How to start a Bullet Journal

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time know that I’ve mentioned my bullet journal in previous posts. But some of you may being wondering:

What is a bullet journal?

Is a bullet journal right for me?

How do I even get started with a bullet journal?

Fear not, my wonderful fellow humans, for I will be covering these questions in this post. I will also be showing you my first bullet journal and how I’ve changed things to suit my needs.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase something through the links provided.

So what is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is a blank journal that you customise to suit all of your needs and aspirations. This is usually done using a bullet point system, hence the name.

I personally love my bullet journal because I have just one place to write my to do lists, places I need to be, thoughts and ideas, dreams, memories, habits to track, and achievements. It doesn’t stress me out because I’m not juggling a million different pieces of stationery. It’s just one book that fits everything in.

Is a bullet journal right for me?

Bullet journals are ideal for people who:-

– like to write lists;

– have little to-do lists lying around everywhere;

– are interesting in setting goals and tracking habits;

– like stationery, journaling, scrapbooking, etc;

– really want to be more organised;

– aspire to improve themselves but don’t know how to stick at it;

– are juggling multiple planners for different things.

Do any of these sound like you?

Of course, even if you don’t fit the bill here, it doesn’t mean that a bullet journal isn’t right for you.

Bullet journals can take a number of different roles, as well as being a planner. You can track statistics for your blog, school grades, habits, etc. You can keep a note of memories, funny things that your children have said, projects that you want to do or are in the process of doing… The list goes on.

A bullet journal can be useful for ANYONE.

How do I even get started?

Start by buying a journal.

If you’ve had a look online before coming here, you’ll know that a lot of people go on about the Leuchtturm dotted page journal. It is a great journal, with 249 numbered pages and an index page at the front so that you fill in what pages contain what. But that’s a lot of pages wasted if I decided I didn’t like it, and at £12.99 each it also seemed a lot of money wasted. I also wasn’t sure about having dotted pages – surely I would have to draw more grids and tables? I wanted my bullet journal to be as low-maintenance as possible so I’d be more likely to use it.

In the end I went for a Herlitz square-grid journal. Sure, with 96 pages at £6.99 it’s less value for money, but it was less of a loss if I decided it wasn’t for me. Plus the squared paper gave me more guidance; it’s my own preference. You might prefer dotted paper.

So you have your journal. Now what?

I was so inspired to start my first bullet journal…until I actually tried to start it. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with how to set it up, and I ended up copying a lot of layouts already on YouTube. I didn’t have a full idea of what would suit me.

But that’s fine. Your first bullet journal especially is going to be a lot of trial and error; don’t worry about it being perfect. Plus you might decide later that the spreads that you’ve done don’t fit well with your needs. I’m not saying don’t make your pages look pretty if that’s what you want. Just don’t invest hours and hours into them.

Most people start their bullet journals off with an Index page, or table of contents. This allows you to quickly turn to the collections that you are maintaining. Personally, I don’t use an index page. Instead I use washitape as colour-coded tabs. This is just my preference, maybe because my bullet journal is more minimalistic. However, if you choose to use loads of different collections, page numbers and an index might be more suited to you.

It’s important to think about WHAT you want your bullet journal to do for you.

I’d recommend brainstorming what different things you want to include and track in your bullet journal. It might also be a good idea to watch this video to have a look at the bare minimum that you should look at doing to prep your bullet journal. This is gist of what how the bullet journal system works so you can get an idea of what you should be aiming for at the core of the journal. That way you can plan collections around it to fit with the core content.

Collection Page Ideas

The only limit to what your bullet journal can do for you is your imagination. There are loads of different collections you can do, depending on what you want to turn your attention to.

I don’t use all of these collections, however I know a lot of people on the Internet swear by them. It’s entirely up to you what collections you decide to do, and how you do them, so don’t feel pressured to do them all!

Idea Log

I have a brain dump where I can just chuck a load of random thoughts at the page without having to worry about it making any sense. However, you could do an idea log like Tricia has suggested on her blog, Chocolate Musings. This is a fantastic way to filter out the really good ideas from your brain dump and put them somewhere safe from all the other crap your mind pooped out.

I wanted a collective place to store these great ideas so I could expand or explore it further when I had more time or could find a connection between other thoughts.

– Tricia, Chocolate Musings

Bullet Journal Ideas Page
Check out Chocolate Musings’ blog post  about this amazing spread

 

Books to Read/Books Read Collection

If you like to read or want to read more, you might want to start a collection relating to that. I have a page to list books that I want to read, and then a page to list the books that I have read this year.

Bullet Journal Book Reading Collection
Heidi Currie was the one who inspired me to draw up my own book collection spread

 

Achievement Log

I now swear by an Achievement Log in my journal. Often I look back at my week and wonder what I’ve actually managed to do with my time, and it helps me to be able to refer back to an achievement log. It helps boost my mood loads when I can see that I have done so many different things.

Achievements don’t have to be huge to be worthy of going into the Achievement Log. It can be as simple as getting up in the morning, or having a shower if you’re having a rubbish day, or as challenging as taking part in a marathon. Something I’m still working on is remembering that even the smallest of victories can add up to a greater and better you.

Bullet Journal Achievement Log
Your Achievement Log doesn’t have to be as extensive as this. Mine is simply a list.

 

Habit Tracker

This is quite a popular collection spread with bullet journalists, and for good reason. It can help you improve on areas you may be struggling and become a better all-rounded version of yourself. You’d be surprised how much pride and joy you can get out of colouring in the day’s “Wash Dishes” square!

Bullet Journal Habit Tracker
Credit, again, to Tricia at Chocolate Musings!

