5 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal

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Welcome to my little brain dump on the web. 🙂

I’ve been keeping a bullet journal for a little over 3 months now, so I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned to hopefully save someone some time and maybe a little heartache.  I’ve kept a running list (in my bullet journal, of course) and decided to expound on these tips as my first blog post.  There are a lot more tips than just these five, but I’ll need something for future posts, right?  😉

I’m not going to go into Leuchtturm vs. Moleskine vs. comp book vs. anything else in this post.  I’m also not going to go into pens or washi tape or stickers or stamps or any other decoration aspects.  I’m not against any of those things and have used them in my own, but…

Honestly, the beauty is in the system, not so much what you use or how you decorate it.  You don’t have to be an artist or crafty in any way to appreciate a bullet journal. All you need is a notebook and a pen.  The rest is just extra.

I use a softcover Moleskine for my current (which is my first) bullet journal and I love it. I’m almost halfway through it now and have thought about trying the softcover Leuchtturm1917 B5 for my next one because it’s a little bigger, page size wise, but it does have fewer pages, so I’m still undecided.  That may also be a future post.

I also keep a bullet journal specifically for work in a spiral-bound Fabriano, grid-lined notebook.  This means the daily pages in my personal bullet journal are a little on the light side, but my personal bullet journal is the one I love the most.  It definitely sparks joy in my life! (Thank you KonMari.)

So here are my first set of tips for how to get started bullet journaling.

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Go here. Watch the video.  Click on all the links.  Take notes. Look at the blog entries.  Understand the framework of the system.  If you’re worried that is too structured or too simple, don’t worry, this is ultimately going to be yours. This is just where this whole bullet journaling thing started and it’s just smart to understand the concept.

At the beginning, keep it simple!  Put down the basic elements first, then move on to the crazy stuff like doodles and washi tape.Other places I got inspiration from before beginning:

•Boho Berry
•Tiny Ray of Sunshine
•Searching “bullet journal” on Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.

There is a LOT to look at so don’t get overwhelmed.  Make a Pinterest board or start collecting inspo however you’d like, but don’t think it has to look like all of those pictures when you’re just starting out.

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…then the future log, than the monthly spread.
I know.  It’s scary to make the first mark in that brand new book.  What if you do something wrong??  We’ll get to that.  But for now, if you don’t already have the index designated in your notebook, this is the best place to start.  Just start putting your pen to your pages and it gets easier as you go.

**Also…Kim at tinyrayofsunshine.com has a great reference guide you can print out here.

How I did it:  I have a moleskine, so I have the opening spread with the inside front cover and my contact info.

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Then, the next spread is my One Little Word for the year and a year at a glance calendar.

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Then, I have four pages set aside for my index pages.  It will probably be too many, but I wanted to err on the side of too many rather than not having enough.

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After my index pages, I have a year’s worth of a future log, also pretty much like on the bulletjournal.com site. It’s nothing fancy, just putting it down.  It’s also pretty empty, apparently my life is very boring.

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There are a lot of good ideas on Pinterest and Instagram for how to lay this out.  I’ve already decided that I want to do my next future log differently than I currently have it.  It’s ok, you don’t spend most of your time there anyway, so just pick a way to lay it out and move on to your monthly spread.

I did my first monthly spread pretty much like Ryder does on his site.

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But I decided that I liked having more of a traditional calendar so I changed it up the next month.

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Which brings me to point #3:

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It’s super normal to want to a do whole month’s worth of weekly spreads right at the start or want to fill up as many of those beautiful dotted pages as possible, but that’s counter to how a bullet journal works best.

Until you’ve used it for a while, you don’t know what parts of the system you’re going to use and which parts aren’t for you. The thing I didn’t like about a regular planner in the past was that I felt like I wasted so much space if I didn’t use it every day.

Theoretically, with a bullet journal, if you don’t use it one day, you just write in the next day and  on.  No space wasted. No planner guilt.

Be patient (not my best quality, so I get it) and just work a week out (or maybe even one day out) at a time.  You have your monthly spread and future logs for future planning, use those for things that come up.

How I did it:  I have the left side of my weekly spread for appointments and a running “to-do” list.  The right side is specifically for the days of the week and any notes pertaining to each day. Since most of my day is spent at work, using my work bullet journal, I don’t need a lot of room for daily entries.

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I tried 5 different weekly spreads before I came up with the one that works best for me.  And what works for me, most likely won’t work for you, so you need to try different layouts until you come up with one that you love.

Again, why it’s so important not to work too far in advance.  You’ll either end up feeling stuck with pages you hate using or waste the space, skipping them because you want to try something new.

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I find the pages that I use the most are pages that aren’t forced.  Don’t feel like you have to have a ton of collections at the beginning or have to have a full list of books to read.  Leave some of those spots blank and keep your bullet journal with you to capture inspiration or recommendations as you get them.

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Perfectionism is paralyzing. It really is. So stop worrying about being perfect.  Make a mistake.  Or two or three.  Don’t think you have to throw out your bullet journal because you’ve made a mistake in it.

Some people laugh when I say that.  Others nod their heads because they know what I mean. These are my people.

Work your mistake in to your design, cover it up with some washi or a doodle or…wait for it…turn the page and start over.

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Thanks to Joan Runke for this perfect graphic.

You can do that??

You can do that.  This is your bullet journal and you can do whatever you want with it.

One more little bonus tip for you.  I know it might be obvious but I don’t always even do it (and I often regret not doing it):

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Whether it’s a new monthly, weekly or daily spread you might be trying out, or some kind of fancy header for a collection, use a nice mechanical pencil (so you always have a fine point to work with) to map out where you want everything to go.

Ok, there you have my top tips for starting a bullet journal.  What are some tips that you would recommend?  Leave them in the comments below!

 

 

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14 thoughts on “5 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal

  1. elizacecilia says:

    I’m curious about the overall layout of your bullet journal! I really want to try it but am sort of lost on this aspect. So I have my future log and then a monthly log for the beginning of the month, and then a weekly log.. but I don’t want to draw out all my weekly logs for the whole month in case I need less or more space for each day. So do you just put your collection pages in between your weekly logs, like whenever you decide to start a new collection? Or do you group all of your weekly logs together and then do collections after or before? I’m sure it depends on the person but it’d be helpful to hear what you do! Thank you!

    Like

    • Heidi says:

      I keep my bullet journal very organic and only work one week at a time, adding any new collections on the very next page. Then, I’ll turn the page and do the next weekly spread. That’s the beauty of the index! If you record the page number of your collections, you never have to search for it later!

      Like

  2. Reba Ridgeway says:

    Thank you, Great information ! It helps to hear everyone
    Can be creative to design your Journaling to fit your own personality or needs. Good job!

    Like

  3. Sary Gardiner says:

    Having started my bullet journal about 3 weeks ago, I was struggling with some aspects (mainly how bad I felt about making mistakes) but this really helped. Thank you. A really helpful and reassuring post. 😀

    Like

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