With bullet journaling becoming increasingly popular there are more and more notebooks to choose from! Here are some things to check before choosing a notebook.
How to choose the right bullet journal notebook for you
1. Binding style
For me, the binding style is the most important. Most bullet journals come with the traditional stitched binding but as bullet journaling becomes more and more popular there are (thankfully!) more options becoming available.
I have a strong dislike for stitched binding because they don’t tend to lay flat. If you’re of a similar mind, my favorite type of binding is discbound. There are multiple companies offering discbound notebooks these days (I compiled a list in this post). My favorite for bullet journaling is the Happy Notes from MAMBI. Or just buy the MAMBI rings, dot grid page refills and DIY your own cover.
2. Paper quality
Most hardbound notebooks have yucky yellow paper. It can make highlighter colors look funny, it tends to be thin and prone to bleed through, plus it will blunt your brush tip pens. For this reason I really only use hardbound notebooks for testing planner layouts (which I usually then digitise into printables).
Price doesn’t necessarily translate to paper quality. The Moleskine notebooks aren’t cheap yet the paper is prone to ghosting and bleed through. I did pen testing of 8 different dot grid notebooks in this post.
Related: Moleskine Weekly Planner Review
Most traditional dot grid notebooks have a boring black hardcover that’s very generic. You could personalise with alphabet stickers or a monogram or name label (see here for a tutorial).
One thing to note is that I recommend avoiding bendy softcover notebooks such as the Rhodia Goalbook. When you rule a line, the ruler slips and lines can end up crooked:
4. Extra pages
I think your bullet journal should be whatever you want it to be, not what it ‘should’ be.
I avoid the ‘traditional’ bullet journal pages such as future logs. I really only use an index / content pages (which I’ve always used with every planning system / folder / notebook I’ve ever used – so much easier to find things!).
So if the notebook you like doesn’t have any extra pages you can just rule them up yourself (at whatever sizes / line spacing etc. you like!), or save time and use a printable instead. See this post for a tutorial on how to resize printables. I also have a few you can download for free from the library:
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Some of the extra pages that you might look for
- Key / symbols
- Future log
- Index / contents
- Pen test
5. Numbered Pages
This is a must have for bullet journaling yet not all dot grid notebook include numbered pages. If a notebook doesn’t have pre-printed pages I’ve found it’s almost always quite a bit cheaper than other options. Case in point: the Minimalism Art Notebook. No page numbers but it’s still handy for drafting up page layout ideas.
Another thing to check is where the page numbers are placed. The Rhodia Goalbook deletes the corner dots for the page numbers which is not ideal.
6. Page format
I know most people use dot grid but plenty of notebooks come in lined and blank paper too!
Blank pages are good for
- Freehand page layouts
- Random scribbles
- Sketching header and page divider ideas
- Decorative pages
- Diagrams / visuals such as daily planning circles:
Lined pages are good for
- Class notes
- Meeting notes
Dot grid pages are good for
- Habit trackers
- Weekly calendars
- Monthly calendars
I tend to avoid blank pages as, without some sort of structure, everything gets messy and if its messy I won’t look at it / use it. I used to avoid dot grid paper as the dots tend to be too close together for my liking. However, I do like the ease it provides for drawing up weekly spreads.
7. Pocket Folder
Some dot grid notebooks come with pocket folders, some don’t. It’s not a must for me as, with most hardbound dot grid notebooks, you’re limited with how much you can put in them anyway.
8. Pen holder
If the notebook you like doesn’t include a pen holder, do not fret! You can buy them individually and stick them straight in.
Some notebooks that include a pen holder:
Related: Little More Notebook
9. Ribbon Bookmarks
Some notebooks include 2 built in ribbon bookmarks – some include 3. It’s not a big deal if the notebook doesn’t include any as you can always use a paperclip, add sticky notes for tabs, washi tape etc.
Expect to pay around $10 USD for a basic dot grid notebook. $20 – $40 USD for a decent one with all the extras (pocket folder, pen holder, nicer cover, better quality paper etc.)
If you think you need a ‘well known’ notebook – think again. Just because the cover is cute doesn’t necessarily mean the paper quality and everything else about the planner is as good as the cover…
Bullet journal reviews:
- Bullet Journal Planner by Letter Love Designs
- Scribbles That Matter Notebook
- Leuchtturm1917 Bullet Journal Notebook A5
- Little More Notebook
- Rhodia Goalbook for Bullet Journaling Review
- Review of the Minimalism Art Dot Grid Notebook for Bullet Journaling
- Review of the Scrivwell Dot Grid Notebook
- Pretty dot grid notebooks for bullet journaling (roundup)
More bullet journal
- Bullet Journal Ideas: 26 Weekly Spread Layouts to Try
- Travel planning in a bullet journal
- 50 Bullet journal Instagram accounts you should be following
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