Social media constantly brings us new fads and trends. But, a recent trend that has emerged has shown to be very beneficial for planning, organizing and tracking, is called bullet journaling. A bullet journal is basically a to-do list, a planner and a diary all in one, expressed in very quick, short notes (i.e. bullets). The era of bullet journaling started with Brooklyn-based digital product designer, Ryder Carroll. Carroll spent years perfecting his product and creating a system that would be universal and easy to use for everyone. When explaining the bullet journal, Carroll describes it as, “an analog system for the digital age that will help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”

What is really neat about the bullet journaling system is the versatility and flexibility that it offers its users. The main focus of a bullet journal is to use the guidelines to create a journal that works best for you and your needs.

Some of the basic components of a bullet journal include:

  1. Symbols
  2. Index
  3. Future log
  4. Monthly log
  5. Daily log

Most people choose to use the first couple pages as an index to be able to easily retrieve thoughts and ideas later on. The future log is a broad look at the year and is useful for writing down long-term plans. The monthly log, is a more in-depth look at a specific month, whereas the daily log contains thoughts, notes and events on a daily basis.

“What is really neat about the bullet journaling system is the versatility and flexibility that it offers its users.”

To keep track of all these items in the journal, certain bullets are used. For tasks that need to be done (like a to-do list), use a closed bullet, •. For tasks that have been completed, put an “x” over the bullet. Use < for events that are scheduled on another day, and use > for items that were not completed and have been “migrated” to another day. For events, (both little and big, good and bad) use an open bullet, °. For small notes and thoughts, use a straight-line bullet, —. This system can be further elaborated to use a * to signify priority or, a ! to signify inspiration.

What Carroll stresses with the creation of the bullet journal, is the ability to make your bullet journal personalized to the events, habits and notes you want to track. Journaling has always been recommended as a useful coping tool for individuals with mental health problems to record thoughts and feelings. With bullet journaling, however; it is a very quick and visual way to keep track of emotions, habits and goals. For example, the idea of “A Year in Pixels” has gone viral. With this grid composed of 31 rows and 12 columns, each day you can colour in a box that corresponds to how you felt that day.

What to include in your bullet journal, does not have to be this tracker exactly, other interesting ideas include: a self-care plan for the day, mental health goals, a list of what you are grateful for, or a trigger tracker for emotions.

Some people may also choose to add a habit tracker to their bullet journal. This will have the month as the header and below that will be all the days of the month as columns. For the rows, physical wellness can be tracked such as: headaches, fatigue and trouble sleeping. You can also track behaviours such as: medication taken, hours of sleep at night, glasses of water, exercise time, showers, caffeine and alcohol intake, and so on. Your bullet journal should reflect your life, goals, experiences and feelings. Build up your journal in any way that allows you to make the most out of journaling and helps you to learn about yourself and discover patterns in your life.

Bullet journals can also be useful to show your mental health care professional any symptoms or triggers that you have identified. It can also be a great reflective tool, to jot down some notes and goals after a therapy session.

Bullet journals are an innovative, creative way to organize the hundreds of things that may be on your mind. Any type of journal/notebook can be used to create a bullet journal, and even if you do not consider yourself a very artsy person, there are stickers and templates you can follow to create your journal. Lots of inspiration can be found on social media, such as Pinterest and Instagram (especially using the hashtag, #BuJo) Bullet journaling can really be an effective mental health self-care technique to keep you in touch with your body and your needs. Once you master the basics of what it is, the possibilities of what you can create truly are endless!

Useful links:


Ballas, Paul, DO, and Marianne Fraser, MSN, RN. “Journaling for Mental Health.” Health Encyclopedia. University of Rochester Medical Center, 2017. Web. 09 June 2017.

Borges, Rachel Wilkerson Miller Anna. “Here’s How To Use A Bullet Journal For Better Mental Health.” BuzzFeed. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2017.

“Bullet Journals:  The Analog System for the Digital Age.” Millcraft. Millcraft, 03 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 June 2017.

“Getting Started.” Bullet Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2017.

“How to Use a Bullet Journal for Better Mental Health.” Plan to Plenty. Thrivetop, 16 Feb. 2017. Web. 09 June 2017.

Krpan, Katherine M., Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Patricia J. Deldin, Mary K. Askren, and John Jonides. “An Everyday Activity as a Treatment for Depression: The Benefits of Expressive Writing for People Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.” Journal of Affective Disorders. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 June 2017.

Lord, Emma. “This Teen’s Bullet Journal For Tracking Mental Health Is Going Viral & Everyone Is Following Suit.” Bustle. Bustle, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 09 June 2017.

Nowak, Claire. “How a Bullet Journal Can Boost Your Mental Health.” Reader’s Digest. Reader’s Digest, 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 09 June 2017.