Hello Planning Mashers!
Welcome to our detailed guide for Bullet Journal beginners that will answer all the questions you might have about this planning system.
This is the perfect place to get started and I’m excited to be your guide to the beautiful world of Bullet Journaling.
You’re probably here because you’re thinking of starting a Bullet Journal. But what is a Bullet Journal? Would it be a good fit for you? How do you start on such a big project? Probably these and a lot of other questions are floating in your head right now.
I get it – starting something new is always scary and confusing at times. Don’t worry though, for here I bring to all of you Masha’s Ultimate Guide to Bullet Journal for beginners! TA-DAAAA!
In this post, I gathered materials from 15+ articles I previously wrote for Bullet Journal beginners, as well as a lot of new materials and a huge Q&A section with my answers to all the questions I usually get from the beginners.
The bonus entries are incredibly valuable tips for beginners by 8 outstanding and experienced Bullet Journal artists. I haven’t slept properly in WEEKS! But that’s not here nor there. Let’s dive in!
I started my first Bullet Journal in January 2018 in hope of using it to find myself and become more productive. I’m writing this post less than a year after that, and I still remember how confusing and overwhelming my first few months of Bullet Journaling were.
That’s why as soon as I established this blog, I took it upon myself to, first of all, gather together all the information for beginners.
So I wrote this ENORMOUS post, first and foremost, because Bullet Journal improved my life so much, that I want more people to discover the system and use it for their own benefit. It’s the least I can do to thank the system for my new life. Pay it forward, as they say.
This post may contain affiliate links. They will be of no extra expense for you, but I receive a small credit. Please see my Disclosure for more details. Thank you for supporting Masha Plans!
Be sure to check until the end of the post, because I do have a special FREE course to offer you to help set up your first Bullet Journal.
Bullet Journal Glossary
Bullet Journal – The Bullet Journal is a method where you use a single notebook with specialized spreads and elements for all the things in your life to get organized and be productive.
Bujo – A shortened version of the word Bullet Journal.
Spread / Layout – a page that you created in your journal.
Log – another term for spread.
Collections – pages in a journal that are about a related topic.
Index – a table on content for your journal.
Key – a page with the symbols you use when writing in your journal.
Signifier – an icon to label certain types of data in your journal
Migrate – to transfer the information between spreads, pages, or journals.
Rapid Logging – a fast way to add information to your journal with symbols and short entries.
Tracker – a chart, graph, drawing, or table used to keep track of anything.
Theme – design elements that unify the whole monthly setup.
GSM – usually comes with a number before, signifies the thickness of the paper.
Bleeding – when ink bled through the page and is seen on the next page.
Ghosting – when you can see the shading of what you wrote on the back of the page.
What Is A Bullet Journal?
When I personally heard about Bullet Journal, I wasn’t really sure what exactly this was. It really took some time for me to figure it out (I decided to just start one without even clearly understanding what it was).
I think that’s maybe why I consider myself some kind of an expert when it comes to beginners – because I made TONS of mistakes when I started and now I’m this sort of Guru of Failure. Which is a good thing. I think.
Anyways. In a few words, the Bullet Journal is a planning system that helps you organizing your present and planning your future.
The Bullet Journal system is created around these concepts.
- Bullet Journal Spreads / Collections
Your Bullet Journal is a Lego castle, and the spreads or collections you use in it are the building blocks. The beauty of the system is, of course, that there is a limitless amount of different pages you can use, and you can come up with your own unique pages suited to your personal needs.
However, there are some core spreads and we’ll talk later about those.
- Rapid Logging
Rapid logging is the language your journal is written in. It’s pretty simple – all your journal entries are made in short condensed sentences and marked by a special symbol.
One of the key ideas of the Bullet Journal is to use it mindfully, to make sure you understand why you are doing things and choose to do what’s important.
Migration is a way to review. You migrate your tasks from day to day, from month to month, and then you, of course, migrate your journal to a new notebook. This process allows you to re-evaluate what things are important in your life.
Creative journaling first and foremost is about building a better and more meaningful life. Reflections are what helps you the most to achieve that.
Every time you sit to plan, reflect on what happened the last day, think of what you could do better today. This is the way to move forward.
Essentially your Bullet Journal is a mix of different practices and planning methods that brings only the best from each and it is completely customized to your personal needs.
Why Bullet Journal Then?
It sounds like an awesome system, right? But why is it so great and how will it be different from all the other planning systems?
Well, having a Bullet journal can be INCREDIBLY impactful, and here is why:
- Using pen and paper will help you to remember things better
- You’ll be able to concentrate better and find your focus much easier
- You can develop your creativity. Creativity isn’t a secret superpower just a few chosen ones possess. It’s a muscle and you can absolutely train it. Your journal will be a great place to start discovering it in yourself. I’d start from my favorite place to learn – Skillshare. As my reader, you get 2 weeks FREE trial.
- Your journal is your time to spend with yourself, to reflect, and to learn more about your own desires and dreams. It’s a wonderful element of self-care with we all miss in this busy world.
- Once you set your goals, figure out your priorities and find your focus, you will be achieving more and moving to your dreams much faster.
- Finally, having a huge to-do list in your head that keeps growing can be very taxing on your poor brain. Your Bullet Journal is outside storage for all the data so your brain can concentrate on completing all the tasks instead.
I’d recommend you to start a Bullet Journal if:
- You’re a person who’s been having problems with other types of planning and time management systems
- You’re a creative and artistic person and want to bring your personality to your planner
- You want a planning system where you have complete control over and that is 100% created for your needs
- You like the idea of having a planner and a journal in one notebook
The Bullet Journal system might not be for you if:
- you already have a planning system you love and that works for you.
If you decide to get into Bullet Journaling and commit to it – I guarantee it will do wonders for you.
If in the beginning, you feel like it might not be such a miracle – it probably just means that you need to optimize and customize it a little bit more.
Thankfully, I’m here for you to help with tons of posts on the blog. Plus – I’m always in our Facebook group, so feel free to join and ask around there.
Starting a Bullet Journal – Get Prepared
Knowing what a Bullet Journal is and that you need one is a good first step. But beware! After that, all the confusion and anxiety settle in! “How do I start? What do I need to BuJo? What mistakes should I avoid?”
