Hey there Planning Mashers!

Are you getting ready to start a Bullet Journal in 2020? Check out these 7 tips that’ll get you on the road to success in the new year and in your new Bullet Journal.

How to start a Bullet Journal in 2020 | Masha Plans

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Bullet Journal Pin | Masha Plans

As 2020 is approaching we all start thinking about our new year resolutions and what we want to do better in the upcoming year.

For me when I started it was about finding a system to organize my life, and that system ended up being a Bullet Journal. If you’re here you might be considering this as well.

You’re in the right place then, I gathered here 7 best tips to make sure you set up a fantastic Bullet Journal and have lots of fun doing it.

1. Pick a good journal

Your notebook is heart and soul of your Bullet Journal, so picking the right one can make or break your love for Bullet Journaling.

5 Essential Bullet Journal Supplies For Beginners, Bullet Journal Notebook | Masha Plans

The wrong notebook can mean a lot of trouble and wasted nerves (speaking from experience). The binding can break, pages can ghost, the lining might not be working for you. Even though all those things can be fixed, it can absolutely kill any desire from your side to keep Bullet Journaling. Frustration is a powerful enemy. 

You might not know yet what’s a good notebook for you, but here are a few things you might consider:

  • Notebook cover. Do you want a softcover or hardcover? 
  • Paper quality. Paper thickness determines what materials you can use in your journal. The less GSM paper has the more likely you’ll face ghosting or bleeding. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend anything less than GSM100
  • Notebook lining. You can Bullet Journal in any kind of notebook, but the dot grid is a favorite among the Bullet Journal community for a reason. It gives you enough directions for drawing but isn’t distracting.
  • Paper color. Do you want a notebook in pure white or ivory color? Pure white will give you brighter colors in your spreads, while ivory one might be distorting the colors a bit.
  • Amount of pages. More pages mean your journal will last longer, but more pages will also make the journal heavier. On average I would save 170-200 pages last for around half a year.
  • Size. How big of a journal you want to have – A5, B5, A4? 
  • Extra features. Do you want to have some pre-made pages in your Bullet Journal? Do you need the pages to be numbered? How many bookmarks do you need – one or two? Do you need a pen loop?

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Don’t worry though, below I listed some of the most popular journals, so you can get started on picking the one that’s best for you.

Archer and Olive

Bullet Journal Review: Archer and Olive Dot Grid Notebook | Masha Plans

The absolute best journal on the market if you ask me. I’ve been using my Archer and Olive for a while and I’m impressed with the journal quality, customer service and the cutest designs ever.

I’m not even talking about the pure white 160 GSM paper that can withstand any materials, including watercolor!

Pros:

  • 160 pages
  • Pure white paper
  • 160 GSM paper
  • Hardcover
  • Two bookmarks
  • Elastic closure
  • Pen loop
  • Back pocket
  • Available in A5, B5, B6
  • A wide range of designs

Cons:

  • Pages not numbered
  • No pre-made pages
  • More expensive 

Scribbles That Matter Pro

Scribbles That Matter Pro

Another player in the notebook market with 160 GSM paper! I haven’t used these notebooks myself, but enough people are in love with the journals and the brand.

The new pro collection offers 160 GSM paper that is whiter than in previous editions. Be careful when you scroll for these to pay attention that you choose the latest edition.

Pros:

  • 150+ pages
  • 160 GSM paper
  • Hardcover
  • Two bookmarks
  • Elastic closure
  • Pen loop
  • Back pocket
  • Numbered pages
  • Pre-made key, index and pen test spreads
  • Comes with several color options
  • Available in A5 and B5

Cons:

  • Paper is light ivory
  • Price is mid-range

Leuchtturm 1917 Dot Grid Journal

9 Best Notebooks For Bullet Journaling, LEUCHTTURM1917 | Masha Plans

These are some of the most popular notebooks for Bullet Journaling and I know a lot of people use LT 1917 as their first Bullet Journal.

I personally never gave a try to these notebooks, but I heard enough good things to know it’s a quality notebook and might be a good choice for you.

Pros:

  • 249 pages
  • Cream-colored paper
  • 80 GSM paper
  • Hardcover
  • Two bookmarks
  • Elastic closure
  • Pen loop
  • Back pocket
  • Numbered pages
  • Available in A4, A5 and picket size
  • On the affordable side

Cons:

  • Cream-colored paper
  • There are reviews talking about ghosting

Dingbats Notebooks

I love my Dingbats notebook and they really have a lot to offer in terms of paper and journal quality. If the ivory paper color doesn’t bother you, this might as well be a perfect journal for you.

