That’s a post the blog was seriously missing! It was time that I share my own version of the bullet journal beginners’ guide. It’s not an ultimate guide, but it goes through the whole bullet journal planning process to help you set up your own notebook.
I’m sharing 5 tips to help you be off to a great start with the bullet journal system. Some of them may sound familiar if you’ve already read a lot on how to start a bullet journal, but I guess reminders never hurt, right?
What’s a bullet journal?
Before we dive into the 5 tips I want to share with you, I had to share a definition of the bullet journal system.
According to the official Bullet Journal quick reference guide, a bullet journal is “ a system designed in a notebook that you set up. It has a simple framework that is easily customizable by its user. It gets out of your way to help you get things done. All you need is a notebook and a pen”.
In a word, the bullet journal is a customizable organisation tool that you create in a notebook.
Therefore, it’s important to know that any pre-printed planner, even though they call themselves bullet journals are NOT bullet journals. The whole point of the bullet journal system is to create the system that perfectly fit your needs and to be able to change it if they evolve.
That being said, let’s start with my top 5 tips, shall we?
How to start a bullet journal
1/ Start with the basics
If there’s only one advice you need to remember about this post, it’s this one!
Before you open a new tab and start browse the whole Internet looking for inspiration (I’m mainly talking about the rabbit holes of Google images and Pinterest, but Facebook groups work too!), I highly recommend to watch Ryder Carroll’s video about the bullet journal system. The video if definitely the place to start your bullet journal journey as it explains how the system works and how to start a bullet journal of your own.
The bullet journal system is an organisation tool that aims to meet the user’s needs as they arise.
In my opinion, there’s no necessity to look for too much inspiration from others when you start a bullet journal. What works for others may not match your needs, and the chance that you create useless spreads is very high. You’ll probably get caught in the flow of ideas and will not know where to start. To start a bullet journal, the best way is to start with the fundamentals of the system, learn to use them and answer your own needs as they arise.
You’ll always be able to look for help later on if you’re facing a planning problem you can’t solve by yourself.
To start a bullet journal, you just need to grab a notebook, open it and start creating your index, future log, monthly log and daily plans.
Use the basic set-up for a month or so, to experiment it and the migration part, which is one of the cornerstone of the bullet journal planning process. This first month of experimentation should also let you find out where your needs lie and give you ideas to customise the system to meet them.
2/ It will probably get messy at some point (and it’s ok)
Opening a notebook and creating the first spreads is (hopefully) just the beginning of your bullet journal journey. As the whole point of the bullet journal system is to create the perfect system to meet your needs, it will probably takes you some time and several trials and errors to find what works for you.
When you’re experimenting new layouts and tools, your bullet journal is very likely to get a bit messy: you’ll probably end up with unfilled layouts, scribbles and untidy spreads. You just need to keep in mind that it is totally fine, as it’s just part of the process of creating your very own system. Let the unfinished, ugly spreads go. In time, it will get easier to figure out what may work for you or not.
3/ Start simple
There’s no need to make things more complicated than they are when you start a bullet journal. The simpler is sometimes the better and will probably be more efficient and easier to start with if you never had a bullet journal before.
The bullet journal involves the use of bullets and signifiers to organise what you write in your journal. As the system is customisable, you can add as many bullets as you want to your key system. But honestly, you don’t need to have a fancy bullet system to start. And you may never need it at all. Start simple with the few bullets suggested by Ryder Carroll in his video. It will probably cover at least 90% of your everyday needs.
It’s also not necessarily a good idea to add complicated trackers or dozens of collections to your system in the first weeks. Wait until you need them to create the spreads. If you feel the urge of creating a water tracker at some point, you’ll just need to head over the next available page to create it, even though it’s in the middle of the month. That’s that simple.
Starting a bullet journal should help you to simplify your organisation system, merging every piece of it in a simple notebook. The whole point of it is to save your time and energy. Starting simple is therefore the best way to try the system and see if it’s working for you.
If you really can’t bear to keep your journal simple and leave blank spaces, you can of course use stickers, washi or doodle in it. Just keep in mind that these decorations are not part of the bullet journal system and that it doesn’t require any drawing skills to get organised.
4/ Start with the first notebook you find
This is not just a piece of advice. It’s seriously a golden rule: you don’t need to buy a fancy notebook to start a bullet journal. Same with pens.
Of course, you can spend half a day looking for the perfect notebook, read 15 reviews, finally order the chosen one on Amazon and wait for your precious for an entire week. But it’s much more easier to start with the first available notebook you can find.
You can create your bullet journal in any size and style of notebook.
You can start in a half filled notebook you never get to finish, or a composition notebook you can buy in the store next door. Anything made of paper can do the trick: it can of course be a hardbound notebook, but organiser or disc bound notebook are fine too. This first notebook will be quickly filled with scribbles and failed attempts anyway, so don’t spend to much on a notebook you’ll be afraid to waste.
You’ll always have the opportunity to upgrade for a fancier notebook. If you’re already familiar with the bullet journal system of want to start in a beautiful notebook anyway, here are some tried and true options to consider:
- Leuchtturm1917 (A5 notebook, dots, 249 pages)
- Quo Vadis Life journal (A5 notebook, dots, 224 pages)
- Rhodia Goalbook (A5 notebook, dots, 240 pages)
5/ No pressure! Start messy but start anyway
Don’t let the perfect spreads you’ll find on Pinterest or Instagram intimidate you. Even people who are keeping bullet journals that could be shown in an art gallery have started somewhere. The first spreads would probably not be perfect, but the important thing is to aim for progress over perfection.
Don’t put yourself under pressure. The bullet journal system is supposed to help you get your life organised. It’s all about that and the rest doesn’t matter. Start simple, start messy, but start anyway!