Bullet Journal Setup: How to Get Started On Your Bujo Journey
Are you intimidated by all the beautiful bullet journal spreads out there and not even sure what bullet journaling is and why you should jump on the train?
You’re not alone. I have a girlfriend that has been into bullet journaling forever. She’s mentioned it to me a few times but I just thought it was the same type of journaling I already know and love. I never took the time to actually find out what a bullet journal truly was until very recently. Now, I want to hit myself over the head for waiting so long!
Today I will share with you why you need to give bullet journaling a try and a very beginner bullet journal setup guide to take the mystery and intimidation out of it and get to the heart of how it can help you get your life together.
Here’s What a Bullet Journal is
A part of the reason I disregarded researching bullet journals for so long is that I already thought I was bullet journaling. It’s a list system pretty much and I write a to-do list every morning. Well…most mornings. Few. A few mornings.
Eventually, my to-do list gets tangled in with my ideas, my brainfarts and my important notes that I need to recall and so I can never find anything I want in my handy-dandy notebook in a jiffy.
See, I’ve long given up on trying to use apps and technology to organise my life. I know that paper works well and I have a multitude of planners and notebooks on hand to help me achieve my goals, jot ideas and tasks down at any given time.
In fact, studies back me up here that paper helps us to recollect things way better.
A bullet journal is simply meant to jot down things as your day goes by in a very short and to the point manner. Dumping thoughts out of your brain gives it room to move on to other tasks rather than trying to retain everything and causing brain fog.
The creator of the bullet journal system, Ryder Carroll, calls it rapid logging and has set up a system so beautiful that it took what I thought I was already great at and made it so much more organised. Snatched my whole life right together.
A Bullet Journal Setup – The Beginner Barebones
If you scroll through Instagram or Pinterest, you’ll see tons of gorgeous, elaborate bullet journal setups and spreads that can be a little intimidating. I truly thought I would have to be an artist to keep this habit going so why even bother starting? That was a stressful setup waiting to happen if I couldn’t get my pages to look IG worthy.
When I scaled all this back, I realised that the system is where the satisfaction comes from and I should really be focusing on function over form. I was then able to attempt my own bullet journal, bujo for short. Or to be trendy.
You won’t need to get a dedicated bullet journal to begin but I wanted to dive in feet first so I got this one that everyone recommended.
For now, grab your nearest notebook and get started somewhere, anywhere, since you’ll want to figure out if you love bujo-ing and will stick to it before you get a dedicated bujo. (Pus you’ll make all your mistakes in this one and figure out what types of pages you need in your own bujo before splurging on a top-of-the-line one.)
The Index Page
This is the first couple of pages in your bujo and one of the reasons this system works so well. Here, you’ll keep track of exactly what’s inside the bujo, making it really easy for you to find your most needed thoughts in a flash.
Don’t skip out on creating your index or content pages, you’ll be so happy you did. Because a bujo is a blank canvas and won’t go in any kind of order like a traditional planner, your index makes tracking what’s where really simple.
Again, don’t be intimidated by all the gorgeous inspirational accounts out there. In fact, I suggest you do not research other bujo spreads until you’re well on in your journey and are wondering what other ways you can use your bujo to snatch your life.
Your bujo is yours and you will know how best it can help you in your life. Not being able to immediately create works of art can cause added pressure you certainly don’t need right now. Here are a couple of simple and effective index pages to get you going.
The thing about your index page is that you will only have a few things listed as your start out. Don’t add all the things as you will never know how many pages you’ll need for a thing and you may write a thing and never even use the thing. 🙂
You’ll continue to add to your index page as you go along so you’re able to quickly remember where your water tracker is in the middle of your weekly pages, etc.
If you’re using an index, and you need to, then it goes without saying that you will then need to number your pages and also give each page a heading. The journal I use has page numbers and even an index page included, thankfully, but if you’re just using a notebook for now, remember this point. It will come in even handier later.
The Key to Your Bullets
Another crucial aspect to the system is the bullet journal keys, which tells the story of the signals that you use beside your bullet points. The bujo originator started out with only three categories of bullet journal symbols and then three signifiers to give them more depth.
His original three: Tasks, events and notes.
A task is simply illustrated with a dot beside it, an event with a circle and a note with a dash. He would then add an X over the dot to denote a completed task, an arrow to show that the task was moved to the next day or a left arrow to denote that this task has been rescheduled.
Signifiers have since evolved and people make them their own depending on their needs. I say to you, keep them simple and try not to add more complication to your life. Eventually, you’ll know what each signifier means and won’t need to reference this page as often but it’s still important to have it in place in case you need to add or subtract something. It also helps you to read what was going on in your life when you glance through old journals.
Here are some key pages to give you inspiration
Next, you will want to set up your logs. Logs are awesome because they’re really running lists as you go through your month, week or day. See, the thing with my daily task list that I kept before my bujo life is that I wrote a grand to-do list in the mornings and then checked it maybe once more through the day, if I’m lucky.