I asked myself all these questions and I said what the heck! Let’s go with the “learn by doing” method and yeah, I made all the mistakes you can possibly imagine. I definitely would like you to enjoy the process of Bullet Journaling, instead of stressing out about possible mistakes.
The first thing you need to consider is your why. Understanding what’s the purpose of your journal will make it that much easier for you to decide on everything, from what supplies to use to what spreads to create. So before you read all the other tips I have for you, think on your own personal why.
For example, my why was and is to be productive, but also, to be creative. Yours can be something similar or completely different, according to your needs.
Ok. Decided? Not yet? Take your time. I’ll go have a cup of nice tea.
Are you done? Great! Time to start preparing. Based on all my mistakes and such, here are a few things you should consider before starting:
- Bullet Journal first and foremost, is an organization system, which helps you to be more productive and mindful. As much as it looks like just an art journal sometimes, keep in mind what the main goal is and don’t sacrifice anything for just good looks.
- Speaking of good looks, you don’t really need to be artistic to start a Bullet Journal. Your journal is your own and it can be as messy as needs are. There are many ways you can decorate your journal even if you’re not artistic, or you can simply go with stunning minimalist style.
- There is no one way to Bullet Journal. You can’t do anything wrong because the rules don’t exist. Everyone does whatever works best for them. So don’t feel obligated to use something just because it’s popular in the community. Only use spreads and supplies that are useful and fitting to you personally.
- Your Bullet Journal is a living notebook, it grows and changes with you. Just like in real life, mistakes happen, but they are what make your journal beautiful and unique. This also means that you should always try new things and new spreads to make sure your journal reflects your current needs.
But that’s not it! I also asked experienced and well-known Bullet Journalists to give their best tips for beginners. Reading them I realized I made all the mistakes they mentioned, so definitely check them out. Here is the link – 9 Ridiculously Useful Tips For Bullet Journal Beginners.
Bullet Journal Supplies – What Do You Need?
One of the most common questions I get is about stationery. What pens are the best? What journal should I buy? What supplies would you recommend for beginners?
You can start a Bullet Journal with a notebook and a pen. That’s it, really! But if we‘re being honest here for a minute, you’d probably want to have a little something extra to add a little spark to your journal, right? I’m here to help you out.
First, let’s get back to your why, this will help you realize what you might need. Are you a busy person and just need a notebook to keep your notes organized? Maybe a notebook and a pen are all you need!
Are you a minimalist and want to have one of those stunning black and white journals? Maybe to the usual set you can add a fineliner or two. Are you planning to use your journal as an art journal and sketchbook? Yes, you’ll need those brush pens!
When it comes to starting a Bullet Journal, I always recommend having a small trial period. Instead of going for the best notebook and buying the most expensive brush pens, get some cheap supplies and have a month or two tryout.
First of all, it’ll be a good test for you to see if the Bullet Journal is what you’ve been looking for. Secondly – it’ll give you an understanding on how you want to decorate your journal and what’s your style. That way you’ll be clear on what supplies you might need to up your game.
Bullet Journal Notebook
When it’s finally time to pick that one perfect notebook, you should consider many different factors. There is no such thing as one perfect journal, there are many amazing ones that are a good fit for different people. So instead of telling you what to buy, I’ll tell you what you should consider when choosing one:
- Price. Don’t worry if you’re on a budget, there are great quality notebooks even in a low price range.
- Lining. Of course, I recommend the dot grid, but you actually can use any type of lining you want.
- Cover. Softcover? Hardcover?
- Paper density. You definitely want your paper to be of high quality, so ghosting and bleeding wouldn’t be a problem. Look for anything higher than 80 GSM.
- Paper color. Pure white? Cream? Ivory? The paper color will influence how your markers and such will look in your Bullet Journal.
- Extra features. Numbered pages, pre-made pages, pen holder – how important are these for you?
Here are some of the notebooks I’d recommend to give a look at.
This is one of the most famous brands of dot grid journals and it’s super popular and well known (and loved) in the Bullet Journal community. They’re dot grid journals, with two ribbons, smooth dot grid paper, and a back pocket. A great beginner’s notebook.
- The A5 MEDIUM notebooks are the perfect size with a wide range of colors making them ideal companions for all walks of life — this notebook series is perfect for midnight ramblings, daily entries, thoughtful reflection, careful chronicling and illuminating life stories
- Thread-bound to open flat which helps make reading the contents easy and adds efficiency to note-taking
- Features 80g/m² acid-free paper with high ink compatibility to help prevent bleed through, an expandable gusseted pocket on the back cover, 2 page markers / bookmarks and an elastic closure band
This is a great budget notebook, and its paper has a much higher density than LT1917. It’s a great notebook for beginners because you’re getting decent quality, but at the same time, you’re not overspending.
- DURABLE HARDCOVER JOURNAL - Touched comfortably, sturdy hard cover protects your art for years. The elastic pen loop is always available for your pen and kept well.
- LAY-FLAT 180° LARGECLASSIC NOTEBOOK - Let you reading more easy and note-taking efficiency. The tight band of journal keeps it securely closed. And firm binding ensures pages don't get peeled away from the cover. Enjoy your writing by hand with no distractions.
- 180 PAGES DOTTED BULLET JOURNAL - Thicker paper resistant to passionate artist. Dotted grid notebook helps guide your writings, stand out very clearly. Perfect for bullet journaling, compiling recipes, creative writing, planning a holiday, keeping track of your workouts, or just doodling and drawing.
An eco-friendly, high-quality notebook that has been one of my top picks for a while. They have two collections, with Wildlife being a plain dot grid notebook and Earth collection presenting us with notebooks made specifically for Bullet Journaling with numbered pages and some pre-made spreads.
- A5 NOTEBOOK WITH LOTS O' FEATURES: Dingbats notebooks ooze quality - this hardcover bound leather notebook is crafted with PU vegan leather, micro-perforated cream 100gsm pages, an elastic closure and pen holder. It's complete with animal footprint end sheets, and an inner pocket for a little added detail - the perfect gifts for men and women, these travel essentials are a gift that keep on giving
- HIGHEST-QUALITY WRITING PAPER: This A5 notebook journal (medium, 16 x 21.5 cm) in a flat lay design, is as aesthetic as it is practical. Our size A5 notebook has 192 pages (96 sheets), of the world's highest quality Cream 100gsm, acid-free fountain-friendly, perforated dotted paper - make your Dingbats notebook your own, it's the perfect recipe, travel, business notepad, or a place to collect your inspirations and thoughts
- A MULTI-FACETED JOURNAL: Use this stylish notebook as a space to organise your days and thoughts. A cute notebook that can function as both a secret diary and a to do list pad, keeping your days on track and your mind in check. No matter what kind of day or week it is, you'll find something to fill the dotted pages of this medium notebook with! This handy sized Dingbats writing pad is an excellent companion for jotting down your thoughts
If you want to learn more about this notebook, be sure to check my detailed review.
