How To Set Up A Bullet Journal: Step By Step Bullet Journal Setup Guide

Looking for a simple step-by-step guide on how to set up a Bullet Journal? You’re in the right place! We’ll talk all about Bullet Journaling for beginners and start with your first one.

I’ll walk you through creating a Bullet Journal setup with all the pages you need. So by the end of the post, you’ll have a ready-to-go journal to start planning right away.

And don’t worry, it won’t take forever. With the Bullet Journal, it’s up to you how much time you spend on each page; it can be as little as 5 minutes 

Bullet Journal is an amazing way to organize yourself and create a better life with more mindfulness and creativity.

Chances are, you already know that since you probably already got sold into the idea and you’re looking for the final step of information: how to actually create a Bullet Journal setup.

In case you’re still not sure, here are a few benefits of actually having a Bullet Journal:

  • Using pen and paper will not only help you to remember things better but will make sure you’re more mindful of your tasks. 
  • Writing takes more time and effort, so you’ll be able to concentrate better and find your focus much easier.
  • You can develop your creativity. And don’t tell me you don’t have any – you do! Everybody does! Creativity isn’t a secret superpower, just a few own, it’s a muscle, and you can train it. Your journal will be a great place to start discovering it in yourself.
  • Self-care. Your journal is your time to spend with yourself, to reflect, and to learn more about your own desires and dreams. Self-care is a wonderful element we all miss in this busy world.
  • Increased productivity. Once you set your goals, figure out your priorities and find your focus, you will be achieving more and getting closer to fulfilling your dreams much faster. Plus, psychologically, just writing things down already gives your brain a signal to start thinking about how to complete the tasks.
  • Reduce overwhelm. Having a huge to-do list in your head that keeps growing can be very taxing on your poor brain. This is why you forget things or don’t do them as well as you know you can. Unloading your tasks to your journal will help you to have more focus on actually completing them and achieving your goals.

So yeah, it’s a pretty useful tool!

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The Difficult Part Of The Bullet Journal Setup

The best thing about Bullet Journal though is its flexibility; this planner is completely customizable for your needs. You can create any spreads you want for any imaginable purpose.

This also is the most difficult part of a Bullet Journal – to pick and choose spreads and setups. When you can create anything, how do you choose where to start? How do you make sure you use the best possible spreads for you?

The answer is …. By trial and error.

I’ll guide you today through the basic spreads you absolutely need to have in your Bullet Journal and how to set them up. However, there are many more possibilities with this system, and it’s up to you to discover what works best for you.

Supplies You’ll Need

According to the original Bullet Journal method, all you really need is a pen and notebook. No joke, this is all you need, so if you don’t have any fancy Tombows – don’t let it stop you from starting.

However, I can bet you’d want to add something else to your pages. So here are a few recommendations for the supplies you might like.


Make sure you’re using a good notebook. Good doesn’t mean expensive by the way, there are many cheap options that don’t compromise on quality.

Below are a few of my favorite notebooks you could consider.

Of course, my favorite journals lately are the ones by Archer and Olive. I’ve been using their journals forever, and in 2020 I actually switch to using them as my main Bullet Journal.

If you want to know more about these notebooks and why I love them, check out my post REVIEW: Archer and Olive Dot Grid Journal.

I also can get you a 10% discount on any purchase from Archer and Olive with code MASHA10 you can apply at checkout.


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How To Pick Your Perfect Journal

Black Pen

The black pen is the blood of your journal, and I recommend having several. Use fineliners of different sizes for drawing and doodling.

You should also get a good and comfortable writing pen. Below are my favorites.

Splash Of Color

Personally, for most of my yearly pages, I go with the black-and-white color scheme, since I always prefer to have them neutral and not really connected to any theme.

If you decide to use color, here are some of my favorite supplies for that.


Finally, don’t forget about your basics – a pen, pencil and a ruler. I recommend having a pencil that feels comfortable to hold because you’ll be using it a lot and an eraser that wouldn’t leave any trace on your journal pages.

My favorites are:

Now you’ve got all your supplies prepared, let’s talk setup!


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Before You Start

Before you start, however, here are a few tips for creating these spreads:

  • Don’t overthink it. You don’t need ALL the pages, and even if you forget something – you can always add it to your next empty page. Remember, that thanks to the index page it will be very easy to find any collections, whenever you decide to write them.
  • Don’t forget to add your pages to the index. It might take some time to make it a habit, but it’ll really be useful in the future when you look back at your Bullet Journal desperately trying to find one particular collection.
  • Don’t overdo the designs. Of course, if you want to get creative please feel free to! But! Don’t let a creativity block stop you from starting a Bullet Journal. If you’re not feeling it, just go with something simple and functional; nobody will judge you. Plus, believe me, your first pages will never be the best ones in your journal.

Ok, I’m done sharing my wisdom; let’s dive in and start setting up your Bullet Journal.

How To Start A Bullet Journal: Step-By-Step Setup

In this example, we’ll go through the basic pages everyone must have in their Bullet Journal.

Ok, not a must-have per se, don’t let anyone dictate what pages you create in your journal. But at least these are some of the most popular pages most people use for their setup.

If you want to see this in the video format – there is a Plan With Me video at the end of the post.

Step 1: Cover Page

You can really skip this step, but I find it very useful. First of all, this is your first attempt at being creative in your journal, which is always fun and exciting.

Secondly, I always use the cover page to write down the year when I started the notebook and later the time when I finished it. This makes looking back that much easier!

How To Set Up A Bullet Journal: Step By Step Bullet Journal Setup Guide - cover page | Masha Plans

The fun part here is that it doesn’t have to be a special page with some extra special design. In my latest Bullet Journal setup, I just wrote my name, and dates and decorated it with some washi. 

After all, the truth is – you probably will never look back at this page. At least, I know I never really do.

2021-2022 Bullet Journal Setup, this books belongs to spread | Masha Plans

Here are a few ideas for your cover page:

  • The year when you start the notebook
  • Zegtangle pattern
  • Botanical doodles (you can easily learn how to draw those here)
  • Work of the year


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7 Creative Ideas For Cover Page In Your Bullet Journal

Step 2: Key

Your key is the place where you write down the symbols you’ll be using for rapid logging. Rapid logging is the Bullet Journal language that helps you easily log and structure information with the simple help of symbols.

You assign different symbols for a different type of information:

“•” for task

“–” for note

“O” for event

Bullet Journal Key: How To Create The Perfect One For You | Masha Plans

Use this spread to write down all the signifiers. As a beginner, you’re likely to look back at this spread a lot before you memorize them, so it’s more convenient to have this spread on the left side of the notebook.


All You Need To Know About Bullet Journal Key (+inspirations)

Step 3: Index

An index is a table of contents for your BuJo, a treasure map to bits and pieces of information you randomly write in your journal.

Make sure you leave enough space to log all the information here. I’d say leave at least three pages for that.

Bullet Journal Index: Tips, Tricks and Inspirations | Masha Plans

That’s also why it is important to have your pages numbered. If they are – simply go back to your index every time you create a new spread and write the page number there. 

If your pages aren’t numbered – just make sure you add a number to each new page you use. Yes, it’s kind of cumbersome, but it’ll be worth your time. Trust me! 


Bullet Journal Index – tips, tricks, inspirations

Step 4: Future Log

A future log is a space for you to store all the information about future events. Here are a few ideas on what you can add here:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • National holidays
  • Business trips
  • Vacations

That way, you create an overview of the year and always have space to write down any events and happenings.

There are many different ways to set up your future log, and you don’t even have to set it up for the whole year. As with all the pages in your Bullet Journal, you can completely customize it.

