to jump in, this notebook comes highly recommended by Abrahamsen. "This journal has excellent details like numbered pages, a pre-printed index, two bookmarks and an accordion pocket in the back that make it an amazing bullet journal," she said "Plus, the paper can take a remarkable amount of abuse, which I love as an artist."

Dotted Grid Notebook/Journal

Maybe you're interested in trying out bullet journaling but don't want to drop a ton of cash on a notebook. This budget option is a great choice for beginners. There are 128 dotted pages in the journal, so there's plenty of room for planning and scheduling. The attached ribbon serves as a bookmark, so you can easily pick up right where you left off last.

Paperage Dotted Journal Bullet Notebook

Another affordable option, this notebook has a flat-lay design, which will make it easier to map out your days. It has a sturdy water-resistant vegan leather cover that will keep the contents within safe. The dotted page journal comes in 11 color options like burgundy, navy and white.

Moleskine Hard Cover Classic Notebook

Moleskine is one of the most well-known notebook brands, and while their journals tend to be more expensive, they're super high-quality. You can grab one of their dotted notebooks in a range of colors, or if you're feeling up to the challenge, opt for one that's completely blank. It has inner storage folders where you can keep memorabilia and an elastic closure that holds everything in place.

Feela Dotted Bullet Journal Kit

This kit gives you everything you need to create Instagram-worthy designs and layouts in your bullet journal. Along with a dotted notebook, it comes with reusable stencils, 15 colorful pens, sticker sheets and six rolls of washi tape, so you can turn every page into a masterpiece.

Scribbles That Matter A5 Dotted Journal

Plan out your day or create lists in this well-designed journal. It includes a key page, which is helpful if you're using certain symbols or colors to denote specific tasks or events. The pages are numbered and it has an index at the front, so you can easily flip to the page you're looking for.

Keegood Classic Dot Grid Bullet Journal

This stylish notebook features 192 dotted pages, and each one is super thick so you won't have to deal with your words bleeding or feathering when writing. It comes with a ruler, too, to help you create smooth lines as you lay out each page.

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