They actually have two collections, so it’s a lot to choose from.

Wildlife collection

9 Best Notebooks For Bullet Journaling, Dingbats | Masha Plans

Pros:

  • 192 pages
  • Silk cream paper
  • 100 GSM paper
  • Hardcover
  • One bookmark
  • Back pocket
  • Elastic band
  • Pen holder
  • Available in several designs
  • 4 sizes: A5+, A6, A4+. A6+

Cons:

  • Ivory paper
  • Pages are perforated
  • Pages aren’t numbered
  • No pre-made pages

Earth Collection

9 Best Notebooks For Bullet Journaling, Dingbats | Masha Plans

Pros:

  • 192 pages
  • 100 GSM paper
  • Hardcover
  • Back pocket
  • Elastic band
  • 2 ribbons
  • Numbered pages
  • Pre-made page: Index, Key, Future Log
  • Pen holder
  • Page tabs
  • 3 design options
  • Available in A5+ size
  • Possible to buy with weekly payments

Cons:

  • Coated cream paper
  • Some mention that elastic gets too loose with time

Filofax Notebook

Plan With Me: Travel Bullet Journal Setup | Masha Plans

In case you’re looking for something you need to reorganize with time, I recommend you to give a look to Filofax notebooks.

They don’t come with dot grid paper, you’d need to buy it separately

I used it for my travel journal this year and I must say I loved it, and the paper quality!

Pros:

  • Flexible organization
  • You can add as many pages as you need
  • Inserts with pockets
  • Don’t need to buy new notebooks – just paper refill
  • The twin-wire binding doesn’t make writing uncomfortable
  • Available in 4 colors
  • Available in A5 and pocket sizes

Cons:  

  • The cover isn’t that hard, might get damaged if you always carry it with you
  • Twin-wire binding might get on the way when drawing

Lemome notebook

9 Best Notebooks For Bullet Journaling, Lemome | Masha Plans

Another notebook I haven’t really tried but always add to all my lists. According to reviews, it’s a solid notebook for a quite affordable price. Take a look at the specs, it might be a good fit for you.

Pros:

  • 180 pages
  • 120 GSM paper
  • Hard cover
  • Back pocket
  • Elastic band
  • 1 ribbon
  • Pen holder
  • Available in 4 colors
  • A5 size

Cons:

  • No pre-made pages
  • Pages aren’t numbered

If you’re on a budget, check my post with Best Cheap Bullet Journal supplies, that will help you to choose the best fit for you and teach you how to deal with possible problems you might have with budget notebooks and such.

2. Don’t buy ALL the supplies

Looking at Bullet Journal accounts on Instagram and inspiration on Pinterest it’s so easy to fall in a shopping spree and buy tons of stationery.

I know because I did so myself, and it was not pretty. I bought loads of stationery I saw others used, and I ended up with the buyer’s guilt because most of them remained unused to this day. 

5 Essential Bullet Journal Supplies For Beginners, Markers and Brush Pens | Masha Plans

The thing is, we all have our own style with certain supplies we prefer. Like, look at me and my washi tape collections for example. I love them, they are all so pretty, but they just don’t fit with my style, so I end up never using any washi at all.

It takes time to figure out your own style and your own needs, so start from cheaper supplies, the ones you won’t be feeling sad not using.

Instead of Tombow Dual Brush Pens, try Crayola Super Tips – they offer a wide array of colors as well and you can use them for lettering.

Instead of designer washi tapes, buy a cheaper set and see if it fits your style. Wanna try other media – get Prang watercolor instead of Sakura Koi or Arteza watercolor pencils instead of Faber Castell ones.

In short, start with the basics. Once you get these and start Bullet Journaling, you’ll start getting an idea of what else you’d want to add to your collection.

