Skip To Content

    14 Really Good Tips For Anyone Who Just Started A Bullet Journal

    For anyone who has a nice notebook, a good pen, and no clue where to begin.


    Bullet journaling is really great for anyone who likes setting goals, wants to keep copious to-do lists, or has a pretty, blank notebook that they want to get some real, practical use out of, among many other things. Getting started on one, though, isn't as easy as buying a nice journal and a Good Pen.

    There's a huge (read: overwhelming) amount of online communities dedicated to ideas for spreads and designs — enough that, regardless of your artistic abilities, it can make you want to shove your brand-new dot-grid notebook onto your shelf for a good few months. But you don't have to start out on level 10; in fact, learning the basics is really great, because you'll continue to incorporate those into your bujo years into having one. Here are some tips that'll help you actually get started and learn how to keep a bullet journal that works for you:

    2. Decide what you want to get out of it, at least for your first few weeks or months.

    Peopleimages / Getty Images

    Bullet journals are great for keeping track of lots of different things, but picking an overall goal or setting an intention is a good way to get started without feeling like you need to make 25 different spreads. Are you trying to stick to a particular eating plan? Have things you want to achieve in the next few months or year? Just want a place to log things you like and want to do? A combination of all of these/something else I didn't mention? Make a list of your priorities, and then choose a few to track. As you do it more, you'll feel more comfortable incorporating new aspects to your bujo.

    3. Be kind to yourself about your handwriting or artistic skills (or lack thereof).

    I took one look at some bullet journal inspiration, and noped right out of keeping one for a long time because I was like "I can't even make a three-letter word look nice, let alone an entire page of my hopes and dreams." But that's really silly! Holding your own lettering to the same standard as those of people who have whole fanbases because of theirs is like comparing yourself to pictures in a magazine. Your bullet journal is just for you, and it's OK if you make mistakes, start scrawling your letters together, or have a truly sad flower in the corner that was supposed to signify the start of spring (hi, me). Don't feel like you have to make it perfect or share it with the world, as long as it's helping you live your life and get stuff done. And if you want to work on having better handwriting, then great! Make that a little side hobby to your main hobby.

    4. On that note, feel free to sketch out whatever you're trying to make in pencil before inking it all in.

    Photo by Hope House Press - Leather Diary Studio on Unsplash

    You'll probably continue doing this long after you become a seasoned bullet journal pro.

    5. Don’t go ape shit with pens and markers and washi tape.

    Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

    Bullet journaling is especially appealing to people who enjoy spending entire paychecks at stationery stores, but! Starting simply is the best way to ensure future success with this endeavor. Try to just pick one bit of flair to start and make the rest the reward for sticking with journaling for a full month.

    6. Make friends with large sticky notes!

    They're great for covering pages when you want some privacy, or to take notes on things you don’t necessarily want to put in your journal proper but still want to capture.

    I'm a big fan of these lined ones and these blank ones.

    7. Pick a notebook that works best for you.

    Dot-grid notebooks like the classic Leuchtterm (and this just-as-good cheaper version) are a popular choice because they're so flexible, but you can also get a gridded notebook, a lined notebook, a completely blank one, or one that has pre-designed pages (this is especially helpful if you need some extra guidance getting started). It's really your call!

    8. If you’re feeling intimidated by that first blank page, start with a simple index, then a symbol key.

    Staring at a blank page in this thing that can/might change your life is kinda scary?! But the good news is that you don't have to start laying out your plans for the next week or month on it. Instead, set up an index that says what's on each page of your journal (numbering pages is a must), and then, if you want to use symbols in your to-do lists, make a key of what all of them mean. There, you've already done two pages!

    9. And opt for layouts that don’t require extensive boxes/planning.

    Again, there are so many things you can track, but sticking with the simple ones in the beginning is a nice way to ease into it. A few ideas on basic things to try on your first bujo go-round:

    • A gratitude log

    A to-do list

    • A list of things you did that day

    • A weekly planner

    • A list of books you want to read/TV shows you want to watch/movies you want to see

    These don't need to be anything fancy; they can literally be just a bulleted list with a header. Like, a gratitude log can be a simple list OR it can be a mega complicated chart complete with full-color illustrations of bees. When you’re first starting out, GO WITH THE SIMPLE LIST.

    10. Don't panic if you find yourself with an odd page that you don’t know what to do with between a one-page spread and a two-page spread!

    Consider that extra space to have a little fun. Here are some ideas:

    • A list of loved ones' birthdays

    • An inspiring quote

    • A page to doodle or illustrate a word (like the current month)

    • A map of places you've traveled

    • A place to test out new markers or pens

    And so many other things! I love checking out the bullet journal community on Reddit for ideas for random blank pages.

    11. And get a whiteout pen or whiteout tape, so you’re not as stressed about making mistakes.

    And if you know you're prone to lots of typos and stray marks (again, it me), consider including a "scribble page" where you can practice before you commit pen to paper.

    12. But also, invest in a cute lil' ruler.

    Straight lines will look nice, but also keep all of your trackers super organized. A small six-inch ruler like this one should fit into the back folder pocket that many bullet journals come with.

    Get the one above from Amazon for $11.17.

    13. Use Instagram collections to easily save layouts you like.

    Terri Pous / BuzzFeed

    I love the save button on Instagram!!!!!! You can go to a hashtag, like #bulletjournal and #bujo, and start hitting that little bookmark button to add to your collection, or you can follow some accounts, like @boho.berry and @pieceofmindjournal.

    14. Read up on what all of the little jargon and symbols mean, the different spreads you can make, and all of the other basics.

    Rachel W. Miller / Ellie Sunakawa / BuzzFeed

    Bullet journaling, like so many other popular hobbies, has its own language and ecosystem, so get yourself a guidebook to your new fave pastime. Instagram and Pinterest are great for inspiration once you're past step one, but books like this one and this one will help you learn the difference between rapid logging and a future log, as well as the best notebook to get, if you don't already have one.

    15. Don’t worry if your journal is just a to-do list or daily planner — only add what you think will be helpful to your life.

    Maybe, even after six months or a year, you're still sticking to the same layouts you used when you first started. That's cool! Don't feel like you need to add in a new element every week — stickers, drawings, little curlicues — if you found what works for you. Not everyone needs or wants a mood or habit or period tracker!

    16. And remember that it's OK to stop and start when you need to.

    Bullet journaling can be a very time-consuming habit if you want it to/let it be. Taking a little break is a good way to reconfigure how to make it best fit into your life, and no one is going to come find you and give you a Talk if they find out you skipped April. And May. It's all yours, and that's probably the best thing about keeping one.