Beginner's Guide: How To Start A Bullet Journal

To start your own bullet journal or bujo for short has never been easier. Provided are many examples and ideas for creating your index, key, and much more!

By Katrina M.
Beginner's Guide: How To Start A Bullet Journal

What is a bullet journal?

Hey, lovelies! How is your week? The last poll in my stories has shown most of you would like to see both empty and filled bujo spreads! So I am sharing with you this week’s spread one more time, this time - filled. As you see, not everything I plan is getting done. But I try to cover most of things. What about you? Do you have most of things done during the week or do you have a lot of things moved to other days? ☆ ☆ ☆ Всем привет! Как проходит ваша неделя? На днях я спрашивала в своих сторис ваше мнение о том, какие развороты вы хотите видеть больше – пустые или заполненные. И большинство проголосовало за оба варианта, поэтому делюсь еще раз своим разворотом на эту неделю, на этот раз заполненным. Как видите, не всё из того, что я планировала, сделано. Но я стараюсь выполнять основное. Как с этим обстоят дела у вас? Выполняете ли вы большинство из запланированного, или многое переносится на следующие дни? • • • • • • #bulletjournal #bulletjournalsingapore #буллетджорнал #weeklyspread #plannernerd

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Have you ever had an endless stream of thoughts or ideas that end up on sticky notes or random pieces of paper? Is your schedule always full and you keep on adding more events, but there is no single place to truly record everything? Do you fall somewhere in between and just need to be organized? Then it sounds like your life could benefit from the start of your own bullet journal. A bullet journal or bujo for short is a notebook that you create to fit your needs. Originally developed by Ryder Carroll, a bujo is where you will plan your month and days, record ideas, and make lists. I remember when I first started my bullet journal. I was lost, confused, and overwhelmed. If it wasn't for the many tutorials, blogs, and videos available, I would still be lost. Although my bujo is nowhere near perfect, it suits my needs and has helped me get organized. It has also helped me release all my internal creativity. So now that I got the hang of my bullet journal, I am here to share tips on how to start your own bullet journal.

To get a general idea and overview of bullet journals watch the video below, originally posted by Ryder Carroll.

Start by choosing your journal

When it comes to the type and style of bullet journal you want to start with, take your time doing some research before buying. There are many options available to use. The first choice you have to make is if you want a journal with pages that are blank, lined, or dotted. Any of these options will make a perfect bujo. For my personal bullet journal, I went with a Leuchtturm1917. One reason was that the binding is secure and another reason was that the front and back cover are strong as well as sturdy. The pages are also thicker than other journals I was looking at. This is my personal preference for a journal, but these key reasons helped me make a choice.

I want you to do the same and compare multiple journals. Touch and hold each one to test the weight and flip through the pages to determine the thickness. Another key thing to look at is the size of the journal. If you plan on carrying it every day, then make sure it fits in the purse or bag you carry day to day. Other examples of journals you can consider are Moleskine Bullet Journals and the original Bullet Journal by Ryder Carroll.

The last idea that I have for your bullet journal is an old journal or notebook you already have. If you are anything like me, you have bought many journals and only used a few pages in it. Then months will go by and another journal will catch your eye that you just have to have. Next thing you know you have a bookshelf full of journals that are pretty much brand new. There is nothing wrong with using one of these journals to start your first bujo, especially if you are plan on using the used journal as a practice journal because you want your first bujo to be perfect. Or is that just me?

What about the pen?

When it comes to the pen, you may feel overwhelmed with all the options out there. I mean really, you walk down the pen aisle in any store and there are pens as far as the eye can see and it's hard to figure out where to start. I know that for me, I like to take my time when walking down this aisle. I like to make sure that whatever pen or pens I pick up will serve my needs. That and I also like to have a rather large pen collection. So with regards to writing in your journal, something comfortable in your hand is important. It is also important to see if the type of pen you choose is one that will bleed through the pages of your journal or not. This will make a large difference in pen selection if the journal you have chosen has thin pages. I personally like to get a pack of pens that come with a few colors in it so I can color code my bujo.

Starting your bullet journal

The two items you need to start your own bujo have been established and discussed - those two items being your special journal and your unique pen (or pens). So the next steps are to identify the items needed in every bullet journal to keep your organized.

Step 1: Start with the page numbers

To officially start your bullet journal, the first thing that needs to be done in your journal is to number each and every page. If you chose a journal that already has page numbers, then great. If not, I would suggest numbering all the pages because this will be the key when setting up the index.

