Leader’s Book vs. Bullet Journal – What’s the Difference?

The concept of a Leader’s Book is nothing new to the Army. Leader’s at all levels have maintained a journal to track personnel, equipment, and maneuvers since 1775. Journals are a key piece to maintaining good order and discipline and creating both a handy reference and a historical record.

The concept of a Bullet Journal, while strongly rooted in record-keeping practices of the past, popularized contemporary journaling practices and created a community dedicated to continuously improving their methods of planning and documenting their activities.

“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.”

– BulletJournal.com

The Problem with Bullet Journals

If you have a blank notebook and a pen, you have a potential Bullet Journal in the making. The community that developed around the concept of the Bullet Journal has created an endless variety of methods for keeping a journal. They are an exceptional resource for ideas and motivation. However, much of the methodology developed by the community deals with planning events and accomplishing tasks, which itself is almost antithetical to the traditional concept of journaling.

The best thing and worst thing about a Bullet Journal is that it can be anything you want. There is no expected standard. Even the original methods of rapid logging and migration are considered mere suggestions by the community.

The lack of a standard, community focus on planning, and endless customization in Bullet Journaling allow for ultimate freedom, but it also enables a lack of discipline. And without discipline, there is no freedom. This is why many people get inspired to keep a Bullet Journal, but ultimately fail to accomplish their goals.

The Difference

While a Leader’s Book starts with a blank notebook and a pen, it is much different than a Bullet Journal. When I look at a subordinate leader’s book I expect to find specific pieces of information. These include:

  • Personel Roster
  • Equipment Status
  • Training Records
  • Unresolved Issues
  • Schedule of Events
  • Duties & Responsibilities

In addition, a leader may choose to track anything else that is pertinent or personal to themselves or their section.

But a Leader’s Book is more than just a reference, it also serves as a Daily Staff Journal or Duty Officer’s Log for small units. Army Regulation 220-15, “Journals and Journal Files,” last published in December of 1983, defines a journal as a “chronological record of events pertaining to a unit or staff section during a given period.”

The Daily Staff Journal has three objectives:

    1. Assist in a more efficient conduct of operations.
    2. Provide a ready reference for the [leader] and staff and for higher and lower headquarters.
    3. Serve as a record for training matters, operational reviews, and historical research.

A Leader’s Book should keep you informed and aware of future events, but the key difference is that a Leader’s Book is not a planner, it is an information organizer. At a minimum, a Leader’s Book is used as a reference, but when properly prepared it is an Officer’s Log of activities, making it a journal in the truest sense.


The Bullet Journal concept has potential to be a valuable tool to a military leader, but its lack of a standard mitigates its usefulness in systematic processes. However, the value of a Bullet Journal in the military is not as a replacement for a Leader’s Book, but rather as a key element of the Leader’s Book. AR 220-15 recognizes that “differences in size, organization, and missions of units and staff sections preclude rigid adherence to a model form of journal.” The methods of a Bullet Journal fit seamlessly as an Officer’s Log within a standardized Leader’s Book.

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