How to Begin Setting up a Bullet Journal

What you need to know about bullet journalling, plus beginner tips!

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Header Image: photo of journal and colored pencil with text - How to Begin Setting up a Bullet Journal

Keeping a bullet journal is a wonderfully creative way to keep yourself organized.

Bullet journals are infinitely customizable which means that you can set it up to cater specifically to your needs. They are very different from traditional planners.

The basic structure is made up of pages of gridded dots which allows you to create your own layout. If you’re looking for even more flexibility, there are plenty of blank or ruled versions that give you a little more freedom in that department.

The whole idea of a bullet journal can feel overwhelming. But don’t fret! We will guide you with tips and tricks for setting it up. We’ve got you covered if you don’t know where to start or what supplies you’ll need.

The Only Two Things You Need


white and light pink colored journal
Product: Journal

Do not buy the first notebook you see. Make sure you are investing in a bullet journal that you enjoy looking at! This should not be something you feel awkward about pulling out during class or meetings.

Open it up and see how it feels. Does it stay open on its own? Does the spine bend easily? Will it be easy to draw and write in?

Pro tips:

  • Buy a durable journal that you will know you can carry around for years.
  • I recommend a dotted notebook if you are starting out to help you guide in writings and layouts.


Arteza vintage gel pens
Product: Pens

Buy numerous pens! The easiest way you can do this is to buy in bulk or a pack that already carries several of the same pens you like.

Most art supply stores have sample pens sitting out with paper that you can write on. This is a great way to get a feel for what you like.

Pro tips:

  • Make sure it is a pen you have used before and are comfortable with.
  • Black pens make great for the foundation of your writing, you can choose different colors for additional doodling, subheadings, etc.

Setting up Your Bullet Journal

Using your bullet journal should be a fun way to keep all of your thoughts organized.

Do not stress about forgetting one of these tips, if the colors look right, or if your journal looks different from everyone else’s. The idea is that it should be uniquely yours and you should enjoy it.

It is difficult habit to get into, but before you know it you’ll be a bullet journaling expert!

Cover Page

Personally, I find this step to be very relaxing. Having a cover page is your first step into bullet journal creativity.

It may seem like a lot of pressure, but don’t let it be. Write whatever comes to your mind, the date, the year, your name, what the purpose of your journal is, or anything else you like,

You can always leave this page blank and come back to it later.

Index & Key

The index is just a place in your journal where you keep track of the pages included. You are accounting for the pages and numbers that you create as you are using it.

Your key might just be your biggest friend and lifesaver. It is simply the place where you keep your symbols written down (for different meanings) to have an easier way to remember quick logs in your journal.

For example, if I use “x” for event, then I would quickly log “x” in my journal and (if I ever forget) refer back to my key for reference.

The Future Log

This is exactly what it sounds like. It is a place to keep future events or anything that is not happening immediately. For example: birthdays, trips, anniversaries, etc.

There are many ways to make a spread like this, but you can really make it fit however you see best in your journal.

Decide Between Weekly/Daily Logs & Create First Monthly

What do you want your bullet journal to accomplish? Everyone will have a different answer and that is okay.

If it is a daily log, great! A weekly journal, fantastic. This is entirely up to you.

Once you have decided this, create the first monthly spread. I prefer a calendar style because I process the information better in that format.


Customize away! I cannot stress it enough; this is your bullet journal and yours alone.

How you decide to write in it, decorate it, customize it, arrange it, is up to you. There are hundreds of different ways people create these and thousands of ideas online that would give some great inspiration.

Remember that this is supposed to be flexible and it caters to your needs.

Use It!

While this sounds a little pushy, make sure to keep in mind that in order for a system like this to work, you have to meet your journal halfway.

Keeping it updated, writing down extra thoughts, and doodling are all incredible ways of making your journal working for you.

If you create a habit, write in your bullet journal, and customize it every day, then you will make it stick.

Bullet journaling is not for everyone but if you think this is the route for you, my only advice would be not give up! It takes time and practice.

{Editor’s Note: We know that creating a journal from scratch is not for everyone, so we rounded up some fantastic guided journals as well.}

What Did You Think?

If you are thinking about starting up a bullet journal, let me know in the comments below! If you already use one, do you have any tips and tricks?

1 thought on “How to Begin Setting up a Bullet Journal”

  1. If you are new to bullet journaling and feel anxious about messing up a fancy blank book, do a few months’ trial BuJo in a composition book, and practice with set-ups, spreads, and different pens, first.


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