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A 6 Step Guide to Starting a Bullet Journal

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash


We may be pretty far into January, but there is always time to add a New Year’s Resolution! This year mine was to start and keep up with a bullet journal, and I have already learned a lot. It is an excellent way to stay organized in an artistic outlet. Do you want to start one too?


1. Decide if you really want to start a bullet journal

Bullet journals are a great commitment. While you don’t have to journal daily (although you can), it is still an investment in time and materials. Ask yourself if you want to start one just because it looks fun. You may not keep up with it if you don’t plan on actually using it or relying on it. Think critically!


2. Gather your materials

Now that you’ve made the commitment to start a journal, it’s time to start gathering your materials. You also need to make some decisions here about how involved you are going to be. If this is your first bullet journal, I recommend not buying a lot of fancy materials to start off with (just in case step one fails).

  • Most people use journals with dotted paper or graph paper. Do your research and check which journals have good reviews. One thing to look out for is thick pages that ink won’t bleed through.

  • The next thing you may want to purchase is pens. Do you like gel pens? Ballpoint pens? Marker pens? Do you only want black, or do you want some colors as well? There are plenty of options based on what you prefer.

  • Next is markers, although this is totally optional. I use some colored markers that I already had. Some people really like markers with brush tips because they help with fancy lettering. Is this something you want, or do you just want to add color?

  • Washi tape! I personally like washi tape because it is an easy way to add a little color and design, but it is definitely not required. I am not the best at drawing, so washi tape helps my spreads look really nice.

  • A ruler helps make straight lines if that is important to you.


3. Pick a “theme”

A theme can be as little or as all-encompassing as you want. Really what this means is deciding what style you like. Do you want your journal to be black and white, or do you want it to be full of color? Do you only want a couple of colors? Some people also base their whole journal on one theme, such as plants or the moon. Are you really into inspirational quotes and want them in your journal?


Image via Pinterest​


Image via Pinterest​


Also, decide what role you want your bullet journal to play. Are you going to use it predominantly as an agenda? What about a lifestyle journal? Will it house your goals? What about a daily devotional? Or perhaps you want it to be like a traditional journal in which you write about your day. I love the various themes because they are an expression of you. Choose something that makes you happy but is easy to accomplish.


4. Decide what works for you

I love browsing Pinterest for ideas for my bullet journal. People come up with such interesting ideas. Here are a few you might want to incorporate:

  • A yearly calendar helps lay out important dates for the year, such as holidays and birthdays.

  • A monthly calendar page lays out important dates for that month.

Image via Pinterest​


  • A weekly spread can detail important tasks you need to accomplish that week.

Image via Pinterest ​


  • A daily spread can help you keep track off all you need to get done that day.

    • Some people do all three, but I personally only do a monthly and weekly spread. The monthly is for big dates, and the weekly is for laying out my classes and events. If you want a detailed journal, however, you may also want to do a daily spread.

  • Habit trackers are super popular, and you can get as much or as little involved with this as you want. This can also be related to your goals. Do you want to drink more water? Consider incorporating a habit tracker that would encourage you to drink more water. Do you want to study more? Get more sleep? These are similar processes. Is it important for you to track your mood because of a medicine or other reason? This is also super popular. Ask yourself what is important enough that you want to track it. If nothing stands out to you, then don’t worry about it!

Image via Pinterest​

  • Memory tracker. Do you want to incorporate pictures or things that made you happy? You can customize your journal however you wish.

Image via Pinterest ​


5. Learn that mistakes are okay, and the beginning will involve figuring out a lot about what actually works

If you decide in the beginning that you really want a habit tracker but then never keep up with it, that is okay! Starting a bullet journal is a learning process. The longer you journal, the more you will come up with a streamlined form. I encourage you to try different layouts and features throughout your journal so you can figure out what you like.


6. Set realistic goals

You may want to journal every day or keep an extremely detailed journal in the beginning only to find out that way does not work for you. Think to yourself how much time you want to set aside to journal. Personally, I like to take a little time on Sundays to set up my spread for the coming week. I love taking a little time to do what I enjoy. It is a really nice form of self care. If you get behind, don’t be discouraged. You can always catch up or reorder your goals. Just because you originally journaled every day does not mean you have to keep doing that. If you push yourself too hard, you may not enjoy it anymore. Setting realistic goals for your journal is going to keep you interested.

One reason I love bullet journals is because an individual’s personality really shines through. I also love how it helps me stay organized with a crazy schedule. If you decide to start a bullet journal, make it what you want! Enjoy!


Hailey Welch

Oklahoma '21

Hailey Welch is majoring in Chemical Biosciences with a final goal of studying the brain. While loving science, she also appreciates the need for creative development and self expression. Her hobbies include trying new foods, talking to her mom on the phone, looking at squirrel videos on Instagram, and getting distracted by HerCampus articles.
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