The Ultimate Guide to Bullet Journaling
Have you ever wanted to start bullet journaling but you just don’t know where to begin? Or maybe it’s the first time you’re hearing about a bullet journal and you just want to see if it’s for you! With all the information everywhere, I know it can be quite overwhelming so I’ve created this ultimate guide so you can read about everything you need to know about bullet journaling in one place!
⇅ Table of contents:
What is Bullet Journaling?
The first question you might be asking is ‘what is bullet journaling?’ Bullet journaling is a methodology created by Ryder Carroll. It’s meant to help you organise your tasks and stay productive but it’s also great for maintaining mindfulness.
As bullet journaling became more and more popular, it started to evolve more into a platform for many to express their thoughts and creativity. You might have seen some creative influencers sharing their mildliner-embellished cover pages, habit trackers, mood trackers, doodle pages, etc. on social media.
Some bullet journalers like to add extra pages for fun like this playlist page. It’s obviously not necessary but I personally think adding pages like this makes your bullet journal a lot more interesting to look back on. I don’t know if it’s just me but I always find it fun to see what music I used to love listening to and how my taste evolved over time! You can also do this with books, films, pens, skincare products, food - the possibilities are endless!
What is a Bullet Journal?
Bullet journal is a system that’s meant to help you get organised. Bullet journaling can organise your daily, weekly, monthly (and even yearly) schedule, important reminders, tasks, and your general thoughts all in one notebook. A lot of people like to use dot grid notebooks because it’s not as distracting as having lines on your pages but the dots are good enough to guide you with keeping your lines and tables straight. It also looks a lot better on pictures so if you’re hoping to start a bullet journal Instagram page, I would definitely recommend a dotted bullet journal but the type of pages really doesn’t matter, the choice is yours because bullet journaling is personal and you can do whatever you want!
Why Should I Bullet Journal?
So why should you keep a bullet journal?
- To stay organised
- To improve productivity
- To keep on top of your mental health
- To relax
Keeping a bullet journal definitely helps me break down my tasks during the day. I don’t know if it’s just me but I remember things better when I write them down on paper so I still prefer to write everything on paper instead of my notes in my phone. I also tend to look at a computer screen aaall day so I try not to rely on my computer or my phone too much for things like planning my days and personal goals.
You can also keep useful pages like habit trackers. Habit trackers are great for keeping track of your habits (obviously) and pushing yourself to stick to these habits daily. Personally, if I want to make a habit stick I keep track of it in my bullet journal and make sure I’m doing it daily. It’s a good way to almost guilt-trip yourself if you don’t end up filling it in your habit tracker. Obviously you are allowed rest days and you don’t have to do everything perfectly but guilt-tripping myself always works for me! 😅
I really like this bullet journal habit tracker by @amizaomar! It’s such a clever way to use a calendar stamp as well.
Bullet journaling is also really relaxing so even if you’re not a very busy person and you just want to be creative, you might still want to keep one! Before I started bullet journaling I didn’t really do a lot of doodling for fun. I find that having a monthly theme for my bujo spreads and keeping to them helps me practice my doodling skills. But you really don’t have to be an artist to enjoy doodling in your bullet journal, there’s just something fun about using cute pens on your spreads.
Here’s my September cover page. It helped me practice my calligraphy and drawing skills. I personally like to keep a minimalist aesthetic but you can definitely use more colours and add more doodles!
Benefits of Bullet Journaling
I’ve been bullet journaling for just over 2 years now and I can honestly tell you that it really has amazing benefits for your productivity, mental health, goals, creativity, and so many other things!
Productivity and Organisation
Bullet journaling can help you be more organised. If you keep weekly spreads, it’s such an easy way to keep track of things that you’ve done and things that you still need to get done. Eventually, this will help you become more productive as well. I don’t know about you but I have an obsession with lists! I love writing lists of what I need to do because it helps me break everything down into small tasks and I find it soooo satisfying every time I cross something off so it motivates me to keep working.
I love this weekly spread by @byclairee I also like how they’ve added the hours on the side of each day so they’ve got their days planned by hour! I personally don’t do this because I never know how much time I need to get something done but it’s a really good idea if you have more routines throughout the day!