Going through my day, checking in with my logs + adding to it as I go through my day is so much better. It allows me to clear things out of my brain and onto paper giving me a mental clarity as I work that I’ve never quite experienced before.
Plus it’s nice to be able to wonder what in the heck I did today and can actually check to see and remember.
If I find a cool quote, hear a mention of a book or movie or lipstick I want to check out, get a call to go to drinks next Friday, it all goes into the bujo immediately and that’s that!
Now, I don’t have a myriad of sad tasks staring back at me at the end of the day, not completed and doomed to be forever trailing. The bujo system will take care of this for you.
Your Future Log
Your future log will hold everything that’s to come that’s far off. Your bujo zones in on whatever month you’re starting it so your future log is where you list out things already scheduled in your year. Here’s a good one
Your Monthly Log
Feel free to get creative with your monthly log. Here’s mine as a reminder that you do not need to get artistic and creative with your bullet journal for it to function as your organisational system of choice. Function over form.
Weekly and Daily Logs for Inspiration
Your collections are pages where you store lists of things you want to check out and cross them off once you’ve done so. If you search, you’ll find hundreds and hundreds of different lists.
I got very starry-eyed and had lots of lists in my first bujo setup and have since learned the collections I do use and those that gathered dust. In my blog post collection for instance, I jot my ideas down here and they run into pages and pages that are not consecutive but added as I need. Which goes to show why your index will be so useful. Other collections that have stuck around are books I want to read, recipes I want to try and local places/restaurants I want to check out.
Your trackers will also be of use if you’re trying to build good habits and leave old habits behind. My fitness tracker, for example, does heaps for my morale and I gift myself a new cute outfit for every 20 workouts I complete. (Once there’s no more than 2 days in between workouts or my count starts over.)
Here are a few simple and elaborate collections and trackers for inspiration. Pro-tip: keep your collections to a minimum when you’re setting up your first bujo. Add as you go along and if you find yourself searching for things throughout your pages, then it may be time to add those things to their own collection.
For example, I would write the name of a new font I use to design my pins as I find them. I would always find myself searching through daily logs for these until I realised I needed a font collection.
A lovely yoga collection
A common design for water/sleep/fitness tracker
Or, you know, you could just do some square boxes like I do.
I loved this checklist to run through if you’re house hunting. I also saw a collection for baby names if you happen to be pregnant. Make your collections unique to you and your current situations.
Other than referencing collections, my daily log gets all my attention in my bujo. My daily log isn’t pretty at all, very basic and functional. Here’s this week’s log so far, I’m currently using the bujo pages inside my Law of Attraction planner because I want to get the most out of it. Why waste good bujo pages!
Basic Bujo Supplies
I’ve ordered these gorgeous and highly recommended pens to go with my new Leuchtturm 1917 bujo and can’t wait to at least get some colour coding going on. The Leuchtturm is regarded as one of the best bullet journals for its size and thick pages that withstand pen colouring etc. I can’t promise pretty headings and handwriting but at least I will be able to quickly glance and find stuff with colour coding. 🙂
I’ve also picked up some highlighters, a stencil set and some washi tape because people who are not very artistic need every ounce of help we can get.
But wait until you’ve tried out bullet journaling and have fallen in love with it before you buy all the things. You definitely do not need all the things, I am just obsessed with making my bullet journal looking pretty too! And at the very least, I do think I need colour-coding to help me organise my life even more.
Use a good pen, please! Journaling helped me to realise that pen quality matters. Ink running because it’s gooped up isn’t cute, neither is page bleed-through. This is the bestseller on Amazon and a dream to write with.
Final Thoughts on Getting the Most from Your Bullet Journal Journey
What’s going to make the bullet journal system work for you is your commitment to updating your tasks. You’ll need to be dedicated to going through and
- Migrating your uncompleted tasks to the next day
- Rescheduling them back to the future/monthly log if the next day doesn’t work for you
- Cancelling events and deleting tasks that are no longer relevant
- Shading in completed event boxes
At the end of each day, go through and make sure no task or event is left hanging, it’s either done, cancelled, migrated or rescheduled.
Check your monthly calendar at the start of each day to see if there’s anything that needs to be done today or in support of something upcoming.
At the start of each month, scan your previous month once more to ensure nothing has been left trailing. If you have a task trailing too long, it may be time to cancel, reschedule or rethink your why behind this task.
You’ll also want to check the future log at the start of each month to capture anything that needs to be added.
Have I convinced you to start a bullet journal? Do you already have some other life-organizing system that you need to upgrade? Let me know in the comments below and please share this post if you found it helpful.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of creating a bullet journel and your designs and organization are very attractive. This needs to be on my to-do list.
I love how you broke this down and made it simple for us non-artistic types! ? Maybe I CAN bullet journal…
Love all of these tips and the photo inspiration! This definitely makes it so much easier to start a bullet journal. Thanks a ton <3
Thanks for such a great post! I’m new to Bullet Journals, just starting to build my own and there is a ton of information here. I’m hoping it will help me to organize my crazy life! Pinned for later too.
I’m so happy it helps Judy, my bullet journal is definitely my whole life
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