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How to Start a Bullet Journal

how to start a bullet journal

Bullet Journaling has been a hot trend for a little while in the planner and getting organized communities online. If you love to-do lists and checklists, this is something you don’t want to miss. I admit I was a little leery at first, but now I’m glad I’ve started using one. In this post, we will talk about how to start a bullet journal as well as show you what I use for my bullet journal.

how to start a bullet journalNote: This post contains affiliate links.

What is a Bullet Journal?

The bullet journal is an analog system, meaning you don’t need anything more complicated than a notebook and a pen or pencil. While it’s very customizable, and you’re certainly welcome to change things around, in this article, we will walk you through the setup for a traditional bullet journal as first introduced by Ryder Carroll from Use it as a starting point, get comfortable with the basic system and then change it from there.

You’ll need a notebook, a pen, and a little bit of time to get started. The type of notebook you use is up to you. The traditional style is a grid or dotted paper, but I find even ruled or blank pages work just fine. I started with lined paper and three rings.

bullet journal

If you have too many things to remember and think about on a daily basis and you need a simple system to help you keep track, bullet journaling was made for you. We all have a lot of different daily tasks, appointments, and various things we need to remember.

Trying to keep track of everything in your head becomes exhausting. And if you manage a team at work or a family at home, it becomes near impossible. Just think of how much more productive and less stressed you’ll be if you can stop trying to remember all this “stuff.”

The idea with a bullet journal is that you set aside two pages for your index and then record things as they come up throughout your day, week, or month.

How to Start a Bullet Journal

At the beginning of the month, you set up a monthly page. This is your space to record appointments, anniversaries and the likes. Some bullet journalers will simply make a list of 1-30 (or 31) and then leave space to note appointments as they come up. Others prefer to draw a more traditional monthly calendar grid over two pages. Try both and see what works better for you. As you draw each monthly grid or list at the beginning of the month, make a note of what page it is on in your index. There’s no wrong way to do it.

On the next blank page, enter today’s date and start recording things you need to take care of, appointments to keep today, and anything else you need to keep track of including quick notes and ideas. This is where you key comes in handy.

Pick the key system that seems most intuitive for you and start recording the things you need to keep track of and remember in your Bullet Journal. This can be thought of as the ultimate ongoing to-do list.

At the end of the day, review your list. Things that have not been completed need to either be crossed out because they are no longer relevant and important, or they should be moved to tomorrow or another day.

The following gives you some ideas of what is included in a bullet journal.

The Key

The first page of your bullet journal will include your key. This will record the shorthand you use for your bullet entries. You can make up your own key, or you can use Pinterest or Google to look up different keys people use.

The Index

Your next two to four pages will be set aside for indexing. This will allow you to find any collection quickly, or get to a particular month. Title each page as an index page and move on to the next section.

The Future Log

With the original bullet journal setup, this is a two-page spread that records the coming six months. Many bullet journalers find it helpful to use a more traditional yearly calendar instead. This is a great place to record birthdays, anniversaries, or block out vacation time. Add or note the page number and record your future log in your index.

Monthly Logs

Start each month with a monthly log. Here you’ll record appointments and due dates. You can use a grid layout, or use one line for each day of the month. While this isn’t where you’ll track most of your tasks, the monthly log will come in handy for those times when you have a dentist appointment, or your daughter is invited to a friend’s birthday party.

Daily Logs

The daily log is where you’ll spend most of your time in the journal. Start a new section each day and record anything important for the day. Make your list of tasks and cross them off as you get them finished. Make notes of anything important you need to remember throughout the day as well as appointments as they pop up. Everything gets logged in the daily log for speed and ease. From there you can move it as needed to the monthly or future log, or migrate it to a different day.

Migrating Tasks

At the end of your day, or first thing the next morning it’s time to review your tasks and cross out and migrate anything that isn’t checked off. For example, if you didn’t get around to doing laundry today, draw an arrow through it and add the task to tomorrow’s daily task list. If you noted an appointment that came up yesterday, move it to your monthly list and draw an arrow through it in yesterday’s list. If something no longer applies then cross it out. Your goal is to deal with each entry from your daily list by completing it, migrating it, or crossing it out.

Other Pages

The final part can be anything but are usually lists of some sort. A perfect example is a list of books you want to read. Start the list on the next blank page. Title it and start jotting down the books you want to read. Make a note of the page you’re on and add this collection to your index page. Now when you want to add a new book title to this list or reference it to see what you want to read, you can easily find it via the index.

Similar to a list, you could use a tracker. Tracking daily habits, water consumption, spending habits, and exercise are just a few ideas.

A lot of bloggers use bullet journals to keep track of their statistics. This can be done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You might want another page to list out blog ideas, or have a schedule for posting.

The ideas for bullet journal layouts are limitless. This can work for any person in any setting. Homeschool? You can use it to help organize your days. Are you a parent? This could help you keep track of appointments, play dates, school events, etc.

What I use for my bullet journal

I’m in the process of transferring from a small three-ring notebook into a new bullet journal. I have pages for Blog post titles, Blog stats, Blog post ideas, a habit tracker, home care checklist, and other spreads planned out in my new journal.

In my 3-ring notebook, I have pages for books to read, books read, verses to look up, eCourses taken, quotes, prayer list, master to-do list, as well as other miscellaneous lists. I’m still trying to break the habit of using sticky notes for everything. Now I’m putting thoughts into my bullet journal. I guess that’s another page: brain dump.


Journaling is a blank canvas. You can customize it to your preferences. This is just a sampling of what can be used for a bullet journal. These would also make great gifts for any occasion.

This is the bullet journal I picked for my first journal:

The package is different, but this is the set of marker pens I have:

Leuchtturm Notebook (some consider this the best choice)

Bullet Journal Notebook Premium Leather (a cheaper option)

Fineliner Colored Writing Pens

Journal Template Stencils

Want a kit? Here’s a great option: Dot Journaling -The Set


Here’s another post that may interest you: My 5 Go-To Products for a Bullet Journal


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