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Moving from paper to a digital bullet journal is serious business, especially if you’re an avid planner or journaler. It could even feel a bit intimidating – especially if you’re setting up a bullet journal for the very first time. In this post, I’m going to show you why bullet journaling and digital annotation apps go hand-in-hand and share the five must-haves for turning your Bujo into a Dijo.

Digital Bullet Journaling: why this analog system and an annotation app go hand-in-hand. Plus recommendations for 5 must-have features for your digital bullet journal templates!
Shown in this image: Digital Notebook in Rainbow

Who can benefit from bullet journaling?

Sticky notes stuck to your desk, computer screen, lost in the bottom of your bag. This year’s planner, at home on your bedside table – when you needed it in the office, in class, or in your car. Alarms and apps that hold all of the important things you need to remember without a doubt – if you’d only remember to actually check them all…

Any of this look familiar?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a place of organizational chaos, you might benefit from using a bullet journal. This particular system of staying organized has some unique properties that make it especially helpful for people who thrive on lists and appreciate an analog system.

However, there are some inherent problems with an analog system when we live in a digital time. That bullet journal might still be sitting on your bedside table when you need it – leading to more sticky notes and multiple apps and alarms.

Digital bullet journaling is the best of both analog and digital worlds with the convenience of an app and the style of a handwritten journal.

Do you love to-do lists?

Nothing quite satisfies like checking off items in your to-do list. Personally, I love scratching off an entire line – box and all. A bullet journal is essentially a collection of ongoing to-do lists. It helps you keep track of plans, appointments, and grocery lists, for instance.

Since it’s all in one journal, there’s no more frantic searches for that little sticky note that held everything you needed to do today.  Even more, with a digital bullet journal, lists and notes automatically sync to the cloud and can be accessed from any device. It’s really the ultimate in having everything on hand – anywhere you go.

Digital Bullet Journal
Shown in this photo: Digital Bullet Journal in black (Etsy)

Do you feel like there’s too much to keep track of in your head?

Do you have a constant running tally of everything you need to do and remember? That takes up a lot of head space. A bullet journal helps you jot down all those appointments, to-dos, meetings, and ideas as soon as they come up.

If you’ve tried going digital before, you might have noticed that tapping in appointments doesn’t hook into your memory quite like physically writing does. Writing your to-do list and appointments down by hand allows you to forget about them and stop constantly going over that long list you need to remember.

Creating your bullet journal in a PDF annotation app, like GoodNotes, Notability, or Xodo is the perfect solution for people who want to hand write their lists but need the convenience of an app.

If you need something mobile, a digital bullet journal might be for you.

A big advantage of the digital bullet journal is that it’s simply an app on your tablet. Thus, you can sit down anytime, anywhere to plan, check on your progress through the day, or add a new line item. There’s no need to hunt down paper and a pen or run back home for the planner you left on your desk.

Even if you’re not in the habit of carrying your tablet around on a daily basis, your app automatically syncs to the cloud. Making this bullet journal the most convenient type of all – accessible from your phone, desktop, and laptop as well.

Do you use journaling as a creative outlet?

If you are looking for a creative outlet but you just don’t have the time to sit down and sketch, paint, or create, then bullet journaling may be a good fit for you. As you plan your day, you can let out your creative side as you doodle and decorate your daily pages.

Digital bullet journaling takes this a step further by allowing you to add photos, digital stickers, and other elements to your daily pages. All without having to haul out any supplies. Many apps give you basically unlimited options for pen styles and highlighting – with size, pressure, color, and customization options.

If an analog system of to-do lists sounds like the solution to your organizational woes, it begs the question – why go paperless?

Why go digital?

Digital journaling has a ton of advantages that you may already be familiar with:

  • You can use your own handwriting or type
  • Or, turn your handwriting into typewritten text
  • You can add as many pages as you want
  • There are lots of paper templates to choose from
  • It goes anywhere with you – your tablet, phone, and desktop

PDF annotations apps are very versatile. However, the app alone is completely unstructured – you start with just one blank page. Getting started with something so completely unstructured can be overwhelming. Not to mention that it takes time to build in the features that you’d want in a bullet journal.

The addition of a hyperlinked bullet journal template solves this problem. Starting with a familiar template can help ease the transition from paper to digital. And, if you’re brand new to bullet journaling, a template gives you a jumping off point with a little more structure.

Digital bullet journal templates are an affordable way to add versatility and a few interesting features to your app. Here are my 5 must-haves for your digital bullet journal to make it amazing.

Digital journal index example
Shown in this photo: Minimal Digital Bullet Journal, portrait orientation (Etsy)

1. Look for Digital Bullet Journal Templates with an Interactive, Customizable Index Page

All of the popular annotation apps include a bookmark system to help you organize your notes, but it isn’t always the most efficient method, especially if you’re using your bullet journal as your one place to keep all the things.

