When it comes to keeping track of all your work projects, household chores and social activities, one method that’s gone viral (ironically) involves good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Bullet journaling — which inventor Ryder Carroll describes as “the analog method for the digital age” — has inspired legions of fans to organize their lives using his note-taking system.
The system includes a practice known as “rapid logging” where you jot down tasks you need to complete or information you don’t want to forget using bulleted lists, and “monthly logging,” where you create a minimalist calendar aimed at providing a birds-eye view of the month.
But the appeal of bullet journaling is that you can modify it any way you want to.
“Whereas a lot of different kinds of journals and diaries have really strict formatting, the bullet journal is very free form and it’s designed for people to figure out what it is that they need from it exactly,” Carroll told Marketplace.
People use bullet journals to create detailed, useful systems to keep track of everything — from important work tasks to their sleeping habits to how they’re feeling on a particular day.
“My main purposes for bullet journaling is to stay organized and to keep my anxiety low. I suffer from anxiety and depression and bullet journaling has actually helped keep me calm while also motivating me to do better in school,” said Star Masterton, a bullet journaler based in Los Angeles, California.
While it’s important to note that bullet journaling doesn’t have to be intricate, we asked some people in the bullet journaling community to share their favorite products.
A view of the Leuchtturm1917.
When it comes to the backbone of the entire bullet journal, the answer was pretty much unanimous: The Leuchtturm1917 (specifically the dotted A5 notebook).
“Leuchtturm1917 journals have been a staple in the bullet journaling community for obvious reasons. The quality is fantastic, and there are a wide variety of colors to choose from,” said Nicole Barlettano, a Wayne, New Jersey, resident who’s been bullet journaling for about two years now.
Cindy Thompson, a bullet journaler from Portland, Oregon, who’s also been doing it for two years, said she’s been using this journal ever since she started.
“I’ve stuck with it because it takes many inks well, has consistent printing from page to page, and the pages come pre-numbered,” she added.
Another favorite of some of the bullet journalers we spoke to: Scribbles that Matter in the A5 dotted variety.
Pens and pencils
- Pilot G2 Gold Gel Pen and Sakura Gelly Roll pens in white — Nicole Barlettano, behind the Instagram account @plansthatblossom
- Prismacolor Colored Pencils — Alexandra Louridas, behind the Instagram account @alexandra_plans
- Pentel EnerGel 0.5mm and 0.7mm pens — Liz Pierson, behind the Instagram account @bonjournal_
- Sakura Pigma Micron Pens — Liz Pierson and Alexandra Louridas
“I especially love the Pigma Micron pens in different sizes in order to add dimension to the drawings I include in my bullet journal,” Pierson said.
“[They’re] great archival pens that have minimal ghosting in most journals,” Alexandra Louridas said.
“It writes smoothly and I appreciate the barrel’s sleek aesthetic. It has interesting features such as the flush grip to combat sweaty hands without being bulky,” Alvarez said.
- Le Pen Technical Drawing Pen — Sarah Raisedana, behind the Instagram account @plan.tful, and Cindy Thompson
“I regularly use technical drawing pens over gel or ballpoint pens because they require less pressure to produce sharp, bold lines, and are less likely to smear and bleed,” Thompson said.
Pictured above on the right: Tombow Dual Brush Pens.
If you want to incorporate calligraphy into your bullet journal, many of the bullet journalers we spoke to recommended the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens (soft and hard tip) and the Tombow Dual Brush Pens, which come in a wide range of colors.
“I really enjoy the Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens. They’re great for anyone who’s looking for an easy-to-handle brush pen that performs excellently. The great thing about it is that it has a small nib, so it’s perfect for writing headers in your bullet journal,” Alvarez said.
Whitney Baker, a pharmacy technician and online business owner from Gulf Shores, Alabama, who maintains a website devoted to bullet journaling, said the Fudenosuke pens are great for beginners while the Dual Brush pens are for those who are more advanced.
Other pen recommendations for hand lettering:
- Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pens — Sarah Raisedana
- Kuretake Fudebiyori Brush Pens — Sarah Raisedana and Kim Alvarez
- Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens (specifically size S and their metallic varieties) — Nicole Barlettano
“I love Faber-Castell products. I use them every single day. The Pitt Artist Pen is my absolute favorite for bullet journaling because the ink is dark and rich, and doesn’t bleed through my pages,” Barlettano said.
- Sanford Magic Rub eraser — Nicole Barlettano
- Westcott 6″ Stainless Steel Ruler — Nicole Barlettano and Kim Alvarez
“I love that this ruler is so small and portable, yet big enough to work on any journaling projects I might be working on. The backing is cork, which is so helpful so the ruler doesn’t slip all over the page,” Barlettano said.
- Tombow Mono Correction Tape — Kim Alvarez
Miscellaneous decorative items
A view of the Zebra Mildliners, a form of highlighter that spans a wide range of colors.
- Zebra Mildliner Highlighters — Alexandra Louridas (for color-coding different tasks) and Kim Alvarez
- Stencils — Liz Pierson
But, again, bullet journaling is as elaborate as you want it to be.
“Start simple, all you really need is a notebook and a pen. Remember the purpose of why you’re keeping your journal and what its intent is. If it helps, create a ritual and set aside 20 minutes a day to sit down,” Louridas said.