Step 2: The index

The first two pages of your bullet journal are where you will have your index. The index will keep you and your journal organized. The index has all the page numbers and what entries correspond to each page number. As you fill up your journal, your index will grow. Since we are just starting the bujo, your index is going to be blank. So saving those two pages for the index will be used for the future because the goal is to maintain your bujo long enough to fill these pages. Below are a few ideas for how to design and create your index. These images can be used exactly as shown or as starting points for your own ideas.

I forgot how much of a perfectionist I was till I started this thing...Today I am combating the desire to buy a new book and start over. But this is my first journal and a work in progress. I am learning what my style is and what I realistically can drool over but never achieve! This morning I have redone my index page as I felt the first one had no sense of organisation and was hard to view what I wanted within it. My new one has the collections together, and then things that will be replicated month by month are in a table below, with the months along the botton. So each page number will be plotted on it as I go. However if I end up creating other spreads such as dailies (currently really doubt this) I'll have no space. This is because I cut out the other index page so now only have a solo page. It could migrate to the title page opposite at the bottom if I needed it to though. Also the "Key" on brown paper is covering a fairly significant mistake 😂 this method I believe will be seen frequently within my journal! I am using - a Moderno a5 dotted note book from WHSmith which was £7.99 and has 80gsm dotted paper. - uni-ball fine ballpoint and a pilot V Ball 0.5mm #bulletjournal #bulletjournalindex #bujoindex #bujo #bujominimalist #bulletjournalminimalist

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Step 3: Creating the key

The key of your bullet journal is a list of symbols or signifiers. These signifiers will be used throughout your journal to keep track of the items you complete, move around, or anything else that may happen. It is important to keep this key consistent, which is why you will have a whole page dedicated to it. In the video posted in the beginning, Carroll identified some simple signifiers that you can use for your own key. Of course, you are not limited to these. I encourage you to come up with other signifiers for your key that you can easily apply in your journal.

This year I switched my bullet journal from a Leuchtturm1917 hardbound notebook to an A5 Filofax binder. I absolutely enjoy that I can keep what I love about bullet journaling. For example: • I can still design my own spreads and be creative while being productive • find inspiration online and be part of an amazing community of like-minded people • have a notebook, to-do list, sketchbook and diary all in one • avoid unnecessary paper-clutter and multiple systems goes hand in hand with the point above it : ) • learn from my past failures and successes • and adjust my layouts from month to month as I prefer doing But I can gain so much more freedom thanks to the @officialfilofax is set up. Read all the juicy details over on my blog: (clickable link in my bio) and create your own #bulletjournalfilofax PS: If you are at a loss where to start, I have 200+ printables you can use to create the basis for your personal bullet journal adventure: (clickable link in my bio) ♡ . . . . . #bulletjournaljunkies #bulletjournalcommunity #showmeyourplanner #bujolove #filofax #a5planner #leuchtturm1917 #bujojunkies #bujo #bulletjournaling #bujoinspire #bujokey #bulletjournalkey #corgi #bujocorgi #handdrawncorgi #planner #plannergirl #plannerlove #bulletjournal #plannerjunkie #handlettering #planneraddict #plannergoodies #plannerlife #bujofilofax #wundertastisch #bujoinspiration

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Step 4: Your journal future log

Now you should be on page four of your journal. Of course, page four just being a rough guideline because the page number depends on how long you made your index and your key. The future log is essentially a yearly calendar. This is where you will write down the important events for you that occur throughout the year. Remember that this is just an overview calendar so you do not have to put every single event on this calendar. And you are always able to add to this calendar as the year progresses. There are a few ways to create your future log. One way is to have three months on each page to make the future log a total of four pages. Below are a couple of examples of future logs with three months on each page.

Other ideas on how to create your future log are shown below. And as you can see there are endless options and designs for your own future log.

Step 5: Journal monthlies, weeklies, and dailies


The next part of your bullet journal is the monthlies section. Monthlies are where you are going to expand your months and get specific with the tasks and the days. One of the simplest ways to set up a monthly is by dedicating two pages for each month. On the left side of the page, you can write the name of the month along with a drawing. This is a place you can let your creative ideas flow by designing the month, however you want. Then on the right side of the page, you write down each day of the month and then write down the corresponding tasks and goals. A second simple example of how to create your monthly is a variation of the one previously mentioned above and it also takes up two pages of the journal. Start by writing the name of the month on the top of each page. Then on the left page, you write out each day in the month. Next to each day, you will write the task or tasks you have for that day. On the right page, you write out all the tasks and events you have for that month. It is perfectly fine to start with this page first because then you will be able to see all that you need to get done and then appropriately assign them to days during the months. A third way to set up the monthly section is by creating boxes for each day to write your tasks in. This may seem like a simple task, but this is where your creativity will come in. You can keep all the boxes on one page or spread them out to two pages. You could also turn the boxes into squares to give yourself more space to write in. Below are a couple examples of monthlies.

Weeklies and dailies

Weeklies and dailies are alternative ways of breaking down your journal. These spreads will give you a few days of the month on each page. So the spread of your month will be greater than the two pages of the monthlies that were previously discussed. This will give you more room to write down more goals, tasks, and events. There are endless ways to do weeklies and dailies, so feel free to try as many as you want until you find the layout that works best for you and your life. Below are a few more examples that you can pull inspiration from.

Remember to use the signifiers from your key on each of these spreads!

The basics of your bullet journal is complete

There has been a lot of information, examples, and ideas presented to you about what will go into the start of your journal. All of it is essential for keeping your life organized because you have put many hours of your time and effort into the beginning sections of your journal; I'm sure you will want to keep it up and use it to the best of your ability. So we have gone through the practical ways of setting up your journal, but there is so much more your journal can do for you. Next, we will talk about what else you can use your journal for.

Now let's start the fun stuff: Collections

Collections are essentially lists, but not just plain, boring, lists; these are lists that pertain specifically to you and your life. Collections will allow you look at topics that you find interesting or ideas you want to expand on. Collections will take your bullet journal from just a planner to something more! Starting different collections will bring your journal to life and will allow for a constant flow of creativity in your life. Next, we will go through a few examples of collections that could be used in your bullet journal. As always, you are not limited to these collection ideas, but they can be seen as jumping off points.

The master goal plan

The master plan collection is where you can break down your goals into smaller and more obtainable steps. For example, let's say one of your goals is to go to back school for a higher education. That is a great goal, but it can be broken down into smaller goals. A smaller goal would be to research what majors you think would be the best for you and for your future. Another smaller goal would be to look at schools that offer the majors you have decided on. A third smaller goal would be for you to look at the requirements of going back to school. Now a goal that may seem overwhelming or far off is broken down to easier steps that will lead you to the bigger goal in no time!

The master grocery list

The master grocery list is really something to consider having in your bujo because we all have to eat and go to the grocery store eventually. The way you would do this collection is by starting with different categories, such as fruit, vegetables, snacks, frozen, drinks, refrigerated, and pasta and rice. Under each of these categories, write down the essentials for your household that you buy each time you go to the grocery store. These are going to be the items you need every week to keep yourself and your household fed. The next step is to use small sticky notes to add to your list. The items you write on the sticky notes will be those that you do not have to buy every week. They could be things that you buy once a month or every two weeks. That will be up to you to decide. An example of a master grocery list is shown below.

The vacation collection

The vacation collection is the place for you to plan your vacation. A lot of planning goes into vacations, so what better place to keep all the information you need than your bullet journal. At the top of the page or pages, write the name of the place you are planning to visit. You can also include the dates at the top too. Then make the pages your own! Here are some ideas of what to include: a packing list, monuments to see, and places to eat. If you do not have any vacations coming up then use this space as a dream vacation collection. You could write a list of each place you would like to visit. Or you could draw signifiers that represent each place you would like to visit. Another idea is to draw two maps of the world and color the places you have been to, and the places you would like to visit.

Book and movie collecion

The book collection is a list of books that you want to read. This is one of my favorite collections because I love to read. I have a problem with buying books faster than I can read them. So the way I handle this is by writing the titles and authors of the books I want to read in the future. As I go through the list, I check off each book. I also like to include the dates that I read each book, so I know how long it takes me. I like to use this as a way to gauge if I liked the book or not. If I read the book quickly, then I know it was a favorite. The movie collection is where you will write down the movies you want to see. These can be movies in theaters or movies that you want to buy to add to your own personal movie collection. The reason I put these two collections together is that most times books are made into movies. So if you have the book on your list and you liked the book, then you can add the movie version to your list.

Today was our office #readerslunch and I got some titles to add to my #bujobooklist

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Go and be free with your bullet journal

You now have all you need to start your own bullet journal! I know it seems like a lot of steps to start with, but they will all help you set up a successful bullet journal. If you decide to use all of these pages, you may need to start a second journal! By that time, you will be a pro. It will take time to make your bullet journal just the way you want it to be, but you have the tools to start you off right. Remember to be creative and there is not a right way to put together your journal. The right way is the way you make it!