- A5 NOTEBOOK WITH LOTS O' FEATURES: Dingbats notebooks ooze quality - this hardcover bound leather notebook is crafted with PU vegan leather, micro-perforated cream 100gsm pages, an elastic closure and pen holder. It's complete with a silhouette of the Arctic, an infographic spread about the endangered region in the endsheets and an inner pocket for a little added detail - the perfect gifts for men and women, these travel essentials are a gift that keep on giving
- HIGHEST-QUALITY WRITING PAPER: This A5 notebook journal (medium, 16 x 21.5 cm) in a flat lay design, is as aesthetic as it is practical. Our size A5 notebook has 192 pages (96 sheets), of the world's highest quality Cream 100gsm, acid-free fountain-friendly dotted paper with the last sixteen pages being perforated. With the index page, numbered pages, keys pages and a future log - it's the perfect recipe, travel, business notepad, or a place to collect your inspirations and thoughts
- A MULTI-FACETED JOURNAL: Use this stylish notebook as a space to organise your days and thoughts. A cute notebook that can function as both a writing journal and a memo pad, keeping your days on track and your mind in check. No matter what kind of day or week it is, you'll find something to fill the dotted pages of this medium notebook with! This handy sized Dingbats journal notebook is an excellent companion for jotting down your thoughts
Scribbles That Matter
Scribbles That Matter provides high-quality journals and lately they released a new series with 160 GSM paper, which is among the highest on the market.
- 😍 DONT RUIN YOUR HARD WORK: Pens and markers glide across the ultra smooth ink proof 160gsm acid-free paper. Zero bleeding, ghosting and feathering for beautifully clean double-sided musings. Our journals have a Pen Test page so you don’t ruin all your hard work
- ✒️ START ORGANIZING RIGHT AWAY: Bullet journaling should be fun which is why we’ve made our journal an overwhelm-free zone. Includes key code page, index pages, dotted numbered pages and 2 color coded bookmarks for optimal organization and stress-free set up
- 💪 WONT FALL APART: The silky yet sturdy faux leather cover protects your plans and ideas for years to come. Strong binding means even die hard journalers won’t have to worry about pages falling out from avid writing. Lay flat design for smoother writing
Archer and Olive
These are my absolute favorite notebooks. The brand is amazing by itself but they also produce some of the cutest journals out there.
Apart from the awesome design, these journals also have probably the best paper on the market. Be sure to check my complete review on details about them.
I also have a code for you – MASHA10 that will give you 10% off your order on Archer and Olive.
If you want to learn more about Bullet Journal notebooks, check out these posts:
Pens, highlighters, markers, and all the fun stuff!
Journal – check! Next comes the crazy fun time for all those wonderful pens and markers of course! It’s easy to go crazy and buy them ALL! And….. End up not using most of them (yup, that’s me speaking from my own experience!).
Don’t do it – it’s a HUGE waste of money and the feeling of guilt you’ll probably end up with will just drain your energy! That’s actually why I always advise everyone to start from some super cheap supplies, so you can get a sense of what supplies you’ll actually need, and then upgrade from there.
Below are some of my absolute favorite supplies.
Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens
These fineliners are some of the best I’ve ever tried. The set also comes with pens of different sizes, so you’ll be able to add a bit extra flavor to your Bullet Journal pages. The set also has a small brush pen, so it’ll be a great way for you to start discovering brush lettering.
- PITT artist pens contain pigmented India ink that is both archival and acid free
- Perfect for drawing on the go!
- Convenient wallet keeps all your drawing tools together
Zebra Mildliner Highlighters
These highlighters have been my favorites ever since I got my first pack, They have the most wonderful color scheme and come with two tips, so you can use them for more than just highlighters. Basically, you can see me using them on 90% of my Bullet Journal pages.
Having a good writing pen is very important, and if you’re looking for a good and budget pen, there is nothing better than Pilot G2. I’ve been a fan of Pilot pens ever since they first appeared in Russian in the 90s and they never disappointed since.
- The Ideal Pen for Overachievers: The smooth writing, long-lasting Pilot G2 Premium Gel Ink Pen features a comfortable rubber grip, & is available in ultra fine, extra fine, fine, & bold point
- Longest Lasting, Refillable Gel Ink: Proven to be the longest writing gel ink pen among top brands, the smooth-writing, retractable G2 gel ink pen is a classic choice for all your writing needs
- Perfectly Suited For You: If you love the original Pilot G2, you'll want to try our full G2 line of Mini, Metallic, Mosaic, & Fashion gel ink pens in a variety of sizes, barrel designs & colors
P.S. Since I’ve been living in China for 8 years, a lot of Japanese stationery was pretty easily accessible. So my second favorite writing pen is a Muji open. They are super smooth and incredibly cute!
- 5.5 x 1.1 x 0.6 inches
These brush pens are an absolute must if you ask me. They are great for smaller lettering, like your daily headers and such. If you’re just starting with your lettering journey, these will be a great tool to use as well.
- Contains both the soft and hard tip Fudenosuke Brush Pens
- Features a flexible brush tip for different lettering and drawing techniques
- Create extra fine, fine or medium strokes by a change in brush pressure
Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Of course, I had to mention these brush pens. They are very high quality, come with two tips, and moreover – have more than 100 colors in their palettes! When it comes to using brush pens, I always choose them.
- Updated color palette now includes N95 Cool Gray 1
- Ideal for hand lettering, watercolor, fine art, illustrations, doodling, journaling, coloring and more
Helix Circle Ruler
The one tool that will bring your journal to the next level. With this ruler, you’ll be able to decorate your journal with different circle elements and finally create those beautiful circle trackers and monthly logs you keep seeing on Instagram.
