The 7 Best Bullet Journals of 2021, According to Mental Health Experts

Organize your thoughts—and your life

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If you’re trying to get more organized or want a better way to practice mindfulness, a bullet journal might help. Bullet journals are part planner and part diary, but they use bullet points as their key structure. Where a traditional journal might have blank, lined pages, and a traditional planner might have pre-determined sections to fill out, bullet journals are filled with blank dot grids that you can customize into something unique to you and your goals.

Most people create bulleted sections with their daily to-do lists, monthly or weekly calendars, mental health check-ins, and long-term goals, but the advantage is that you can add or change most of your sections as you want. For example, one person might add a mood tracker, someone else a fertility tracker, while a parent might add something their child said that they want to remember. 

The personal customization aspect is particularly appealing if you’re creative and looking for an outlet for self-expression and self-discovery because they give you space to draw or doodle. In addition, bullet journals can also be beneficial mental health tools.

Here are the best bullet journals, according to mental health experts.

Our Top Picks
Complete with a durable cover, numbered pages, and a ready-to-go index page, it also features a back pocket to store accessories.
This journal gives you the most bang for your buck with its faux leather cover and thick pages that prevent any pen bleeding.
Best for Beginners:
Goalbook A5 Journal at Amazon
A solid pick if you're new to bullet journaling, it comes with six blank index pages and a calendar to keep you organized.
Durability is a no-brainer with this faux leather, hardcover pick that's made of degradable, recyclable materials.
Ideal for artists, its transparent cover is customizable while its flat pages are perfect for doodling or drawing.
This lightweight journal easily slips into your luggage or bag to keep you company on flights or long drives.
Its binding is durable enough to hold up to daily wear while its 192 blank pages feature sufficient space to jot down goals.

Best Overall: Medium A5 Hardcover Notebook

What We Like
  • Available in multiple colors

  • Travel-friendly size

  • Features a folder at the back

What We Don't Like
  • Some felt pens can bleed through pages

  • Elastic band can bend book over time

The Leuchtturm is popular because it has a durable cover, its pages are numbered, and it comes with a ready-to-go index page. It also features eight perforated pages. It is available in a number of fun cover colors to match your style, ranging from traditional black to bright bold colors like pink. Best of all, the back cover features a pocket where you can store stickers and other accessories. 

Best Value: Dotted Grid Faux Leather Notebook

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly size

  • Off-white pages to prevent eye-strain

  • Lay-flat pages

What We Don't Like
  • Elastic band causes an indentation on the cover

  • No index page

This bullet journal is an affordable option that has everything you need. The cover is made of faux leather and is very durable, so you don’t have to worry about taking the journal with you day-to-day. The pages are thick (so you can use all of your favorite pens) and off-white, which helps minimize eye strain. Plus, the pages lay flat, which makes writing and drawing easier. You can also use the ribbon bookmark to keep track of your place in your journal. 

Best for Beginners: Goalbook A5 Journal

What We Like
  • Available in 16 colors

  • Features blank 6 page index and perpetual calendar

  • Expanding pocket at the back

What We Don't Like
  • Not as durable as hardcover journals

  • Predetermined sections could limit creativity

  • No numbers on calendar pages

If you’re new to bullet journaling, this may be the one for you because it comes with six blank index pages and a perpetual calendar to help you organize your new journal. This is appealing to people who are overwhelmed by getting started, but it could hamper some creativity with bullet journal pros.

This Rhodia journal features a high-quality Italian leatherette cover, and it is available in a number of bright colors to match your style. It also comes with a back pocket for stickers and other storage, as well as high-quality paper, a ribbon bookmark, and numbered bullet pages. It’s also the ideal size for on-the-go use. 

If You're New to Bullet Journals

“[Bullet journals are] less intimidating than free writing because they only require bullet-pointed thoughts,” explains Danielle Massi, licensed marriage and family therapist. “For someone who feels intimidated by the idea of letting their thoughts flow onto the page, a bullet journal can be an excellent starting point into the world of journaling."

