Back to bullet journals

Back to bullet journals
Photo by Jan Kahánek / Unsplash

Bullet journalling is the only productivity system that has ever truly worked for me.

Despite that, I suffer greatly from "shiny object syndrome", particularly when it comes to apps and software. The problem is that there are some absolutely beautiful apps in the productivity space, and I want to make them work for me.

But there's something about the bullet journal system and practice that just helps me get stuff done. It could be the practice of handwriting, which research shows is better for retention and cognition. Or it could be the visibility: my log is always open on my desk, and I can see it with just a glance. It could be the customisability, or the fact that my journal doesn't judge me in the way that some apps do when deadlines are missed. Or it could simply be that I like how it feels to use a nice notebook and pen.

There is lots of anecdotal evidence that bullet journalling is particularly beneficial for ADHD brains like mine. In fact, the inventor of the method, Ryder Carroll, has ADHD and says this is the only system which has ever worked for him.

There are definitely some drawbacks. The primary one is that I don't always have my journal to hand when an idea comes to mind. But there are easy fixes for this. The solution is essentially to set up your phone to be a quick-capture device; you can then migrate notes and tasks into your journal later.

I've recently been using an app called Capture, which is great for this purpose. But I'm sure there are many others. When a thought comes to mind, I quickly type it into Capture, then when I'm back with my journal I migrate all the notes from Capture, and archive them. It works great, particularly if you use the iOS lock screen widget. I'm waiting eagerly for the Apple Watch app.

Another drawback of bullet journalling is that it's not great for time-sensitive or repeating tasks. For example, I need to remember to send a rehearsal recap after my weekly choir rehearsal. I can't rely on my brain to remember to write this down every week, so there's a risk I'll forget about it.

This is a problem very easily solved with free software. I use Apple Reminders, which is fundamentally not a to-do list or planning app but, as the name suggests, a tool to help you remember things. I am disciplined in only adding things into the app which are time-sensitive and/or repetitive. Everything else goes in the journal.

I have a very minimalist approach to my journal as well. I don't spend any time making it pretty; I allow it to be slightly messy, because I know that obsessing over the way my journal looks is a distraction from stuff I actually need to get done. I haven't felt the need for a Future Log, but I might need one someday. We'll see.

My tools

I will caveat that the specific tools you use are not important; it's the system and practice that make you more productive. That said, the quality of your tools can make journalling a more enjoyable and pleasurable experience, so it may be worth investing in some really nice stuff.


I use a Leuchtturm1917 classic notebook with dotted ruling. It's extremely nice. The pages are pre-numbered, and the notebook includes an Index page. The notebook also comes with a selection of labels which you can use if you want to archive your journal at the end of the year.

Leuchtturm also makes a special Bullet Journal notebook. This includes a number of helpful tools specifically for bullet journalling. I'm considering getting this one next time.


I'm a sucker for a nice pen, and the Lamy Swift is the best I've used. But you also can't go wrong with a Uniball Eye.

Pen Loop

You can (and should) get a pen loop for your notebook. Leuchtturm makes one which sticks into the inside back cover and fits most pens.