How to Start a Bullet Journal: The Ultimate Guide
It can be tough staying on top of everything you have going on. And if you’re anything like most of us, you’ve tried a million different things to keep your day organized.
But no matter how great one planner may seem or how amazing the layout is on your favorite calendar, there always seems to be something you wish you could change.
Why can’t you just completely customize the planner you want and call it a day?
Well, you can. With a Bullet Journal.
This magical little journal will allow you to keep track of the things you need to keep track of. It will let you plan things out in a way that makes sense to you. And it totally gives you the freedom to change anything up as you go.
Sounds pretty fantastic, right?
To help you out, I’m going to walk you through absolutely everything you need to know to start a bullet journal.
Because bullet journals are a fantastic way to stay on top of things in a way that works for you.
They’re perfect for creatives, rule-breakers, and people who like doing things their own way.
They’re also great for list-makers, planner lovers, and people who prefer a little structure.
So whether you’re looking for a way to stray from the norm or a way to stay entirely within the lines, a bullet journal has something for you.
Before we dive in, though, you need to check out my free Boss Mom Productivity Planner. You can either print the pages of this planner out and put them directly in your bullet journal OR you can use them to help you set it up. Either way, the planner’s yours for free. Just enter your email below so I know where to send it.
** This article contains affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure statement here. **
What is a Bullet Journal?
So first things first, what is a bullet journal?
Simply put, a bullet journal is a journal that you use to keep track of anything you need to keep track of.
While all bullet journal will have some similarities, every journal is completely unique to the person who created it.
But because it allows you the flexibility to make it your own, it gives you the ability to get so much more done by focusing on the right stuff all the time.
Now, I’m known for saying that time management is a completely personal process, and a bullet journal allows for you to really dive deep and find that system that fits you perfectly.
It will allow you to strategically plan out and implement the goals that are most important to you.
It will allow you to be more present in your life and get a holistic view of how you’re doing.
And it will allow you to keep track of the different lists, calendars, and deadlines that keep you going.
So let’s take a look at what you need to start your own bullet journal today!
Bullet Journal Supplies
So the first thing you need to start a bullet journal is a notebook.
While any notebook will do, there are a ton of affordable, quality bullet journals you can get on Amazon that are built to last.
The Leuchtturm1917 is one of the more popular and comes in a bunch of really fun colors.
Next, you need some pens to make it fun and colorful. I prefer the Staedtler pens. I tried another brand at first, and they didn’t even compare to the pop of color you’ll get from these bad boys.
Next, you need some solid black pens to fill everything in with and create the different grids and designs. I like this Sakura Pigma set because it gives you different point sizes to mix and match.
And finally, it’s always fun to have some stencils, stickers, and washi tape to play around with and keep things looking fresh.
Bullet Journal Organization
Once you have your supplies, it’s time to start your bullet journal!
So first, you need to decide what you want to use the bullet journal for.
You can always adjust this as you go, so don’t get bogged down by the details here. But it’s good to have a general idea of what all you want to keep track of.
You also need to decide how you want to keep track of everything.
In the front of your bullet journal, you’re going to want to have an index to write down the collections you create and their page numbers as you go.
This way you always know exactly where something is and you don’t waste any time looking for it.
I also like to double check the index to see what order I put my different planners and trackers in so that they’re always the same.
You’re also going to want to create is some sort of key to use throughout your bullet journal.
Yes, you could just write this on every page. And your key may change depending on what you’re using the page for.
But to save some time, it’s nice to have a key of the more standard things: when something’s completed, in progress, postponed, and so on.
Standard Bullet Journal Spreads
While every bullet journal can be completely customized by the person using it, there are some standard spread that you’ll find in most.
Now, if you’re just using a particular bullet journal for habit tracking or a certain project then this probably won’t be relevant.
But if you’re using it as a planner then you’re going to need some typical planner pages.
How you set these pages up is totally up to you, though!
Again, if you want some inspiration here, check out my free Boss Mom Productivity planner. It has 18 pages of planner page payouts to give you an idea of the different things you need to keep track of each day.
Future Log / Project Log
One of the most common pages in most bullet journals is a future log or a log of the future projects you want to work on.
This is a great place to write down the different stuff you want to work on throughout the year. Then, once you commit to a project, you can break it down into the steps you need to take to complete it and schedule the steps in.
Another common bullet journal spread is the monthly calendar. This is where you can see everything you have going on for the month at a glance.
I like to use monthly spreads for my promotional calendar as well to make sure I’m not running too many promotions at once, or too close together.
I also like to color code everything I have going on.
So family stuff will be in one color. My own product promotions in another color. Affiliate promotions in another. And then my editorial calendar in another.
If you decide to color code, though, just don’t get carried away. As a professional organizer, I don’t always recommend color coding because it can just as easily overcomplicate things. So keep it simple.
The next things you’ll find in most bullet journals is a weekly spread.
This is typically your weekly schedule.
I use this to jot down my coaching calls and appointments.
I also use this for my time blocks. Because I’m very serious about my time blocks throughout the day, and if I have one scheduled in I try not to let anything interfere. So it’s always important to write down when those are and the exact thing I’ll be working on in each of them.
Some people include daily spreads in the bullet journal.
I don’t and here’s why.
Because I time block. I only schedule in a couple things to do each day so that I don’t overbook (and overwhelm) myself. Sticking to the space allowed in the weekly spread keeps me in check here.
To-do lists are also common in bullet journals. Again, this isn’t something I use.
Because rewriting my to-do list over and over is a complete waste of time. And anyone who has kept a paper to-do list can tell you that as things start getting crossed off and more things get added, it has to be rewritten.
So I keep my to-do list organized and prioritized in Trello.
It’s one and done and super easy to maintain.
Bullet Journal Collection Ideas
Bullet journals can also be used to house different collections.
And these can be basically anything else that you want to write down and stay on top of.
It’s great for brain dumps or mind mapping. This way, any amazing ideas you come up with are right there with everything else you have going on.
Again, it can also be used for different lists and reminders. One thing that I do use it for in this regard is to write down different things I think of throughout the day.
When I’m working on something, I don’t let myself stop if something pops into my head. I just jot it down and get back to work.
Because I’m a details person, I connect random thoughts to what I was doing at the time. So it’s convenient for me to keep these random musings in my planner so that I can always find them based on what I was working on at the time.
Bullet journals are also great for tracking your habits. If you want to map out how you were feeling for a month to pinpoint any problems, creating a spread for this works fantastic.
It also works great for building habits. If you want to get into the habit of doing something, create a tracker in your bullet journal where you’ll always see it. Then as you complete the task each day, check it off. This will help you build that habit-forming muscle!
Bullet journals are also great places to track your mental health, as well. You can either create a tracking spread or fill it out like a journal. Write about what’s going on in your life at this time so you can always look and see what you were working on or what habits you tracked and make different connections.
It’s also a great place to write down your daily affirmations or to keep a gratitude log. These things are so important to keep in the front of your mind, and putting them in your bullet journal helps make that possible.
However you decide to set up your bullet journal, remember to just follow your own rules and make it your own.
Use it to express your creativity — this is so important to thrive as an entrepreneur. If we don’t find a way to inspire ourselves daily, we’re going to struggle to keep coming up with the ideas that light us on fire. That push us to keep going. That spark even more genius from within.
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