New year, new bullet journal? Or maybe you are looking into what notebook to use for bullet journal because you are preparing a thoughtful gift to a journaling friend or relative. No matter the reason, we’ll help you find the best notebook for a bullet journal based on your requirements and personal preferences, and guide you into figuring out what matters the most.
What is a bullet journal?
Defining what a bullet journal is can be quite complicated, as BuJos are different things to different people but always useful. A bullet journal is a productivity tool to help you get things done, but at the same time it’s also a wonderful mindfulness tool. Not so much a “thing” but a method, it’s a way to organize your life and plan ahead, while keeping an eye on the past and reflecting on it. Also, a bullet journal is the notebook (usually physical, though there are no rules against digital BuJos and they are becoming more and more popular) that you use for the purposes of bullet journaling as per the Bullet Journal Method.
To put it simply, a bullet journal is a notebook divided into sections where you can log things like your daily todos, track items from your routine, calendars for advance planning, mood trackers, or almost anything you can think of. In fact, if you can think of it there is probably a bullet journal layout or template for your purposes. Bullet journals are often a very personal tool and their owners enjoy decorating them and making them aesthetically pleasant, but this is not a must. Other people enjoy a more minimalist style that just helps them keep track of their days, accomplishments and responsibilities.
What is the Bullet Journal Method
Unlike many personal planning methods, the bullet journal method has a clear original. Its creator is called Ryder Carroll and you can learn more about the system on his website. They sell books, dedicated “bullet journal notebooks” and all sorts of other planning related goodies, and they have pretty nice bonuses if you sign up to their free newsletter. However, if you are after more inspiration, Instagram and Pinterest are chock full of examples, layouts and templates by other Bullet Journal Enthusiasts.
How do you start a bullet point Journal?
The beauty of a bullet point journal is that you don’t need to embrace a fully featured system to make it work. While prescriptive, this planning and journaling method is also based around doing what works for you, and creating layouts that serve your own personal needs. Do you need a lot of day to day planning? Focus on the daily section. In search of a mindful way to meditate and wind down for the night? There is a layout for that. With the New Year approaching, many people choose to start their bullet journal journey to track habits and healthy activities in the new year.
The important bit is that you need a bullet journal notebook, and a pen.
Most people who like bullet journaling are also lovers of stationery, and they incorporate things such as colored markers, labels, stickers and artwork on their designs. Others choose a monochrome, utilitarian and minimalist style for their “just getting things done” journal. Whatever works for you, works for your bullet journal.
Key Elements Of a Bullet Journal
The following pages are sort of the basic components of a bullet journal, and are perfect to get started. A good notebook for bullet journal will have space for those pages and often include them as printed out templates to make getting started easier.
- Future Log (calendar of future events)
- Monthly Log (calendar for each month)
- Daily Log (Your daily page, with bulleted lists of tasks, events, notes for journaling, artwork. The sky is the limit!
How to choose the best bullet journal
Can you use a regular notebook for bullet journaling?
Yes, you can… but you may not want to. The key defining element of a bullet journal are bulleted lists. The style of writing (known as rapid logging) is short, tense sentences that convey a single item of information. Then you use different types of bullets (asterisks, dashes, greater than and smaller than symbols, dots) to mark things as tasks or notes or whatever else you decide.
Which means a notebook that has some sort of grid or at the very least is lined is much more practical to keep things tidy, unless you are one of the few blessed with the ability to write perfectly straight lines of text on a totally white background.
Most people will keep their bullet journals to look at in the future, so it does help to choose something that will age well. The cheapest notebook with thin paper will not work well, as the ink will bleed and it just won’t be nice to use. Which leads to the bullet journal being abandoned in the graveyard of “unpractical ideas that sounded nice in principle”.
Hard cover or soft cover bullet journal?
I like hard covers for bullet journals for longevity, but many people enjoy a soft cover bullet journal as they are more portable and can be used on the go. It really depends on your personal style and what you want to do with your journal. If you spend most of your time chained to your desk and can have a nice, hard cover bullet journal open and accessible, then that’s perfect. If you want something more flexible that can live in your bag to take notes as and when life happens, that works too. Just..
Make sure it lays flat when open
This is to me one of the most important things when choosing a bullet journal notebook. Make sure you can lay it flat on your desk so you can use both pages at a time for a more complex layout and you don’t need to hold it open while awkwardly writing one-handed. I like treating my bullet journals a bit like sketchbooks. However, if you like doing double-page spreads then you may want to avoid spiral notebooks, as the binding will get in the way.
What should I look for in a notebook?
