Feeling intimidated by all of those beautiful bullet journal layouts you see on Instagram or Pinterest? Forget about all that, everyone started exactly where you are now. Let’s start planning that bullet journal!
When I first began bullet journaling my biggest issue was finding where to start. I was so overwhelmed with all the information out there. If I had a guide showing me where to begin from the start it would have a lot less confusing and saved me A LOT of time.
The guides I have come across on, “how to start a bullet journal” are more focused on supplies, a million pages to include in your bullet journal, and becoming an artist overnight. That is NOT this guide.
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WHAT IS A BULLET JOURNAL
The short answer to this question is, “whatever you want it to be”. The official answer to this question though is that a bullet journal is a “methodology“.
This bullet journal methodology we speak of was designed by Ryder Carroll. If you want to dive deep into the bullet journal method I would recommend starting with his book, or his YouTube Video “How to Bullet Journal“.
-REASONS TO BULLET JOURNAL
- You can track multiple things in one journal.
- It’s fully customizable.
- It’s great for planning and tracking.
- It’s a great way to track both short and long term goals.
- Inspires creativity.
- Anyone can benefit from a bullet journal (students, moms, dads, entrepreneurs, bloggers, YouTubers, men, women, etc.)
BEGIN WITH BASICS – FOCUS ON FUNCTIONALITY
Put that bullet journal down! As tempting as it may be to just start writing on those crisp new pages…. don’t do it… just don’t. Keep reading, we will get there.
– PLAN TO SUCCEED
DON’T START without a plan. My advice, grab a scrap sheet of paper and make a list of things YOU NEED in your journal. You don’t NEED to make a full page dedicated to Netflix shows you want to watch. You can add the fun after the functionality. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to bullet journal. This is YOUR bullet journal and you should design it to meet your needs.
Questions before you begin:
- Do you plan on using a key?
- Are you going to use an index?
- Are you being realistic?
Logs to Consider:
- Future Log: A lot of people (including myself)f call this their “at a glance page/s. It’s a great way to see events you have coming up for the year. Placement Recommendation: before upcoming months (somewhere at the beginning of your bullet journal – after the index and/or key).
- Daily Log: This is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a daily log of tasks, to-do’s, notes, and more. Think of this as a daily brain dump, only more organized. Placement Recommendation: begin this log in your current month section (make daily logs the last pages in your given month because you don’t know exactly how many pages you’ll be needing). I highly recommend using a key if you are using a daily log, this will make it easier to keep those notes organized.
- Weekly Log: Similar to a monthly log but divided into days of the week (example: 7 days across your 2-page spread). This is my personal favorite log. I can add more information here compared to that of a monthly log (I use both). Placement Recommendation: after the monthly log. Not using a monthly log? Use as first pages for your given month.
- Monthly Log: These are created each month when you set up for your upcoming month. I use the monthly log in the form of a large calendar, this way I can see upcoming appointments or tasks for the given month. Placement Recommendation: create this for your upcoming month (usually my first page for the month).
*Placement recommendations are just that, recommendations. Experiment with different logs and placement ideas to find what works for you.
Page ideas to get you started:
- Log/Calendars: Choose one or more logs from above to stay organized and keep track of tasks, appointments, and more.
- Cover Sheet: This is a good way to break up each month in your bullet journal. After one month ends, create a cover sheet to represent the upcoming month.
- Brain Dump: not the most appealing name, I know. This is one of my favorite pages because it’s just a page full of my thoughts and ideas. If this is a page you think you’ll use often create one of these for every month, if not create one for the year or every few months.
- Goals: Don’t have any goals? get on that. You can make one page dedicated to goals at the beginning or end of your bullet journal or, make one for each month (you can also use both methods, this is great for short and long term goals).
- Budget/Finances: Keeping up with your finances is important for EVERYONE no matter how much you got in that bank account of yours.
I know, you’ve seen a list of 100-page ideas for your bullet journal. That’s cool and all but AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. After you’re comfortable with bullet journaling, sprinkle a few of those page ideas here and there. You’re planning to succeed, not planning to plan.
– BULLET JOURNAL
You’re going to need to start with an actual journal. Does it have to be an actual “Bullet Journal” with dots? No, absolutely not. If you’re on a budget or just figuring out bullet journaling is for you, start with a regular notebook you have lying around. If you’d like to start with an actual bullet journal that’s cool too.
To get started I would recommend:
- Lemome Bullet Journal (Purchase or read the review HERE)
- Scribbles that Matter. *Great for beginners
– SUPPLIES YOU NEED
To get started the only thing you NEED is a PEN (or fineliners), AND A PENCIL. What about all those other supplies everyone uses (watercolors, Tombow dual brush pens, etc)? Forget about that all that. Let’s not go from 0 to 100. <— that’s exactly what I did in the beginning and it didn’t work, I just felt more overwhelmed and unorganized. You can add more supplies to your collection once you feel comfortable with bullet journaling.
