Keeping a journal isn’t just a way to record the events of your life—it can be a strategy for organization and stress relief. Research backs up this point as well. One study from 2006 asked 100 young adults to take 15 minutes out of their day to write or draw in a journal. Their writings could be about what they planned to do that day or about a particular stressful event in their life. The results were fascinating. Even though the vast majority of participants rarely kept a journal before, those who journaled for the study found that their anxiety and depression decreased. As was discovered, journaling can have profound benefits beyond the words on the page.
Perhaps you have shied away from journaling in the past. Maybe you’re not a fan of writing in your spare time and think it’s a waste of energy. Or maybe you feel like you just don’t have a way with words. Even if you’re not a wordsmith, you can still gain the benefits of journaling through a bullet journal.
In this article, learn what a bullet journal is along with some helpful bullet journal ideas.
What Is a Bullet Journal?
Bullet journals are organizational tools that combine aspects of a traditional journal with methods of setting goals, maintaining a schedule, brainstorming creative ideas, and more. The aim is to accomplish more in your life through effective planning and organization. By developing helpful habits with bullet journaling, you’ll be able to get more done in your life and accomplish your ambitious goals.
The concept of a bullet journal (AKA bujo or dot journal) comes from the mind of Ryder Carroll, a New York Times best-selling author. In The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future, Carroll describes the bullet journal as “part organization, part soul-searching, part dream-weaving.” He explains that keeping a bullet journal is a way to declutter your mind. “We have to externalize our thoughts to declutter our mind. Holding thoughts in your mind is like trying to grasp water—it’s nearly impossible. But by writing down our thoughts, we can capture them clearly so we can work with them later.”
Differences Between a Bullet Journal vs. Traditional Journal
A traditional journal is something most people are familiar with. It involves keeping a record of your life. Most people use a traditional journal to write down what happened to them from the last time they made an entry. Some people go deeper than that, offering up their thoughts and feelings. Essentially, a traditional journal gives the reader a snapshot of the writer’s life at that moment.
Bullet journals are normally used for a different purpose. Those who have bullet journals use them as organizational tools where they can establish goals, track their progress, and organize their lives. Bullet journals also have a higher level of customization, where people can change things up as needed. They’re also used for creating helpful habits that lead to improved lives.
20 Bullet Journal Ideas
“Each Bullet Journal becomes another volume in the story of your life. Does it represent the life you want to live? If not, then leverage the lessons you’ve learned to change the narrative in the next volume.”Ryder Carroll
Bullet Journal Ideas for Health and Fitness
A bullet journal can be useful for keeping track of your steps during the day. Many people set goals to walk a certain number of steps, and with this step tracker, you can make sure you’re up to date on everything. It’s a fantastic use of the bullet journal when you’re trying to stay healthy through physical activity.
One of the most common bujo ideas is to create a basic meal plan. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to start and keep to a diet. Even if a diet isn’t in your plans, using a bullet journal to organize your meals ahead of time can help you prepare for what you need before you go to the grocery store. It’s also a great way to ensure your meals give you the nutrition you need to function in your everyday life.
It’s not just physical health that you need to pay attention to. Mental health remains key to being a fully functioning adult. Like wellness journals, bullet journals can be your repository for positive thoughts and supportive affirmations. Write down things you like about yourself. Give yourself words of encouragement. Having pages of self-affirmations you can turn to when you’re feeling down can prove invaluable.
Sleep is another important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Use a bullet journal to create your very own sleep journal. You can track the amount of sleep you’re getting along with the quality of sleep. You may even want to write down any of the dreams you remember having during your sleep times. This can help you identify what might be occupying your subconscious.
Use a bullet journal to keep track of a variety of exercises. Whether you’re lifting weights or going for a job every morning, this idea ensures you never miss a session. Not only that, but you’ll be able to see your progress over time. Just think of how encouraging it is to see the time it takes you to run a mile slowly tick down with each passing week.
Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and note what you feel thankful for. With a bullet journal, you can create a gratitude list. Basically, it’s a list of things you appreciate in your life. When you’re feeling down and need an emotional boost, turning to your gratitude list can be just the right solution.
Bullet Journal Ideas for Your Career
A bullet journal is a great way to write down goals and track your progress, especially when it comes to work. Think of some lofty goals that you want for your career. If you use a bullet journal, you’re more likely to reach them. According to one study, if you write down your goals, you’re 42 percent more likely to succeed.
You can use a bullet journal to practice effective time blocking. This technique involves chopping up your day into different blocks of time. In each block is a specific task for you to focus completely on. Many prominent business leaders, like Bill Gates and Elon Musk, use time blocking to be productive. With a bullet journal, you can create a time blocking schedule that you stick to each day to maximize the amount of work you get done. Entrepreneur Abby Lawson says she uses time blocking to great effect. “I’m setting goals for what I want to accomplish,” she explains, “and giving myself deadlines for those.”
Advancing in your career often involves gaining and improving on a unique skill set that can help separate you from the pack. Training courses can assist with this effort, but a bullet journal will keep track of your progress. Writing in a bullet journal helps you stay organized and plan out which courses will be the most beneficial to you.