The most important thing when deciding on what notebook to use for bullet journal is how it feels. A nice quality notebook that is appealing to your aesthetics, with good quality paper that will withstand the test of time, is vital. Bullet journaling is a mix of mindfulness and actual planning, so why use a notebook you don’t like the look or feel of?
So start by asking yourself what type of notebook do you like? What type of paper do you like? Is portability important for you? This will help you choose a notebook for bullet journaling that suits your needs and has the right size.
Is portability important for you? If so, you may want to choose a smaller notebook with a flexible cover and a closing elastic, such as a pocket Moleskin notebook. If you are thinking of a bullet journal as a highly decorated affair to let your creativity loose, then you may want something bigger, and don’t forget thicker paper if you are going to use mixed media or markers.
If you need to sync items digitally (for posterity or because you want to share your diary with other people) you may want to look into digital notebooks such as the remarkable2 or even a sketching tablet.
How thick should my bullet journal paper be?
Most people forget about this when choosing the best notebook for a bullet journal, and it can bite you in the behind later. Bullet journaling takes space, so you don’t want to be restricted to only use one side of each page or you will soon accumulate many, many bullet journals. It’s also more practical to have a notebook for a year, instead of having to refer back and forth to the future log or migrate your planning and future log every three months because the notebook you choose ran out of pages.
Depending on personal preferences “good paper” will mean something different to you or me, but in general you should look for paper weight over 100GSM to avoid ghosting when writing on both sides of the page. Anything under 100GSM will have loads of bleeding through and it’s often the reason cheap notebooks are so annoying to use.
Between 100GSM and 120GSM there may be some marketing from ballpoint pens, or some ghosting, but it should be minor and acceptable, particularly if you love the rest of the notebook and you intend to go with a minimalist style.
If you plan on using alcohol markers on your bullet journal go with a notebook that is designed for that, or you will end up with bleed through and ghosting. Anything over 120GSM should be 100% safe.
The Best Bullet Journal Notebooks for Artists
Artists and those artistically inclined have specific requirements for bullet journals. Their spreads are often an outlet for creativity and involve colors, drawings and artwork which means requiring some more space and higher quality paper.
Moleskine Classic Notebook
This 192 pages notebook is a classic and for a good reason, but it won’t hold as well against watercolor as it does against ink and sketching pens. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors, with an elastic rubber closure which makes it very portable.
Despite only having 80GSM paper this notebook holds its own against watercolor, markers and other mixed media beautifully. It’s thread bound but it opens flat which makes it perfect for large spreads and artistic bullet journaling and it has 251 pages of dotted paper.
Rhodia A5 Webnotebook
A smaller notebook that will allow you to sketch and draw your bullet journal spreads to your hearts content.
Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbook
If you intend to use watercolors or other wet media, this sketchbook is as good as it gets. We wrote an in-depth review of the moleskine watercolor sketchbook here, as this is our top choice for a bullet journal artist.
The Best Minimalist Bullet Journal Notebooks
Whether you are just dipping your toes on the world of Bullet Journaling or are just of a more minimalistic mindset, the following minimalistic bullet journal notebooks tick all the boxes at moderate price points.
Scribbles That Matter
Cheap, cheerful and easy to carry this bullet journal notebook is a favourite among bullet journal enthusiasts that won’t break the bank.
The Official Bullet Journal
You can’t got wrong with the original, and this is the original bullet journal as designed by the inventor of the method in collaboration with the makers of the Leuchtturm1917. It includes a preprinted index and key, and perfect for minimalist bullet journaling.
This one doesn’t have preprinted bullet journal spreads, but the dot grid is very pleasant to use and the thicker paper is great if you enjoy writing with fountain pens.
Very thin paper, but a really low price this can be a great way to get started with bullet journaling without spending a lot of money in stationery.
Lemome Classic Notebook
120GSM means you can use markers and pens without risking bleeding through the pages and you can buy it in different versions: lined, graph paper or dot grid paper.
AmazonBasics Classic Notebook
This notebook for bullet journaling is really affordable, and includes 240 pages and a bookmark. It doesn’t have numbered pages, but at the same time you can choose between many different formats (grid, dotted, square grid, or plain pages) and it won’t break the bank.
The Best Bullet Journal Notebooks
As you can see, there are many options in terms of what notebook to use for bullet journal purposes, and the most important bit is to go with your gut feeling. A notebook that feels comfortable and personal is the best tool to get started in your mindful planning journey with bullet journaling, and anything else is just a bonus.
But if you are looking for ideas or want to gift somebody the best bullet journal notebooks, we hope we have helped you make a decision and would love to hear about your favourites in the comments!