Do you love the idea of bullet journaling but are unsure how to get started?
Friend, that was me too! I remember sitting at the kitchen table paralyzed in front of my first empty journal. Where to begin? What if I mess it up? What do I put where?
But three years and eight journals later, I can confidently walk you through step-by-step how to set up your bullet journal and get started.
I’ll share a dozen tips to help you be successful and five simple tricks for helping you make it look nice without going crazy.
Hey friend, you’ve got this!
You’ll be bullet-journaling in no time.
Also check out the BONUS video and FREE resources below to help you start bullet journaling.
How to Set Up Your Bullet Journal in 12 Simple Steps
I’ve created the video below to show you how to set up your bullet journal in 12 simple steps, including recommendations for my favorite journals and pens and setting up your planners and collections. I’ll be with you each step of the way showing you how I set up my journal and giving you ideas to help you choose what works best for you.
If you don’t know what bullet journaling is yet, oh you’re in for a treat! It’s a fabulous tool for helping you live life more abundantly. I LOVE my bullet journal. You can learn what it’s all about here.
Read more about each step below.
Here I’ll walk you through step-by-step how to set up your bullet journal.
(You can watch the video at a faster speed if you want by clicking on the gear icon.)
Choose your journal.
I’ve used and liked three different brands of journals over the years I’ve been bullet journaling. I recommend all of them, but for now I’m using the Moleskin because it accepts watercolor well (and I love to use watercolor in my bullet journal) and it fits my leather journal cover my husband gave me as a gift last year. Someday I’ll share my complete comparison of the three but that’s for another post. For now, all three of these would be a great journal for you to start with: Leuchtturm 1917, Minimalism Art, and Moleskin. I always choose the dotted pattern, instead of grid or lined because I like how it provides guidelines without being in the way.
Choose a pen.
Any pen will work to begin with, but here are some suggestions for my favorite pens for bullet journaling. For a waterproof set of rich black pens, these Dyvicl Black Micro-Pen Fineliner Ink Pens are a terrific value. My all time favorite writing pen is the Pilot G-2 .38, but the big downside is that it’s not waterproof or archival. Because I love watercoloring in my journal I have to use it sparingly there. Two other good waterproof pens are: the Micron PN has a plastic nib so the tip doesn’t squish down after time, and the Micron 02 works good too but it’s tiny felt tip squishes easily over time.
Number your pages.
If your journal doesn’t already have numbered pages, take a few minutes and number your pages. Leuchtturm 1917 already has numbered pages. Minimalism Art and Moleskin aren’t numbered. Numbering takes just a few minutes and I only number the right pages with the odd numbers. It goes pretty quick.
Choose, print, and trim printables.
I love the ease and convenience of having ready-made printables to use in my journal again and again rather than hand-drawing them again and again, such as calendars and trackers. It’s a super time and sanity saver. I’ve created a bunch of printables for my bullet journal and I share them for free at the Gifts for You page of this website. You can grab access below!
Decide where you want the elements of your bullet journal using sticky tabs and inserting (not gluing yet) printables just where you want them. Adjust here and there to get it just how you like it. You can see how I do this in the video above at the 8:10 mark.
Choose a design style.
Now you want to make some style decisions for your headers and titles. It can be as simple as putting all titles in capitals or underlining them at the top of the page. You can choose to use a sticker to highlight each title. Or you can create a watercolor style for your titles like I’ve done. I played around a bit and practiced what the design might look like for a couple months. That gave me confidence BEFORE any ink made it into my new journal. Friend, what will you do for your titles? Here are some ideas for headers and titles:
Create your Key page, Index page, and Future Planning Pages.
It’s finally time to put your pen to paper. Create your title header and draw in your lines for your Key, Index, and Future Planning log. Use a pencil first if you can’t stand mistakes… because if you’re human you’ll make mistakes and it’s OK! Refer to your practice pages as you need to remind yourself what you’re trying to create. I don’t worry about using a ruler, but if that makes you happy to have your lines razor straight, go ahead. You can see how I set these up in my journal at 12:50 in the video above.
Set up your Calendars.
Glue or washi tape your printable calendars in place. Remember to only glue on top if you want any monthly collections to go behind your calendar like I do. Fill out date numbers on calendars by consulting a calendar on your phone or computer. Write your to-do list on the page left of the calendar. Do this for all months you’ll need for this book. I usually include six months worth of calendars because I’ve found I go through a book in about six months. The more you bullet journal you’ll know how many calendars you need after that. You can see how I set up my calendars at 13:50 in the video above.
Add collections you already know you want, gluing in printables and writing in the titles for others. You can always add collections later at any time to the next empty page. Here’s one of my favorite collections for living life abundantly from the Abundance Toolkit. It’s based off Hal Elrod’s Level 10 Life from his book Miracle Morning. If you’d like to try it, you can grab the Abundance Toolkit for free below. You can see how I set up my collections in the video above at 14:14.
Update your Index page.
