A Bullet Journal & Planner Dictionary

So I’m a terrible cook. Fortunately, my mother in law and husband are wonderful cooks – and one day, she talked about the need for a cooking glossary to help people understand some of the lingo and jargon of cooking. So it struck me, perhaps we need a similar one for the Bullet Journal and planning! So I put together a list of some common, and perhaps confusing, terms associated with the bujo and planning world so we all know what the F we’re all talking about!

bullet journal dictionary


Bujopronounced boo-joe is short for “bullet journal.” People don’t tend to call it a BJ, for some obvious reasons (LOL)

Bullet Journal: always, always start with Ryder Carroll’s official bullet journal webpage.

Bleeding: When pen ink seeps through the back of the page. Considered pretty undesirable, and especially concerning for fountain pen users.

Brain dump: this is the “moist” of the bullet journal world and references a rapid log – the very fast stream-of-consciousness list-making for the purpose of clearing your mind. Similar to a mind-sweep.

BujoJunkies: the nickname of the hugely popular Facebook group where bullet journal enthusiasts gather

Calendex: this is a different method of the future log that threads to different appointments and notes throughout your bullet journal.  See Eddy Hope’s original description and then Kara’s version.

Challenges: These are often hosted on social media as a way to come in community around a topic.  In the planning world, these are things like #PlanWithMeChallenge or #BulletJournalChallenge where there are a variety of prompts.  For the PlanWithMeChallenge, there are daily prompts for a month – one for every day.  You interpret the prompt, and post your response or photo online to share with others.  There are other challenges like the #handletteredABCs or #LetteringLeague that are weekly themed challenges.  They are meant to be fun, invitation, and a way to be creative.

Chronodex: This spiral time tracker is seen in some bullet journals to track how you use time throughout the day.  You color in different parts of the spiral representing each part of your day.  See an explanation here and its Spiraldex counterpart here.

Collections: lists in your bullet journal that are denoted by a header on a new page. This can be anything from a project to-do list to vacation packing list, to a budget.

Dailies: your task list and rapid log for the individual day

Destash: your planner supplies can be considered your “stash,” and every so often, people will destash their supplies by selling or giving them away.  This can be in giveaways, in random acts of kindness, or destash sales.

Disc-bound system: a system that is held together by discs instead of rings – usually by punching mushroom shaped holes into paper.  Some are drawn to its freedom to rearrange pages as they wish. There is a paper punch with a unique mushroom shape that allows you to insert any kind of paper you choose – handouts, homemade dot grid, grid, etc. Be sure to compare the paper punches to the discs you have to make sure you’re using compatible systems.  Common brands are the Levenger Circa, Staples Arc, Martha Stewart.

Definitions of "arc system" or "disc bound" planner - find them in my Bullet Journal and Planning Glossary

____-dori: This is a popular play off of the brand “Midori” – it is the brand that popularized that style of notebook cover, so variations are often called “___-dori.” For example “Cake-dori”, “Vi-dori.”

Dutch Door: a technique that can look in several ways, inspired by the nature of dutch doors opening top and bottom.  One version involves cutting a chunk of pages shorter to reveal a static row (for a weekly view, for example) and then several pages for dailies. (see below).  Another version involves folding pages in half vertically to open and close, revealing different parts at different times.

Photo credit: Kristen Pednaud‎

Definitions of things like "dutch door" and "ghosting" can be found on my bullet journal glossary. Photo credit: Tessa Stoop

Ghosting: when you can see the ink through the back of a page – it drives some people crazy to be able to see the ink through.  Others don’t mind it as they write over the page. This is also why people ask about “best pens that don’t ghost.” Typically fine liner pens like Staedtler or Microns do well not to ghost, but you might see the ghosting with Sharpie pens.

GSM: stands for “grams per square meter” and is a measure of paperweight. The higher the weight, the better quality it is.  Moleskine is typically 70gsm, Leuchtturm 1917 80gsm, and Rhodia at a beautiful 90gsm.  This explains users’ typical experience with ink ghosting in the Moleskine and LT1917.  For fountain pen users, gsm is highly important – and why many prefer Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper.

Getting Things Done (GTD) method: is a popular productivity method that helps focus your tasks in different ways and when to focus on them.  Kara uses an example of them here, and Nina has her own version here.

Helper: a cute name for your planning helper – usually a cuddly cat, pup, or even a snake 😉

Migrating: this is the crucial process of moving your unfinished tasks to a new day. This is to be done critically, carefully considering whether it is worth carrying forward, or whether you need to eliminate, delegate, automate, or procrastinate on the task.

Mind Sweep: similar to a brain dump or rapid log, but more consistent.  Similar to how you do deep-cleaning in your house every so often, sweeping is more like consistent tidying up throughout the day.  I often do this at the beginning of my day, the end of the business day, and before I go to bed.

Miracle Morning: This is a morning routine made popular by Hal Elrod, which includes the common acronym “SAVERS” for silence, affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing. Many incorporate this into their habit trackers

Monkey Fist/Monkey KnotMonkey Fist/Monkey Knot: it originated centuries ago to help sailors tie weights to their boats, and now are teeny tiny knots at the end of cords that serve as fun bookmarks in your notebooks.

Morning Pages: started by Julia Cameron, this is a sort of free-write that helps you begin your day by clearing your head.  She says, “There is no wrong way to do morning pages” – so instead of picking up your smart phone, jot down your thoughts in your notebook.

No-Spend: usually a month-long endeavor, this challenge is to keep your discretionary spending to as few days or as little as possible.  I’ve seen people keep a monthly calendar that they mark off days where they successfully avoided spending extra money that month.  This typically does NOT include the necessities like gas for work, groceries, bills, etc.

Random Act of Kindness (RAK): These are often done to spread the love through extra planning supplies and stationery – in Facebook groups you’ll see comment threads and the poster will select someone at random to mail some fun things to!

Review: this is a process where you reflect on a lot of things, including your goals, the use of your bullet journal and what’s working, or how you showed up in your life last week, month, or season.  It is critical to review to make progress.

Rolling Weeks: One of the common pitfalls people run into with the bullet journal is getting a short-term future outlook, meaning if they have something going on in the near future.  A hack developed in the community is called the Rolling Week.  Instead of doing a full Weekly Layout, people will sketch a small row at the top or column on the left spanning the upcoming 7-10 days with quick notes about events or important reminders. With that column or row in place, you carry on with your usual daily logs in the rest of the spread.  After several dailies, you’ll fill the spread and turn the page.  Now you’ll sketch a new rolling week starting on the day you’re now at.  So, if you ended the last spread on Friday, you’ll turn the page and start your new rolling week on Saturday. There is some duplication in the sketching but it helps identify upcoming things. (see below)

Photo Credit: Sara Lewis

Signifiers: these are NOT the same as task bullets (which are the X, ., >, O) – these are other symbols that give other context for the task bullets. If you’re a grammar nerd, signifiers are the adverbs of the bujo world, altering a noun (task).  These are things like exclamation points, an envelope sketch, etc.

Sketchnotes: this is a visual way of note-taking that extends beyond linear bullet points and in more of a representative way.  As creator Mike Rhodes emphasizes, sketchnoting is about IDEAS not ART.  For those who can think in maps or connections or metaphor, this is a great note-taking option. See more about how I use sketchnotes here.

Spread: this means the 2 pages of an open notebook as one “spread”

Threading: a spiffy technique originally developed by Ryder Carroll (the originator of the Bullet Journal) and further adapted by Kim.  It connects old collections across notebooks, relevant lists to tasks, and more.

Time Ladder: a technique used in dailies to mark tasks within the daily schedule.  It begins with a column for the hours in your day, and tasks listed a few columns over.  Hours can be marked and connected to different tasks and events.  This is handy because scheduling tasks and blocking off time helps you actually do them. See Ursala’s powerfully simple example below:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.18.31 PM

Trackers: also called a “habit tracker”, this is a chart or method tracks frequency of a habit or behavior.  Sometimes it’s to build a habit by aiming to do it most everyday, or to track how often you do things, or somewhere in between.  You’ve likely seen monthly trackers, weekly trackers, or daily trackers.  It depends on your needs, but there are many ways you can incorporate them into your bullet journal. This can be a grid, just a few letters across your daily header, or a stamp like I use.  I talk more about habit trackers here.

