I’ve always been attracted to the idea of bullet journaling—all those aesthetically pleasing lists and trackers appeal to my Type A personality—but I never considered myself artistic enough to create one of my own (though I now know that no real artistic ability is required). I finally decided to take the plunge about a year ago when I began craving a way to add more beauty and personality into my planning. Plus, while my trusty yearly planner has been helpful in getting my academic and professional lives in order, it’s not ideal for tracking my personal goals or creative ambitions—the types of things that don’t fit neatly into day-of-the-week boxes. Bullet journaling was the perfect solution.
One of the best things about bullet journaling is its customizability. I was wrong to think that I wouldn’t be able to do it right because there is no “right” way to bullet journal. You’re in complete control of what you choose to track and how you choose to track it. Still, if you’re thinking about starting your own journal, you may benefit from a bit of advice. Here are the top three things I recommend for new bullet journalers:
- Look To the Community for Resources and Inspiration
Although bullet journaling is traditionally a solo activity, there’s a huge network of bullet journalers on social media platforms and online forums. I highly recommend that you take some time to immerse yourself in the community and find inspiration in what others are doing. When I first began thinking about starting a journal, I went on Instagram and TikTok to learn more about the process. There, I found recommendations from experienced bullet journalers, ideas for layouts and a supportive group of creative people. If you’re still nervous about having to create your own spreads, you can also find free templates online or you can buy a journal with built-in prompts.
- Don’t Get Discouraged By Imperfection
If you’re anything like me, you prefer to do things perfectly or not at all. But with something as unrestricted and subjective as bullet journaling, perfection is practically impossible. Resist the urge to abandon the activity altogether if you’re disappointed with how a page turns out. In the end, bullet journaling is a deeply personal project—it’s something that you’re doing just for yourself, so there’s nobody you need to impress. Mistakes are part of the process as you learn what works for you and what doesn’t (and after all, they’re what Wite-Out was made for).
- Start Simple and Grow From There
It might be tempting to jump head-first into this new project and buy tons of fancy new supplies, but there are benefits to starting simple. By starting out with just the basics, you can better assess your needs and goals before committing to additional purchases (remember: everyone’s journal will look different).
The only two things you absolutely need are the journal itself and writing tools. You can technically start a bullet journal on any type of paper—lined, blank, or squared—but I recommend a dotted notebook (the dots make it easy to draw neat lines and symmetric shapes). And while you can always just use whatever pens and pencils you have at home, a few good writing tools can significantly improve your journal’s aesthetic potential. I like writing with micron pens and using Zebra Mildliners to color code different sections, make my headings stand out and fill in my small doodles.
That’s basically all you need to start a successful bullet journal (along with maybe a ruler), but you may choose to get a few extra items to improve your experience. Many people enjoy using stencils, stickers or washi tape to decorate their pages. If you plan to paste anything into your journal, I also recommend getting crafter’s tape, an easier and cleaner alternative to glue.
With just a few supplies and an open mind, you can take the plunge, too! Enjoy the process and make the journey uniquely yours.