- Helix Angle and Circle Protractor
- This item is manufactured in China
If you want to learn more about different Bullet Journal stationery, check out these posts:
First Page Fear – How To Actually Start Writing In Your Bullet Journal
Ok, so let’s say, you know what you want from this project, you have all the supplies ready, your pretty notebook is prepared….
But you never start.
Has this ever happened to you? OMG guys, It TOTALLY happened to me T_T
My worst fear was the fear of ruining my journal with my horrible designs and my ugly doodles. So I froze and never actually begun. This happened for a long time, even before BuJo, when I wanted to just create a regular journal. I probably lost years of my life, when instead of being productive and artistic I kept on trying to hold it all in my head.
Does that sound familiar? If it does – you’re suffering from first-page fear! Please don’t let it stop you!
First of all – everyone has this fear, even the most experienced Bullet Journalists. So it’s completely normal. And secondly – your first page will always be the worst! This is pure logic – the more you plan the better you become, so your very first page will never be as good as your last one.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can overcome your first-page fear:
- Practice. Don’t just sit straight with your new journal, try out different designs in some other notebook or just on any piece of paper,
- Pick an idea in advance. Think a bit about what you want to be on your cover page, check for some inspirations on Pinterest before you sit down to create it.
- Start from the last page. Start writing in your notebook from the last page, create a pen test. When you already have something written in the brand new journal it doesn’t feel so scary to start working on the cover page.
- Skip the page. Just don’t create anything as a cover and move straight to your productive spreads.
The other issue I faced when I opened my first ever BuJo was – What should I write on the first page? A cover page for the whole journal seemed so important and decisive to me, I was confused. To help you avoid this, here are a few ideas:
The cover page is done, now let’s get into setting up the journal itself.
Bullet Journal Setup – Step By Step
Setting up your Bullet Journal can be as easy and as time-consuming as you want. Always remember this – you’re the master of your journal, so it can be whatever you need it to be!
The original Bullet Journal system is incredibly simple and easy to use.
5 Must-Have Bullet Journal Pages
The Bullet Journal system can have an unlimited amount of pages for tons of different topics and purposes.
However, there are 5 which are the core of the system, and as a beginner, that’s where you should start. Or at least some pages to consider at first, since of course your journal is yours so you just choose the pages you need.
Bullet Journal Key
This spread is a place for you to add signifiers you use for writing down data in your Bullet Journal. As you already know, for writing things in your journal you use condensed sentences and signifiers, so you can input information faster and visually easier understand it.
The basic symbols are:
X Completed – once you’ve completed a task, mark it with an X
> Migrated – if you didn’t complete a task, you migrate it to another day
< Scheduled -tasks with specific dates in the future. These can be added to the Future Log.
0 – event
– – note
! – priority
You, of course, are free to use your own symbols and add anything else you feel like you might be needing.
TIP: don’t overdo with your signifiers. They are created so you can input data easier, and the more you have the more confusing it can get.
TIP 2: try to create your key on the right side of your journal. Especially at the beginning, this will be a spread you’ll reference quite a lot, while you’re trying to memorize the symbols. If it’s on the right side of your journal it makes it easier.
Bullet Journal Index
This is one of the things that make the Bullet Journal method stand out among all the others. You now don’t need to flip through your entire journal looking for specific information.
Just reference your index page and you’ll find anything you need in seconds.
Some journals already have a pre-made index page and numbered pages, but some are don’t. If yours doesn’t you’ll have to create an index page yourself and to remember to number your pages as you go.
To make your index work the best for you, you can use different ways to organize it. Your index can be just a simple table of content, or you could make it more elaborate, include color-coding or sort by categories.
Here are some of the ideas on how you can organize index in your journal.
- Fill it out numerically. This means that as you go, you write down separately on each page of your journal. This is great because it will create a very detailed index. However, it will definitely take a lot of space in your journal. Plus most likely you won’t be needing to write down each and every page.
- Fill it out by content. This will definitely save you some space. This means that you combine the same pages from different months in the same line. For example:
Habit trackers – 14, 28, 43
Or you can just write down all monthly pages together. For example:
December – 60-72
- Divide the content. Another way to fill out the index page is to divide it into two parts. Have one index for your planning pages and a separate one for collections.
Your future log is one of the most important and used pages in your Bullet Journal. This is where you plan your future and organize your year to come.
There are many ways to set up your future log, plus there are a few alternatives you might want to try. I have a blog post with all the options for your Future Log, but here we will look into the traditional way.
Divide your page into three equal lines. If you use four pages, that should create 12 equal spaces. Add a name of the month and a calendar to each. That’s your year!
You, of course, don’t have to make your future log for a whole year to come, especially if you start your journal in the middle of the year.
You might also need more space if you usually have lots of appointments and stuff to plan, so you always have an option to have only two or even one month per each page.
Here are a few ideas on what you can add to your Future Log:
- Annual bills
- National Holidays
The Monthly log is where you organize your month, these pages give you a birds-eye view of how your month looks like.
This spread consists of two pages – a monthly calendar on one side and a monthly task list on another.
In your monthly calendar, write all your dates and appointments (consult with the future log we created yesterday!). Make sure you look back at your future log every time you create a monthly log.
Your task list is… well… a list of things to do this month. It’s beneficial to make it at the beginning of every month since it’ll help you remember all the things you wanted to get done.
There are many interesting and creative ways to set up your monthly log. Personally, I really prefer the calendar look, since this is just how I naturally see the month better.
The original Bullet Journal concept offers to just create a column with dates and days of the week. Of course, you can choose whatever way works best for you. Keep on experimenting!
Weekly Spread / Daily Log
Finally, here are the basics of planning – your daily and/or weekly spreads.
The weekly spread isn’t really in the original Bullet Journal system, but by now it because an absolute must-have for many of us in the community. Weekly spreads are a great way to plan for the whole week and see it all at once, which I think is one of the best things about using this format.
Your weekly is a Lego castle and you can add or take out any things you want from your setup. Here are a few ideas:
- Weekly habit tracker
- Weekly water tracker
- Weekly review
- Meal plan
- Calendar for the month
- Number of the week
- Weekly to-do list
- House chores list
- Plans for next week
The daily log is where you write your to-do list, your appointments, and deadlines – pretty much everything you need to keep in mind on a specific day.
You can create one page daily, or start them as you go and assign as much space for each day as needed.
