Beginner’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

by | Sep 10, 2019 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Author: Devon Smolca, MS

Creating a harmonious work/life balance can be challenging in our busy, fast paced world. Having a full agenda, making plans and trying to stay organized can be difficult enough, add in striving toward goals for our well being and it can all feel overwhelming. It can be helpful to have a system to stay focused, organized and inspired. A bullet journal is a wonderful way to organize, prioritize and track our progress. A bullet journal is like a planner, calendar, journal, goal tracker and organizer all in one. This guide will help explain the benefits of keeping and bullet journal and how to get started.

First of all, what exactly is bullet journal? One of the best parts about a bullet journal is that is total personal and customizable. It’s simply a blank journal and you decide what goes in it. A bullet journal can contain whatever is most helpful to you in your life at the moment. It is fluid and changeable with our changing lives.

We’ll get back to exactly how it works, but first, here are some benefits of keeping a bullet journal:

Organize and prioritize: A bullet journal is a place to keep all our to-do’s, events and tasks in one place. Seeing all these things together helps us prioritize and get to what matters most. When we have a lot of things floating around in our heads it can lead to a feeling of overwhelm. When we have a place to ‘brain dump’ all of it, we can get organized and start checking things off instead of putting things off.

Track progress: We all have goals in life. Goals keep us moving forward, improving ourselves and our well-being. Goals help keep us motivated and can add to our fulfillment when they are reached. In order to keep ourselves on target with our goals, we can track the progress we make each day. Tracking our accomplishments in the pursuit of these goals can help keep us accountable and give us that satisfaction we sometimes need to stay focused. 

Enjoy a creative outlet and relaxation: A bullet journal can be whatever we want it to be which is part of the beauty. It can be super minimal with little distraction or it can be a creative outlet. There are so many inspiring bullet journal spreads online that can be fun to emulate or to try out new ones of our own creation. Getting creative by coloring, working on our penmanship and/or doodling while getting all our organized can be relaxing and a good reminder to take life a little less seriously! This is a place to have fun, make mistakes, learn and grow.

Now that we’re familiar with the benefits of the bujo (slang of the initiated bullet journalist) we’re ready to embark on this bullet journal journey! Below are some steps to get started:

  1. Get a blank journal: There are no rules here. Whatever size feels comfortable for you and your life works! If you have a ton of tasks and events each day it might be helpful to opt for a bigger size.
  2. Set up your pages: Start with an index to list page numbers and contents of each page. Many folks find it easiest to first make a yearly calendar with a space next to each month to write down bigger events corresponding to the month. It can also be helpful to have a ‘spread’ for the current month by simply writing down the dates of the month in a vertical line on the left-side page. On the right page write down all the tasks and events of the month. In traditional bullet journal fashion, a small bullet dot (•) is a to-do and a circular bullet (◦) is an event. Once the monthly spread is created you can dive into your weeks. It’s helpful to just do one week at a time instead of several weeks ahead incase things change. The pages can be divided up for the seven days however is more convenient and this many change and evolve as one gets used to the process. The tasks and events from the list of to-do’s and event that was made can now be ‘migrated’ into the monthly dates and weekly spreads. Tasks and events can be added each day depending on how the day/week evolves. Once a task is migrated or accomplished it can be ‘x’ed out. Tasks can also be crossed out if they no longer needs to be done.
  3. Add collections: Here’s the juicy part! A collection is any additional page outside of the monthly/weekly spreads. A collection can take numerous forms including an ideal morning routine, mood trackers, books to read, movies to watch, self care ideas, date night ideas, etc. Another idea is goal trackers, for instance if the goal is to get in a walk daily and/or drink a certain amount of water everyday, one would make a way to tick off each day this is accomplished. These trackers are a wonderful way to keep ourselves motivated and engaged. There are tons of excellent ideas out there for collections and trackers. The only limit with a collection is one’s imagination!

Here are some additional helpful bullet journal resources and inspiration: