Thinking about starting a Bullet Journal to stay on top of all your lists, tasks, and events? Whether you just want to see what all the hype is about, check out some other Bullet Journalers and their methods, or learn a bit more about how this system works and how to modify it for your needs, you’ve come to the right place!￼
The Bullet Journal System
Let’s start with what a Bullet Journal is NOT.
- it doesn’t take forever to set up
- it’s not fancy or perfect
- it’s not pre-made or standardized
- it doesn’t require fancy notebooks, pens, or supplies!
A Bullet Journal IS:
- an awesome idea created by Ryder Carroll
- a journal, to-do list, planner, shopping list, calendar, and practically anything else you want ALL IN ONE
- whatever you want it to be
- used all around the world, which means there’s dozens of amazing Bullet Journalers out there who also share their tips and tricks and inspiration photos! (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see some of my faves!)
Symptoms of someone in need of a Bullet Journal
- lots of to-do lists and sticky notes all over the place
- an unsatisfied need to write things down
- you feel that you can never find the right planner for your busy life
- you’ve got lots of projects and goals and you want to make them happen!
If this sounds like you, read on to hear the essentials of setting up your Bullet Journal. You can do these at ANY point in the year! There’s no need to wait. 😉
I’ll be walking you through how I set mine up in January 2017 (and how I helped my friend set hers up), and some of my favourite Bullet Journaling supplies I’ve been using for the past three years!
Note: this is a rather old post I’ve edited to re-publish from my old blog. I’ll be creating a brand new video & post for my 2018 set up when December rolls around, not to worry! 😀
A Bullet Journal
A Bullet Journal can be any notebook whatsoever. It doesn’t have to be a fancy dotted Moleskine; in fact, my first two Bullet Journals were both lined notebooks I had lying around the house. Here’s some of my suggestions for when you look for a notebook:
Nice cover | My first Bullet Journal was a pretty ugly one, and it didn’t last long. My second one had a nice design on the front and I liked it much better because of that. You want something that you can enjoy carrying around everywhere and that will embody your life vision, goals, and plans!
Page marker ribbon | This is highly recommended in a Bullet Journal, though you can always make up for a lack of one by adding a sticky note, a paper clip or another kind of page marker.
Good quality paper | You want your Bullet Journal to hold up even on those busy days when you only have a couple of seconds to scribble down some tasks with a regular old pen you had lying around. Make sure you get one with paper that doesn’t bleed too much onto the other side.
If possible: graphed or dotted | As I said, lined is perfectly alright for a first time Bullet Journaler; however from personal preference after getting a dotted notebook I know I’m never going back. It’s such a flexible style of notebook – you’ve got lines to write on and guidelines for sketching and embellishing as well!
Comfortable to write on both pages | Be wary when thinking about a spiral notebook, as it might be a struggle to write on the left-hand pages (if you’re a rightie, and vice versa if you’re a leftie).
My Bullet Journal is currently a Moleskine Classic Softcover in Underwater Blue *. I use one that’s 5 inches by 8.25 inches, and I find that it’s perfect for what I want.
Once you’ve found a notebook, pick out a pen that works for you (and doesn’t smudge, feather, bleed, and all those other things bad pens do). Here’s some of my favourite pens:
Muji Hexagonal Retractable 0.38 | Once I started using these I became a permanent member of the fine-pen fan club. Love these pens: they’re smooth, don’t bleed or feather, and don’t smudge either! I use these in black, pink, light blue and dark blue.
Uniball Signo 307 | My former all-time favourite pen for everything! I used to order them online in batches of 12 because they don’t sell them in any stores near me.
Staples AvantNext| I use this pen for writing essays in class. It’s also super thin, like the Muji retractable, but it’s slightly smoother as the ink is a little bit different in consistency.
Zebra Mildliner *| Highlighters that are absolutely perfect in terms of colour, feel and look! They also work to decorate a page and add a pop of colour too, like markers!
Lihit Lab Case * | Not a pen, but it’s my orange pencil case you see in all my photos. I’ve had it for the past three years and I’m SO happy with it! Plus, it’s gorgeous!
Things to Know
The Bullet Journal is really made up of only FOUR essential components:
- Monthly Spreads
- Daily Spreads
- A Bullet System (I’ve shared how mine works in this post)
However, my Bullet Journal is a little bit different, because I’m slowly shifting to NO collections. I’ll talk more about this in a separate post, because for the moment I’m still in the process of moving things over.
NOTE: Everything else you see on the Bullet Journal website, other people’s blogs, as well as in my posts is completely UP TO YOU! That includes Indexes, Future Logs, habit trackers, and all those extra spreads. That’s the beauty of the Bullet Journal planner: you can modify and adapt it for whatever your needs are.
Earlier this month, I made a video in which I flipped through my current Bullet Journal. It’s one of my first YouTube videos, so bear with me (it’s a little long and I’m a little critical of it). BUT it gives you a glimpse of what my bujo looks like, in case you want to see!