Daily spreads allow for more detailed daily planning, so if it’s something you might be needing, definitely give them a chance. Here are some ideas on what you can include in your daily spreads:
- Plans for tomorrow
- Daily menu
- Groceries list
- Daily chores
- Daily review
- Health goals
- Motivational word of the day
- Time tracker
- Daily challenges (a doodle a day, a line a day, and so on)
You can use just weeklies, just dailies, or maybe even both together. Always experiment and see what works best for you. Personally, I’m 100% a weekly spread kind of girl, since I love to plan week by week and find it more productive. Plus I really don’t write that much to fill out a complete daily log.
READ MORE: Bullet Journal Weekly Spread vs Daily Log
If you want to see a simple setup of all the basic pages, check out my video below.
Bullet Journal Collections
Now that we are done with basics, time to check out what else Bullet Journal has to offer – collections. Collections are basically spreads created on a specific topic. Collections can be lists, logs, trackers, maps, info dumps, and much more.
Collections are great to explore new things, stay organized, and generally improve your life. They are also pretty simple to set up – just turn to a new page, add a header with the name of what you want to do on the page, and tadam! It’s ready.
The problem I faced here was I got too many options last time I sat down to think of collection ideas I came up with 300+! I’ll make sure to guide you in the sea of possibilities! When faced with the choice of what collections you should include, do this….
First of all – think about the purpose of your Bullet Journal: Do you need to be productive? Or maybe take better care of your health? Maybe you just want to be more mindful? Knowing your “why” is always the first step to creating your own perfect system.
Second – keep experimenting! Try out different pages and see how they work out for you. Don’t try them all at once, but add one page and see how it worked during your monthly review.
To get you started, check out some of my favorite collections.
Bullet Journal Collections I Love
I tried quite a few collections on my journey, and here are a few that I found are the most fun and/or impactful. I think these are pretty universal and will have the same effect on you, so I definitely recommend you to give them a try.
However, always remember that this is your journal made for you. If something doesn’t really resonate with you – don’t do it. Find something that works for you instead.
Hands down this are the most impactful spread in my Bullet Journal. I started my BuJo to get myself together, to become more organized, and to start living to my full potential, and none of that would’ve been possible without a goals page.
The important thing about annual goals is to keep them flexible. During the year, a lot of things can happen, and sometimes your goals might change.
There is no reason to keep working on something if it isn’t really what you want anymore. Treat your annual goals as a general direction of your life.
A monthly review is really a must-have page in your Bullet Journal.
By taking a moment to flip through your last month and think back on how it went, you might be able to get some powerful insights, that will, in turn, help you making adjustments to your life and improving it.
Moreover, why not using your monthly review to audit the pages you had? Take a look at which pages worked, which ones didn’t, and what you might’ve been missing.
This is very useful when you’re building your own planning system.
READ MORE: Why You Need A Monthly Review Page
This is a great spread for mental health and generally for a happier life. Making an effort every day to find something to be grateful for is a very powerful practice.
This spread will help you to recognize and be actively grateful for a lot of little things you’ve been blessed with but took for granted.
You’ll be happier, more mindful and that will definitely reflect in a positive way on your relationships with people around you.
My favorite pages to make and definitely the ones I love to look back on the most.
Ever since I started doing memory pages, I realized how much we actually forget. Every time I look back at these I’m surprised at the good of times I actually had because in my mind they are completely different.
After all, in a way, your Bullet Journal is your very own Autobiography. Why not keep our best and happiest memories there as well?
They’ll really bring you so much joy and make you so grateful when you revisit them and discover experiences you had forgotten.
READ MORE: Memory Keeping In Your Bullet Journal
Creating lists is one of my favorite ways to get organized!
Lists can help you with everything and make sure you remember all the things you should.
Here are a few ideas on what kind of lists you might consider using:
- List of random ideas
- Grocery list
- Gift ideas
- Favorite movies
- Healthy snack ideas
- Party guest list
- School assignments
- Co-workers contacts
- Books to read
- Important things to remember
- To-do list
Bullet Journal Trackers I love
Trackers strong instruments that help you to develop better habits and creating the life you want. Sounds exciting? That’s because it is!
Here are several trackers you might consider adding to your Bullet Journal.
For me, it’s a definitely must-have page for each monthly setup.
Habit tracker helps you to develop better habits and get rid of unnecessary ones.
It works pretty easily. You set a few habits you want to track for a month and every evening you sit down and mark which habits you completed during the day.
After weeks of months, you’ll clearly see your patterns, so you’ll know why some things are difficult and what you need to do to achieve what you set to achieve.
READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide To Habit Trackers
Tracking health-related things can be very beneficial.
It can help you generally lead a better healthier life, but also might be crucial in your fight with any illnesses you might encounter.
You can track so many things – sleep, water consumption, illness symptoms, period, medication intake – whatever you need it can be done!
If you’re looking for a way to add more health-related spreads to your Bullet Journal check out my post with 11 Health and Fitness Bullet Journal Page Ideas.
Whether you’re fighting with mental illness or just looking for a way to bring more happiness to your days, a mood tracker can be the tool for you.
Once you set to track your moods you’ll be able to see interesting patterns and learn what actually influences your bad moods.
Once you know the “why”, changing your attitude or fighting the illness will be that much easier!
For more about mood trackers check my post: 35+ Fun and Creative Bullet Journal Mood Trackers And How To Use Them.
Your Bullet Journal can be a great help with your financial situation. With so many things at the moment paid online or with cards, it’s very hard to track your finances.
However, once you put it all on the paper, it becomes a much easier task.
Personally, I struggle with financial planning, it’s really quite boring – not the numbers person here.
But if I create a fun little tracker in my journal, it suddenly becomes much more fun to fill it out and follow through with my financial goals.
This is just something I really enjoyed creating.
Track the days you have left until the trip. Or the countries you have visited.
Visually putting your goals like this will be a great motivation to make it come true, and create a lot of excitement around it as well.
I hope by now you’re already bursting with excitement, eager to try out all these pages! Let’s move to the next step – how to decorate them.
Find Your Bullet Journal Style
Looking at my pages full of doodles and color, or on the work of some other creators like Isabel Hoops, it’s easy to get intimidated and feel like Bullet Journaling is absolutely not something you could do.