Here are the things I’d call basics because you’ll use them disregarding your journaling style:

  • Black fineliner pens. These are the core of your journal, they are the best to doodle and draw you setups. If you want to invest try Tombow Mono pens or Sakura Micron. But you can also just get a set of my favorite Unipin fineliners for a cheaper price.
  • Pen and pencil. It sounds silly that I mention it here, but it’s really an important part of your Bullet Journal. You’ll use your pencil all the time, so it better be comfortable to hold (this one is my favorite). And you want an eraser that will keep your journal clean and won’t smudge. My choice is Sakura Foam eraser.
  • Rulers. Rulers will help you make your pages look more neat and clean. Start from a basic $1 rule from Walmart. But here are a few extra ones you might want to add to your collections – Helix circle ruler will help you create those amazing circle monthly logs and habit trackers. Westcott ruler will help you with all the other shames you might use as your symbols or maybe as decoration.
  • Color supplies. Don’t overinvest in this just yet, as I mentioned before, you’d better start from Crayola Supertips, while you’re still figuring out what else you want. My personal favorites these days are Karin Markers and Zebra Mildliners.

3. Think about your WHY

The reason why a lot of people fail with Bullet Journaling is that they aren’t sure what they want from their journal.

You don’t want your Bullet Journal to be something you do in January and completely forgotten by the time March rolls in.

To make the habit stick what you need to do is to realize why you’re doing it, what you want to achieve with your Bullet Journal.

Do you want to reach fitness goals? To do more during the day? To close the work project? To finally start working on your dreams?

Knowing your “why” will make sure you stick with the habit and succeed in the end, disregarding whatever might happen on the way.

4. You don’t need to be artistic to start a Bullet Journal

Looking at all the Bullet Journal Instagram accounts, it might look that you need at least an art degree to start yours.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! The Bullet Journal is made to make your life better, decorating it with Renaissance paintings or childish doodles, it’s your choice.

How To Organize Collections In Your Bullet Journal (+ 50 Page Ideas) | Masha Plans

If you want to spend hours of your BuJo you can, but if you don’t want to or don’t really have those mad skills – it’s still fine. Just go minimal.

It’s your journal, your rules. What you need to do with it is making it work for you. If that means going with the original concept and only using a black pen – so be it! You roll the way you roll baby, nobody to judge you!

Now, if you want to decorate your Bullet Journal (I know you do, we all want our notebooks to be pretty!), there are still plenty of ways you can do it, even if you can’t draw. So don’t let it stop you from starting a Bullet Journal.

Here are a few tricks you can use:

Finally, creativity is not a special skill just Neo has, it’s a muscle we all possess. So the more you practice, the better you become.

This is a whole new topic, but I’ll just direct you to a few blog posts that I think will help you out on this journey to discovering your creativity.

5. Just start

A lot of people come to me asking where should they start their Bullet Journal. The notebook and pens are bought but still, they sit in front of that empty page not knowing the next step.

This is a first-page fear and I have the same every time I need to do something with a new notebook.

The tip here is pretty simple – start from the first page.

How To Start A Bullet Journal In The Middle of The Years: 2019-2020 Plan With Me, Cover Page | Masha Plans

There are so many things you can do with your Bullet Journal, that it’s pretty understandable that you freeze when it’s time to start your setup. So take it slow and start from the first step.

Here are a few ideas on what you might want to have as your first page:

  • Just write the date when you started your Bullet Journal. I love this option and it’ll be very convenient in the future when you’ll look back at all the notebooks – the first page will tell you all you need to know and the time of your life it was created.
  • A quote. Way to start your year on a positive note – find your favorite quote and decorate your first page with it.
  • A word. Think about what you want to achieve in the upcoming year, what are your goals and aspirations. Choose one word that would represent it and write it on your first page. It’ll be a good reference for future self when you need extra assurance or a reminder.
  • Mandala or patterns. There is nothing more calming than drawing those, and maybe that‘s exactly what you need to calm your nerves and break that first page.
  • Key. Make the first page the heart of your productivity and create the key with all the symbols you’re planning to use. My tip here – leave some space, since you might want to add some more symbols on the way.

Once you’re done with your first page, everything else will come bit by bit. I know however many people are wondering how to organize your pages. And my reply here is that everyone is doing it differently.

How To Start A Bullet Journal In The Middle of The Years: 2019-2020 Plan With Me, Future Log | Masha Plans

All I can do is share with you what I think works the best, at least for the beginning while you’re still figuring it out:

  • Key
  • Index
  • Future Log
  • Any extra annual pages you need (some ideas are: goals, level 10 life, movie tracker, book tracker, TV tracker)
  • Monthly cover page
  • Monthly Log
  • Other monthly pages (for example: monthly to-do, monthly goals, monthly habit tracker, mood tracker, gratitude log)
  • Weekly spreads

If you run out of space in your collections or want to create more – remember, that as long as you have your Index you can create them at any page in your journal, So don’t stress about that.