Monthly spreads are reoccurring spreads you make every month.
- Calendar | used to keep track of events that are coming up: all school tests, due dates, and birthdays. My calendar looks like this:
I also have a:
- Memories spread | this is where I write a little bit about my day, track some general things like happiness and sleep, and record in blue pen any physical activity I did that day.
- Meal Plan and Food Tracker | I use this to plan what I’ll be making for breakfast and lunch, and also to keep track of what I eat.
Other Monthlies I’ve Tried and Didn’t Like (but you might)
- Habit tracker next to my monthly | Habit trackers in general don’t really appeal to me because they’re unrealistic. I don’t spend a lot of time with my Bullet Journal every day, and I don’t want to have to record every little habit I accomplished, no matter how nice it ends up looking
- Events in a list instead of graphic calendar| Very convenient, and seemed to be enough room for writing down a quick glimpse of my school events and tests (anything I don’t keep in my Google Calendar – which is mainly only things that I actually have to go places for and be reminded for)
- Events categorized by time of the day | Didn’t find this too useful because I don’t generally have that many events each day anyways
Dailies are sections where you keep your tasks and to-do lists each day. I’ve had several different formats for them over the years. But the main thing you can play around with with dailies is the headers. I’ve made a post with some awesome fonts and styles you can try!
Some people like to think of dailies more like “logs”, where they don’t only keep tasks but also record things they did that day or want to remember. It’s totally up to you! For me, it’s more practical and minimalist to just record essential tasks in my dailies and have a monthly memories where I can fill in my memories when I get the chance.
As you can see, I sometimes even add little schedules to my dailies!
Collections are essentially lists in your Bullet Journal, and they’re often just kept wherever you have an empty page.
However, I find that this is the one drawback of the Bullet Journal system – it makes it really hard to find collections because they’re randomly in the notebook. I have three possible solutions to this:
- get a notebook that has removable sheets that you can reorder (like a FiloFax) (too complicated)
- use an Index in your Bullet Journal for your collections (too much time!)
- keep a separate notebook for collections (just right!)
One of my favourite collections ever is my meal ideas collection, and I’ve made a post about it if you want to take a look at it more closely!
Once I finish with my process of making my collections book (which I’m filming, by the way! Yay!), I’ll be making a separate post about it. But for now, if you’re looking for some great ideas for collections, check out this COLLECTION I made in my Bullet Journal to help me with making MY collections book. Wow, that was a mouthful. 😀
Set up with me: Setting up my Friend’s Bullet Journal
The first thing I do when I start a new Bullet Journal is to break it in! So take a few moments and do this before starting to write in it. It’ll make sure your notebook lasts as long as possible!
Next, whenever I start a new year, I like to create some kind of a wreath design as the cover for my journal.
Then, I have another spread as a cover page for the year. In my personal journal (I left my friend’s blank so she can write what she wants), I’ve written down my goals along the top and bottom, as well as the word of the year, which is “Intent”.
This year, I’ve also decided to create a year-in-review right next to my 2017 cover that I can look back on at the end of the year to see what I’ve accomplished. I set it up in the way that made most logical sense to me – I’ll write the month in the left column, and the day number and accomplishment in the right.
Next, I started to set up the monthly spread. This month, I’m trying a grid layout for the first time (instead of the ones you saw above).
The area I left on the left of the calendar is the perfect size for a quote and sticky notes, so in my Bullet Journal I write one for the month.
After that you can start with your dailies! Personally, I hate having the same style of dailies all the time because it bores me. So play around with them and have fun!
AND that’s about it!
FAQ and Common Concerns
I don’t know how the Bullet Journal system works.
I’m not going to pretend like I know everything, because I don’t! You should definitely check out some other awesome Bullet Journallers system. Let me point you in the right direction with three of the better ones I’ve seen:
I don’t have time to keep a Bullet Journal or I’m not artistic at all.
A Bullet Journal is as big of a time commitment as you want it to be! It can take just five minutes each day, or you can spend an hour each day. There’s minimalist approaches and decorative approaches to Bullet Journalling, you just have to find what’s right for you!
Start small, try new things, and see what works is the best way to move forwards.
A Bullet Journal is on paper. It’s not practical to keep it with you everywhere.
I totally get that! In fact, the only thing that I can genuinely say I bring with me EVERYWHERE is – you guessed it – my phone. So, if there’s ever something I want to remember I’ll just note it on my phone, email myself, or create a calendar event, depending on its urgency. You can totally add it in later!
And… that’s a wrap! Hope you found this post helpful for setting up your own Bullet Journal!
To see more about my Bullet Journaling methods, go check out the category: “Bullet Journal“. Till next time!
* This post contains some affiliate links from Amazon. I pinky promise that I only post links for things I personally use and love! Being an affiliate link just means that if you purchase something after clicking on one of these links, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you!)