Gift Guide: Ideas for bullet journalers


Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.

Since digital product designer Ryder Carroll’s list-based method for organizing his life first went viral five years ago, bullet journaling has become a movement of its own, helping people take charge of their time with a notebook and pen.

The system’s flexibility means it can be used for many things: time management, academic note taking, mental health tracking, meal planning, project management, scrapbooking and more. While Carroll’s own approach is minimalistic — a simple system of lists and symbols — others have turned their bullet journals (or “bujos”) into elaborate works of art, with hand-lettering, embellishments and illustrated “trackers” for to-do lists and goals.

In his new book, “The Bullet Journal Method,” Carroll explains that he began developing his “cross between a planner, diary, notebook, to-do list, and sketchbook” that eventually evolved into the bullet journal to cope with attention deficit disorder. Much of bullet journaling’s effectiveness comes from writing tasks out by hand: researchers have found that handwriting activates parts of the brain that typing doesn’t, helps people retain information and, as Carroll puts it, “allows us to form new connections that can yield unconventional solutions and insights.”

If you know someone who’d be into bullet journaling, the end of the year is a great time to help them get the ball rolling. Veteran bullet journalers, meanwhile, probably won’t mind some new pens or stationery. This list also has suggestions for people who prefer digital journaling, too.

The definitive guide to bullet journaling

Sure, there are already a lot of bullet journaling guides online, including the original tutorial on Carroll’s site, but even seasoned bullet journaling fans can still get a lot out of his new book “The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future.”

It includes the basics, but also motivation for people who are turning to bullet journals to help overcome hardships or achieve major life goals. Carroll is a thoughtful writer, and his chapters on how bullet journaling can guide people to live more intentional, meaningful lives is a big step above the standard productivity book. The print edition ($17 on Amazon) is a beautifully produced hardback that makes a great gift.

The best notebooks

Many bullet journalers prefer to use notebooks with dotted grid paper that helps them keep things neat but also gives them more flexibility than lined or graph paper. Notebooks by Scribbles That Matter (shown above, about $23), a new U.K. brand, are gaining popularity among bullet journalers because their 100gsm paper allows them to be used with a wide variety of pens, markers and even watercolors. Hardcover Moleskine ($12 on Amazon) and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks ($20 on Amazon) are often used for bullet journals because of their durability and paper quality. In fact, Leuchtturm1917 offers a bullet journal edition ($25) with a guide, three page markers and stickers for labeling entries.

Bullet journals include “collections,” or individual sections dedicated to specific projects or goals. Because collections can become lengthy, some bullet journalers prefer to use travelers’ notebooks, which are several slim notebook inserts gathered in a flexible cover. The inserts can be swapped in and out, making the journal even more customizable. Japanese stationery company Midori makes the original and best-known version with leather covers (starter kits begin at $58 from Baum-kuchen). For non-leather ones, check out Cadeneta (starting from about $31) on Etsy.

Writing tools

A lot of bullet journalers prefer fountain pens because they perform especially well on the high-quality paper used in notebooks like Moleskines and Leuchtturm1917s. The Lamy Safari (starting from $30 at Goulet Pens, one of the most comprehensive fountain pen stores online) is a popular “starter pen” because of its ergonomic grip and wide variety of colors and finishes, while the Pilot Vanishing Point (starting from $148) has a retractable nib, making it ideal for people who like the feel of a fountain pen, but prefer the convenience of a click pen.

Pre-filled ink cartridges are available for Pilot and Lamy pens (and many other fountain pen brands), but if you really want to get fancy, give your recipient a set of three mini Pilot Iroshizuku ink bottles ($32 for a box of three), known for their unique colors, smooth ink flow and quick drying times.

If your recipient does a lot of sketching, they will appreciate a set of eight Sakura Pigma Micron pens in different sizes ($14.50). For marathon journalers, gel pens are a good option because the ink, pigment suspended in a water-based gel, glides onto the page and can help alleviate writer’s cramp. The Uni-ball Signo UM-151 is one of the most popular versions and comes in many colors. JetPens currently has a set of 12 new colors for $34.Highlighters help keep bullet journals organized, but if your recipient isn’t into blinding neon colors, try a set of Zebra Mildliners ($18 for a set of 15). As their name suggests, Mildliners are highlighters that come in subtle colors.


One of the biggest draws of bullet journals is how customizable the system is. If your recipient is a stationery fan, consider giving them a subscription to ZenPop’s Japanese stationery pack, starting from $30 for one month. For artists, Artsnacks is packed with four to five full-sized art supply products each month (subscriptions start from $24 each month for U.S. plans; there are international options available, too).

Photo supplies

Many people turn their bullet journals into a personal scrapbook or use it for project planning. Fuji Instax is a simple way to add photos and its Mini 70 model (starting from $60 on Amazon) weighs just 10 ounces. For die-hard smartphone photographers who still want the look of instant film, the Instax SP-3 photo printer ($150) lets them print photos on Fuji Instax mini film ($44 for a pack of three).

Other options include the HP Sprocket ($100 on, which prints photos onto HP ZINK sticker paper ($10 for a pack of 20 sheets), and the Canon Selphy CP1300, one of the most popular compact photo printers ($168 on Amazon).

Digital journalers

Pen and paper not your recipient’s thing? Consider gifting GoodNotes ($8 on the App Store), a popular app for digital bullet journalers because it does a great job of replicating the experience of writing on paper (its handwriting search function is also very useful). The app has a marketplace of downloadable bullet journaling spreads and templates created by other users. Digital bullet journals are also a good excuse to gift a stylus: an Apple Pencil for iOS users ($99 on Apple’s site) or Adonit Droid ($25 on Adonit’s site) for Android fans.


Your bullet recipient will probably need a way to keep their notebook, pens and other supplies together. Vitra’s Toolbox ($70 on Vitra) is a desk caddy that comes in 11 colors and is an attractive and portable alternative to clunky desk organizers. The Lihit Lab Teffa Bag in Bag ($11.25 on JetPens) fits an A5 size notebook and keeps stationery, coins and other small things from getting lost in the bottom of their bag. Japanese stationery company Raymay’s Topliner ($16) is like a lightweight, grownup version of the pencil cases kids use in elementary school.

TechCrunch Gift Guide 2018 banner

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

14 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

16 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android