Using Bullet/Dot Journaling at Home

Analog organizing: Bullet/ Dot Journaling

The Bullet, or Dot, Journal is a favorite organizational method of several JMRL staff.  Those of us who use it have found that though each day is uncertain as we find new ways to work remotely and offer virtual services, this simple, no-tech, method is something we can rely on. Bullet or Dot Journaling is an analog organizational method that has the potential to be a planner, to-do list, doodle book, and journal all in one, helping you keep track of everything from a daily routine to a complicated professional project all in one place. Gone are the days of desperately keeping track of lists and notes on separate scraps of paper that you’re sure to lose. All you really need to start is a notebook and a writing utensil.  From there, you can make it as minimalist or artistic as you’d like. One of the beauties of this journal format is the flexibility – it enables you to create a planner/journal that works for you and your lifestyle, and as your schedule or lifestyle changes, you can change it to fit your new needs. This is great in the current environment when many things are in flux!

The Bullet Journal was originally developed by Ryder Carroll, who according to his website biography, was “diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life, he was forced to figure out alternate ways to be focused and productive.” Carroll later published a book, Bullet Journal Method : Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future. It is meant to be a quick and effective way to organize yourself, so despite what you might see on Instagram, it doesn’t need to be fancy or take a lot of time to set up or prepare.

Sound useful?  Here are some resources to get you started:

The Basics:


  • Beyond Bullets by Megan Rutell Overdrive eBook
  • Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll Overdrive eBook
  • Dot Journaling- A Practical Guide by Rachel Miller Wilkerson Freading eBook
  • The Journal Writer’s Companion by Alyss Thomas Freading eBook
  • Study with Me: Effective Bullet Journaling Techniques, Habits, and Hacks to Be Successful, Productive, and Organized by Jasmine Shao and Alyssa Jagan
    EBSCOHost eBook

On the Web:

Adding Artistic Elements:


On the web:

A peak inside our Bullet Journals:

Maybe you’d like to see a real-life journal in action? Here are some of the basic pages from Camille’s journal:

The Key:

The Key

The Index:

The Index

The Month:

The Month

The Collection:

The Collection 1

The Collection 2

Here are a few spreads from Megan’s journal, which is sometimes a chill artistic outlet, sometimes a hastily scribbled collection of lists, and often somewhere in between. Megan really loves the flexibility of Bullet Journaling and frequently changes up what kinds of habit tracking, weekly calendar, and other spreads get used. They often keep lists and other things to refer to frequently in the back of their journal, like Bakes to Try, Video Games to Play, a Universal Packing List, Book Brainstorming Notes, and so on:

Bujo #1Bujo #2Bujo #3

And here are a few peeks at Hayley’s journal, which is a simple spiral-bound lined journal (no dot grid here – and as you can see, not a requirement). About her journal she says:

“I am a list maker, so my journal is very heavy on collections (lists of things that I want to remember or take notes on).  I find it relaxing to add pops of color or doodles sometimes, but have embraced minimalist entries for everyday use. I have never done a monthly spread, am not much of a habit tracker, and tried an index but didn’t find it to be useful for me, so keep in mind how you like to organize yourself and add in the elements that work best for you. I also don’t let myself use a ruler so I that I don’t stress over things looking perfect.

I started out trying a weekly spread, and before COVID-19 changed how I work, I kept a planner at work for work-things, and my bullet journal was my personal-planner-journal-space. Now my spheres have combined and I have found that a simply daily spread has been much better to help me organize myself, especially as I work from home. Again, the beauty of this journal is the flexibility that it offers to allow you to change your journal to fit your current lifestyle.”

IMG-5782 dec

An older weekly spread with lists pertinent to my week, and an inspirational quote and a little creative flourish.


A more minimalist version of my weekly spread, again with some useful lists.


I found that switching to a simple daily spread worked better for my own organization, and find that a gratitude list really improves my days. On the opposite page I had fun tinkering with some lettering practice.

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A collection page that you might find useful if you are stuck at home working through some decluttering, based off of Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You can find a lot of printables of lists like this online, but when you put your own in your journal, you can tailor it based on what you actually have at home.

