Bullet journaling is great. I love my sketchbook come bullet journal. The best thing about bullet journaling is the fact you can head over to the Bullet Journal website, learn everything you need to know, pick up a notebook and start your bullet journal. There is no need to wait for a specific time of the year when shops have their planners in stock.
But when choosing a notebook for your bullet journal there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
TYPE OF NOTEBOOK
Notebooks usually come in four styles, plain, lined, grid and dotted. It’s a good idea to play around with a few types of paper before choosing your favourite. Don’t go straight in with a dotted A5 Leuchtturm 1917 and a pack of Tombow markers. Dotted and grid paper are pretty similar, but grid paper has lines and dotted paper has dots where those lines intersect. These two styles are usually the preferred type of paper. The grids make it easy to lay out your spreads. It is also totally possible to use ruled paper as a bullet journal. There are no vertical lines which can make it harder to lay out spreads but it can still be done.
If you’re looking at getting a grid or dotted notebook it’s always a good idea to check the dimensions of the grid. Some come with 4mm squares and some come with 5mm. It sounds like a small difference but it does make an impact when it comes to how the grid is laid out on the page. Smaller boxes means more grid, bigger boxes means less. This can make a difference when laying out spreads.
You should also check the number of horizontal lines to a page. The traditional way of laying out a monthly spread is to write the days down the left hand side of the page. This is fine when your page has more than 31 horizontal lines. But some notebooks have less meaning you need to move some days to the next page or alter how you lay out a monthly spread. You could also have way more lines than 32, possibly meaning your monthly spread fits on a single page, but half of the page is left blank. These are the sorts of things which you just play around with, try a few different styles of paper to find the one which works for you and your way of bullet journaling.
Notebooks come in lots of different sizes. The most common of those being A5. If you’re looking at getting a notebook there will usually be a huge selection in this size. There isn’t however a universal A5 size (you would think there were), the Leuchtturm, Moleskine and Agenzio (Paperchase brand) notebooks all come in this size but they are also slightly different. The Moleskine notebooks tend to be slightly thinner, the Agenzio slightly thicker. The Leuchtturm A5 notebooks seem to run around true A5. If you want an idea of the actual size it’s best to check the dimensions before ordering.
Though the A5 seems to be the preferred size for bullet journals it’s totally possibly to use a notebook which is larger or smaller than this. Moleskine sell an Extra Large notebook, this would be great for people who don’t carry their notebooks around so much or are very busy. You can also get A4 sized notebooks. These are very large, maybe a bit impractical for carrying around but it could work if it stays at home all the time.
You can also get A6 notebooks. I used an A6 notebook for a good part of this year and loved it. This is a great size if you take your notebook everywhere, mine fit in my pencil-case which made it even more convenient. However using a notebook of this size does mean you have to be quite minimal when it comes to planning in your bullet journal. If you love the look of those artsy bullet journals with lots of illustrations and hand lettering this size may not be best because you won’t have much room for it.
The biggest factor when choosing a notebook is the price. Notebooks can range from really cheap to really expensive. It’s pretty easy to find cheap notebooks, just a quick search on Amazon will bring up notebooks from £4. These are great if you go through notebooks fast. Also it’s not a big deal if they get ruined from being used all the time.
Then you have the mid-range notebooks. These are your Leuchtturms, Moleskines and Rhodias. These notebooks tend to be around £11 to £15. It’s a good idea to shop around and look for deals. You can buy them on Amazon but places like Paperchase or Waterstones offer some discounts (especially Waterstones if you’re a student!).
Then you have the really high-end notebooks. These tend to be really well made. For example the Field Notes which comes in a pack of three for £10 (these get classed at the high-end because of their A6 size). Then you have the Nuuna Notebooks, they can be anywhere from £25 to £30. If you’re looking for something really fancy you can have a look at the Traveller’s Journal from Midori. This is a leather wallet with bindings which will hold 3 notebooks. The advantage of this is you can buy extra notebook refills for the journal. But the actual leather journal retails around £45 to £50.
If you’re anything like me you will be more likely to use a notebook if it has lovely paper. Some notebooks have really smooth paper which is nice to write on. Others have a cheaper, more coarse paper. The thing to think about is what pens you will be using in your bullet journal. If you use a cheap ballpoint pen the quality of the paper doesn’t matter as much. But if you like using gel or fountain pens you need to start thinking about shadowing and bleeding. There is no point getting a notebook you can’t write in with your favourite pen. The Rhodia notebooks work great with fountain pens, I would also steer anyone away from the Moleskine notebooks if you use a really inky pen.
You also need to remember that the paper quality affects the thickness of the bullet journal. Thicker paper like the Munken paper in the Nuuna notebook will add weight and make the notebook thicker. Not ideal if you’re going to carry the notebook around with you. Alternatively you can get something like the Traveller’s Notebook with Tomoe River Paper. This is a special paper made in Japan which is very fine but can still be used with fountain pens.
NUMBER OF PAGES
The number of pages in a notebook is quite important, especially when you compare it to the price of said notebook. There is no point paying lots of money for a lovely notebook with 96 pages because it won’t last you very long. Something like the Nuuna notebook is nice to look at, it also has 256 pages, but this notebook is also more expensive. You have to work out how often you will be using your bullet journal. If you’re going to use it sparingly then maybe shell out a little more on a fancy notebook with a higher page count because it will last longer. But if you fill a bullet journal in three months it’s maybe better to get a cheaper one.
Everyone has some sort of preference when it comes to bindings on notebooks. Most traditional notebooks have a stitched binding. But there are also notebooks like the Filofax Flex with some sort of system that allows for extra pages to be added. It’s also quite common to find notebooks with wire bindings, the A5 notebooks from Muji are a great example of this. Binding preference is something which is totally up to the individual. Personally I prefer notebooks with stitched bindings. I find that the wires on a ring bound notebook get in the way when I’m writing.
This is probably quite intimidating. There are lots of different variables when it comes to notebooks and everyone is different meaning everyone has different preferences. But if you don’t want to go through all the hassle of figuring out these different points in order to get the perfect notebook just go for a Leuchtturm cause they are pretty great.