What Is a Bullet Journal

As someone who is nearing completion of my fourth year of college, I have to say that the bullet journal (bujo) has been an vital addition to my life. A bullet journal, in its essence, is a way to manage life’s tasks and organize everything that you need to get done. The original bullet journal system was created by a man named Ryder Carrol, and it is something very simple, and manageable, and straight-forward.

But if you do a cursory search on the internet, there are two types of bullet journal that are prevalent: minimalist and maximalist. Some people in the maximalist camp make their journal filled to the brim with art, color, decorations. A more minimalist type have wide open pages with only thin pen markings, sometimes a splash of grey color. The most important thing to understand about bullet journaling, however, is that this system is entirely flexible to what you need, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks is best.

How Can A Bullet Journal Help Me?

At the beginning of every term I go through my syllabi and put down all my assignments so I can see all my classes in relation to each other.

Another thing that I create for myself are various weekly spreads that mimic what you would see in a store-bought planner to visualize what homework is due now, soon, and just down the road. There are so many pages that have come to help me through my years in school:

  • Class plan: laying out expected classes for terms in the future and adding CRN’s when available.
  • Future log: having a 6-12 month spread where you have space to jot down important dates in the future.
  • Supply list: each term making a check list for the supplies and books needed for the term.
  • Important contacts: it is very handy to have professor or advisors office hours jotted down, especially when they don’t post their hours outside their office.
  • Project notes: it is no joke when you’re sitting in the middle of another class or studying when a light bulb goes off for a totally separate project. Having a page to jot down notes for major projects is very handy for catching those light bulbs.
  • An average week: having a page with a visualization of the blocks in your schedule is very handy when you have to plan a group meeting with classmates. Of course each week may vary, but a general week visualization is nice to have handy.
  • Anything! You can make literally anything you want to, regardless of its purpose.

Is It Affordable?

How much you want to invest into bullet journaling depends on what kind of system you intend to create, the quality in which you want the book to last, as well as what you have for available supplies. In reality, you can work with the bullet journal system with just a pen and a notebook of any kind.

Most often, people in the bullet journal community use bound journals, often with dotted paper. I personally love Lemome journals because they are generally affordable, and the dotted paper is of a high quality that doesn’t let most pens and markers bleed through. The most popular is the Leuchtturm 1917 journal, the pages are light, and the covers are high quality but ink commonly ghosts through. There are plenty of videos and articles around comparing the quality and price of different popular journals, as well as different indie brands and Etsy shops who can bind custom journals for you.

The pen (pens, markers, brushes) you use it entirely up to you. The biggest factor I’ve found other than how comfortable it is to hold, is how much ink it puts out in a stroke. If a pen puts out too much ink it’ll smear, smudge, and bleed through the paper. If a pen doesn’t put out enough ink it’ll be hard to read and not look as good either. Really this depends on the paper quality you have in your journal, as well as the quality of make the pen is. But, just a good ol’ ball point pen works just great if you like using them. There are endless options for supplies.

What Supplies Do I Need?

Like I said before, all you really need is a journal and a pen. With just these you can accomplish a lot of minimalist spreads and a generally very efficient layout. Many people who I’ve seen operate with just a pen – or maybe a marker – tend to organize their journal in a style very close to the original system. After spending a lot of time surfing through Pinterest and YouTube, I’ve learned that it is very common for bullet journalers to have multiple thicknesses and/or colors of pens and a small collection of pens and markers. One of the cheapest ways to get a lot of colors that are good for the job are finding the 100 packs of Crayola Super Tip Markers. They aren’t as easy to hand letter with, but with a little bit of practice it is totally doable. With these, I’m able to make my journal more creative, exciting, and fun for me to keep working in every day. This as well as turning it into a creative outlet for me to relax for a time.

The way I manage the supplies I carry daily is I found a nice pencil bag with multiple layers and pockets. I just carry around my favorite fine-tipped pens, my colors of the month, my highlighter set, a 6” ruler, an eraser, and some page flags. It sounds like a lot, and it kind of is, but in this pencil-case I have just about everything I would need during the day for any situation until I can get home to my all-too-large collection of markers and brush pens. It’s great to add color and variation into my notes for classes, it’s great for when I want to work in my journal away from home, and it’s just nice to have some colorful pens with me for whenever.

The supplies you expand upon from a pen and a journal is all up to your personal preference and how creative you want to be. Stickers, washi tape, and pictures are another really common way to bring some life and art into your journal without having to spend hours drawing or use a lot of time.

Popular Supplies

  • Leuchtturm 1917 Journal
  • Moleskin Journal
  • Lemome Journal
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens
  • Crayola Super Tip Markers
  • Tombow Duel Brush Pens
  • Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen
  • Sakura Pigma Micron Pens
  • Washi Tape & Stickers


What If I Don’t Have Time?

As a university student, it is all but vital for me to make time to organize me life. I know I’ve talked about a lot of different supplies, and the fact that you can get as artsy as you want, but you have to remember at the core of bullet journaling is organization. At university you’re consistently having to multi task, prioritize, and plan most hours of your day. Without my own bullet journal, I would have had a lot more papers to shuffle and a more hectic schedule.

Something else that I also have integrated into my day-to-day, is utilizing Google Calendar. Although it is separate from my bullet journal, it is my main way to easily access my schedule when my bujo is packed in my backpack but my phone is in my pocket. The calendar is easy to share, and is great at giving you reminders for what you have going on.

Even if your bullet journal is just a daily planner, and is a tool to keep you organized to your best needs and skills, it’s perfect. It doesn’t need to have all the different trackers and collection that a lot of people use. It doesn’t need to be full of color and pictures and art. It just needs to be fully functional to youneeds.

But if you want to draw and put stickers in it, or start hand lettering, or anything else that seems less than productive, it is still making you happy and serving a good purpose! I love adding color to my spreads, and it truly does make me happier, so therefor it isn’t a waste of time.

How Do I Get Started?

There are tons of ways to go about starting your bullet journal, and it really depends on your wants or needs. If you want to start at full speed with tons of trackers and spreads, I highly recommend researching the types of trackers you want to keep.

What I typically have in my spreads is a cover page for the month with some random theme I pick, and then a form of a calendar and goals for the month, and then my trackers. I have trackers for my habits like if I drink enough water, or if I read during the day, or if I don’t eat out. I also love tracking the hours I sleep in the night to see when I wake up and how often. The other tracker I make sure I do is my mood for the day. And there are so many different ways to draw these out. The variations are limitless.

I’ve also seen people make trackers for their medication doses, or their chores for the day/week/month, or even trackers for how many hours in a day they study. The limits really don’t exist, just about anything you do you can track. On my Instagram and Pinterest I have collections just for trackers because they vary so much and are always different. I change mine up every month, but as soon as you find something that works for you I suggest keeping it up!

And if you forget to update your journal for a day or for weeks on end, it’s okay! We’re all human, and we all slip up. The only thing you can do is just pick up your pen and start again. Consider changing your layout because it may not be working very well for your needs.

In the end, all that is important is that you are finding a way to get yourself organized better and are enjoying yourself while doing it!