So you’ve heard mention of bullet journaling and it sounded interesting.
Where do you begin?
Starting a bullet journal can be an intimidating process, particularly if you’ve never implemented any type of planner into your routine before.
If you jump right on to Instagram or Pinterest it can be easy to become overwhelmed by all the extravegant pages.
Avoid feeling stressed out as we go back to the basics and start from scratch in this guide on how to start a bullet journal.
What on earth is a bullet journal?
Before cracking open a notebook, it is important to know what a bullet journal is. In short a bullet journal is a notebook, to-do list, and day planner.
It is completely customizable to fit exactly what you need, with none of the stuff you don’t.
The purpose of a bullet journal is to help you increase your productivity, remember important events and appointments, and reach your goals.
For a more in depth look at what a bullet journal is I recommend reading The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll (the creator of a bullet journal himself)! I also suggest checking out our collection of common bullet journal terminology to familiarize yourself with the lingo.
Ask yourself: why do I want to start a bullet journal?
Prior to putting pen to paper, it is important to know WHY you want to start a bullet journal.
I absolutely believe that bullet journals have positive benefits for many, but it is not a one size fits all. There is no point jumping on the bandwagon just to do it.
Having a clear why in mind when beginning will be so beneficial as you progress in your bullet journal journey.
For example my why for bullet journaling is to juggle my personal life/day job, my blog/business, and my online schooling.
I bullet journal because I want to be more organized, productive and get everything done in a day that I want to get done - while still getting enough sleep.
Everyones why will be different, and it is normal for your why to change as you progress. Knowing your why will help you dictate what types of pages you want to include in your bullet journal and, ultimately, what is important to you.
Now that you have figured out why you want to begin bullet journaling you can move on to the fun part (at least for me) - gathering up your supplies.
It is important to note that all you need to start a bullet journal is a notebook and a pencil. However, many people like to embelish their journal a bit with supplies like brush markers, fineliners, gel pens, and washi tape.
At the end of the day you choose what supplies you want to use, and you can make your notebook as minimalist or extravagent as you wish. The most common notebook used is a A5 dot grid notebook, but many also use lined or graph notebooks.
For more ideas check out our pick of the best bullet journal supplies if you are looking to add to your stationery collection.
Setting it up for the first time
For many, the most extended period of time you spend with your bullet journal is when initially setting it up.
Some prefer to set up a few months in advance, while others use their bullet journal as initially envisioned - planning day by day.
When beginning a new bullet journal I typically set up a least a month in advance. I have discovered that I like to jot down a list of pages/spreads to include on scrap paper, so that I don’t forget anything.
Everyone sets up their bullet journal differently, so do what feels right to you. Some set up their collections first and have their monthly/daily pages after. Some have collections sprinkled throughout their journal.
Some don’t set up anything and simply open their book and begin writing that days schedule.
Another great thing about bullet journaling is you do not have to wait until the new year to begin!
If you decide you want to start in the middle of the month there is nothing stopping you. Bullet journals are significantly less restrictive than a traditional paper planner, with a lot fewer wasted pages.
Some of the most popular pages people include are:
- A Future Log/Year At A Glance (a great way to jot down events that are coming up in the future)
- Monthly Log (here’s some monthly spread inspiration)
- Habit Tracker (habit trackers are a great way to track progress on any type of goal)
- Mood Tracker
- Weekly Spread
- Daily Log
- Budget Pages
- Goal Setting Pages
When first setting up a bullet journal it can be fun to take inspiration from others. However, try and avoid playing the comparison game - people who are posting their journals online spend lots of time editing their photos and setting up their spreads.
You do not have to do that to have a ‘real’ bullet journal.
Some fun places to go for inspiration are Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Search popular hashtags like #bulletjournal #bujo or #bulletjournalsetup.
Life By Whitney has a post on 270 bullet journal ideas if you’re looking for a master list of ideas.
Put it to use! Using your bullet journal daily.
Now that you have got your bullet journal set up you are probably wondering how to integrate it into your daily routine. It is important to note that using your bullet journal is a habit that needs to be formed, and that takes time.
If you forget to reference it for a day that does not mean that you failed.
I have days I don’t touch my bullet journal; that’s what is great about them - they are always there for you to pick up after a day, a month, or a year.
Unlike a pre-printed paper planner you don’t have to waste a ton of pages if you aren’t using it. In your bullet journal you simply flip the page and start fresh.
Your weekly or daily pages are the meat and potatoes of your bullet journal. They are the pages where you will spend the most time. Some can fit their whole week on 2 pages, while some take a page a day. What works for you will be something you’ll realize with time.
Generally included in the weekly/daily pages in some form are: a schedule (appointments, events, etc) and a to-do list. Some other commonly included things are a meal plan, habit tracker, mood tracker, and the weather.
I would suggest carrying your bullet journal everywhere with you - similar to how you bring your phone with you. That way if something pops in to your head, or you make an appointment, you can quickly jot it down.
Referencing your bullet journal first thing in the morning (perhaps with a cup of coffee) is also a great habit to get in to. It will allow you to familiarize yourself with what you hope to accomplish that day and get you on the right track.
In conclusion, starting a bullet journal does not have to be stressful or overwhelming. At the end of the day your bullet journal is for you and you only.
It exists to help you organize your life and increase your productivity. A bullet journal allows you to streamline your to-do list and appointments without the digital distraction of so many online calendars.
To reiterate: starting a bullet journal does not have to be a difficult process.
We suggest first coming to terms with why you want to start a bullet journal.
Second, we recommend gathering up the supplies you’ll want to use, whether that means going to the store or repurposing what you already have.
Third, take a moment to create a rough outline of the pages you want to include, as collections or monthly/daily pages.
Lastly, use your bullet journal! Try and make it a habit to reference daily and watch your productivity soar.
We hope this guide on how to start a bullet journal provided a useful baseline to start your bujo journey!