This can take the pressure off having to write in full sentences, especially if you’re recording your emotions or mental state. Instead, you can record your daily routine, jot down your feelings, and take the pressure off writing a full diary entry. 

Best Hardcover: Wildlife Medium A5+ Hardcover Notebook

What We Like
  • Features pen holder, bookmark, and back pocket

  • High quality, thick paper

  • FSC Certified and vegan

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t lie flat

  • Cover shows fingerprints

  • Perforated pages can fall out over time

This journal is incredibly durable, thanks to its faux leather cover, and is very travel-friendly. It features a pen holder and a back folder to store stickers and notes. It’s also made of degradable and recyclable materials, FSC-certified paper, and it’s 100% vegan, making it a good choice for those looking to avoid products made with animal products.

Best Spiral: Transparent Hardcover A5 Spiral Notebook

What We Like
  • Sold as a two-pack

  • High quality paper

  • Lies flat

What We Don't Like
  • Transparent covers may not appeal to everyone

  • Dots on page are darker, so can confuse with punctuation

  • No folder at the back

If you’re artistic, this spiral bullet journal is ideal. It comes with a transparent hardcover to protect a blank page, allowing you to decorate your cover in any way you want and keep your artwork safe at the same time. The spiral binding also allows the pages to lie truly flat, which is ideal for doodling and drawing. The paper quality is thick enough to withstand markers and highlighters with little to no bleed-through. Plus, with no pre-designed pages, the journal can be fully customized to your liking. 

Best for Traveling: Dot Journaling—The Set

What We Like
  • Sold as three-pack

  • Thin journals are ideal for trips

  • Lay-flat binding

What We Don't Like
  • Covers are fragile

  • Warping can occur

  • Pages are thin

If you don’t want to take a big journal with you on a trip, these journals are ideal. With durable cardboard covers and fewer pages than traditional books, they are incredibly lightweight and slip easily into your bag or suitcase. Plus, since they have fewer pages, you can use them for specific tasks, trips, or projects. They also lie flat, making it easy to write or draw.

Best Binding: Classic Soft Cover Dotted Notebook

Moleskine Classic Soft Cover Dotted Notebook
What We Like
  • Travel-friendly size

  • Durable binding

  • FSC-certified paper

What We Don't Like
  • Pens can bleed through pages

  • Cover difficult to customize

Moleskine is well-known for its notebooks and journals, and this one lives up to the name. The softcover is durable yet flexible, and the book is lightweight and sized for travel. It comes with 192 blank pages (plenty to create a meaningful journal for your goals), and the binding is durable enough to hold up to daily wear and tear. Plus, the paper is FSC-certified.

Final Verdict

If you’re new to bullet journaling, the Rhodia Goalbook A5 Journal (view on Amazon) is a great choice because it comes with six index pages, numbered pages, and a perpetual calendar—everything you need to help organize your first journal. If you have a little more experience, the Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 Hardcover Notebook (view on Amazon) has the durability, page thickness, and flexibility to let you get creative. But a true artist might prefer the Miliko Transparent Hardcover A5 Spiral Notebook (view on Amazon) because you can decorate the first page and see your artwork through its transparent cover.

What to Look for in a Bullet Journal 

Size

If your journal is too big, you won’t take it with you when you’re on the go. Conversely, if it’s too small, you won’t really be able to customize it or record as much as you might want. Ideally, look for a bullet journal that can fit in your work bag, backpack, or purse.

Binding

Bullet journals can come with traditional stitched binding or coil binding. What you choose is ultimately up to you, but bear in mind that most stitched binding journals won’t lay completely flat, which could impact how easily you write or draw.

Paper Quality

Pay attention to the paper quality because if the pages are too thin, your pens or markers might bleed through the page. Look for a bullet journal with thicker, higher-quality paper instead.

Cover Durability

Bullet journals can be hardcover or softcover, and what you pick is ultimately a matter of personal preference. Whatever you choose, though, you’ll want to make sure that your journal cover is durable enough to hold up over time, especially if you take it on the go. 

