Bullet Journal 101: Choosing a Notebook

A major component of Bullet Journaling is…well…a notebook of some sort. While I will continue to stress that the notebook you choose does not have to be special in any way, expensive, or look a certain way,  I also understand if you want a good quality notebook so that your bullet journal experience can be documented and kept for years to share. You may choose to start off in an inexpensive notebook to see if the bullet journal system is for you before making an investment in a more expensive notebook.

Whether you choose a $2 notebook from Target or a $30 notebook from a specialty stationery store, here are some things to consider when choosing a notebook:

  • Size of your notebook (A6, A5, A4, B5, etc.)
  • Paper type (lined, grid, dotted, plain)
  • Paper quality or gsm (grams/square meter; the higher the gsm, the thicker the paper)

Size of Notebook

The size of your notebook is based on your personal preference. An A6 or pocket notebook is small and can fit in your pocket. However, if you are wanting to fit a lot of information on one page, it may limit your abilities to create spreads to your liking. An A5 is the most common size. It is small enough to stick in your purse but large enough to give you the room to fit your creative spreads. A4 and B5 are larger, more like the size of printer paper or loose leaf lined paper. This may be good if you want to use your bullet journal for school or you are always carrying a backpack with you. Since they are large in size, they may not be as convenient to carry around and use day in and day out. The balance is to find a size that is large enough for you to fit what you like and small enough that its size won’t hinder you from using it every day or bringing it out.

Type of Paper

Lined, plain, dotted, oh my! There are so many choices. You would think that the easy option would be to go with the most commonly available type of paper, lined. Surprisingly not! Dotted paper is common in the bullet journal community due to its flexibility and invisibility. The dots can be connected to create the shapes and spreads you like and are easy to make straight lines with. The unconnected dots fade into the background and can become unnoticeable. The same can be said about grid paper with the exception of the invisibility factor. If you like structure, lined paper would be your best option. It doesn’t have the flexibility of grid and dotted paper but is still a popular choice among those who like to keep their BuJo designs quite minimal. The only downside is that you will need a ruler if you plan on making spreads that go against the grain of the paper lines. Plain paper is for the creative cats who like to freely create and draw their designs. In many cases, those using plain paper opt for thick sketch paper or watercolor paper so they can use different mediums to decorate their bullet journal. Try them out and see which type of paper is best for your needs!

Paper Quality

Will ghosting or bleeding irritate you? Ghosting is when you can see the previous page’s information but it is not clear enough that the page is deemed unusable. Bleeding is when the pen’s ink has bled to the other side of the page, either disrupting the next spread or making the next spread unusable. If ghosting bothers you, opt for higher gsm paper. The Moleskine is approximately 71 gsm so there is a fair amount of ghosting when using fineliners and darker pen colours. Leuchtturm1917 and Rhodia both have 80+ gsm and have shown to have less ghosting. My personal favourite is the Personal-Planner Notebooks. These are 140 gsm and while mine has a lot of bleeding, it is mostly due to my tendency to press really hard when using more liquid inks.

While there are so many choices and many recommended notebooks out there, it all comes down to your own personal preferences and how much money you are willing to spend on your notebook. Now go forth and experiment!

tiffany sign off

PS. Sorry for missing two weeks of posts 😦 School work finally caught up to me and so my mental health came first…and then I got sick so I had to take care of my physical health as well. I hope everyone is doing well and I will try to go back to posting consistently! Love you all!

Bullet Journal 101: What is a Bullet Journal?

“Tiffany, you keep posting about bullet journals and what yours looks like…but what IS a bullet journal exactly?”

Well, to put it simply, it is a planner, diary, journal, agenda, and to-do list all in one. Now that is only naming a few of its functions. It is a concept that is easy to use but feels impossible to explain to someone, so let us start with the original bullet journal system history.