Pencil (and Eraser): I ALWAYS use a pencil for the planning process. Do you know how many calendars I’ve messed up? (I once created a calendar with 8 days for each week, this girl ain’t perfect). After everything is set up the way you want, go back in with ink.
Pen or Fineliners: If you’re starting and the only thing you have around is a simple pen THAT WILL DO. I like to use fineliners in multiple tip sizes to create borders and separation. I use these Pigma Micron Fineliners HERE. (OPTIONAL) If you prefer straight lines when creates calendars and borders I would suggest a ruler.
GETTING STARTED – WRITING IN YOUR BULLET JOURNAL
TIP: Begin sketching out your pages with pencil first. Once you’re happy with the layout you can go back in with ink.
– COMMON QUESTIONS
- WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO START MY BULLET JOURNAL? You can start a bullet journal anytime you want. Personally, I would start a new bullet journal for an upcoming month rather than starting in the middle of the current month.
- HOW LONG WILL MY BULLET JOURNAL LAST? Who knows. It depends on the different pages you include in your journal. As time goes on you should be able to estimate how much longer your bullet journal will last.
- WHEN SHOULD I USE MY BULLET JOURNAL? As needed and/or at the end of each day. If I need to write down appointments or tasks I write it as soon as I can. If I’m writing in a mood tracker or habit tracker I would do that at the end of the day (find what works best for you and go with that).
– FINDING INSPIRATION
After you’ve decided what pages you’d like to include in your bullet journal it’s time to find your style. Sometimes we need a little inspiration to do this. Looking on Instagram or Pinterest may inspire some layout designs you’d like to try. If you see a design you like and it’s full of “fluff” (elaborate designs, doodles, washi tape, watercolors, and more) just create the layout and leave out the fluff. TIP: when you begin looking for inspiration remember to keep it simple, make sure the layouts are functional on their own without all the added extras (fluff).
– ADDING YOUR PAGES (EXAMPLE FOR BEGINNERS)
- INDEX: Your index should be the first functional page in your bullet journal (if you’re not using an index skip this step). Some bullet journals already have a pre-printed index and key to get you started like Scribbles that Matter.
- KEY: The location of your index and key can be interchangeable. It’s completely up to you which one you’d like to put first (if you plan to use these pages).
- FUTURE LOG: I like to use future logs so I can see upcoming events/notes for the year. My favorite way to do this is by creating small calendars for each month of the year and notating important events under the calendar.
- COVER PAGE: This is a great page to use to separate months from one another.
- MONTHLY LOG/CALENDAR: You can make this your first page for the month following the cover page. This way you can see all the upcoming tasks, events, etc.
- WEEKLY LOG/CALENDAR: After your monthly log you can create your weekly log. I personally take events and tasks from my monthly log and add them here with more detail (such as times, things to bring, phone numbers, address’ more).
- BUDGET/FINANCE: You can create a monthly budget page or weekly. I use a monthly page so I can see my finance as a whole (I break down the month into weeks on my page). Ideas to put on your budget page: Income, bills, savings goals, monthly expenses, credit score, etc)
- BRAIN DUMP: My mind is always going 100 MPH. The best way to get those thoughts out is by writing them down. Put a brain dump page in your bullet journal where you feel you would benefit most from it (I usually put mine after the weekly log or budget page).
- GOALS: Put your short term goals with your monthly pages. This way you can set goals by month. If you want to track long term goals I recommend making a designated page in the beginning or end of your bullet journal.
-THE FUTURE OF YOUR BULLET JOURNAL
With all new things, it’s gonna take some time to get used to. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes, or forgetting to use your bullet journal.
MAKE IT A HABIT: The only way your bullet journal will be useful is if you actually use it. If you use it here and there you won’t benefit from its potential. Try to use your journal around the same time every day, that’s the best way to make a habit.
MISTAKES (WE ALL MAKE THEM): You’re gonna make mistakes in your journal, it’s a fact. The only way to avoid making a mistake is by not using it. Make your mistakes and move on, I still make mistakes all the time in my bullet journal.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY NEW THINGS: Remember all of those bullet journal pages I mentioned at the beginning of this post? Experiment with a few once you get the hang of this bullet journal thing. This leads to my next point…
GET CREATIVE: After mastering your basic bullet journal add in some fun colors and designs. Start small so you don’t feel you’re in over your head, and then add in more elements.
IT’S OKAY TO KEEP IT MINIMALISTIC: You can keep your bullet journal minimalistic forever if you want to, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t feel pressured to add anything more than you want to.
GET RID OF PAGES YOU DON’T USE: The great thing about creating a new layout each month is that you can change it. If you didn’t like a specific design or page you can eliminate for the upcoming month, or change it.
Have fun! If you haven’t started a bullet journal yet what’s holding you back? Want more information on Bullet Journaling? Check out the Bullet Jouranl FAQ’s.