How To Start A Bullet Journal

I am so excited to talk with you today about an incredible time management /organization /scheduling /maximizing productivity strategy called bullet journaling. Have you heard of it before?

If not, you’re not alone.

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Often times when I mention bullet journaling to a friend, I get one of the following questions in response:

  1. Huh? What is bullet journaling?
  2. How do I start a bullet journal?
  3. Don’t you need a lot of time and to be “artsy-craftsy” to use a bullet journal?

Today I will break down these three important questions so that you can learn what the heck a bullet journal is, whether a bullet journal is right for you (I think it is), and how you can get started TODAY!

Are you ready for this? Let’s do it.

How to start a bullet journal: bullet journaling, journal, planner, creative, creativity, organization, organized, schedule #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #journal #planner #creative #creativity #organization #organized #schedule
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Bullet Journaling for Beginners

A friend of mine piqued my interest in bullet journaling several months ago when she dove into the practice. I was intrigued and immediately wanted to learn more about it. In fact, I was wondering those same three questions that I just mentioned above.

So like most people do when faced with something interesting yet unfamiliar, I turned to my good friend, Google.

I eventually found my answers to those three questions, but surprisingly enough, it took me quite a while. I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide or a tutorial that walked me through the entire process from start to finish.

Instead, I found bits and pieces of great suggestions and ideas on several different blogs and websites. Quite frankly, this left me feeling a little confused and intimidated by the entire process.

Nevertheless, I eventually figured it out, and I fell in love with the technique. So much so, that I wanted to create that step-by-step guide that I was looking for so that others could quickly learn the bullet journaling process.

And that’s what you have here today: a beginner’s guide to bullet journaling. Between this post, and my free video course, you will be ready to start your journal TODAY.

Are you wondering how to start a bullet journal? Are you looking for ideas for innovative layouts? Do you want inspiration for a new future log, weekly spread, or monthly plan? Learn how to makes beautiful pages with this simple setup. Discover all the supplies you need for all of your spreads, whether it’s a mood tracker, a habit tracker, a calendar, an index, or a fitness journal. Perfect for school, work, college, or your personal life. #BuJo #bulletjournal #planner

First thing’s first: what is a bullet journal?

Basically, a bullet journal is a notebook that combines scheduling, journaling, and a creative outlet, all in one. It is a place for you to maintain your schedule, record your thoughts and dreams, and also express your artistic side.

That being said, the artistic thing is entirely optional. As you read through this post you will see a wide range of different styles. As I am not the most artistically inclined (as much as I try!), my spreads are not super stunningly beautiful. That being said, I reached out to some incredibly talented bullet journalers, who so kindly let me use their images as well. This way I can show a whole range of page designs.

If you find an approach you love, I’ve also included the Instagram links for each contributor at the bottom of this post, so you can check out their feeds for even more great ideas.

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“Okay, okay great… I get that the bullet journal is this combination of three components, but what is it EXACTLY?”

Basically, when you create a bullet journal, you’re creating a personalized one-of-a kind planner that fits YOUR schedule, whether you’re a 9-5er, a stay at home parent, a teacher, and everything in between.

[bctt tweet=”A bullet journal is a personalized, one-of-a-kind planner that fits your schedule.” username=”BusyBeingPaula”]

What you need.

Let’s start by talking about what you need. Fortunately, the supplies are incredibly basic.


A notebook

The two leading brands are Moleskine and Leuchtturm, which both have sewn-in bookmarks and a pocket at the back. If you search “bullet journals” on Amazon, you will certainly find many other brands as well, but those are the two leaders in the field. I personally prefer Leuchtturm, because the pages also come pre-numbered, which is so convenient (you’ll see why in a moment).

Whichever notebook you choose, I suggest getting a notebook with good quality paper that doesn’t bleed through. I also suggest getting a book that is somewhere around 5”x 8″ in size. (It’s the easiest to carry around.) You have many options in regard to the page style, whether it is lined, a dot grid, or blank pages. I like the dot grid style the best, as I think it’s the easiest for drawing straight lines, but choose what works best for you!

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A pen/pencil:

Many people who have hopped on the bullet journal bandwagon opt for fun, brightly colored fine tip pens. Do you need that? Nope. Are they fun? Yup! I have a few different favorite types.

Gel pens are classic because they write smoothly and they literally sparkle. The downside, however, is that they take a LONG time to dry, and they often smudge and smear if you’re not careful.

As you can see below, I speak from experience. This was the first day that I bought my journal; I was so excited to get started, and on page four it was SMUDGE CITY. (You have no idea how hard it was for me not to tear out that page and start again. Ha.)

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Long story short, when I have time for my pages to dry, gel pens are super fun to use.

I also have a favorite brand of felt tip pens, which dry instantly and also come in bright colors. I use these when I know I have to close my book quickly, or I am creating my monthly/weekly spreads and I’m dragging my hand all over the page.

Not a fan of sparkly neon colors? Totally fine. The classic Bic pen works just as well 🙂 As long as you have your notebook and a writing utensil, you’re in business.



