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!
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My Bullet Journal Story
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.
If you’re not sure by now that having a planner is a good option for you, check out my post about 7 Significant Benefits Of Using A Paper Planner.
Let’s start from the beginning – what is a Bullet Journal?
What Is A Bullet Journal and Do You Need One?
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 Bullet Journal is a planning system that helps you organizing your present and planning your future. The core of the system is that all data is imputed in a linear way and in bullet points. This allows you to create an outside storage for all the information you’ve been trying to fit in your poor, overworked brain, which probably kept you away from being productive and having some peace of mind.
You can learn more about the basics of the Bullet Journal system in this post: What Is A Bullet Journal?. If you’re still not sure this system is for you, go later to this post: 5 Reasons To Plan With Bullet Journal.
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.
You done? Great! Time to start preparing. Based on all my mistakes and such, I’ve compiled a list of 11 Things You Should Know Before Starting A Bullet Journal.
But that’s not it! I also asked experienced and well known Bullet Journalist 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 is 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 like an art journal and sketchbook? Yes you’ll need those brush pens!
When it comes to starting a Bullet Journal, I always recommend to have 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 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 a 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, check out my guide on How To Pick A Perfect Notebook For Your Bullet Journal.
When it was time for me to order that one perfect notebook (I’m sticking with Nuuna, I’m so in love with them!), I realized that even though I knew what I want from my journal, I didn’t know any brands I could search for and it took a lot of research to find that one perfect brand for me. To guide you in this crazy stationery world, here are 9 Amazing Notebooks To Use For Your Next Bullet Journal.
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.
But enough with all these tips, go straight to Bullet Journal Essential Supplies For Beginners to check out what stationery you should consider to add to your BuJo collection.
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 sounds familiar? If it does – you’re suffering from first page fear! Please don’t let it stop you! Instead go check out my post of How To Overcome First Page Fear and start your Bullet Journal today!
The other one 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, check my post of Ideas For Bullet Journal Cover Page.
Cover page 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. Check out the official video here to get a general idea.
However as with everything else, the system is evolving and by now a lot of people are using very different sets of pages. The outline is: key – index – future log – monthly log – weekly/daily log. To get more information on the basic setup you can check my post about Step By Step Bullet Journal Setup.
If you’re looking for detailed information on each spread, check these posts:
Bullet Journal Page Ideas
Now that we are done with basics, time to check out what else Bullet Journal has to offer. The problem I faced here was I got too many options. I’ll make sure to guide you in the sea of possibilities!
Bullet Journal Habit Tracker
The first thing you should consider adding is a habit tracker. That’s a strong instrument that helps you to develop better habits and creating the life you want. Sounds exciting? That’s because it is! Head to my Ultimate Guide To Bullet Journal Habit Trackers to learn more about this wonderful tool.
Habit trackers can help you in any area of your life. To give you some ideas on how you can use them in your Bullet Journal here is a list of 155+ Things To Track In Your Bullet Journal.
Bullet Journal Collections
Second thing are collections. What are those? These are fun and useful lists of anything you want. Your favorite movies, gift ideas for the loved ones, funny pet names for your future corgi dogs (a personal favorite of mine!) – the limit is your imagination! Learn more about collections and get some amazing ideas to start with in my post 50+ Bullet Journal Collections You’ll Want To Try.
If all these weren’t enough for you, I got some more awesome ideas to try! Just drop by and take a look at my post with 100+ Page Ideas For Your Bullet Journal.
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.
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 Bullet Journal with just structured notes. Second – there are ways to decorate your journal, even if you don’t know how to draw. Seriously! Just go visit my post on 5 Ways To Decorate Your Bullet Journal If You’re Not Artistic.
Just remember two extremely important things: First – don’t compare your journal to others. Second – 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! To help you out I wrote two posts on how I learned to doodle and to draw florals. Check them out below:
Mastering Your Bullet Journal Doodles: From Zero To Hero
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 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 (everytime 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 for 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 don’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 setup 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 a way. Check out all details in my post on How To Bullet Journal When You Don’t Have Time.
My two favorite ways is using stationery, that 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:
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 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 anyway I can.
Is dotted journal a must? If not dotted what else can I use?
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 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 more clean 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 setup 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.
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 pen. Second, I know that Life With Whitney has a measurement cheat sheet, and you can get yours there.
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 (on 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 time 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 all together, 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 all together, 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?
For me mainly it’s Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram is full of amazing creators, and believe me any page can give you an idea and inspire you to create something absolutely unique. Want to check some creators? Try check 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 join me and follow my Pinterest account.
That’s about it for now. Do you have any questions? Please leave them in 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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