But you would be wrong. We all choose our own style that fits our needs and personalities.
If you want to just use black and white – be it! If you want to add colors and drawings – that’s your choice.
Always remember that it’s your journal and your rules, nobody can tell you what to do there.
Your style might also vary as you go and get more skills, like drawing or lettering. Or when you discover some new stationery, like my style changed when I discovered washi tape.
The key here is to keep experimenting and trying new things until you find something you like and feel comfortable with.
To get you going here are a few types of styles you might want to try out.
Minimalist Bullet Journal
This word means something different for everybody, but when it comes to Bullet Journaling, it usually means simple spreads in mostly monochrome colors with basic designs or none of them whatsoever.
Minimalist Bullet Journal spreads are usually pretty easy to set up, they are extremely functional and have a lot of white space. At the same time, they look absolutely stunning!
Minimalist spreads are great for beginners because they don’t require any special skills and also don’t distract you from the main goal. They are also fantastic for busy people because they take the minimum amount of time to set up.
Artistic Bullet Journal
These are those crazy pretty journals with drawings and paintings. Yes, these pages take more time to set up, but drawing is also a kind of therapy, and being creative in your Bullet Journal is just another benefit the system offers you!
If you feel like bringing your creative juices to your Bullet Journal pages, definitely give a look top this style.
Doodly Bullet Journal
This style is for somebody who is creative (and we all are!) and wants to bring it to their journal but maybe isn’t really in the artsy stage yet.
I think this is a perfect description of my own style!
Learning to doodle is pretty easy, especially if you have good teachers. I have quite a few doodle-related posts on my blog to give you a start.
Scrapbooky Bullet Journal
This type implies the use of different media, such as photos, journal cutouts, stickers, post-it notes, washi tapes. This style is incredibly beautiful!
Whatever style you end up having, always remember that this is what works for you. There is a lot of criticism going around the Bullet Journal community, but don’t you ever listen to it.
Your planner – your rules!
Dealing With Snobs
Some people may tell you your journal “isn’t a real Bullet Journal”. That you do it wrong, that you shouldn’t set up pages in advance, or spend hours decorating your layouts.
When it happens, remember this: there is no “right” way to Bullet Journal. Bullet Journal is a system you create yourself for yourself.
Your journal, your rules.
When you hear comments like that – just ignore them. It’s only their opinion and it should never influence how you Bullet Journal and how you enjoy the process.
How To Decorate Your Bullet Journal Pages
One objection I hear a lot is “I’m afraid to start Bullet Journal because I’m not artistic and can’t create beautiful pages”.
Well, let’s talk about that!
How To Create Beautiful Pages If You Aren’t Artistic
Fist of all, Bullet Journal isn’t about pretty pages! (well, ok, unless you really want it to be and you are like, crazy talented, in which case, share your art so we can all be j̶e̶a̶l̶o̶u̶s̶ inspired by you in the comments!). Where was I? Oh right. You can get all the perks of the Bullet Journal method with just structured notes.
Second – there are ways to decorate your journal, even if you don’t know how to draw. Seriously! Check out a few ideas here:
- Washi Tapes
Just remember two extremely important things:
- Don’t compare your journal to others. It’s your journal and you have your own path. Get your inspiration from others, of course, but only compare yourself to yourself some time ago!
- In time and with practice, you will get so much better! How do I know that? When I started my Bullet Journal, I had no idea whatsoever on how to create pretty pages, I didn’t know how to draw, match colors or compose a well-structured page. But I didn’t let that hold me back. Now, In less than a year, almost 28K people follow me on Instagram and enjoy my spreads. Which is ABSOLUTELY CRAZY. If I can do it, anyone can!
The secret for me is continuous learning. Ever since I decided to start Bullet Journaling I kept looking for places to learn something new, to develop my creative skills.
The first thing that helped me was Skillshare – an online learning platform FULL of different classes to bring your journal to the next level. Doodling, lettering, watercolor – you name it and they have it.
As a member of Planning Mashers, you can get 2 weeks of Skillshare Premium FREE if you join via this link. The two months were enough to teach me all I needed to finally start believing in myself and creating the pages I liked, plus I fell in love with this platform and actually stayed a member ever since.
The second thing I did was enrolling in The Petite Planner courses. I started my journey from her first Rock Your Journal course, and I bought all of them ever since. Erin is a fantastic teacher and I’ll be forever thankful for her help in building up my creative confidence. Her courses are also super affordable and with code MASHAPLANS you can get 15% off any of them.
Meanwhile, start your creative journey from these posts:
How To Deal With Bullet Journal Mistakes
When you’re creating your Bullet Journal spreads, it’s important to remember that you are human and mistakes happen. It’s in our nature, that’s how we learn! Even the most experienced Bullet Journalists suffer from occasional mistakes, and it’s ok. Don’t let the fear of mistakes hold you back, or frustration ruin your Bullet Journal experience.
I make mistakes all the time – I measure my tables wrong, I misspell things (every time I get corrected in the comments my ego suffers quite a beating T____T), I don’t align things properly – you name it, it happened and it still happens to me!
Yet, with all that, I’m also quite a perfectionist, so unperfect pages used to drive me crazy.
I still needed to have a structure and I needed my Bullet Journal, so instead of freaking out and abandoning everything, running to my bedroom and hiding under my blankie away from this hating world (like I often felt like doing), I came up with ways to deal with this and to fix my mistakes. So much so that some of my pages actually got better because I made a mistake and had to fix it in a creative way.
Want to know my secret? I wrote a huge blog post, where I talk about techniques you can use to overcome that little perfectionist with you and 11 Creative Ways To Deal With Bullet Journal Mistakes.
So worry not and start your Bullet Journal right now! What? You don’t have time you say? I got an answer to that!
How To Bullet Journal When You Don’t Have Time
Looking at all the Bullet Journal pages on Instagram and Pinterest you probably think it takes forever to create BuJo pages and doesn’t even feel like starting. Or maybe you got so busy lately that you’re forgetting your journal. Well, I’m here to say that none of these things are actually a reason not to Bullet Journal.
First of all, you are the one who is deciding how much time you’ll spend on your spreads. You can set up your journal in 15 minutes, or you can spend 3 hours – it all depends on you and the time you have.
Second – Bullet Journal is a tool you need probably the most when you’re busy because it helps you stay organized and make more time for important things.
