Bullet Journal 101: How to Start a Bullet Journal

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A while ago I posted an entry about how I introduced myself to a bullet journal and I received quite a considerable amount of great responses. Most of them have not heard of bullet journal before but are really interested in learning more about it. Some have heard about bullet journal before and are wanting to explore it further but quite puzzled on what it exactly is and how to start it. Well, having been trying the method for a couple of months and finally getting the grasp of it, I decided that I’m gonna share more of it. In this post, I will write about Bullet Journal 101. It will cover everything you need to start a bullet journal.

The responses I received from my bullet journal post the other day, makes me really happy to know that there are a lot of people out there who are keen to try bullet-journalling. I’m glad that my post was informative for them in some way. That’s why I decided to make more regular posts regarding this topic. Now, let’s get on it.

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

What is a bullet journal?

In case you miss my first bullet journal post, in which I describe what a bullet journal is, I will tell you once more here. Bullet journal is basically a method of keeping track of your to-do list but beyond. It’s a sort of DIY planner that will help you keep all your shiz together. To put it delicately, it helps you be more organized.

If you’re still puzzled about what it is, picture this. Have you seen a typical yearly planner? If you’ve been to a stationery store or even a huge fan of it, then you’ll know what I say. If not, then shut your laptop and go to the nearest stationery store. Ok, you got me now? Great. Now, bullet journal is a more advanced type of it but in a way simpler and more fun than those conventional planners. It’s like a conventional planner that you can customize on your own to fit your organizing needs. That’s the beauty of a bullet journal.

Now that you know what a bullet journal is let’s move on to what you need to start one.

What you need to start a bullet journal

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

Don’t worry you don’t need to buy a fancy-ass planner that cost you a fortune just to start a bullet journal. Pricey supplies are optional. Because let’s be honest, at some point we all have bought an expensive yearly planner along with fancy pens in 365 colors only to ditch it halfway through a year.

So no, you don’t need to withdraw your monthly saving just to start a bullet journal. You can start a bullet journal even with less than $5. All you need is one blank notebook and a pen. That’s it. Seriously. Yes, really. But what about those beautifully decorated bullet journals you see online? Yes, they’re really nice to look at and give you some serious planner-goals. But if you’re not the artistic type and/or only want to use bullet journal for the sake of organizing, you totally can. Remember what I said about the beauty of a bullet journal? It exists to cater for everyone’s unique needs.

If you care about the aesthetic of your bullet journal then, by all means, go for it. Decorate it with pretty handwritings, washi tapes, and colorful pages. But if you’re not ready to invest in that many stationery or simply don’t have time and/or the skills to make it Instagram-worthy, that’s fine too. I am the latter, to be honest. For now, I’m just utilizing it for productivity and simply keeping track of things to-do. So, again, if you want to start a bullet journal but overwhelmed with the idea of making it looks pretty, worry not. You can start as simple as you can. After all, it exists to lessen your burden, not adding more.

And now for the most important part.

How exactly to start a bullet journal

Now that you have a notebook and a pen, it’s time to fill and start your bullet journal. The initial steps might require a bit more time than a conventional planner. Because you see, a conventional planner already had a premade layout you can start filling by the time you bought it. But where’s the fun in that? Ok, maybe it’s more practical…in the beginning. Soon you’ll realize that the template is not catered for your exact need. You’ll also probably end up not using most of its features. That’s where bullet journal wins over.

To have a planner that’s customized to your need, you’ll obviously need to set it up yourself. But again, don’t worry it’s not that hard, pretty simple in fact. Let me walk you through to it. Below is the list of basic entries that you’ll need to make to the setup your first bullet journal. Remember that this is the most basic stuff that will give you the most basic setup for your planner. You may decide whether to include all of them or ignore some and add your own. Again, the beauty of the bullet journal is that the possibilities are endless.

1. Index

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

It serves as a table of content of your bullet journal. Here you will list the page number along with the title of the page. It helps you to keep track of your entries as your bullet journal growing. It’s usually located at the front of your bullet journal. I’d say reserve two first pages of your notebook just in case you have a lot of pages.

To keep your index then you’ll need to put page numbers on every page. Don’t freak out just yet. You don’t have to start putting numbers on your hundred-pages notebook. You can do it as you go. For instance, when I make a new page for list of books to read, I’ll put the page number first and then write it down on my index page.

2. Key

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

A key page is basically the heart of bullet journal since it contains, yup you guess it right, the bullets. The bullets help you to organize the entries into categories. As you can see in the picture above, those are the bullets that I’m using. Those are the very basic bullet that works for me currently. But you may add your own personalized bullets to help you better organize between tasks, notes, etc. You can use colors or different shapes for different needs. This is where you get creative. But for the starter, I suggest you to use the basic not to get overwhelmed.

3. Future and Monthly Log

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide


Future log is where you list all the tasks or event that will occur in the following month during the year. This will come in handy if you’re as forgetful as I am and have a lot of things that occur in the future. So when you start a new page for a month you can refer back to your future log to see what’s important in that month.

While monthly log is to keep track for a single month. It usually consists of calendar and task list. That’s the basic but you may include goals or monthly tracker if needed. In the calendar page, you can list a task or event that needs to be done for the particular date. This way you are given the wider view of what needs to be done that particular month.

4. Daily log

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

Now this is where you list your day-to-day tasks, events, and/or appointment. This section is simply like the daily log of a conventional planner. Despite many people are doing it for the sake of aesthetic, I wouldn’t advise you making the daily log ahead of time. Like making a week of daily log layout at the beginning of the week. But then again it’s up to you. If you feel it’s better for you to set ahead the layout than please do. The downside of doing this is you have to really sure about the space each day’s tasks are going to take. Because sometimes you don’t need half a page, but some days you don’t. So, be careful about this.

5. Collection

How to start a bullet journal - a complete guide

To put it simply, collection is a list of things. It can be anything. Literally anything. From books to read, movie to watch, blog post idea, list of your favorite website, list of your favorite dessert. Really. The world is your oyster. This is the most fun part for me personally because I love to make a list of everything.

Okay now, I guess I’ve covered everything you need to know to start a bullet journal. It’s quite lengthy but I hope it’s helpful for you. As I’ve said above, I’ll make regular posts on this topic so make sure to subscribe to my blog or follow my social media not to miss out on the updates.

Happy journaling!


  • Chrispy Chreme

    OK, so I’ve watched a few YouTubers who started their bullet journals, so I thought I’d give it a go. Before reading this page, I had just an index, a key, and calendars because the tutorials (which were not very helpful) were very vague. That’s it! Now, after reading this, I realize that bullet journaling is so much more than calendars and keys. This post makes me want to start a new bullet journal right now! I feel that anyone who needs a beginners’ guide to bullet journaling should come here first, not to those unhelpful YouTube tutorials.

  • Celeste Eden

    Thanks! Love the lightbulb drawing!

  • I’ve been journaling for years and I admit at first I didn’t really “get” what bullet journaling was all about, but I’m starting to understand it a bit better and definitely see the appeal for busy folks 😉

  • I love how you emphasized that an expensive journal isn’t needed. I experimented in cheap Walmart notebooks, ones I had laying around the house. I think the simplicity and non-requirement that lots of money be shelled out gets lost sometimes.

    • I agree. At first I was quite hesitated on trying because I saw people on the internet with their fancy bullet journal supplies. That’s why I try to persuade more people to use BuJo by emphasizing the substance over form. Although having a pretty and fancy BuJo would be great too 😉