So You Want to Start a Bullet Journal…

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I get asked a lot about how to start a bullet journal.  People will say, ‘I want to start a bullet journal but:

  • I’m not creative
  • I can’t draw
  • I don’t have time to do all of the stuff you do in yours
  • Or (my personal favorite), If I spent the time drawing that every week, I wouldn’t have any time to do the things on my list!

My bullet journal is full of my drawings because that’s the way I want it, but that’s not what makes it a bullet journal.  Let’s talk about that…

What a bullet journal is and what it isn’t

First of all, I think it’s really important to understand what a bullet journal is and what it isn’t. As quoted from the official bullet journal site, a bullet journal “can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above.”

What caught my attention most about a bullet journal is that you create and use it organically, rather than having it all set up ahead of time.  You’re not faced with a year’s worth of pre-printed pages to fill; just a beautiful, empty notebook with clean, fresh possibilities every time you turn a page. {Other office/art supply junkies know what I’m talking about, right??}

I was a planner junkie and have used many, many different planning systems over the years, only to be frustrated by the limitations of someone else’s design that didn’t work for my needs. More often than not, days or weeks would go by with empty pages and then I would be frustrated again by not having elements that I wanted.

I’ve also tried different apps on my computer and phone, but there’s definitely something satisfying about holding a physical planner in your hands.

**Important Note**
If that’s NOT something important to you, or if your planning app/Google Calendar/iCal is working just fine for all of your needs, then I’m not going to try to convince you that this is something you need to be doing. This is about doing what works for you!

However, if you decide you want to try a bullet journal, here is my NUMBER 1 TIP:
Learn the BASICS of bullet journaling on the BulletJournal.com site.  Watch the video, read the blog.  Start there.  Don’t go to Pinterest yet, don’t get overwhelmed on Instagram.

Start at the source.

  • Learn what an index, future log, monthly and daily logs are and how to use them
  • Learn about tasks, signifiers and a key
  • Learn about migration

Download the free bullet journal reference guide from tinyrayofsunshine.com

Then, you’re ready to create your bullet journal.

What you HAVE TO HAVE to get started

Any notebook and pen will do.

You don’t have to start with a fancy notebook, any particular tools or decorative elements. Colored pens, stickers and washi tape aren’t required.

I liked the idea of a dotted grid page so my first bullet journal was a Moleskine like this:

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Now, I’m using a Leuchtturm1917 with dotted grid pages and I really do love it.  It think the quality of the book and pages are worth it and I will continue to use them for my bullet journals until I see something better come along.

My New Bujo + August Set Up

But really, ANY notebook will do.  It’s not the notebook itself that makes it a bullet journal.  You can buy a graph composition book like this almost anywhere that sells notebooks:

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My favorite pens are Pigma Microns.  I use the 02 nib size for most of my journaling and drawing, but also use the 01 and 005 for smaller details.

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But again, ANY pen will do.  I started with a Sharpie pen fine point (NOT the permanent marker kind, they will bleed through your page!!).  Find what works for you in your notebook.

That’s it.  Those are all of the tools you need to start bullet journaling. Start with the basics, find a notebook and pen that you like, use the reference guide to set it up and just start.

But what about the washi tape, you ask? What about the colored pens and pencils and stickers and everything else to make it all pretty?  Not important.  Honestly.

It’s about the bullet journal system and figuring out how you’re going to use it first.  THEN you can add the stuff to make it pretty.

I draw in my bullet journal because it makes me happy to draw.  Because I like lots of color.  And because, a lot of the time, I can’t find existing graphics (stickers, etc) to fit how I want it to look.  So I make it up.

I’ve also experimented on what kind of planning spread works for me. I don’t do dailies because I use a different bullet journal at work.

My personal bullet journal doesn’t need dailies, so I have found that a weekly to-do list works better for me. You may not have the same needs as I do, so you will need to experiment for yourself to see what works.

If you want color in yours, by all means, use the washi tape and stickers and whatever else you want to color it up.

If you don’t care about color in yours, then don’t do it.  But don’t think you can’t start a bullet journal just because you can’t draw or can’t spend a lot of time on it! That is completely contrary to how a bullet journal is designed to work.

I’ve created a Beginner’s Bullet Journaling Checklist for you to download with the steps that I’ve discussed in this post.  Hope it’s helpful for all of you newbies out there!

Happy Bullet Journaling!

PS–Here’s the first post I wrote when I first launched this blog with other starting tips.

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5 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal