Between digital calendars and email reminders, keeping track of your to-do list in the internet era can quickly turn into a task of its own. That might help explain the rise of a kind of note-taking called “bullet journaling” — an analog system designed to help you get through the day (and plan for the months ahead) using nothing more than a notebook and the pen of your choice.
Developed by the digital product designer Ryder Carroll, bullet journaling has exploded in popularity as a powerful tool for organization and self-reflection. Unlike traditional planners, which come with preportioned layouts for the month or days of the week, Carroll's system is all about customizing the notebook of your choice to create a personal guidebook: Think an all-in-one calendar, to-do list and free space to record your thoughts or track everything from the week's groceries to your travel bucket list.
Any notebook with blank pages or ones with grids — a sketchbook, your trusty Filofax or the official Bullet Journal from German brand Leuchtturm1917 — can be used. Carroll says that while super-artistic designs (the kind that feature vibrant color schemes and expert calligraphy) tend to attract attention on social media, the method is designed to be a flexible “foundation” for whatever style people prefer, whether minimal or artistic.
Kim Alvarez, who founded the popular bullet-journaling blog Tiny Ray of Sunshine in 2014, would put herself “straight down the middle” of the spectrum between a simple and embellished style. She initially started bullet-journaling to stay on top of home and school obligations. “It's a great way to organize and keep track of your life, no matter what stage of life you're in,” she says.
To get started, all you need is a notebook, pen and patience as you learn the “BuJo” basics: