I’ve already described on this blog how and why I started a bullet journal, which was mostly on accident, but over the last year I’ve definitely figured out what my favourites are. I try to keep my tools to a minimum because I like to be able to pull it out and get to work wherever I am, and I can’t be bothered to carry more than a little pencil-case with me. While this is technically a top five it is also a list of the only tools I use in my bullet journal, and more importantly, a list of what has HELPED me use my bullet journal more effectively.
It’s a pretty short list, but given the nature of it, I have provided links to Amazon where I could in case you were interested in purchasing anything I mention and giving them a try yourselves. They are affiliate links, which means Amazon sends a small commission my way if you do decide to purchase any of the items I listed below. If you’re curious, you can pop over here to read my affiliate disclosure.
One thing you’re not going to find on this list is the notebook I’m using because I feel like a notebook is the only thing you actually have to have if you want to start a bullet journal. But I will say that I have used and loved a Large Softcover Moleskine. It opens flat and I love the flexibility of the softer cover. The A5 Size is just large enough to be useful and also really portable. I’m interested in trying some larger and smaller sizes just to see if there is one I prefer more than the standard A5, but my first bullet journal has really been a good one and it’s a little bittersweet since as I’m writing this I’m only pages away from reaching the end.
But I digress. On to my list of bullet journal essentials!
- PEN: For a long time I used Sakura Microns because I really love the quality of the ink and the fine point, but I recently started using the Stabilo Point 88, and I am absolutely obsessed. Like my Microns, they give you a really fine line, but they are comfortable in your hand and they are wonderfully narrow so they fit in every pen loop I have. They also come in so many colours so I’m really excited to expand my collection! A finer line is my go-to at this point because it is less messy if it smudges and the smaller I can write, the more I can fit on a page. A lot of my spreads rely on these smaller tips and I don’t think I could bullet journal without them.
- MECHANICAL PENCIL: I use pretty much any 0.3 or 0.5 mechanical pencil that I have on hand. I start with a pencil if I have a more complicated spread in mind and I need to plan it out, but I also use my bullet journal for designing and sketching. And most importantly, I use it for planning things that might have to move around or change. I don’t want to use whiteout every time I have to change something, so where possible I try to avoid penning in things that I know I’ll probably have to shift around, like my posting schedule and the like.
- HIGHLIGHTER: I only ever use 1-2 highlighters at a time because I like to keep my spreads relatively minimal. I love using highlighters for some chunky lettering and a pop of colour, especially the hot pink Sharpie Highlighter which, if you’ve seen earlier posts about my bullet journal, you will probably see featured heavily. But I’ve also started using a couple of Zebra Mildliners which I really enjoy. They’re pretty popular in the bujo space, and for good reasons from what I can tell thus far. I notice far less ghosting with the Mildliners, and they have way more colour options. Still not sure which one will win out, so I’m using both for now.
- COLOUR CODING: I use a Moleskine which has pretty fine paper, so I need to be sparing in my use of highlighters. This leaves the bulk of my colour coding in the hands of my coloured pens. I love the variety and the bright colour you get with the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, but I have really started to enjoy using Muji pens, mostly because I really love their super fine points (I use the 0.38). Not quite as much colour variation, but still really nice. If you don’t live near a Muji store though, the Fineliners are a really great option. Lots of available colours and minimal ghosting. I do find them to be a little too thick to be my ‘everyday’ writing pen, but they work perfectly for going in to categorize and colour code.
- RULER – I don’t have the straightest handwriting, though I do think the scratchy imperfect look adds a lot of personality to a spread. When I do it though, it never seems to turn out right, so I keep a small, clear, 6-inch ruler for making tables and underlining and the like. And because its clear I can make sure I’m getting it in the right spot. The specific one I use came in a Kate Spade pencil-case, but I did find a 3-pack of clear rulers that should fit nicely into the back pocket of your bullet journal.
Post-its, washi tape, stamps, stickers – all of these are things that might help make a bullet journal pretty, but I don’t consider them necessary. If you are new to bullet journaling or thinking of starting one, these are the things I would recommend to get you started. Nothing too flashy or expensive, just a handful of simple, practical tools that I have used and enjoyed and have been more than enough for my bullet journaling. I think it’s entirely possible to have an attractive looking notebook or planner that is still functional and serves your needs without being over the top.
What Are Your Top 5?
Now that I’ve gone through my essentials I want to hear from you! What planner tools are you unable to live without? Have I missed something here that you think I should know about? Let me know in the comments!