As I mentioned earlier, bullet journaling helped me improve my mental health. It’s not just because it gives me some downtime every day to reflect and get creative although that is one of the main reasons why I love bullet journaling! Keeping mood trackers helps me keep track of my mood and I usually like to pair it with a sleep tracker or a habit tracker to see if there’s a correlation between those 3. This might sound obvious but normally I find that when I don’t get enough sleep, I always seem to be in a lower mood, so it can be super useful to keep on top and allow you to really start to see clear links between behaviours and causes.
I absolutely love this clever mood tracker theme by @marthasjournal. If you’re new to bullet journaling, you might wonder how you use this tracker. If you look at the top part of the page you can see the colours assigned to each mood (smiley faces). The labels on the cassette tapes are also separated in 30 sections - 1 for each day of the month, so you just colour that day in with the colour that symbolises your mood!
Another thing that I like to keep in my bullet journal is a quotes page for each month. It sounds very simple but it really helps me set the tone for each month.
This quote page by @somekindwords_ is a good example of how a simple quote page can help you get more motivated. I wasn’t really much of a quotes girl until I started bullet journaling and started looking for motivational quotes and honestly, some of the ones I’ve come across with are so inspiring and have helped me start my months with more intention. It’s also just really nice to sit down and decorate this page because you get a lot of space to draw and I don’t know about you but to me, that’s some form of self-care. 💅
Keeping a gratitude log in my bullet journal also helped me change my mindset and it allowed me to highlight the things that I have and what I’m grateful for. At first, I really wasn’t sure if it wasn’t going to change anything because you can just write a bunch of words down and forget about them the next day but practising gratitude daily allowed me to focus on the positives.
This gratitude log by @magicalbujo is so simple yet sooo cute! 💕
Another benefit of bullet journaling is that it helps you become more goal-oriented. You can keep a goals page in your bullet journal and even write down the steps you need to take to reach those goals. When you have your goals written down and fully visualised, it’s easier to take action.
This goals page by @bujo.by.filo shows you how they’ve broken down their goals into different sections. And the good thing about this is that it’s yours and you can write whatever goal you want. It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are as long as you’re doing what you can to reach them!
Using my bullet journal every single day allows me to get creative regularly. I like to spend time thinking of themes to assign to each month and it’s such a great way for me to try new things each month.
I absolutely love this magical theme by @lolascraftjournal! I love the colour palette she used and the mushroom on clouds. Bullet journaling definitely encourages you to come up with unique themes like this.
Another cover page that I’m currently loving is this Mid-Autumn festival inspired cover page @kotose.journal. I’m also doing a Mid-Autumn festival inspired theme this month so it’s always fun to see other people with the same theme. It’s also great to see how people create similar themes in different styles because it always inspires me to try new techniques in the future!
You’re also definitely not limited to just brush pens to create your monthly spreads. I love how @cynthiabujo used parcel paper to decorate her cover page to achieve a rustic look!
If you don’t consider yourself an artist but you want to improve your drawing skills, bullet journaling can definitely help you with that! If your first few spreads don’t turn out like the examples I’ve shown you here, don’t be discouraged. Just keep trying different techniques and different themes - you’ll soon find your style and you’ll keep improving!
Learn to Bullet Journal
If you’re looking into learning how to bullet journal, there are a few things you should expect. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not going to be an expert right from the start so it’s better to start simple. If you want to get into bullet journaling to help increase your productivity, then you can worry about calligraphy and doodling later and focus on the setups and pages that you can use to be more productive.
It also took me a whole year to fully realise my bullet journaling style and what pages worked for me so keep experimenting with different spreads. I found that my monthly essential spreads are a quote page, a cover page, a mood tracker, a habit tracker, a doodle/brain dump page, and my weekly spreads! Yours might look different. So keep trying other things until you find the pages that you can’t live without!
In order to make bullet journaling a habit, you also need to make sure you’re committed to it. When I first started and didn’t really know what to use my bullet journal for, I only really just used my bullet journal monthly to make calendars and write down special events. Now that I know my needs and why I bullet journal, I use my bullet journal every day. If you want to start using your bullet journal every day, you can start off by allocating 5-10 minutes in the morning just to jot down what you need to do. I also really like giving myself a few minutes at night to fill in my trackers!