Expert Insight

“Definitely write in bullets with short phrases or just words,” says Veroshk Williams, clinical psychologist, and “always leave space to write or observe what you are feeling after writing. Your feelings while writing the journal are the most important things.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you use a bullet journal?

    Start by deciding what you want to use your bullet journal for. Do you want to use it as a way to meal plan, track your habits and expenses, log your moods and emotions, or just as a day-to-day diary/to-do list? Settling on an intention from the onset will help you decide how to structure your journal and daily pages. 

    All bullet journals are loosely structured in a similar way. They begin with an index page, which is a table of contents and symbol log that you update as you go. Then, bullet journals include a future log, which is usually a four-page spread where you note future events, goals, birthdays, and long-term tasks. In addition, most bullet journals contain monthly logs, which are two-page spreads with a calendar for your monthly tasks and monthly tracking (such as finances, fitness, etc.). Then, the journals include daily logs, where you track your day-to-day. 

    Most bullet journals also utilize symbols as a short-hand tool. For example, you can notate priority tasks with an asterisk and inspirational ideas with an exclamation point. 

    Beyond that, how you organize your bullet journal is up to you. “Use your bullet journal to help identify what comes naturally to you so you can build your habits around it or incorporate activities that bring you joy, peace, and a sense of purpose,” recommends Rhonda Mattox, integrative behavioral health psychiatrist. The goal, she continues, is to create something that helps you feel more accomplished and peaceful. “Use it as a personal cheerleader for yourself and a tool to reach your goals.”

    For example, if you want to use your bullet journal as a mental health tool, Mattox says, “build in self-care strategies [and] build in ways to track and identify triggers that negatively and positively impact your mood or anxiety.” This can help you better understand what patterns influence your moods and overall mental health and help you work to eliminate triggers.

  • When should you use a bullet journal?

    Try to use your journal in a way that fits into your routine so that you keep with it.

    “My advice would be to use the journal every day when you first wake up and right before you go to sleep,” says Massi. “Upon waking up, you may use the journal to prepare for the day, easing your anxiety before you have a chance to get anxious. Before going to sleep, use the journal to unburden your mind, knowing that you can rest easy with all of your thoughts and to-do items down on paper where you won't forget them.”

  • Does keeping a bullet journal help with anxiety?

    Yes. Bullet journals are a great tool for someone who lives with anxiety because of their bulleted structure. 

    “Anxiety, by definition, is fear of the future,” explains Massi. “When we get wrapped up in this future-focused fear, adrenaline and cortisol pump through our bodies, putting us into a state of fight or flight. List-making can help slow the production of adrenaline and cortisol as it gives the person writing the sense that they are taking action to prepare for the future, thus making the potential future problem more manageable.” 

    So, “those with anxiety can particularly benefit from bullet journals because it can allow them to unburden their mind,” she continues. “It allows the racing, fear-based thoughts that would otherwise take hold in the mind a place to rest.” In other words, they help declutter the mind.

    Rapid logging one’s worries can also help people confront the source of their anxiety in an actionable way. “Very often [people] are avoiding the issues that are causing the anxiety,” says Tom McDonagh, clinical psychologist. “Bullet journaling helps to identify the issue and create a framework for how to approach and solve the problem.” 

What Experts Say 

“For patients who have a lot of big ideas or competing ideas a bullet journal could be more beneficial because they will take time to clearly lay out where they are and where they want to be and track their progress over time. This might be better than a typical journal because it paints a picture and is easy to see without having to read a lot of additional information that would likely be included in a typical idea or free thought journal.” —Lindsey Pace, licensed clinical social worker and therapist.

“Don't overextend yourself. Try to identify one issue at a time and focus on creating a specific plan on how to approach and solve the problem. Try to remember that consistency is the key and keeping a journal helps with accountability.” —Dr. Tom McDonagh, clinical psychologist, author, and owner of a practice in SF. 

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