Stencils are helpful when you’re looking for a quick way to create your spreads or are perhaps not as artistically inclined as others (ahem…me). In fact, I actually made some stencils of my own, just because I was looking for a more efficient way to make my weekly/monthly spreads. If you’re interested, you can get them here!

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A simple alternative to the stencil – not much explanation needed here 🙂

That’s it! That’s all you need for bullet journaling. A notebook, pen(s), and possibly a ruler or stencils. Easy! Now here’s what you do with them.

How to Start A Bullet Journal

The bare bones of the bullet journal practice include six parts: the index, the future log, the monthly log, the weekly log, the daily log, and a handful of symbols. I’ll go through the basics here, and when you watch the video, you’ll get a more in-depth explanation and further examples to include in your journal.

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The index goes at the very front of your notebook, so be sure to save a few blank pages. This is basically a growing table of contents. As you continue adding content to your journal (the next month, the next week, your shopping list, weekly menu, books to read etc.) you put the title of that page and the page number in the index. This makes for very easy reference.

How to start a bullet journal: bullet journaling, journal, planner, creative, creativity, organization, organized, schedule #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #journal #planner #creative #creativity #organization #organized #schedule
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Future Log:

This is a section where you can schedule things ahead of time, usually months in advance. Attending a birthday party in May? Traveling to home for Thanksgiving? Anniversary in 6 months? Put that information in the future log. You can migrate it to the monthly log once you reach that month…

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Monthly Log:

As the name suggests, the monthly log helps you lay out your month, and it acts as a quick reference. Like your standard calendar, this is where you write the main events coming up in the next 4 weeks. You can tackle this approach in a few different ways.

The original creator of the bullet journal keeps it very simple. They recommend writing the month at the top of the page and the days of that month down the left margin followed by the letter of the corresponding day. So if it is Tuesday the 12th, it would be 12T.

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Alternatively, you can physically draw out the month in a grid pattern over one or two pages. As I am a visual person, I prefer this method.

I also rely on my stencils so that I don’t have to carefully space out each box each time.

How to start a bullet journal: bullet journaling, journal, planner, creative, creativity, organization, organized, schedule #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #journal #planner #creative #creativity #organization #organized #schedule
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Weekly Log:

The weekly log breaks down your month into more specific tasks and goals. You might use the weekly log to map out your specific work projects for the week, which gym classes you’ll take, what day the laundry gets done etc. I like to map out my menu, and any weekly goals that I wish to accomplish as well.

How to start a bullet journal: bullet journaling, journal, planner, creative, creativity, organization, organized, schedule #bulletjournal #bulletjournaling #journal #planner #creative #creativity #organization #organized #schedule
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Daily Log:

The daily log is where you lay it all out each day. What are all the small tasks that you need to accomplish? Do you have any major events today? When is your son’s soccer practice?

The daily log is your to-do list to get it all done. (Overwhelmed by your to-do list? Check out my tips on crushing those tasks in three simple steps here!)


The bullet journal also uses different symbols to indicate what items you’ve completed, what events are scheduled, whether the task is a priority etc. You can create your own marks to designate these items. I’ve adopted the standard Bullet Journal signs, which include the following:

X: completed task

>: you migrated your task to the next day

<: task is scheduled

o: event

-: note

*: priority

!: inspiration

That’s it! Those are the six main components of Bullet Journaling. Are you intrigued? Want to learn more? Click the image below for a FREE CLASS on setting up your bullet journal. You’ll receive loads of tips, strategies, and suggestions on how to make this planner work for you!

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Have you ever used a bullet journal before? What do you love most about the idea of a bullet journal? What do you find confusing? Let me know below!

Looking for Bullet Journal inspiration? Check out these fantastic Instagram feeds filled with beautiful spreads:








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60 thoughts on “How To Start A Bullet Journal”

  1. Pingback: 5 Incredible Bullet Journal Ideas for Work, Bujo Journals

  2. Girl this is lengthy! Talk about a one stop shop. I’m not gonna play, I did only scan ( but probably will come back)…was there a course linked? Is it only for learning to journal and have people signed up? Nice idea but I always wonder do people sign up for such simple course.

    1. Hey, Rose! Yes, it’s a one-stop shop. That’s for sure! The course is available at the bottom of the post. I’ve had several people sign up – around 150 last time I checked.

  3. Pingback: Want Your Child to Read More? 8 Tips to Start Now. -

    1. Yes! Give it a try. I absolutely LOVE it. It’s a great way to stay creative and organized 🙂

    1. I love it, too! It’s such a great way to get creative 🙂 And you’re totally right; it’s so therapeutic, too!

    1. I totally hear you – I felt the same way. I hope this process makes it less intimidating for you, and you ca give it a try 🙂

  4. As a new blogger, this is an amazing post! I’m so guilty of pushing things off, having too many notes in all different notebooks, and not scheduling on time. Pinning this so I’ll actually stick to it! Thanks for pulling it together!

    1. Thanks, Jessica. I can’t take credit for all the pictures, though. Many are from much more crafty ladies than me 🙂

  5. As a scrapbooker I am very drawn to this! I love all the cute pages and lists! Thanks for all of the details and instructions.