2021-2022 Bullet Journal Setup, future log | Masha Plans

For example – here is the future log from my midyear Bullet Journal setup. Since I started this one in August I didn’t need the beginning of the year here, and I wasn’t sure how long this journal will last me, so I just created it for as many months as can fit here.

If it happens that I’ll be using this journal for longer – I can always add a new future log later.

This is my first time using a square notebook, so I’m really excited to see how it works out and how long this journal will last.


How To Plan Your Future With Bullet Journal Future Log

Step 5: Monthly Log

Next step – monthly log. This is a place for you to create your monthly overview and plan all the things for the month.

Coffee Bullet Journal Setup, monthly log | Masha Plans

Traditionally, it also comes with a monthly to-do list, which can be on the same spread as your monthly overview, or on a separate one if you want to create a detailed master list of ALL the things you should be doing.

I want to mention here that I also love creating monthly cover pages.

Makeup Bullet Journal Theme Inspirations, cover page | Masha Plans

First of all, this will clearly separate your monthly spreads from everything else. Secondly, this helps you get into the theme you’re using.

And finally, it’s a great place to develop your creativity, since you really can doodle or draw as much as you want on this page.


Bullet Journal Monthly Log (and 31+ inspirations)

Step 6: Weekly Spread

Finally, we’re down to the smallest spread in planning with a Bullet Journal – a weekly spread (or a daily log).

The weekly spread is an overview of your week with boxes for each day so that you can create task lists for every day separately.

Daily log only contains the information for one day, and they are great when you have very busy days with lots of things to track and do.

When thinking of which type of planning is best for you – my advice will be to try both and see what works best for you. And always remember that there is no one perfect format that works all the time. 

As time goes your life changes, and your planning needs change as well. So if you feel like something doesn’t work – just try something different.


Bullet Journal Weekly Spread VS Daily Log

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Bullet Journal Collections

As I mentioned before, there is a limitless amount of pages you can create in your journal that helps with pretty much anything possible!

I know this sounds scary and very confusing, so I gathered here some page ideas to get you started.

These are the pages I and many others often use in their journals, so I thought you might like them as well. Or at least it will keep your fantasy started by thinking of which pages you might benefit from.

Goals Page

If you’re doing your yearly setup, creating a goals page can be very beneficial, since it will help you to improve your life in the upcoming year and reach for your dreams.

My Bullet Journal is actually the reason why I started achieving my dreams, by setting and planning out my goals with pages like this.

Bullet Journal Icons & How To Use Them To Increase Productivity: In Goals Page | Masha Plans

There are tons of different ways to set up the goals page and make it work for you. Be sure to check my post Setting And Crushing Your Goals With Bullet Journal for more inspirations.

Habit Tracker

Another spread that I definitely have in every monthly setup.

A habit tracker is a tool that helps you to create new, better habits, or get rid of some old bad ones.

The Ultimate Guide To Bullet Journal Habit Tracker - horisontal tracker | Masha Plans

If you’re not sure how to use a habit tracker and what to track, be sure to check my list with 155+ Habit Tracker ideas.

It’s really a universal instrument that can help you in so many ways. It’s not even just about habits, it’s about self-discovering, learning your patterns, and developing better routines.

Mood Tracker

A mood tracker is another must-have in my monthly Bullet Journal setups.

Mood tracker is there to basically keep an eye on your mood, I know I’m just blowing your brains with this right?!

Sushi Themed Bullet Journal Setup - mood tracker | Masha Plans

But there are so many different benefits of tracking your mood, which in my experience does wonder for your mental health.

Check my post on Bullet Journal Mood Trackers and Bullet Journal For Mental Health to learn more about it.

Gratitude Log

An attitude of gratitude can change your life so much!

No joke here guys; taking the time every day to find something happy and good in your day will improve your life significantly.

That’s why this is definitely an important spread for me.

Of course, you can learn more about the benefits of this page in my post Bullet Journal Gratitude Log For Happiness In Your Life.

