Making its debut in 2013, bullet journals practically shot out of a canon and into the zeitgeist. Thanks to social media, bullet journaling became the next “it” way of organizing your life.
But there’s a first time for everything, and if you’re a bullet journal beginner, we’ve got all the basics and ideas you could need to manifest a beautiful baby journal.
Why Start Bullet Journaling in the First Place?
Bullet journaling’s lightning-fast growth in pop culture coincides with the rise in “get ready with me,” daily vlog, and organizational content across all social platforms. Watching someone Washi tape their bullet journal isn’t a far cry from ASMR principles. ASMR may exist to be pleasing to your ears, but visual content like watching someone bullet journal is pleasing to the eyes.
Journaling at its core is all about writing things down to remember them and hold yourself accountable for accomplishing tasks. Our brains can only remember so much, so writing things down takes the guesswork out of knowing what you need to do and when.
Bullet journals are highly customizable and bursting with creativity. These are a far cry from the boring school year calendars we used to get as kids. Taking the time to create a journal in a way that’s set up for your brain — whether neurotypical or not — will likely be more effective at upping your productivity.
Bullet Journal Basics for Beginners
Bullet journals aren’t as hard as they might look. But for how cool it is to watch people make theirs, it can be super intimidating to try. This is especially true if you’ve never been a particularly crafty or organized person in the first place. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your bullet journaling skills probably won't be either.
Focus on incorporating elements that work for your specific brain and habits! The coolest ideas on Tiktok won’t have been worth all the effort if it doesn’t help you feel more organized.
Here are the basics for helping you set up your new bullet journal:
Invest in the Right Materials
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to bullet journal, but there are some upfront costs you will need to invest in.
Some materials you’ll need to move forward with a skimmable and creative bullet journal are:
- A dot grid notebook
- Fine liners
- Washi tape
Decide What You Want to Journal About
Here’s the thing: you can journal as much or as little as you want in a bullet journal. There are literally no rules about what you have to keep track of or pages you have to include, which is awesome. But it can be overwhelming for new journalers, so it's good to find a starting point.
We suggest focusing on a single topic for your first journal. Most people find it easy to transition from their calendar book into a bullet journal because you’re already familiar with writing things down in different parts of the book, but the blank canvas gives you the space to get really creative.
Mockup Your Pages Before You Start
Now, we know not everyone’s a draftsman at heart, but if you’re just starting a bullet journal, mockup the page designs somewhere other than in the journal itself. You might not want to commit to the page with markers and pens and not end up liking the layout. Keep your journal fancy fresh by avoiding permanent mistakes with a mockup.
Assign Colors to Specific Things
Part of the point of bullet journaling is expediting your organization, and assigning colors to mean specific things is one way to do that. For example, each month might have a different highlighter or marker color, which will let you quickly flip through the pages to find the right month.
Or you could color code around topics. For instance, appointments could be written in blue, payday dates in red, romantic dates in pink, etc.
Easy Bullet Journaling Ideas Every Beginner Can Try
You might have come across the standard bullet journal set up with pages carved out into boxes that you can customize for days of the week or months of the year. Some bullet journal purists tout a "proper" way of setting journals up, but no two people are the same and have the same needs!
From encouraging mindfulness in your daily life to being better prepared for the week to beat the Sunday Scaries, you can use these ideas to help you experiment with your bullet journal and find the styles that work best for you.
Start Your Journal With Tracker Pages
Instead of jumping right into all the things you need to cross off of your list, start your journal with tracker pages. Think about the things in your life you want to do more or keep a running list of. Some things people like to keep track of are:
- Their mood
- Their medical conditions
- Workout progress
- Menstrual cycles
- Academic progress
- Habits you’re trying to make
- Habits you’re trying to break
- Phone usage
This can be as simple as titling the page, drawing out the calendar months using the squares, and darkening the days you did or didn’t do the thing. Or, you can get more creative with shapes and designs to color code according to your progress.
@plannedinpink Things I’m doing differently in my bullet journal in 2023! #bulletjournallife #amandarachlee #bujoflipthrough original sound - Rachael | Creative Lifestyle
Go Simple With a Weekly Spread
If bullet journaling is a first for you, don’t stress about trying to add in all the fancy pages in between your daily to-do lists. Instead, turn each two-page spread into a weekly to-do list. At the top, label the month and the day/week. Or, draw in a small numbered calendar for the month so you can use highlighters to color through the week that it is.
@theletter_em #bulletjournal #bujo #marchbujo #bujoinspiration #bulletjournaling ceilings - Sped Up Version - Lizzy McAlpine
From there, draw seven boxes across the two pages and label them each day of the week they are. From here, you can go hog wild with color, tapes, stickers, and details to make it come to life. Then, all that’s left is to fill in are the things you need to do in their designated spots.
Start Stamping to Your Heart's Content
Stickers and Washi tape are bullet journal standards, but stamps are a fun way to make the most of your money. Once you buy a stamp, you can use it thousands of times so long as you’ve got an ink pad on hand. It’s a great way to decorate the holes in between your boxes without having to plan a lot and fuss with a ruler.
Bullet Journaling: Where Productivity & Creativity Unite
It seems counterintuitive that being so creative in customizing a journal could make you more productive, but the principles behind bullet journaling have done just that for millions of people. Whether you start small or go big, don’t force your journal to fit into an Instagram worthy box. Instead, paint a picture of the beautiful, organized chaos in your brain onto the page.