  6. I have always loved the thought of bullet journaling, but I am not creative in that way so I have never tried. But your explanation and tips are enough to make me want to try. Very informative! Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Leah! I totally get that – I felt the same way starting out. The good thing is, you can be as creative as you want. Some days I’m feeling it, other days it’s plain old to-do lists 🙂

  7. I have a notebook for tracking monthly bills, writing down to dos and recipe ideas. I should organize better and use some of your ideas!

    1. That’s great, Amber! It sounds like you’re already doing the main practice 🙂 Having an index for organizing all those important reminders/trackers is really helpful in terms of finding your info!

  8. I love my bullet journal! The books and movies pages were two of the first ones I added to mine. I love the Disney page though! What a great way to keep track of all the Disney movies I want to show my daughter as she grows!

  9. You’ve done such a great job with your bullet journal! I kind of have one. I basically use it for daily to-do’s, keeping track of my blogging schedule/process for putting them together and promotion, and tracking things I read and watch. I have mine in the…. I think they’re the Moleskine Cahier Journals… that come in packs of three and have soft covers. I have a traveler’s notebook that I carry around, so it’s handy to have it in a format that I can keep in my traveler’s notebook. 🙂 I haven’t gotten too artsy with mine yet, but looking at all your pictures makes me want to! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Crystal! I love that you use a bullet journal!! I use mine for the same basic things – to-do list, weekly/monthly goals, monthly overview, blog stuff etc. I just love having everything together in one place, with the option/opportunity to doodle, write, daydream etc. if I feel like it 🙂

  10. I just have to try this some time soon. Even planning is a talent that needs to be worked on. But this seems like a lot of work. How much time does it take to prep ?

    1. Yes – you should try it!! Honestly, I think it takes as much time as you want to put into it. I am not super artsy, so I don’t spend much time doing fancy drawings or spreads (that’s why I included pictures of both my “plain” spreads as well as the especially beautiful ones from other bullet journals). I even uses the stencils that I created for making my weekly and monthly pages, which makes things go really quickly. It probably takes me 5-8ish minutes every Sunday night when I draw out my next week’s plan, write down my week’s goals, plan my menu for the week etc. When it’s the start of a new month, and I have to do both the month and week spread, then maybe it takes 10-15 minutes? On a daily scale, it hardly takes any time. It’s just like writing your to-do list, but then you also have have everything else (your goals, shopping lists, blog post ideas etc.) all in one place. If I feel inspired/inclined to do journaling, or something that takes more time, I do. But only when I have the time and I feel the need for a creative outlet 🙂

    1. YES! I feel the same way. When I open my phone to make a note to myself, I end up checking every single alert that’s there (and often forget to even make the note – ha!). The journal is much less of a distraction 🙂

  11. This is such a helpful post — I’ve been intrigued by bullet journaling for some time. The initial setup is what scares me, I feel like I’d get halfway done and never complete the process.

    1. YES! That is exactly how I felt. I’m glad you found the post helpful. The free class walks you through with even more details, if you’re interested!

    1. Give it a try, Yolanda! From what I’ve read on your blog, I think you’d really like it 🙂 I do use it everyday – at least the scheduling part. I also set weekly and monthly goals, and also record all my blog ideas/goals/posts etc. I do the actual journaling part when I’m feeling inspired or had a moment that I want to record and remember.

  12. I love that a bullet journal combines drawing and writing and list making and all the other wonderful things I love. You break this down so easily and make it seem a lot less complicated than some of the other things I’ve read about it!

    1. Yes! That’s what I love about it, too. All the best things rolled into one. Thanks for the kind comment – my goal was to make it as straight forward as possible 🙂

  13. Journaling always looks SO RELAXING but I just can’t find the time! Plus I always end up ripping pages out! You should see my planner – it’s so crazy from crossing out and scribbling out and stuff!

    1. I hear you! I felt the same way about traditional journaling – especially since I’m such a type-a perfectionist. I really fell in love with this process, however. There’s something about it – maybe it’s the flexibility to be as artistic or as straight-to-the-point as I feel – that works with me 🙂 Give it a try – you might like it, too!

  14. I love this idea, especially since I am SOOOOOO picky about getting exactly what I want in a planner. I just worry that creating the pages would be so time consuming. This looks amazing though.

    1. Yes, I’m super picky, too. That’s why I love it! Also, it totally doesn’t have to take a lot of time. I asked some very talented bullet journalists to use some of their images interspersed with my plain/boring ones so that people could see how fancy the pages can get if you’re So inclined. You definitely don’t have to, though. I can attest to that! ☺️

  15. Any time I’ve tried bullet journaling I get tired of the intricacy of it and end up going back to my messy, slapdash pile of to-do lists, but seeing your post makes me want to give it another try! They are just so pretty!

    1. I totally get that! Mine spreads are often SUPER plain-jane. I Just love having the option to doodle and create when I’m so inclined. I’m lucky that all of these other bullet journalists let me use their images, too. They have such beautiful lettering and doodles – it’s inspiring 🙂

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