Traveler’s Notebook (TN): Short for “Traveler’s Notebook.” Originated by Midori, a traveler’s notebook is a leather cover with elastics along the spine to hold a number of thin notebooks also called “inserts”. People love this system for its ability to be modular (separating different categories all in one place) – meaning that once you fill up your journaling notebook you can replace just that piece. My personal favorite is the Foxy Notebook (FN) but of course you’ll find Midori, Chic Sparrow, Speckled Fawn, Leather Quill as another leather cover maker, along with many others that use fabric and vinyl as well such as HappieDori, Confettidori, Cakedori, Viedori…. it’s endless!.

Washi tape: washi tape is decorative paper tape that comes in a variety of widths and patterns.  It can be decorative or functional – for some ideas of how it can be used or purchased, check out my post here.

ZenTangle (TM): A style of doodling that fills spaces with patterns.

Zen to Done (ZTD): an adaptation of the Getting Things Done system, it’s focused on one habit at a time, and a few other routines that create incremental change and productivity.

I KNOW there are more terms than that! Are there words you have wondered about but don’t see here? Let me know in the comments! I’ll update as needed!




47 thoughts on “A Bullet Journal & Planner Dictionary

  1. Being new to this life changing form of organization, the information in this post is extremely helpful to me. Thank you very much!!


  2. This is awesome! Such a great idea for helping newbies get the lay of the land! (And for me…I had no idea about the rolling week!) Thanks for creating this 🙂


      1. I’m thinking mainly of the Time Ladder, I love having a visual picture of time, and I haven’t ever seen the time ladder before! 🙂 The Rolling weeks sounds like a really good idea as well.


  3. Great post! Definitely learned some new things. Thank you! Maybe two words to put up there too: Doodles and Habit Tracker. It might be pretty self explaining, but as someone who’s not a native English speaker, I had never heard of it before I learned more about the Bullet Journal system.


  4. I am leading a “Planners, Planning and Productivity” workshop at my local library in September. I have been compiling my own dictionary, but you have done a superb job. Could I use your dictionary (with credit to your and your website) for my class?


  5. Being a newbie to the #BuJo and this FAB landscape of creative activity has been a blessing! Thanks for all your inspiration, research and fun!


  6. Thank you sooooooo much for this, Jessica!! I decided to (finally) dive in and have gotten started. I’m lazy so I went to Time and Date and printed out little monthly calendars for the facing pages through the end of the year. I also printed out the month’s and the calendar for this week, which is working fairly well so far. I have a more to put it but at least I’ve gotten started!

    Thanks again,



  7. This is really useful for newbies and people like myself that have been Bullet Journalling for a while but may not have come across all the terms yet. I also got the snake reference which made me giggle 😉


  8. This was great! I knew some of them but not all. I am intrigued by the Dutch door. Could you explain it in a little more detail in a future post.


  9. This is a great post! I’ve learned a few things that I am going to look into such as the rolling week, and ZTD! A thought that I had which would be worth mentioning is acronyms for certain BuJo brands. For example: LT for Leuchtturm1917 and STM for Scribbles that Matter. Also maybe an explanation of sizes and dimensions? Ex: A5, B5, B6 ect.


  10. Thanks for this! I love the Dutch Door idea, but really don’t use a daily spread; it hadn’t occurred to me to try to do things vertically or put a weekly at the bottom of a monthly page. Thanks for that. I’m new to this, and don’t get what a Dashboard is. Can you add that? Also, any hints to the downloadable printable inserts would be helpful. I spent about $30 on Etsy this weekend on various shops and can’t get ANY of them to print out the way I want or need them to – I have an A5 planner and pages get all screwed up even though I have my settings correct.


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