Writing Glossary

What is a Bullet Journal? Definition and Tips to Start

March 20, 2023 by

In this guide, we’ll be diving into everything you need to know about bullet journals.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is a Bullet Journal?

Bullet Journal or BuJo, as it is commonly and adorably referred to by its thousands of adherents online, is a crossover between a journal, a planner, and a guide to steer your life in the direction where you want to take it.

The bullet journal system owes its popularity due to its functionality in keeping track of goals and milestones across not only days and daily to-dos, but weeks, months, and even years.

Crafting this type of journal may seem like a daunting task for a beginner, but by the time you are done with this article, you will be making your own bullet journal right away.

Bullet journals are detailed and structured, unlike expressive writing journals where you are free to write about anything and whatever.

These types of journals have a specific purpose that the journaler must decide for the journal in the beginning.

The structured journaling method offers you a bird’ eye view of where you are headed in relation to your goals and how far you have progressed.

Instead of being a to-do list or a journal planner, the bullet journal offers to highlight, by way of daily entries into the journal, distractions that are holding you back.

You are supposed to regularly update your journal in categories of monthly, weekly, and daily entries and goals.

Apart from that, there is an indexing page at the start of each journal that is supposed to be a quick reference check on each task.

A future log is supposed to keep you on track towards your future goals.

The thing where the bullet journals really show their worth is in the symbols developed specifically for this type of journaling.

All the dashes, dots, and asterisks represent the type of task or how high is it on a priority scale.

Beginners often find a bullet journal a tad bit intimidating.

The complexity of the bullet journal is intentional, and once you understand the process, can declutter your life.

What would you want: a complex and structured journal or a cluttered life?

What is bullet Journal

Why is it Called a Bullet Journal?

Bullet journals are called that because of a few reasons.

1. Bullet Points

One is that the entries are short and logged in the form of bullet points as opposed to the more expressive journaling forms out there.

For bullet journals, you focus on the things that need to get done, progress in certain tasks that you have set out for yourself, and crossing out the tasks that you have accomplished.

2. Fast as a Bullet

The bullet, as in the projectile that shoots out of a gun, is an apt metaphor for the form of journaling that a bullet journal represents.

Once you have set up all your pages, you can simply put down your entries and set the journal aside to get down to achieving that task.

Progress and journaling made at the speed of a bullet, figuratively.

Bullet Journal

What is the Point of a Bullet Journal?

In a TEDx talk, Ryder Carroll explained that the bullet journal serves three basic purposes:

  1. Decluttering the mind
  2. Cultivating curiosity
  3. Remain focused

It is for good reason that bullet journal has often been referred to as Kon Mari and minimalism for the mind.

We have all been through the feeling: with all the things you must do in life,

It is easy to get bogged down in unnecessary distractions, feel overwhelmed with all the things you must accomplish, and get distracted by fluff.

A bullet journal was designed to be a personal tracker and planner. Keeping track of things these days is not easy,

Especially if you are someone who gets distracted easily and cannot keep track of progress. Even if you try to, you can’t, for the life of you, keep everything in one place.

A bullet journal is your one-stop shop for everything that you want to keep a record of, organize, and plan out.

More importantly, the bullet journal serves to make you realize what’s important in your life and what is a distraction.

With the daily entry logging and weekly and monthly goals, you end up with a pretty good picture of what you think you want to do and what you want to accomplish.

Furthermore, instead of writing long entries into your journal in a free form manner, you can rapid log, which helps you stay focused on the tasks instead of thinking of journaling as a chore.

How do You Write a Bullet Journal?

So how do you start writing a bullet journal?

The good news is that within a few certain, non-negotiable rules and guidelines, you can put your own unique spin on how to bullet journal.

Here is what makes the bone and skeleton of a bullet journal:

1. You will need a notebook and a pen

It’s an analog form of journaling.

2. Number all your pages from the beginning right to the end

This will allow you to maximize the journal.

3. Start marking or categorizing your pages in the following order


This is the section that will be your reference if you needed a quick check for what entry is made where. It’s like the index page of a book.

Monthly Log

Flip to the next page and write down the name of the month on top of the page.

Next, write all the dates on the left side of the page and write the initial letter of each day right next to the dates.

At the end of each month, make a new monthly log on a new page. Make entries into your index for each and on which page that month’s record can be found.

III. Daily Log

On the page next to the monthly log, start your daily log.

Each day, write down the date of the month and start logging entries, to-dos, events, and thoughts.

The daily log is how you keep track of all the tasks that you set for yourself daily.

Make little empty checkboxes at the beginning of each entry. Once you have completed the task, check it off or strike the entry.

If let’s say, you have not completed a certain task even after the month has passed, you need to migrate the task onto the next month’s log by drawing a right-pointing arrow in the check box.

To-dos are marked as dots; events by hollow dots, and notes by dashes.

If something is important, mark it with a priority symbol, like the asterisk.

That’s the basic overview of how you can start journaling right now.

There are many other ways that the BuJo community has invented to log bullet journals, like doodling and sketching, but you don’t have to draw if you don’t want to.

To further explore how to set up a bullet journal, we also recommend this video by Ashlynne Eaton:

What is the Difference Between a Journal and a Bullet Journal?

Journaling has received widespread acceptance from a lot of successful people. The benefits are undeniably proven by science.

Expressive writing has been found to improve one’s psychological and even physical well-being.

A journal is freestyle and can be used for varied purposes. There is nothing specific that you are supposed to do with a journal. You can write in it to achieve clarity of thought, get ideas, nurture curiosity, dump your feelings, or you can use it as a to-do list and accountability tool.

A bullet journal, on the other hand, is intentionally designed to track your past, organize the present, and plan the future.

The idea is to enhance productivity, but not the one that makes you seem busy, but the kind that will eventually lead to a decluttered mind and more time on your hands.

Secondly, a bullet journal is born out of a specific need and for a specific purpose. Intentionality is what makes bullet journals different from regular journals.

Most people often pick up journaling just like they make New Year’s resolutions and drop it just as fast when they encounter a lack of motivation down the road.

But a bullet journal must account for its existence, otherwise, you don’t have a valid reason to start bullet journaling.

The most common reasons people turn to bullet journaling is because they want to get more organized.

They want to track their behavior for mental health reasons, and they want to stay on top of their ideas without losing track of the good ones.

Can a Bullet Journal Be a Diary?

The short answer is, yes. A bullet journal can also be used as a diary, although, whether you should use it as one is another matter.

If you want to stay on top of your schedules, events, ideas, projects, and to-dos, bullet journaling is the way to go,

But if you want to write about your guilty pleasures then what you need is a private diary.

It’s better to keep the two separated because a bullet journal can be at times used as a feeling monitoring tool, but its purpose is tied to progress, tracking, planning, achievements, and productivity. All the things a diary has nothing to do with.

But if you insist on using your bullet journal as a diary, you may go ahead and give it its own space by marking out its pages as a separate category called a collection.

You can make collections of any number of things. In this case, a diary.

Final Remarks

A bullet journal is a tool to turbo-charge your productivity. It is a great tool to track your past, organize your present, and plan your future.

Bullet journaling will also help you get less busy and more productive, earning you valuable spare time to relax and enjoy the blessings of a decluttered mind.