Recently, we spoke with Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal, which is a calendar/meal planner/journal/budget tracker/etc. used to organize your thoughts and increase mindfulness and productivity. He has perfected (and continues to tweak) a system that holds all of his notes, to-dos, and future goals in one notebook, in a structured and easy-to-find way. And while he is a fan of apps and forms of digital organization (after all, he is a digital product designer by trade), when it comes to Bullet Journaling, he uses old-fashioned paper and pens.
While the Bullet Journal phenomenon has inspired countless knockoffs and templated notebooks, Carroll urges you to start with a blank journal. "You want the pages to be as formless as possible, so that you can develop your own methodology. A planner or calendar will always be a planner or calendar, not a journal," says Carroll.
Beyond that, there are a few characteristics that may help you pick out the perfect notebook.
Some Pointers When Shopping for a Bullet Journal Notebook
1. Get a notebook with lines, grids, or dots.
Carroll says many people prefer a notebook with lines or grids (his own notebook has dots for the grid pattern) to make it easier to keep your lists straight. If you use a notebook with totally blank pages, your lists and boxes might end up sloping up or down along the page. Also, it helps if the notebook has page numbers, but you can always add them yourself as you go.
2. Make sure it lays flat when open.
It's also helpful if the notebook lays relatively flat, so that you can get more information on a spread at once.
3. Make sure it fits in your purse or bag.
If you plan to carry it around, you may want a lighter-weight softcover book. And you'll want to make sure it fits in your purse, backpack, or whatever else you carry back and forth between work and home. Keeping your Bullet Journal on you will ensure that you'll be more likely to fill it out and update it.
Beyond these three things, the best notebook comes down personal preference — and part of that includes reflecting on experience. "You have to start with one notebook and figure out what you don't like about it, then correct that with the next one. Maybe it's too small or you don't like hardcover or softcover, or the pages are too thin. Figuring out what makes your perfect notebook — solving your own problems — is part of the practice," says Carroll. "Don't let the notebook be your barrier to entry."
Our Favorite Bullet Journal Notebooks
1. The Bullet Journal Notebook, $25 at Bullet Journal
Carroll's proprietary notebook includes a dot grid to help your lists, a key for his to-do list, pre-numbered pages, labeled pages for the index, bookmarks, a pocket for receipts, and an elastic closure band. (Note: His is made by Leuchtturm, so you can find a similar non-branded version — as well as his version — on their site, too.)
2. Medium Soft Cover Notebook, from $9 at Poppin
This notebook includes lined pages, a bookmark, back pocket, and elastic closure. It comes in 14 colors and lays almost flat.
3. Classic Notebook, $25 at Moleskine
This notebook is available with gridded, plain, lined, or dotted pages, and has a bookmark and pocket and lays almost flat. It's available in three sizes.
4. Chambray Notebook, $24 at Appointed
If you want a notebook that lays totally flat, this one has a spiral binding, which does just that. And the bookcloth cover is chambray, so it's just as stylish as you are. Make sure you pick the gridded option.
5. Large Hard Linen Journal, $24 at Shinola
Worried your Bullet Journal will take a beating over the months? This hard-cover notebook is super durable and still good-looking.
Do you have a favorite notebook to use for Bullet Journaling? Tell us about it in the comments!