How to Bullet Journal: Bullet Journal Ideas for Beginners
In Ryder Carrol’s (the creator of the bullet journal method) words, a bullet journal is meant “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” This system is really great for helping you keep track of everything you need. You can keep to-do lists, trackers, gratitude logs, etc.
With all the options, it can get a bit overwhelming and you might be wondering where to start! Start with the very first page and what you should put on it. I like to start with a key page!
How to Make a Key Page
I usually like to write my key page on the very first page of my bullet journal. Sometimes even at the back of the actual cover. All you need to do is assign a ‘signifier’ for each entry. I like to break mine down into: tasks, events, notes, important reminders, and birthdays but you can create your own categories!
You will then use these signifiers on your weekly/daily spreads where you usually write your to-do lists so you can add your tasks and if there are any events going on that day, any important notes and reminders (e.g. birthdays).
This key page by @bujo.with.sunny perfectly demonstrates how to make a key page. I like how they’ve also assigned a signifier for ‘inspiration’!
How to Make an Index Page
After my key page, I would recommend an index page for beginners. This is a great way for you to get used to your bullet journal and keep track of your pages. I kept an index page for my first 2 bujos and found it really useful to have especially when I needed to look back on important pages.
Index pages are pretty straight forward. You just create a table with two columns. The first column is for the title of the page and the second column is for the page numbers. I don’t tend to go for bullet journals with page numbers just because I sometimes rip pages in the middle and you can always just add page numbers at the bottom!
How to Make a Yearly Page
A yearly page is good especially if you’re starting your bullet journal at the beginning of the year. I like to keep mine simple by just having a future log. A future log is just a calendar where you can add all the important dates you want to remember throughout the year. Because it’s at the very beginning of your page, you can access it easily.
You can also keep other yearly pages such as books to read, films to watch, year in pixels, etc. but I’d say that a future log is the most important yearly page you can have!
Setting Up Your Monthly Spreads
For bullet journalers, the end of the month is really exciting because it’s the time where you can really plan out your spreads for the next month. A lot of the bullet journal users I know like to stick to a theme every month but if you’re just starting out, you definitely don’t have to have one. I highly recommend it though because it’s so fun and keeps your bullet journal more interesting!
I absolutely love this pastel themed bullet journal setup by @catsplanner! I love how they used calendar stamps to decorate their September cover as well.
Before you set up for the month, it would be useful to think about the pages you want to include. I like to include my monthly trackers but you might also want to include wishlists, goals pages, budget spreads, etc.
Weekly pages are very important because this is where you will write your to-do lists for each day of the week. You will mainly be using your signifiers here!
I like to take a double-page spread for each week and divide that into 7 sections. If you want it to look more even, you can divide your spread into 8 sections and have the last section for notes or quotes or doodles!
I like how creative @wintersaints’s weekly layout is. You can see they’ve also used their signifiers but also included long chunks of texts for reflection. If you like to keep a record of your days, you can also do this or you can even create a separate page for your daily reflection!
Bullet Journal Layout Ideas
Once you are more comfortable with bullet journaling and your own system, you can go ahead and try different bullet journal layouts!
Use your imagination and get creative with your existing spreads like your mood trackers! You definitely don’t have to use a table or a graph all the time. It can be really fun to get creative with your monthly themes as well!
I love this mood tracker by @dulcetjournals! I love the detailed design she achieved with just black fineliners. I like how she got creative by each day adding up to form a crescent moon with the days of the month!
If you want extra pages other than your trackers to add to your bullet journal, another great idea is adding a page for something you really care about or a habit that you want to have a proper look at and not just track. It can be a skincare page, exercise page, a study page, etc.
I like this skincare page by @ashtyn_plans because there’s plenty of space for important notes and I like how detailed you can get with your daytime and nighttime routines. I also like the minimalist look using fineliners, some letter stamps and grey mildliners!
Another fun layout you can do is a spread for all your monthly themes. It’s a fun way to put them all together in one page and to keep track of what theme you’ve already done!
This theme collection spread by @marthasjournal is so fun and colourful and I love how they’ve drawn them so they look like little pictures clipped to a string. It’s nice to see all the different themes they’ve done throughout the year as well. My favourite one is her February theme!
