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5 Tips for Starting Your Bullet Journal

closeup of woman writing in a bullet journal
Josie Elias/Shutterstock

Bullet journaling is about creating a system that works best for you. Your bullet journal doesn’t have to be a colorful work of art; you can make yours as simple (or as complex) as you want.

What is a Bullet Journal?

Have you heard of bullet journals before? Ryder Carroll first created the bullet journaling method as a simple, highly customizable way to increase your productivity. Since Carroll introduced the technique, bullet journaling has taken off. A simple look through the #bujo hashtag on Instagram will show you thousands of options for creating your custom bullet journal.

In Caroll’s own words, the bullet journal is for helping you “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” At its simplest, it’s a hand-written journal where you use use a system of bullets to track individual tasks or other items.

Most bullet journals are divided into sections based on topics you want to track and include an index that helps you find things more easily. But, how simple or elaborate you make your journal is entirely up to you.

If you’re interested in learning how to bullet journal but feel overwhelmed with the options, don’t worry! Whatever your end goal, these five tips will help you start crafting your ultimate productivity planner.

Decide What You Want to Track

The first step to designing your bullet journal is to decide what you want to track. Bullet journals are endlessly customizable. You can track anything from your daily tasks to your grocery list to your yearly financial goals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so you should set parameters before diving into the deep end.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding what kind of bullet journal to create:

  • What are my ultimate goals for my bullet journal?
  • What do I want to track with my bullet journal?
  • Do I want to create daily, weekly, or monthly lists?
  • Do I have any other goals (e.g., financial, books read, places visited) that I want to work towards with my bullet journal?

Once you’ve decided what you want to put in your bullet journal, it’s time to plan.

Write Out an Index For Your Journal

After you’ve decided what types of information you want to track in your bullet journal, you should create an index to plan how much space each section will take. This is not a detailed index of everything in your journal, though. It’s more of a table of contents that helps you locate specific sections.

For instance, you can mark out that you will have two pages devoted to financial planning, 50 pages devoted to daily tasks, etc.

If you create an index for your journal, you ensure that you won’t waste any pages or forget specific sections that you wanted to include.

Look for Layout Inspiration

pinterest search for bullet journal
One of the best parts of bullet journaling is the community of people that you can connect with. There are thousands of bullet journal evangelists who share their tips, tricks, and layout inspiration on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram.

Once you’ve decided the types of pages, you want to have in your journal, head on over to one of those platforms. Search for terms like “bullet journal” and “bujo” to see what other people are creating. You can use other people’s spreads as inspiration for designing your own.

Consider the elements that you want to have in your layouts. For instance, if you’re going to make daily task lists, do you want spaces for reflection, hourly breakdowns, or both? Scrolling through other people’s work can help you see all the different options available.

Do Your First Drafts in Pencil

If you want to use fancy layouts in your bullet journal, you should do your first drafts in pencil so that you can erase any mistakes you make. You can also use tools like rulers and tape to make sure that your lines are straight and your margins even.

Don’t Get Discouraged If You Make a Mistake

Your bullet journal is a creative space. You’ll make mistakes. Sometimes you won’t finish everything on your to-do list. Others, you’ll mess up a new layout that you’re creating. That’s okay!

Your bullet journal doesn’t have to be perfect. Its main job is to help you be more productive. If that’s happening, you’re doing it correctly!

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book  Females. Read Full Bio »
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