If you aren’t familiar with the bookmarking system, here’s what you do to mark a page in GoodNotes, for example:

  • Tap pages
  • Tap favorites
  • Scroll to find your page
  • Choose from all your tiny thumbnail pages that look so similar you can’t tell them apart anyway…

To keep things organized, you can also make yourself an outline complete with pages in folders and folders in folders. 

For me, it wasn’t intuitive – especially when moving from a paper bullet journal with a regular list of page numbers. It felt less like flipping the pages of a journal and more like searching through my desktop for files.

My #1 suggestion for an easy transition is to find a template that you love with a hyperlinked index right in the book – no dropdown menus, searching, or excessive swiping needed.

A hyperlinked index makes it so much easier to find the pages you need. And, with a custom index, you can name your pages or sections & put them in any order you choose.

2. Look for Digital Bullet Journals with Built-in Paper Variety

If you’ve been bullet journaling for a while (or a short time, even), you’ve probably tried different paper styles. I love them all in different ways, and a digital bullet journal finally brings them together in one place. 

Whatever app you choose has all kinds of paper templates built right in. You can add them to any section, mix them up, even change the color & style of your paper mid-chapter if you want. However, the downside is that templates included with the app won’t give you easy access to your tabs or index. Without swiping back or checking your favs.

Digital Journaling Templates
Shown in this photo: Minimal Digital Bullet Journal, landscape orientation (Etsy)

So must-have #2 is to grab a digital bullet journal that has multiple page templates built right in. You’ll be able to duplicate all of the pages, mix them up, and access tabs to jump to another section.

A variety of built-in templates are key. Look for templates with tabs or links built into the pages. When you add additional pages to your template, you still have access to all the navigation features in the template.

3. A Digital Bullet Journal Layout that Feels Right

The hands-down best thing about digital bullet journals is that you can choose the layout YOU like. Some have the look and feel of a real, bound bullet journal. In contrast, others are sleek, simplified, and clean.

#3 must-have is an orientation that makes journaling feel comfortable and personal to you.

After starting with horizontal, faux binder layouts, I was surprised to find that my favorite kind of digital bullet journal has a very clean, minimal portrait look. The exact opposite I originally tried!

Digital Bullet Journal: Portrait or Landscape orientation
Shown in this image: Digital Bullet Journals – Portrait & Landscape (Etsy)

Choose layout that feels right for you and fits how you’ll be using the journal. What is the preferred way you normally hold your device to browse? Are you frequently switching between phone & tablet? A portrait orientation might be best. On the other hand, if you prefer to read & work on desktop view, landscape orientation might be a good fit.

4. Custom Fonts for Your Digital Bullet Journal

Annotations apps have a lot of very cool features, but writing by hand is by far the coolest. It lets you retain the personal element of paper journaling.

However, from time to time, I like to use the typing feature or the write-to-text option. These features come in handy when I want to create a fun mini notebook dashboard. Usually this would be the divider page in a paper journal. Or if I need to keep things neat and organized – well, neater and better organized.

Must-have #4 are all the digital fonts you can handle.

How many you want is up to you. Adding themed fonts can really spice up your journal. All types are available, whether you’re looking for a beautiful script, quirky handwriting, or spooky Halloween fonts!

You can pick up free fonts for personal use online. Just make sure you install the font on all the devices you share to. Otherwise, when you move from device to device, your pages will look a little strange.  

5. Personalized Mini Notebooks

Using a digital bullet journal is infinitely more flexible than paper. This is truly the one place where you can keep everything. What makes your digital journal even better is that you can add more than templates to your bujo file.

That means my last must-have is a must-make. Now that your space is virtually unlimited, create custom mini notebooks right inside your bullet journal.

Think of those hyperlinked pages in your in your digital bullet journal as dashboards. Each can hold their own mini journal inside. Yes, some are one simple layout or one spread, but others can be the start of something bigger.

Use templates, import pdf documents, or even add sections from other hyperlinked digital files to make a mini notebook. You can create mini notebooks such as:

  • Dream journaling
  • Self-care tracking
  • Meeting notes
  • Goal planning
  • To-do lists
  • Memory keeping
  • A dedicated planner section
  • Anything goes!

Oh and just one last thing…

Bonus Must-Have / Might-Want: Stickers

Digital Bullet Journal Stickers
Shown in this image: Digital Bullet Journal Stickers – included free with your first purchase from our shop.

If you love tape and stickers in your paper journals, you certainly don’t have to give them up! Look for pre-cropped digital stickers. They’re easy to drag and drop directly into your journal.  Create a sticker page, drag stickers in from your files, or insert images just like you would a photo.

Find a variety of digital bullet journal templates in our shop. All of our DiJo bullet journals come complete with a customizable, hyperlinked index, a variety of papers, and mini sticker kit to get you started!

or visit the DiJoShop on Etsy

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