Bullet Journal Ideas for Daily Life
Do you want to make a sizable down payment on a car? Got a dream vacation planned for next year? You’ll need to save up for it, and a bullet journal can be a valuable tool in that effort. With a bullet journal, you can track how much you have put away and how much you have left to go. Doing so makes reaching your goal all the more possible as you save up a little bit each day. It also puts you in an advantageous position, considering nearly half of all households don’t save money at all, according to Deutsche Bank.
Staying on top of everything you must do each day can be a pain sometimes. But with a bullet journal, you can stay more organized and ensure you cross off every item on your to-do list. Plan your day in advance and feel satisfied from checking off each point. “To-do lists can be very helpful for informing how you should be directing your time and cognitive resources,” says Jordan Etkin, an associate professor of marketing at Duke University. Placing to-do lists in a bullet journal in this way will help you be more productive.
Use a bullet journal to create a shopping list to ensure you get everything you need the next time you head out. You could write down a grocery shopping list for your meal planning strategies. Maybe you have a variety of errands that you need to take care of in one trip. Put them all down on the shopping list so you stay organized and don’t have to go out again for something you forgot.
Creating a cleaning schedule is vital to making sure wherever you live stays pristine and livable. This is about more than just a to-do list, though you can use it for that purpose. A cleaning schedule keeps you on top of what needs cleaning and when. In that way, nothing will go unattended, and everything will be kept clean and usable.
Bullet Journal Ideas for Fun
Using a bullet journal to make travel plans isn’t just about listing out a bunch of trips you want to take in the future. Once you know where and when you plan to go, you can begin solidifying an itinerary. Determine what you want to do each day and how much each thing will cost. Plan out your meals in advance. Doing all this ahead of time will not only avoid headaches while on your trip, it will help you maximize your time, whether it’s for a few days or several weeks.
Tied closely with making travel plans is making a packing list. There are few things more frustrating than going on vacation and forgetting something vital. Use a bullet journal as a packing list, and give yourself some peace of mind knowing you got everything packed and ready to go the moment you step out the door.
TV Show Tracker
Got several television shows you really want to watch? A show tracker is one of those bullet journal page ideas that can help you keep track of each show. See what episode you’re on, along with which streaming service has the show. You can also write down future shows that have attracted your interest so you don’t forget. This idea goes well when tracking movies to watch, too.
Part of your bullet journal can be spent writing down ideas you get from brainstorming. Also known as a brain dump page, this can serve as a collection of thoughts, ideas, and fun projects that you intend to get to in the future. Instead of hoping you remember everything, writing down your brainstorming ideas ensures they’re recorded and ready for you once you set aside the time to pursue them.
Writing often comes down to keeping a consistent schedule. With how busy life can get, maintaining that schedule can be a challenge. Using a bullet journal to set and follow a writing schedule can make all the difference in completing your writing projects or having them remain unfinished on your hard drive.
You can also use a bullet journal as a way to plan out and schedule the gifts you give to others. There are lots of dates and occasions to keep track of—friends’ birthdays, work anniversaries, family parties, and more. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with everything, but bullet journals can ease your concerns. Decide ahead of time what gifts you’ll give and how much they’ll cost. You won’t have to worry about missing something important ever again.
Your hobbies can often take a backseat to more important tasks, but they’re still an important part of who you are. Try using your bullet journal as a hobby tracker. This is one of those dot journal ideas that keeps you well-rounded. Use it as a schedule to make sure you practice your guitar-playing regularly or cook a new dessert at least once a week. You can also use it to track how much you spend purchasing books or new music. Whatever your hobbies, bullet journals can play a role in ensuring you don’t leave them behind.
These bullet journal ideas only scratch the surface of what you can do. If you want to find more ideas, check out this YouTube channel, which can also provide you with more information on creating a bujo specifically for your needs.
Making a Bullet Journal a Habit
A bullet journal is most effective when you stick to it. But like all habits, it can be difficult to continue, especially when life gets overwhelming. Here are some quick ideas that can help you establish bullet journaling as a long-term habit that you will always enjoy.
- Write with different colored pens.
- Journal at the same time every day.
- Take one day and just doodle in your journal.
- Add stickers when appropriate.
- Don’t expect perfection. Just write something down.
- Set up a space devoted to writing.
- Look up different ideas that you can include with your bullet journal.
Healthy Habits and Routines for Overall Success
“Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as ‘being busy.’ Being busy, however, is not the same thing as being productive.”Ryder Carroll
Bullet journaling is all about creating a healthy and satisfying routine for your own personal development. However, it’s just one part of that ongoing journey. Getting to the next level in your life, business, career, and more means developing multiple supportive habits to help you along the way.
To develop these life-changing habits and see small gains morph into big changes, check out the following article:
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- Chan, K., & Horneffer, K. (2006). Emotional expression and psychological symptoms: A comparison of writing and drawing. Arts in Psychotherapy, 33(1), 26–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2005.06.001
- Ferro, S. (2015, March 25). 47% of American households save nothing. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/half-of-america-doesnt-save-any-money-2015-3
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- Kruse, K. (2017, April 19). Why highly productive people use “time blocking.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2017/04/19/why-highly-productive-people-use-time-blocking/
- Reissman, H. (2022, October 16). How to declutter your mind. ideas.ted.com. https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-declutter-your-mind/
- Ryder Carroll. (n.d.). Ryder Carroll. https://www.rydercarroll.com/