How To Start A Bullet Journal

It’s the start of a new year, the perfect time to get organised so I thought I would do a little post on how to start using the bullet journal system. The bullet journal system was originally invented by Ryder Carroll, you can find his video on it here. This system is essentially a fancy to-do list. I’ve been using a bullet journal for over two years now so I thought I would share how I use mine and some tricks I’ve found along the way.

You should note I don’t use my bullet journal the exact way Ryder Caroll says to in his video. The great thing about the bullet journal system is you can change things if you don’t like them. Or find something else that works better. It’s totally up to you.

You will need:

  • A notebook. I know the Dotted Leuchtturm 1917 is a really popular notebook for bullet journalling but I would say to start off with don’t buy a fancy notebook. Actually if you’ve never used a bullet journal before don’t go out and buy a notebook at all. Start in something you’ve already got lying around. Try it out for a few weeks and find out what you like first. You may find you prefer lined or grid paper to dots.
  • A pen. Again you don’t need to go out buying fancy pens. I have a Muji 0.38 gel pen and a Staedtler fineliner in the photo but that is what I have lying around.
  • A ruler. A lot of people tell me they think their bullet journal is messy and one easy way to fix that is using a ruler to draw lines. You can do it freehand if thats the look you want. But (in my opinion) a ruler is essential.

I really need to emphasise that you don’t have to go out and buy a £20 notebook to start your bullet journal. For this post I’ve used a lined Leuchtturm 1917 but you don’t have to buy one. This is literally just the first notebook I picked up and I’ve started these examples on the first blank page I found.

The key is a really important part of the bullet journal. Because you’re essentially just writing monthly and daily to-do lists the key tells you what you’re doing with the tasks on that list. I usually start out with everything as a dot. That way you can change the dot depending on what you do with that task.

So I will either cross off the task or use the ‘more than’ symbol to note I’ve not done that task and moved it to another day. The dot will get changed to a note if I’ve written down something that I don’t actually need to do. Just something that is happening on that specific day. The exclamation mark is for important things I need to do or remember.

The index page is where you keep a note of all the pages in your bullet journal and what’s in them. One advantage to the Leuchtturm is that the pages are already numbered and it has an index already laid out for you. You can still have something similar in other notebooks, you just need to lay out the index page and write page numbers in by hand. It’s a good idea to keep this page updated even if you don’t actually refer to it. Once you’ve moved on to another notebook the index makes it easy to go back and look for information.

The monthly spread is similar to what you would find in a regular planner. It’s just laid out differently. You write out the days of the month down the left hand side of the page. Then note the days of the week next to that. I like adding a line in to define the weeks. I find that makes it easier to look at.

On the right hand page I have a brain dump. At the start of the month I write down notes and everything I need to do. I will then continue to update this page throughout the month as I complete tasks and think of new things I need to do or note down. This page doesn’t need to have headings, I just like separating all my tasks out. It’s easier that way to figure out what’s important.

I fold my daily pages in half, mostly because my handwriting is quite small and I don’t see the point of wasting a whole bunch of paper. The left hand side of the page is where my dailies go. This is basically a list of everything that needs to get done on that specific day. I write mine out the night before but you can do it on the day as well. The whole point of this is to write everything you need to do as quickly as possible. If you’re spending an hour making your daily spread look nice you’re doing something wrong (I’m not saying that it’s bad to make your bujo pretty, but if you spend time on that you have less time for the stuff you need to do that day).

On the right side of the page I have space for notes. This is where I keep track of the blog and instagram posts I have going up that week. I also write out anything tasks I think of that need to be done at some point. Not necessarily on that day or in that week.

If you find you use a certain amount of space each day you can always try laying out a 1 or 2 page weekly view (like a regular planner) instead of laying out your daily spread each day. This really depends on how you like using the bullet journal system and what works for you. I find I tend to go between daily and weekly pages. It really just depends on how I feel.

The back pages are where I put all my messy notes. Usually the very back page is where I try out pens. Then any journalling or college notes or to-do lists that don’t fit in my daily pages go here. I don’t bother adding these pages to the index because it’s not things I need again. Another way to look at it is the calendar stuff (monthly/ weekly/ daily pages) go at the front, everything else goes in the back.

Thanks for reading.
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17 thoughts on “How To Start A Bullet Journal

  1. I’m obsessed with everything bujo-related, so thank you for your post! it’s just something so personal and individual. plus I read out your notes like a song: sharpie, sharpie, sharpie, SHARPIE PEN!

      1. True. I just found one that seems perfect, with space for title, rating, quotes, etc. and that’s what I want. Just something simple to keep track of the books, and my Instax camera to take pics of the covers. Lol.

  2. I think it’s great that you emphasize that there isn’t only one way to make a bullet journal. I’ve made a casual one not for my schedule but just for long term goals. Then I like to go back and read the things I’ve been able to accomplish when I’m feeling low. Yours is really pretty 🙂

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