Bullet Journal Supplies
So now you’ve got your layouts covered all you need is your bullet journal supplies! If you want a comprehensive list of the best bujo supplies out there, you can read our blog post on The Ultimate Guide to Bullet Journal Supplies.
But if you want to focus on the basics for now, here are my top 5 essential bullet journal supplies:
1. Bullet Journal Notebook
To bullet journal, you’re obviously going to need a notebook! My personal preference is a dot grid notebook but as I’ve mentioned before, you can have plain, lined, grid or any other type of notebook you want.
If you are planning to use different types of pens like mildliners, fountain pens, brush pens, and maybe even watercolours on your bullet journal I would recommend a bullet journal with thick 160gsm high-quality paper.
You definitely don’t need anything fancy to get started, it can be something as simple as a lined notebook but it helps if you have a bullet journal that you really like. I’m really drawn to this Tsuki ‘Moonflower’ Bullet Journal because the cover matches my personal aesthetic and I really like the gold floral page edges. Having a beautiful journal just motivates me to pick it up and get productive and it also helps me be more mindful with what I include in my journal.
2. Micron Pens
My next essential tool is a micron pen! Any fineliner will do but I love micron pens because they’re fade-proof and water-proof and the ink quality is just amazing!👌
I like that you can get different nib sizes as well. I normally use the Pigma Micron 03 pen for general writing and doodling on my bullet journal but I also like the thinner nibs for more detailed drawings and thicker nibs for bolder texts!
3. A Ruler
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Rulers are essential for drawing straight lines, graphs, and tables!
If you can get your hands on stencils with simple icons for bullet journaling, even better but any ruler will do!
4. Brush Pens
Brush pens are great for colouring on your bullet journal. If you get water-based brush pens, they can also be used as watercolours! Brush pens are also very easy to use and are great for bullet journal beginners looking to add more colour to their spreads.
@satohom.bujo uses brush pens in this beautiful bullet journal spread! I love how the colours really elevate their mood tracker.
5. Mildliners / Highlighters
Highlighters are great for making any of your important notes stand out to make sure you don’t miss them. I like using mildliners because they come in really nice colours which are great if you’re not the biggest fan of fluorescent, neon highlighters. But if that’s your aesthetic then you do you!
Mildliners are also great for colouring in your doodles and for adding a bit more ✨pizzazz✨ to your bujo spreads.
Best Bullet Journals
There are different types of bullet journal notebooks that you can get and it can take some time to decide on the perfect bullet journal to use for the year! I get it, it’s something that you’re going to use everyday for a long time so it has to be perfect. Here’s a list of some of the best bullet journals available to you!
A Dot Grid journal is my first choice just because it’s what I’ve always used and I really like the look of it in pictures. This is perfect for anyone who’s thinking of joining the bujo community on Instagram - the dots aren’t as disturbing as other paper types so you can put more emphasis on your masterpiece in your bujo photography.
Notebook Therapy offers a wide range of dot grid journals to choose from! What I love most about these Tsuki bujos is the cute designs on the cover.
Soft Cover Bullet Journals
Soft cover bullet journals are great for on-the-go journaling because these are flexible so you can squeeze them in smaller bags. The Tsuki ‘Pastel Edition’ bullet journal also comes in a smaller size compared to your regular A5 bullet journaling notebooks!
I love the look of these journals because they come in cute pastel colours and I love the minimalist moon design on the cover.
Leather Bullet Journals
Leather bullet journals are popular because they’re very smooth and sleek. It’s also easier to clean because it’s waterproof so if you spill paint or anything on it, you can easily wipe it.
I like to go for vegan leather and this Tsuki ‘Moonflower Edition’ bullet journal is perfect because of the vegan leather cover and the extra gold details.
Cute Bullet Journals
If you’re someone who wants a more decorative bullet journal cover, these ‘Kawaii Cat’ Bullet Journals are for you! Sometimes all you need is a really cute cover to motivate you to journal.
Another super cute option is this Tsuki ‘Dreamy Nights’ Edition Bullet Journal! I absolutely love the cute baby rabbit napping on the crescent moon. This design is just soooo cute it makes me so happy 💕
Now that you know everything you need to know about bullet journaling, you can go out there and get creative! I definitely recommend joining the big and wonderful bullet journal community on Instagram, you can really learn a lot from them. Why not try some of these amazing bullet journal tracker ideas?