Tricia at Chocolate Musings has a really helpful guide to setting up your own habit tracker. You can check it out here.

 

Level 10 Life Spread

Inspired by the book, The Miracle Morning, this spread allows you to assess how satisfied you are with ten areas of your life. This gives you a glimpse at your overall life satisfaction. It also allows you to figure out what goals you can set yourself to improve your life.

Kara at Boho Berry (arguably the Queen of the bullet journal) has a video on how to set it up. You can find it here.

Bullet Journal Level 10 Life
Credit to Boho Berry.

 

If you’re still struggling with ideas for your bullet journal, here’s a flip-through of my own:

I hope this blog post helps you decide whether a bullet journal is right for you, and how to get started. For more incredible bullet journal spread ideas, subscribe to Chocolate Musings. She has an abundance of beautiful designs that might just inspire you. My favourite at the moment is her eclipse week spread. She is so talented; check it out:

Bullet Journal
Credit to Chocolate Musings

Also share your own bullet journal ideas in the comments section or via my social media links.

And in the meantime, keep smiling!

13 thoughts on “How to start a Bullet Journal”

  1. I have finally watched your video in how to setup a bullet journal –since I have heard sooo much about the beauty of a bullet journal.

    Thank you for explaining. Now that I see all the quiet, reflection time that it requires to maintain a bullet journal, now I know that using one does NOT suit my frenetic personality. Yes, I could benefit from more quiet, calm reflection, but I cannot invest quite this much time to it while not actually DOING things during this time. Thank you, however, for bringing that to light.

  2. I love my bullet journal. When I first started, I went elaborate. Then over time I went extremely minimalist. Now I’ve settled into a style somewhere in the middle that supports the functionality I need, but isn’t too time consuming. It’s the best productivity tool I use. This is a great guide to getting started. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It is very easy to go over the top at first, but I think it’s just part of the learning process to figure out what suits you the most. I’m hoping this post helped people realise that they don’t need to be extremely talented in art, but at the same time, if they are really arty, go for it! Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad that you enjoyed this post 🙂

  3. WOW! Thanks so much! I hadn’t touched a paintbrush or a pencil to draw for 12 years. 12 YEARS! Before I started bullet journaling. It is simply astounding what creativity and confidence come from keeping a log of things in your life – to-dos, your schedule, favorite things. Honestly, if it were not for my bullet journal, I think I would be spiraling down to bad places in my life. It has brought LIFE back to my life. I have goals again, and a method to track them. My habit tracker is nearly filled out this month. FIRST TIME EVER. It’s amazing what you find inside yourself when you let it out. I love this post, and thanks for all the kudos. I’ve enjoyed your website so much.

    1. 12 YEARS?!?! Tricia, I’m so glad that you started bullet journalling, and I’m so glad that I found your blog! You are so talented and an inspiration, and I hope you continue to pick up those art supplies and use them.
      My bullet journal has helped me in the same way – preventing me from hitting rock bottom again and again. I have a habit of beating myself up a lot over the excessive to-do lists I used to write and not be able to complete. But being able to look at my bullet journal and see in black and white proof that I AM improving and I’m not “lazy” because I’ve managed to do X, Y and Z this week…it’s surprising how much of a boost I get from that.
      Well done on filling your habit tracker!!! 😀 You go, girl! That’s a HUGE deal! I hope you’re going to reward yourself with something for that 🙂
      Also, thank you for letting me use some of your images for this post. I really hope they inspire some people reading this post.

      1. Oh, you are so welcome. I love how there is a *community* behind the bullet journal. There are so many good, kind people out there who are using their journals to be better people. Those are the kinds of people I want to be friends with. 🙂 Love your knitting BTW.

        I know my journals are more elaborate than what other people might do, but it definitely is a much-needed self-care outlet – and that’s how I rationalize it. I looked back and realized that I had been doing this method for a year and a half now. I found my first habit tracker and it must have completely overwhelmed me – I had 15 things to track and 5 boxes filled out for the month. When I limited the number of habits, I actually succeeded in filling it out. If I filled out 1 box, I was 25% done for the day – so much better than 1% done for the day.

        Funny thing is, this little book has allowed me to forgive myself for my shortcomings. I am so hard on myself. Keep it up 🙂 you are doing better than you think.

        1. I never thought when I started my bullet journal I would end up making friends because of it!
          But that’s the great thing about them! They are so versatile and you can make them as simple or as elaborate as you want! They’re inspiring for other people and they’re rewarding for you. You’ve unleashed your creativity once more and that’s huge in itself. And the habit tracker? I applaud you; I aspire to be at that stage in a year’s time.
          Hi-5 to us both, methinks! 🙂

  4. I absolutely love bullet journaling. Mine is a little simpler, but it goes around with me everywhere!!! can’t survive without it!

    1. Simple is good – it’s lower maintenance and easier to stick to. I’m definitely the same – I can’t leave the house without mine…ever! I just feel so much safer having it with me at all times; you never know when you’re going to need it 🙂

  5. Thank you for inspiring me with your bullet journal. As you know I managed to condense 3 books into one bullet journal and I love it. Very therapeutic, love being organised (ish)
    Louise
    Ps. Noticed a crocheted skull in yours x

    1. I hope you’ve calmed down with your crazy obsession about it being perfect a little bit! I’m so glad that you’re no longer juggling so many planners though. Yay for bullet journals!

      P.S. I was inspired by your candy skull bunting and thought I’d have a look on YouTube how to do it! I should really thank you for teaching me the basics of crochet and giving me the confidence in the first place to try and crochet those skulls. So thank you! 🙂 x

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