Books Bullet Journal

Book Review: The Bullet Journal Method

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This book was given to me for review. In no way does this affect my opinion of the books or the content of my review.

The Bullet Journal Method

by Ryder Carroll

Age Group/Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Publication date: October 23rd, 2018
Publisher: 4th Estate
Pages: 304
Format: ARC

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Like many of us, Ryder Carroll tried everything to get organized — countless apps, systems, planners, you name it. Nothing really worked. Then he invented his own simple system that required only pen and paper, which he found both effective and calming. He shared his method with a few friends, and before long he had a worldwide viral movement. Hundreds of thousands of Bullet Journal fans now spread the word and read Ryder’s blog and newsletter.

The system combines elements of a wishlist, a to-do list, and a diary. It makes it easy to get thoughts out of your head (an unreliable witness) and onto paper, to see them clearly and decide what to do about them. It helps you identify what matters, and set goals accordingly. By breaking long-term goals into small actionable steps, users map out an approachable path towards continual improvement, allowing them to stay focused despite the crush of incoming demands.

But this is much more than a time management book. It’s also a manifesto for what Ryder calls “intentional living”: making sure that your beliefs and actions align. Even if you already use a Bullet Journal®, this book gives you new exercises to become more calm and focused, new insights on how to prioritize well, and a new awareness of the power of analog tools in a digital world.

My thoughts

This is not just a book about the bullet journal method. It’s about personal growth and intentionality, themes that are very closely connected to the system that Ryder Carroll designed.

You could argue that the bullet journal method is just a simple to-do list with complicated-looking symbols and a lot of buzzwords, or something that would take up too much of your time, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it (for at least a few months, as Ryder suggests). I’ve been bullet journaling for less than a year and I’m just now starting to realize how much it helps me beat executive dysfunction. I frequently get compliments from my autism coaches about my notebook, and I wish I could take credit for the idea.

The Bullet Journal Method came at just the right time for me. I was feeling stuck and executive dysfunction was taking over my life. This book gave me some much-needed motivation and tips to get back into it. It provided answers to all the questions I was struggling with, like: how do I set up a Collection effectively so it can help me reach my goals? How do I define what Collections & entries are meaningful? How do I use the information in my habit tracker to make better decisions in the future?

I was so glad to see Ryder destroy the misconception that you can’t bullet journal if you have sloppy handwriting or if you’re not artistic. When you search for ‘bullet journal’ online, a lot of what you’ll find is very colorful and artistic. I personally like my bullet journal simple, so it doesn’t distract from what really matters. I’m fighting for awareness that your bullet journal does not have to be a piece of art! I think this misconception still keeps a lot of people from trying out the method, and that saddens me.

That Ryder Carroll took creative writing classes is evident in his writing style. I found myself smiling appreciatively at his creative word choices & wonderful writing, and sometimes even laughing out loud at the subtle jokes.

Some of the topics discussed are decision fatigue, focus & flow, time management, information overload & technology, handwriting and memory, effective note-taking, tackling goals big and small, daily routines, and gratitude. There’s something there for everyone.
Scattered throughout the book, there are little exercises you can do (in your bullet journal, of course) to learn how to actively reflect on your life, set goals, and get the most out of your bullet journal experience.

Although Ryder does mention his ADD diagnosis in the introduction, I wish there had been more about his personal experience with ADD. The bullet journal method has proven to be a big help for people with AD(H)D especially, and I would’ve liked to learn about how he manages his condition using his journal.

As the PR pamphlet says: “You don’t have to be a bullet journaler to get a lot out of this book — it’s full of insights on intentional living and staying calm in a crazy world.” I couldn’t have worded it better myself, so I won’t try to.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who already uses a bullet journal or is interested in the idea of using one. There are things to gain here for beginners and experienced bullet journalers alike. This is a book I’m sure to grab off my shelf again and again.


You can track the decisions you’ve made, and the actions you’ve taken that led you to where you are. It encourages you to learn from your experiences. What worked, what did not, how did it make you feel, what’s the next move?

Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as “being busy.” Being busy, however, is not the same thing as being productive.

If everything is a priority, nothing is.

“As I do daily, weekly, and monthly reviews, leafing forward and backward in my Bullet Journal, my brain inevitably makes more links between ideas that I was not able to do when using my various separate digital tools.” — Bert Webb, quoted

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  • Reply
    October 25, 2018 at 8:37 PM

    This sounds like such a handy book! I’ve always admired people that keep a bullet journal. I managed to do a week once but couldn’t keep it up. This book sounds like it is packed with useful hints and tips. It is great that you can do little exercises as well for inspiration. I like the fact that you don’t need to be a bullet journaler to enjoy the book either, anything that helps us stay calm in this crazy world has gotta be a good thing! Thanks for sharing Lauren, great review! <3 xx

    Bexa |

    • Reply
      October 31, 2018 at 11:21 AM

      Hi Bexa, thanks for commenting!

      The bullet journal really is so much easier than people make it out to be on the internet. It’s super simple once you’ve gotten into the system. Ryder recommends using the system for at least 2-3 months to truly grasp its usefulness. Give it a try again! It really can be magical.

  • Reply
    October 31, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    I really enjoyed this review. I was considering this, but was unsure if it would teach me anything new, so it’s good to know there’s a lot more to it rather than what I already know. I also really like the fact you’ve included some of your favourite quotes!

    I’ve been using a bullet journal for a few months, and mine isn’t pretty, either. I’ve given it a bit of life using stickers, and occasional doodles here and there, but it’s pretty plain in comparison to what you see online. So, I can 100% back “you don’t need to be an artist to have one”!

    • Reply
      October 31, 2018 at 11:20 AM

      Hi Ruth, thanks for commenting!

      The second half especially contains a lot of new and exciting stuff, especially on goal setting.

      I actually think the ‘minimalist’ bullet journals, as they call them, are much prettier than the artistic ones. But I also use stickers and doodles occasionally! The most important part, as Ryder mentions in his book, is that your BuJo serves its purpose: making you more mindful and productive!

  • Reply
    Gertrude King
    November 11, 2018 at 7:22 AM

    Thanks for your thoughtful review. I first heard of Bullet Journalling a few years ago and am forever grateful that I just happened to be listening to the radio program that discussed it. I’ve journalled in some form for much of my 67 years and BuJo is it for me. I love the flexibility of it that helps me to keep tasks organized, but also work on personal development and do pretty things with colourful ink and stickers. I have a particular page format going at the moment but there’s a freedom in knowing that I can and will change it, esp as I’m inspired by Ryder’s book.

    • Reply
      November 11, 2018 at 12:37 PM

      Hi Gertrude, thanks for commenting!

      I’ve noticed that a lot of people reading Ryder’s book have gone back to the basics using the original system. Either way, I’m glad you too are inspired by his book! Especially the goal setting sections were so interesting and inspiring!

  • Reply
    Ivaylo Durmonski
    April 14, 2019 at 1:27 PM

    I love the book and the method explained inside. Totally recommend!

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