Plan With Me: Bullet Journal Setup

Here is a Plan With Me video for all the spreads I mentioned above.

This is a very basic Bullet JOurnal setup without any extreme doodles and decorations I usually add, so if you wanted, you could easily copy it into your journal.

Bullet Journal Setup Ideas

Ok, let’s look at some more ideas and summarize all we already learned.

Plus discuss some other issues like what to do when you run out of pages in your journal, or how to migrate to the new one.

How To Set Up My First Bullet Journal

Are you just starting your very first Bullet Journal? If you need any help, be sure to check out my free courseBullet Journal For Beginners.

I’ll walk you step by step through the process and share all the tips and tricks, so you’ll have your brand new Bullet Journal ready to use by the end of the course!

Sign up for the newsletter to get tips & tricks, free printables and access FREE course for beginners.
Thanks! Keep an eye on your inbox to start with the course.

Now speaking of the pages, I’d recommend you to start from the basics we talked about before:

  • Cover page
  • Key
  • Index
  • Future log
  • Monthly log
  • Weekly spread

At the same time, you might want to add some collections as well. I really don’t advise you to create ALL the suggested collections since it’s very likely you’ll end up not using them and/or feeling overwhelmed by the number of spreads you need to fill out.

Some collection ideas for you to get started:

  • Yearly goals
  • Mood tracker
  • Habit tracker
  • TV shows to watch
  • Books to read
  • Year in pixels
  • Gratitude log

Remember, less is more. And it’s ok to drop spreads that you don’t use or don’t really help you with anything.

New Journal For The New Year

If you’re starting a new journal for the new year, here are a few collections you can add:

  • Yearly goals
  • Word of the year
  • Looking forward to this year
  • Spreads like 20 for 2020
  • Yearly trackers, such as year at a glance or a year of workouts

Be sure to check my post 300+ Bullet Journal Page Ideas for some more collections you might want to include in your journal.

Moving To A New Journal

If you’re just moving to a new journal, it’s a completely different game.

First of all, review your previous journal. See what things worked for you, what spreads you liked, and which ones didn’t. Consider not using the ones that didn’t.

Think of the pages you don’t really need anymore. For example, the key isn’t really something I use these days because I already know all the symbols and what they mean by heart.

Analyze things that work and think about how they align with your current situation and intentions. Think about how you can improve the pages for your life at the moment.

Secondly, go through your collections, and see which ones you don’t need anymore. The ones you need to have with you – move to the new journal. The ones that are ok to be kept at home – leave in your current one and reference them when needed.

Something else you could do is to add a few new collections. Bullet Journal is a journey of discovery, so it’s always fun and useful to try new types of spreads or new designs for your favorite spreads. You never know when something will click and suddenly change your life completely.

Finally, a new journal means a new paper, so consider adding tons of swatch pages! You definitely ALWAYS want to make sure your materials are friendly to your notebook so why not turn your swatches into cute creative pages.

For more information, you can check my post How To Migrate To A New Journal.

31 Fun and Simple Bullet Journal Page Ideas, Pen Test Spread | Masha Plans

Where in your journey are you? What are some of your favorite spreads? Let us know in the comments!

Hope this post was useful; if you find it so, please share! If you enjoy my content and want to show your appreciation, please consider supporting me with a cup of coffee.

And always remember: Keep Bullet Journaling, and Don’t be a Blob!


  1. Hello this article was super helpful and I’m really looking forward to starting my BuJo journey! Btw before I read this article I had no idea BuJo meant Bullet Journal 🤦🏽‍♀️

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I just purchased two binder journals due to the amount of space, and setting up two let alone one is difficult!

  3. I have been trying to start a bullet journal for years and knowing I didn’t have to go in all fancy at first, and knowing just what the main purpose of a Bu Ju is for helped me so much. I also found it funny that she forgot to color the inside of her R in the video on the Future Log page! :)

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