Bullet journaling for beginners

by - 6:00 PM

Hello hello there!

Maybe you're here because you've heard the term 'bullet journaling' before but have no idea of what it stands for nor understand all the hype around it. Or maybe you have seen some of the gorgeous and creative pictures floating around the internet and wondered how they were created. Either way, you're in the right place. I have been bullet journaling for a little over one and a half years now and I can say it has been quite an interesting journey. In this post, I am going to cover the basics of the basics: what a bullet journal is, as well as what you can do with it and materials necessary. Welcome to my beginner's guide to bullet journaling!

What is a bullet journal?
A bullet journal (BuJo, abbreviated), concept formulated by Ryder Carrollconsists of a highly customizable organizational system. It is a combination of various other apparatuses such as diaries, planners, to do lists, journals, sketchbooks,... The main reason you should opt for a bullet journal instead of those easily bought planners that you end up not filling up anyway is that it allows you to create something that precisely targets and covers all your needs.

Which materials are the best?
If you're starting out, all you really need is any notebook, pen and ruler you may already have at home. However, if you want to invest in materials, just be aware that there is an increasing amount of options available.

  • Notebooks
For notebooks, you can choose from gridded, lined, plain and dotted, of course depending on your needs.
Plain pages are a better option if you want art to be a major part of it. On the other hand, lined notebooks work fine if you don't want grids and lines to be very precise.
Any dotted notebook is great because the dots really aren't that noticeable, making pages seem plain and much less distracting, while giving you some guidance simultaneously. The ones you will see basically everyone using are the dotted Leuchtturm 1917.
I have personally been using the M gridded A5 notebook by Staples Arc until very recently simply due to its convenience. It is a cute yet cheap option because you can simply purchase a new refill once completely filled in. The main reason I bought it nevertheless, was due to the easily removable pages. And I truly recommend you buy a notebook capable of doing such (I will explain why in a second).

  • Pens
For pens, the only thing you really need to take into consideration is whether the ink will bleed through the paper, if you're opting for gel pens, a preference of mine. The ones I bought when starting out and still adore are the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners (the Stabilo Point 88 are very similar). If you want to make different sized lines, you could also try the Sakura Pigma Micron pens.

  • Extras
Obviously, you can always go beyond the basics and spice up your BuJo by utilizing other supplies such as washi tape, markers (both the Tombow Dual Brush Markers and the basic (and of course cheaper) Crayola Supertips are usually recommended), stickers, highlighters (the Zebra Double-Sided Mildliners are also quite known), post-it notes, printed pictures, quote cards.... Make use of your imagination.

I have all the materials, so what's next?
Once again, bullet journaling is meant to be a system that you design according to your needs. This means that you are obviously allowed to get motivation from sources such as Pinterest, Instagram or Youtube, but there is no point in copying another person's work. Now that you have all your materials sorted out, the next thing you need to do before you start writing on your notebook is a plan. Yes, you should plan your planner. Get a blank piece of paper and write down what information you want to record in your notebook. Family and friends' birthdays? Daily to do lists? Self care trackers? Grocery shopping lists? Project deadlines?

How do I incorporate them in my notebook? 
Now that you have specifically thought about what you want to record, it is time to think about ways to combine and transfer those ideas into pages, that is, what spreads you will be doing. The most basic and common ones are as follows (you're obviously not forced to use any of these, but they are a good guide).

  • Key and Index
Start by mentioning what codes and symbols you will be using in your BuJo as well as their meanings. Next, add an Index, that is, specify each page's content; leave one or two blank pages as the information will be added as you go along (after each setup). I personally don't have any of these for a few reasons. Firstly, since it is my bullet journal and the symbols and codes I utilize were chosen by me, there is no point in making them explicit, as I know what each one stands for. Secondly, I always do the basic monthly setup and then add some relevant pages to that month, signalizing the ones being utilized at that time with some small post-it flags, being an index therefore pointless.

  • Year at a glance and future log
Now, it is time to add your year spreads: normally, a year at a glance and a future log. The former refers to that year's calendar and the later to important dates in each month. Truly simple but they will come very in hand.

  • Month at a glance
Similarly to the previous point, in the month at a glance page you add the current month's calendar as well as any relevant days. You can spice it up by incorporating any goals, quotes or tasks you need to get accomplished.

  • Weekly and daily logs
There are sooo many possibilities for these. You can separate them: assign two pages for the week, add the top three main points for each day (school assignments, birthdays, ...) and maybe some trackers; the next pages are meant for you to make simple to-do lists each day. Alternatively, you can combine them by designing the spread at the beginning of the week (and therefore assigning the same writing space for each day) and adding any duties or chores as they come up.

I am not an artsy person nor do I have much time to make elaborate spreads, can I still have a bullet journal?
Of course! As I've mentioned, bullet journaling is a broad concept in which there are no rights or wrongs. The point is to combine your style and your needs when arranging it. You can go for more elaborate or more minimalistic designs, depending on what you're looking for. Furthermore, you don't even have to go with any of the 'mainstream' approaches such as the ones previously mentioned - you can get super creative with it. Seriously, you can do whatever you want with your bullet journal!

Last thoughts
Now, the reason why I mentioned that notebooks with removable pages are an essential is quite simple, in fact. While my advice to newbies is to have patience and not expect things to be perfect straight away, one and a half years ago I did not agree with this. You most likely want your BuJo to be the best it can be, regardless of your personal style. And honestly, so did I. You really wouldn't believe how many pages I ripped off simply due to a tiny line not being where it was supposed to be. Moreover, keep in mind that it takes time until you find the spreads and style that actually work for you. In the beginning, mine were quite colourful and packed with doodles and unnecessary information - now, they are very very simple and minimalistic. So, just remember that practice makes perfect and that you're doing this to have fun, after all!

I hope you found these tips helpful and that you are now motivated to create your unique bullet journal! I have another post with a full month setup, if you want some more motivation for templates. Or you can check out my Pinterest board dedicated to bullet journaling. Let me know in the comments below if you also have a bullet journal and any more tips you may have for beginners.
See you next week,
Irene xx

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