Ryder Carroll developed the bullet journal system as an analog system that was flexible enough to handle whatever he wanted to put into it and help keep track of everything he needed. While we live in a digital age and have plenty of apps for organization, there is rarely a single app that can do everything we are looking for. This is how the bullet journal (or BuJo for short) became so popular.

While the video that is provided on the Bullet Journal website is informational, it may be confusing to people who do not already understand the language or jargon of bullet journaling. A bullet journal is a journal that uses bullet points as its main signifier for quick planning and logging. It may be tempting to start scrolling down Pinterest or the bullet journal tag on Instagram for inspiration, but start small and understand the basics structure of bullet journaling first before moving on to more creative and elaborate spreads to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the process. Let me break it down for you and start from the beginning.


#1: Supplies

All you need is a notebook of your choice, a pen you like to use, and possibly a ruler. Nothing fancy is required. In the bullet journal community, high praises are sung for brands such as Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, and Rhodia. While these notebooks are of good quality, any notebook found in your house can be used. I find that there are many people who start off with a large, inexpensive notebook found at the dollar store to try out bullet journaling before buying a more expensive notebook to commit to.


#2: Index

The index is your bullet journal’s table of contents. This is for you to be able to quickly find what you are looking for. You either love the index function because it is useful to you, or you don’t really use it at all. If you are using an index, you will want to number your pages so you can put a corresponding page number to an index entry. There are some notebooks that come pre-numbered, such as the Leuchtturm1917 and the Personal-Planner notebooks. Others are not numbered and you will need to number them yourself (I usually number 10-20 pages at a time rather than all at once).


#3: Future Log

I know, it’s a “fancy” term. It just means a way of planning ahead for the future, usually consisting of an overview of the next couple of months, or however many months you choose. This is where you put in events that are happening in the future and you refer back to it when making your monthly or weekly spreads.


Your Bullet Journal Key is where you keep track of your symbols. These can change whenever you want them to. They can also be whatever you want them to be. Whatever works for you.


#4: Monthly Log

An overview of the upcoming month. In its simplest form, the monthly log consists of a monthly calendar and a monthly to-do or task list (you can see a glimpse of mine at the bottom of the July monthly calendar. Many people have come to add things such as gratitude logs (keeping track of thing you are grateful/thankful for) and habit trackers (exactly what it sounds like). Those are not necessary or required, but are fun and interesting to have to journal with for the month.


#5: Daily Log or Weekly Log

Ryder Carroll’s original system only had daily logs. These are lists, daily tasks, or events for the day and is to be used day-to-day. The idea is to make these every day as you would making lists every day on a sticky note. You rapid log (read: quickly write down) what you need to do, events you need to be at, and any miscellaneous notes for the day.

Eventually, people have adapted it to create Weekly Logs. These are for the people who like to have a full overview of their week. You can mix and match what works for you. I personally don’t use monthlies that often and would prefer a weekly and dailies.


#6: Collections

Lastly, there are collections. This is what would be considered anything you want to put in your bullet journal. Some ideas range from books to be read, homework assignments, favourite songs, course syllabi, etc. These collections can simply be in list form, or you can make them into works of art. That is all up to your own preference. There is literally no wrong way to bullet journal.


Bullet journaling can seem overwhelming. The whole concept of it may seem like it takes hours upon hours, defeating the purpose of it being helpful. In reality, once you get over the initial shock of information overload, it becomes quite easy. Let me put this into perspective: it takes me maybe an hour once a month to set up my monthly spread, 30 minutes once a week to set up the next week, and 5 minutes each day to list out my daily tasks. Unless you are spending hours testing out different spreads, it should not take you an insane amount of time to maintain. Once you find what works for you, stick to it until you feel like it is time for a change.

There is no wrong way to bullet journal. Make it your own, make it work for you, and don’t worry if it isn’t as pretty as everyone else’s. Everything on the Internet has been curated and filtered to only show the best. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Happy Bullet Journaling!

tiffany sign off