Sing your way to early literacy

By Camille Thompson and Jacqui Dempsey-Cohen

This month, we’re celebrating early literacy with our Winter Reading activities for children birth-age 5.  Early literacy skills are the building blocks children acquire before they learn to read and write which help them on their journey towards literacy.  One of the ways caregivers can help children develop early literacy skills is through singing.  Singing, reciting nursery rhymes, and reading books with rhyming phrases helps children hear the smaller sounds in words, which will help them sound out words when they learn to read.  You don’t need to be a virtuoso to sing with your child– whether you can carry a tune or not, you and your child will reap the benefits of singing for early literacy, all while having fun together!  Try out more fun activities from our Winter Reading Activity Sheet, and once you’ve completed it, turn it in to any JMRL location for a free book.

These books are wonderful for rhyming and singing with your child:

Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley: An exuberant picture book adaptation of Bob Marley’s song that illustrates the reassuring story of a bouncing, dreadlocked boy who won’t let anything get him down.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney: A lavish rendition of the classic song following the adventures of a curious chipmunk who embarks on an imaginary voyage to the stars.

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton: Adorably silly farm animals dance and prance across board book pages in a frolicking read-aloud with foot-stomping rhythms and rhymes.

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown: A collection of charming lullabies by the celebrated  author of Goodnight Moon, illustrated by 12 award winning artists.

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Jane Cabrera: Black sheep graciously offers bag after bag of wool to Miss, who hand-knits mittens, a tea cozy, and other fuzzy gifts for her friends. Includes music for piano and guitar.

Inch by Inch by David Mallett: Inch by inch and row by row, a boy and his dog help their garden grow in this playfully illustrated version of the classic song.

Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort: What will the people on the bus do when raucous animals hop on board and add their voices to the din? This beastly twist on a favorite song will have young readers errping and roaring and honking along.

I Went Walking by Sue Williams: A melodious guessing-game concept book in which a shock-headed child goes for a walk and collects a procession of surprisingly colorful animals.

Great New Picture Books to Give as Gifts

The Airport Book

What to get that young child in your life who already has a library full of classic picture books?  These titles from 2016 make it to the top of my list:

The Airport Book by Lisa Brown would be a great gift for a child flying for the first time.  Brown leads us through each part of the airport with simple text, and detailed descriptions that lead to lingering– a sort of picture book version of the great people watching an airport provides, mixed with comforting text about the process of getting on the plane. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Bloom by Doreen Cronin (illustrated by David Small) is the tale of a glass kingdom in disrepair and the messy mud fairy who enlists the help of an “ordinary” girl to save it.  Elegantly illustrated with a flourish of creative typography, this is the best kind of grit and girl-power-fueled empowerment story.  It’s fun, it’s messy, it’s fabulous. Recommended for ages 4-8.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers celebrates the wonder of getting lost in a great book.  Filled with beautiful collages– oceans and mountains are formed from the typed lines of classic literary works– we join a young reader as she shares the adventure of story with her traveling companion.  This has the potential to start great conversations about stories and art. Recommended for ages 5-8.

Parachute by Danny Parker is about a boy named Toby who never does anything without wearing his bright orange parachute.  The strength of this story is in the illustrations, which give a striking sense of how big the world seems to a little person– how impossibly far up a tree house seems, how far down it looks from the bathroom stool, and how as Toby learns to feel safe, his perspective changes. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Penguin Problems by Jory John (illustrated by Lane Smith) presents us with Penguin, who has a bone to pick about, well, everything– “My beak is cold… The ocean smells too salty today.” Though a wise walrus tries to help him focus on the good things in his life, his triumph over griping appears to be short-lived.  This book is hilarious in its snark, and genius in its ability to make readers identify with a cranky penguin. Recommended for ages 3-7.

Worms for Breakfast: How to Feed a Zoo by Helaine Becker (illustrated by Kathy Boake) will disgust and delight young readers as they learn how animals are really fed at the zoo. From mealworm mush to predator popsicles, recipe cards detail what goes into the animals meals, while superimposed images of creatures up to crazy antics like raiding refrigerators and drinking from milkshake glasses keep it lively. Recommended for ages 7-10.