To your index page, add page numbers and descriptions for the pages you’ve created so far. As I live and work through my journal, I don’t add every page to this index, just important ones that I want to reference later. You can see how I do this in the video above at 16:00.
Fill in your Future Planning, Calendars, and Monthly to-do’s.
This is where the journal starts feeling like home as you fill in future planning dates such as birthdays, vacations plans, appointments, deadlines, and holidays in your Future Planning log. Add in any calendar commitments and monthly to-do’s for your first month spread. You can see how I do this at 16:50 in the video above.
Add your first Daily Planning entry.
Finally, you’re ready to move into your journal with your first daily planning entry. Exciting! Begin by turning to the next empty page in your journal. Choose a date header and a mini-habit tracker if you like (that’s how I do it). See the picture below for examples of things you could try as new-date entry titles. You also can refer to the video above on this at 17:50.
Then, list your appointments and tasks for the day. I cover this in detail in the video above at about 18:40. Now you’re ready to scheme your dreams, plan your days and record your life in your bullet journal. You have the space to put anything in each day that your heart desires.
Congratulations! That’s all there is to setting up your journal. Keep reading for tips and tricks for success as you’re starting this bullet journal journey.
5 Easy Tricks for Making Your Bullet Journal Look Great Without Losing Your Mind
Here’s a picture summarizing some handwriting tips and tricks and unifying elements you can use to help your bullet journal pages have the aesthetic you want.
A Dozen Tips for Success When Starting a Bullet Journal
- Start with a practice journal in an inexpensive notebook. Prepare mentally while trying different ideas to see what you like. Remember this is your learning notebook. It will be messy! Discover your favorite format without worrying about what it looks like. Find what functions best for you.
- Choose signifiers for your Key that make sense to YOU. Play around with different ideas in your practice journal and see what makes sense to your brain.
- Decide your purpose. What do you want from your bullet journal? Just a productivity tool? A place to have fun and be creative? A place for ALL THE THINGS? Knowing your purpose will help you choose the right collections, tools, and expectations.
- Be OK with messy and mistakes. Let perfection go. Messy is ok and mistakes are inevitable. Go with the flow when mistakes happen. Just cross it out and move on, or find creative ways to salvage the mistake, such as covering the mistake with a sticker, washi tape, or unused white sticker paper from left-over sticker scraps (that’s what I do).
- Use printables. This one thing saves me so much time, energy, and frustration. Choose, print, and cut out printables for the year ahead of time. You can print on paper and use glue or washi tape to stick them in your journal. Or, you can print right on sticker paper. (See below for access to ALL my FREE bullet journal printables below).
- Keep it simple at first. Don’t get distracted by embellishments or fancy collections when you first start or it gets overwhelming. Get the basics down then when you feel confident you can start adding more collections, playing with color, and experimenting with all the fun ways you can get creative in your journal.
- You don’t have to be Martha Stewart. Don’t think you have to learn calligraphy, buy a ton of craft supplies, or create Pinterest worthy pages. Your journal doesn’t have to look perfect or like an artistic masterpiece. It’s about how it feels to you and the joy it brings to your heart. But, I understand wanting your journal to have a nice aesthetic. See my list of easy tricks below to help you make your journal easy on the eyes.
- Be flexible and experiment. Once you’ve lived in your journal for a bit you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to toss out whatever isn’t working for you. Be inspired by all the ideas out there and try new things. It’s OK to change things up mid journal. I do.
- Make time daily for bullet-journaling. Take time each morning and evening to check in with your intentions, goals, and review how you accomplished your day. You’ll find it becomes a practice in mindfulness and intentional living.
- Remember there is no ONE way to bullet journal. Yours will be unique to you. It can be as simple or creative as you want and need.
- You can start at any time of the year. You don’t have to wait for the new year or to finish your old journal or planner. Don’t put off the joy!
- Don’t give up. Setting up your first bullet journal and making a daily practice using it may seem clunky at first. Keep at it. Soon you’ll have a habit and will reap the benefits of a regular planning/journal writing practice: more productivity, greater organization, clear focus, peace, joy, and an intentional drive to greater personal development.
Grab your FREE Bullet Journal Printables here! Monthly calendars, trackers, planners and more.
Hey friend! I’m happy to share my bullet journal printables with you! They’ve helped me be more organized and intentional about living principles of abundance. Using them makes me happy! I hope you’ll love them too.
Yes! I want FREE bullet journal printables.
The FREE Bullet Journal Printables are my gift to you when you subscribe to receive inspirational notes from me in your inbox (don’t worry! I’ll only send great stuff and never send spam!). When you sign up you’ll have access to my private Gifts for You Collection here at my website where I keep all the bullet journal printables I’ve made and a whole lot of other awesome resources to help you live life more abundantly.
Do you want to live life more abundantly?
You’re not alone. I’ve got great news for you, my Friend. Watch the video for a virtual hug and words of encouragement from me. You’ve got this!