I have a full-time job, I’m working on this blog, I post on 2 Instagram accounts, I find time to spend with my loved ones, and at the same time – I keep a Bullet Journal (well more like 3 Bullet Journals but nevermind that!) So believe me when I tell you – there is away.
My two favorite ways are using stationery, which helps me to cheat my way around and cut time for my setups, and using more simple weekly setups. I got two detailed posts just about that:
You Finished Your Journal, What’s Next?
It’s time to think about moving to a new journal. It’s really not as hard as it might seem!
Flip through your owd journal and analyze how it worked for you. What formats worked the best? What did you feel was missing? This is your chance to make your next journal better and experiment with some basic pages, such as Index or Future Log.
Also, consider your journal itself. What did you like about it? What would you like to have different in your new journal? Maybe, it’s also your chance to try out a new brand or a new journal size.
The next big question is migration. As you move to a new journal you need to think of moving your collections as well.
Which collections should you move to? Do you move them at all or leave them in the old journal? What collections you might not need at all? Answers for everyone are different.
Generally, I would recommend going through all the collections you have and think about which ones you are still using and which ones can be archived, together with your old journal.
Also, think if your collections are something you need to have with you. If it’s your go-to work contact you’ll probably need it with you at all times. However, if it’s your movie list, you might as well just keep the collection in your old journal and take it out every time you need to make a new entry.
Of course, these are just suggestions, your journal, your rules. Experiment with different ways of dealing with it and see what works best for you.
Let me give you a fair warning – usually, your notebook won’t last you the entire year. This means that you don’t get to always start each journal on January 1st.
But don’t worry, I got you covered.
How To Start Your Journal In The Middle Of The Year
You either finished your journal in the middle of the year, or you just learned about the Bullet Journal system and want to start right away, without waiting for January 1st.
In a way, it does kind of contradict our mind – all things have to start from Monday, the first of the month, or even the first day of a new year.
However, you have to fight this impulse. Why wait for that proverbial Monday if you can start using your Bullet Journal and improving your life right away!
And honestly, it’s not that different from setting up your journal for January 1st.
I usually set up my journal in June each year (except for 2020, seems like this journal will last me until November). So feel free to check my post on How To Start A Bullet Journal In The Middle of The Year to see how I tackled it in my BuJo.
Generally, the entire process is the same, the only difference is your future log. In my setup, I created a future log that lasted from June 2019 to June 2020 – the entire year from the month I started.
But since your journal might not last that long you can set up your future log for just half a year, and then if it surprises you and lasts for longer you can add another future log somewhere in the middle of your journal.
Remember that you can add the pages anywhere you want, with an index you’ll be able to easily find your new future log. Or just create a bookmark to make it always easily accessible.
I know we always feel like we need to do something special for the new year. Well just add those special yearly pages before you start setting up for January.
Create a spread like “word of the year” and it will beautifully divide your last year from the new beautiful year approaching.
Digital Bullet Journal
Another trend that started up lately is digital Bullet Journaling. Even though it seems to contradict the original concept, it’s still just another way to plan and it had its own advantages.
I tried digital Bullet Journaling myself and I must say it is pretty fun.
The main benefit I saw was how much easier it was – you can correct all mistakes in just one tap, you can reuse your headers or any other designs.
It of course is also very convenient if you travel and move around a lot, with a digital Bullet Journal all you need is just one iPad.
If you want to go digital here are the supplies I’d recommend:
You can create everything by yourself from the start, or you can get some help and buy an already pre-made Bullet Journal. I got this one from Etsy and it’s basically a digital version of a dot grid notebook.
What I do is usually create my layouts in Procreate, because it allows me to be more creative with lettering, doodling, and so many things.
After it’s all done, I just save it as a PNG file and export it to my planner in Goodnotes.
I must say I didn’t go back to digital Bullet Journaling. As fun as it was – for me, nothing can replace paper and I’m just enjoying using all my pens and notebooks too much.
But it might be a good option for you!
Tips For Beginners
Before we get into the FAQ section, let me share with you some of my best tips.
I’ve been Bullet Journaling since 2018 and when I started I learned by doing rather than by reading guides like this one.
So I did make pretty much every mistake in the book. I’m kind of a pro when it comes to giving tips for beginners.
Don’t Overdo It
Don’t try out every page at the same time. It will just overwhelm you and you’ll stop using your journal altogether. Take it one step at a time.
There are so many pages you can add to your journal, but really you probably don’t need most of them. So try a few but try them just a page or two a month.
Believe me, I know – my first journal lasted me for only 3 months because I created ALL the collections I could think of. Did not work very well.
Yes don’t overdo it, but do keep on trying new things. New spreads, new layouts.
Bullet Journal is a customizable planning system so you need to keep trying to customize it to your needs by trying new things and figuring out which ones fit you and which ones don’t.
Keep in mind that your life and your needs change all the time, so your journal will as well. Something you don’t need or like using now might be exactly the perfect thing for you next year.
Keep changing things until you find the perfect one. Once it stops working – change it again.
Give It Time
I know “ain’t nobody got time” these days, but you have to give yourself some to make your Bullet Journal work.
Your pages won’t look perfect from the first time. You won’t find your ideal setup and style in just one day.
Give yourself time to find yourself, to improve your skills, to get accustomed to the system, and most importantly – to accept the idea that everything is possible with your Bullet Journal and there are no limits.
All these things will require some time and effort to figure out, but believe me, it’s all with it.
No Crazy Shopping
Oh, how I wish I knew this tip before since I did go out and bought EVERYTHING, while I ended up not using most of the thighs.
The important thing to understand is that when you start Bullet Journaling you don’t know your style, you don’t know what you’ll like or what stationery you will need.
So start small and expand your collection as you go and understand what things fit you and your Bullet Journal needs.
With Instagram and Pinterest full of amazing Bullet Journal pages it’s easy to start comparing yourself to others and end up feeling pretty sad. Believe me, I’ve been there.
This will only hold you back though! Look at these pictures as inspirations and just fun ideas to try in your journal, but never compare yourself to these.
Remember that we all start off square one, what you see on social media are usually the results of years of practice and mastery.
Just check out this throwback to when I started Bullet Journaling, it looked nothing like what I create now.
The most important tip though is to have fun with it. Remember that your Bullet Journal is a helpful tool, not a chore, or a source of stress.
I think we covered it all, I bet you don’t have any excuses left and you’re ready and motivated to dive into Bullet Journaling. Time for the final part of this post – Q&A
Bullet Journal Q&A
I love to interact with you all, and I want to create the content you want and need. So a few times I made questionnaires where I asked people to share their concerns about starting a Bullet Journal and areas in which you aren’t very confident with.
I ended up with so many wonderful questions! Some of them weren’t covered in my post above, so I decided to create a special place where I answer them all.
If you have any questions yourself, please feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you any way I can.
Is the dotted journal a must? If not dotted what else can I use?
The dotted journal is definitely the best option, but it’s not a must. You can have your Bullet Journal in any kind of notebook, just see what would work best for you.
Let me just explain why generally dot grid journals are the top choice for a Bullet Journal. Dot grid provides enough direction so you can write and draw your lines and decorations straight, but at the same time, it’s invisible enough so that when you look at your page you see the contents, not the lining.
How to make your Bullet Journal cleaner and aesthetically pleasing?
I would say the key here is experience, the more pages you do the better looking they would be. What I did for my journal is:
- I worked on my handwriting to become more neat and pretty
- I draw all my spreads first in pencil
- I have a special place where I can be messy and just write down whatever (brain dump)
How in advance should you make your Bullet Journal pages?
Well according to the original system you’re supposed to create pages as you go, and actually, it’s a big question in the Bullet Journal community. Some people actually say that if you plan all in advance it’s not a Bullet Journal.
My opinion – it’s up to you to decide for yourself. It’s your journal and you should do it your way! I personally set up all my monthly pages in advance (monthly log, habit tracker, goals and so on) and then go week by week.
This works for me because it allows me to change the format from week to week depending on my needs.
How to get better at calligraphy and brush lettering?
I don’t really think I’m the person to say anything on this topic, because I don’t think I’m that good myself. But I see actually that I’m getting better at it. The secret – practice, practice and more practice. Get some printable lettering practice sheets and redraw the letters until you like the way they look.
If you want to go a bit further, I’d recommend a book – The Ultimate Brush Lettering Guide by Peggy Dean. It’s a wonderful book that will tell you everything about lettering and give you the base on which you can build and create your own style of brush lettering.
There are also many lettering courses on Skillshare, so consider getting 2 months free with this link and spending the time improving your calligraphy skills.
Or just head straight to me Beginner’s Guide To Brush Lettering to learn it all and find more resources.
How to work out the spacing on the pages?
First of all, I would recommend you to do a rough sketch of your spread to see how it looks. If something is off you can always correct it before adding a pen.
Second, create a grid guide, as I did for my Archer and Olive. It’ll be a great point of reference and will help you to create your spreads better spaced and faster!
To learn more about how to create this in your journal check the post Your Guide To Bullet Journal Grid Spacing Spread.
What’s better one journal or multiple journals?
Bullet Journal is one place to store all the information, so the original concept is to have just one journal. But of course, as the system evolves people started using multiple journals. What is the best – it’s really up to you to decide.
If you have one journal you have all the information together easily accessible. But it might be a bit messy (in my own personal opinion) and maybe a lot of evergreen pages you’ll need to migrate from journal to journal.
Some people like it like that! It adds a battle-worn quality to your journal. Plus it’s very convenient because that way you can have all your information with you at all times but just carrying one journal.
If you use a lot of journals, your information might be a bit more organized and divided properly (again, this is my personal opinion here), but likely you won’t be using some of your journals that often (yes collections journal I’m looking at you and I’m sorry! I’ll visit you on weekends and bring chocolate and cookies!).
So eventually it’s up to you to see what you think would work best. I personally have 3 Bullet Journals: for personal affairs and personal development, for work, and one for collections (aka the forgotten one).
How not to lose motivation to continue Bullet Journaling?
I’ve been Bullet Journaling for a bit less than a year now, and I know what you mean – I had my ups and downs. I discovered a few little things I can do to deal with it that worked for me:
- Step back and just leave my Bullet Journal for a week or so. Sometimes we just need a break to recharge our creative juices.
- Switch to simple spreads. When I just feel exhausted I go back to basics and allow myself to just make to-do lists and nothing more. In a few days after that, I usually start having an inkling to create again.
- Get inspired by the world around me. Sometimes I just go for a walk, look around and something sparkles my interest and creativity. Or I scroll through my feeds on Pinterest or Instagram and see something that gives me a great kick.
If you’re having problems with motivation to Bullet Journal altogether, not just the creative side, my main tip would be to first – take a break (but not too long!) and second and most important – to remember your why.
Yes, I had moments where even after a break I didn’t feel like it. But I always had my why in front of me, I remembered how BuJo already changed my life and that I wanted to keep improving.
Personally with time I face this issue less and less. By now, because I stuck to Bullet Journaling despite the low moments and lack of motivation, it became a habit and a part of me. Now even if I miss a few days here or there, I never stop it altogether, I forgive myself and move on to plan the next day.
How to find a balance between pretty and functional?
This is pretty easy – think of your why! If it’s more of an art journal for you – you’ll have more artistic pages. If you’re looking for a productivity tool – it can be simple, but also very classy. You can create very simple minimal spreads that are super pretty!
Want some inspiration – check out these amazing minimalist accounts!
Where to find inspiration?
Want to check some creators? Try checking out some feature accounts like @bulletjournal.ideas or @bujos.inspirations, or maybe try these hashtags #bujo, #bulletjournal, #bulletjournaljunkies, #bulletjournallove.
Pinterest is my second inspiration, because it’s not only full of amazing spreads but has lots of links to very inspirational and informative blog posts. I can spend hours down that rabbit hole, believe me! Feel free to come to join me and follow my Pinterest account.
If you have some more questions check out my post Bullet Journal FAQ.
Free Course For Beginners
Looking for some more help with setting up your Bullet Journal? Join our FREE course on how to start a Bullet Journal.
Every day right in your inbox I’ll be walking you through the process of setting up your Bullet Journal page by page. Give me just a few days and you’ll have your Bullet Journal all ready!
That’s about it for now. Do you have any questions? Please leave them in the comments section below, I’d love to know what are you Bullet Journal struggles and help you join our wonderful community.
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And remember: Keep Bullet Journaling and Don’t be a Blob!