In case you’re not sure what pages to add, I’ll advise you to start from the minimum, and maybe add more pages on the way. You don’t want to get overloaded with trackers and collections and turn Bullet Journaling in a chore.

But you can get some ideas to get you started from my Extensive List of Bullet Journal Page Ideas.

6. ALWAYS do a pen test

Save yourself some grief and always pen test before using any new pen in your Bullet Journal.

First of all, it will help you understand which pens work in your journal and which ones don’t and you’ll save yourself the heartbreak of using a new pen and seeing that it completely ruined your pages.

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

Also, it will show you the true colors your pen will have in your journal. As I mentioned before, as long as your journal doesn’t have pure white paper (like Archer and Olive), the paper color will change the colors. Having a pen test will allow you to see what results you can count for.

Finally, pen test pages are great to keep track of your stationery collection. You might have just one set of markers right now, but once your collection grows and you get more and more pens, some can get forgotten, especially if they aren’t very visible and you store them in pencil cases.

If you have a pen test with all the colors you have, all you need to do next time you’ll be choosing a color is to just look back at the pen test page.

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

Speaking of, if you’re starting with your Tombow Dual Brush collection, I have a free printable pentest page with all the Tombow colors in our Facebook group

Here are some tips on creating a pen test page:

  • Make sure there isn’t anything important on the other side of the page. There is a chance that the pen will bleed or ghost, you don’t want to ruin anything important. That’s why I usually do my pen tests at the end of the notebook.
  • Try layering your ink. Don’t just add one stroke and be done with it. When you’re using your pens for decorating you’re likely to layer them in some places, so be sure to test that as well.
  • Try different pressure. When lettering the key to the whole thing is using different pressure on your pens. So make sure you do the same when you pen test to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
  • Make sure to label your tests. If you don’t it will be pretty useless and you’ll have to start from the beginning.

7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

We ALL make mistakes, it’s in human nature. It doesn’t matter how far you are in your BuJo journey, mistakes happen even to the best of us.

27 Coffee Bullet Journal Theme Inspirations & My November Plan With Me, Habit Tracker | Masha Plans

Just the other day when I was setting up my November, I spilled some SOUP on my habit tracker. I was hysterical, just ask the husband. But after a few cups of tea and a whole lot of chocolate, I was ready to face this and solve it.

The thing is, no one can prepare you on how to avoid accidents – they will happen one way or another. What you need to do is, learn how to accept and fix them!

Here are some tricks I find the most useful when dealing with Bullet Journal mistakes:

  • White gel pen. My choice is Sakura Gelly Roll. White gel pen works as a corrector and allows you to fix mistakes very neatly, so much so that they become pretty much invisible. It might not work for larger things, but it’s perfect for those little things that drive you crazy.
  • Washi Tape. These are great for fixing larger mistakes, especially headers. Black washi tape was my savior in my 2019 Bullet Journal setup. Darker washi tapes usually work better for this, since they are more likely to cover the ink completely, while the lighter ones might need two layers for full coverage.
  • Blackout. My other favorite method – just blackout whatever area where you made a mistake and use a white gel pen to write over it. In fact, I loved this effect so much that I did it on purpose in my November setup.
  • Cover with paper. If you ruined a whole page or at least a large part of it, there is an easy fix. First, you can print out a dot grid paper, or cut out a piece from the back of your journal and stick it to over the mistake.
  • Use printables. If it’s completely unsavable – just cover it with a printable! Print whatever you want, use a Tombow adhesive and stick it to your page. Just like that, you have a pretty page and nobody knows what it’s hiding underneath. 

Speaking of printables, we always have something new being added to our Resources Vault, so be sure to drop by and get something for your Bullet Journal.

If you aren’t a part of Planning Mashers yet, make sure to join us in the signup form at the end of the post and get access to a wonderful community and TONS of free printables.

Couldn’t find the printables you need? Drop me a line and let me know what you need, I’d be happy to create more!

Hopefully, I answered most of your concerns and you’re ready to start your Bullet Journal right away!

What is your biggest struggle with starting a Bullet Journal? Let me know in the comments.

Hope this post was interesting 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 remember! Keep Bullet Journaling and Don’t be a Blob! 

How to start a Bullet Journal in 2020 | Masha Plans

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