How to Get Started with a Bullet Journal

I love my bullet journal! I started my own bullet journal system on August 2015. I first discovered the planner world through a friend of mine who introduced me by showing me her planner and customized setup. I tried using traditional planners, but found I needed more of a fluid setup. I’m not sure how I stumbled into bullet journaling but I’m so glad I did. I’ve stuck to it ever since, and I love having my notebook with me everywhere. It helps me track migraines and other ailments, as well as helped me improve my memory and increase my daily water intake to name a few of the many benefits! There’s something about flipping through beautiful and colorful pages to plan my week that also just make my days better 🙂

I share a lot of pictures of my bullet journal throughout my social media accounts, so I thought I would do a “Bullet Journal Basics” post that answers all of the questions I get asked often.

What Is a Bullet Journal

The first thing you need to do is watch the official Bullet Journal intro video. It’s the perfect place to get an understanding of what the bullet journal system is and how to setup your own notebook. Read through the official bullet journal setup as well. After watching the video, you can customize the system and make it your own, but I highly recommend watching it first!

While you’re there, take a look at all of the posts the author shares on how to setup your pages, including the index page, what collections are/how they work, your bullet journal key, and more…

I stuck fairly close to the original system when I first started. Currently my system has grown to be quite different, but still a bullet journal at it’s core (at least in my opinion).

My First Bullet Journal Weekly Page
My First Bullet Journal Weekly Page
My Current Bullet Journal Weekly Layout
My Current Bullet Journal Weekly Layout

I also posted a video of my bullet journal setup, which takes you through all the pages I setup and how the layouts have changed as I used my journal longer.

Supplies You Need

Notebook – You need a notebook to write in. I use an extra large squared Molkeskine. I like the space it offers, the square grid to help my writing be neat and organized, and the storage pocket in the back. It also has a bookmark/page finder that I use to quickly flip to my current week/day page.

(This is the closest I could find on Amazon: Moleskine Large Squared, mine is just a bit bigger)

Blank Moleskine Bullet Journal Planner
Blank Moleskine Bullet Journal Planner

There are many types of notebooks available, with all different types of paper. There’s dotted, ruled/straight lines, blank, and squared/grid like mine. You can print out different types of paper to test which one would work better if you’re undecided.

It’s also good to consider the size. Do you want your notebook to fit in your purse? If so, one a bit smaller might be better. My extra large Moleskine fits in my purse, but people with a smaller purse might need to downgrade to a smaller size.

Writing Tools – I did a lot of research before choosing the pens I currently use for my bullet journal. I have yet to find a pen that doesn’t at least ‘ghost’ on the thin bullet journal notebook paper. But the pens I currently use (Sharpie Pens) have no bleeding and the least amount of ghosting. I also use a set of Le Pen pens for when I feel like adding more color to my pages. I don’t write a lot with these in the same area because they do cause more bleeding/ghosting.

I also use a pencil to “pencil” in things before I trace them with pen or when I’m practicing my doodling. My favorite pencils are the Paper Mate Sharpwriters.

My Bullet Journal Pens and Writing Tools
My Bullet Journal Pens and Writing Tools

Setting Up Your Bullet Journal

Think about what you want/need. It’s an evolving process, you don’t usually keep the same format or layout that you start out with.

At first I wanted an indeterminate amount of space for each day. Then after doing it for a couple of months, I realized I used the same amount of space for each day on average so I decided to create weekly spreads so I could have some forward planning features in my bullet journal.

You can get A TON of inspiration online, and I’ve listed some of my favorite sources at the end of this post so you can get started.


These are the list of pages that most bullet journals have to function as a planner. However, you can make it your own and add only the pages you want/need and will use.

Most bullet journals will have an Index Page and a Key. If you watched the intro video, you can learn how to set one up. I don’t use a Key anymore, but I did start out with one. Some people use color coding instead of symbols as their key. I did this for a while as well.

Calendar Pages

Monthly Calendar in my Bullet Journal
Monthly Calendar Layout

Calendar pages include the:

  • annual/year calendar
  • monthly calendar
  • weekly or daily spreads
  • calendex or future planning pages

Collection Pages

Collections can really be anything! For me, they are lists or special pages in my bullet journal that don’t fit into the calendar or weekly spread pages. Some of the collection pages I use are:

  • Meal Planning
  • Bill Payment Tracker
  • Wish List
  • To Do List
  • Monthly Habit Trackers
  • Gratitude Log
Bills To Pay Tracker in my Bullet Journal
Bill Payment Tracker

Decorating Your Bullet Journal Pages

My favorite part of my bullet journal – decorating my pages!

Don’t get intimidated by this like I did at first. If you’re not great at drawing, you can trace! I love tracing icons and graphics into my pages. Did you know they also make stencils just for bullet journals? So you can create your own banners and icons with perfect lines. There are many options to help your pages turn out awesome!

Also, your decorating supplies may be limited at first, but they will grow with time, so don’t get discouraged because you don’t have as much washi tape as other bujo junkies! (If you didn’t already know, bujo is short for bullet journal). You can read my post here on how I order washi, stickers, and other planner supplies from AliExpress for super CHEAP!

I use stickers, stamps, washi tape, scrapbooking paper, magazine cutouts, pencils, crayons, markers, glitter, basically, anything that I think would look pretty in my bullet journal pages.


I’m currently on a sticker roll, and I love making stickers sized for my bullet journal grid each week (view my bullet journal stickers ») and decorating with them!

My most recent sticker set I created (Pink Flamingo Bullet Journal Sticker Set) is one of my favorites so far, you can see how I used it in the image below.

Bullet Journal Stickers Page Decorated
Using stickers to decorate my bullet journal

I also print out tons of free stickers online (Pinterest is your friend) to use in my pages. You can view my Pinterest board of free stickers to print for starters.

Follow Girly Planners’s board Free Printable Stickers on Pinterest.


Other Tips

  1. If you’re notebook doesn’t come with numbered pages, take a few minutes to add numbers to each of your pages. It makes it easier to index/refer to them later.
  2. Decorate your notebook cover! You can add stickers or washi tape, special quotes, etc…

What Next?

I highly recommend joining the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group. As of the date of this, they currently have 22,000+ members who share a wealth of information, pictures, and answers to any questions you may have!  Facebook Group »

You can also go on YouTube and view thousands of planning and bullet journal videos, starting with Girly Planners of course 😉 YouTube Videos »

If that’s not enough, you can look up the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram for more beautiful inspiration! (and make sure to follow me @girlyplanners, I’d love to connect with you!)

If you follow me on Youtube or Instagram, then you know I read and answer all your questions and comments. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below, or let me know if you liked this post, I love hearing from you all!

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