How to Bullet Journal: The Beginner’s Guide
Stationery enthusiasts and planning fanatics alike are all going crazy over the hottest trend in journaling now: the bullet journal. But what is a bullet journal, and why all the fuss? If you’re keen to learn all about this revolutionary way to organise your time, your creativity and your life, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, bullet journaling pro, Carla Bagshaw, explains step by step how to bullet journal, from buying your very first notebook, to filling it with checklists, plans, goals and more. The best part? She shares her own gorgeous bullet journal pages, packed with bullet journaling inspiration and ideas, to get you started on your own creative adventure!
Check out Carla Bagshaw’s ultimate beginner’s guide to bullet journaling, and discover exactly how to bullet journal right here…
- A journal or notebook, acid-free if possible, good quality paper (dotted or squared is much easier)
- Pigment ink pens and fineliners – Again use acid-free pens, and try to look for those that don’t bleed through the pages too much
- Colouring pencils
- Pencil, sharpener and eraser
- Patterned paper (optional, but lovely to make envelopes and pockets for your journal)
When I was first introduced to the notion of bullet journaling, I couldn’t work out what the point was if I’m honest. My phone has a million and one apps that help me to be organised, so why would I need a pen and paper?
The thing that mainly piqued my interest was the word ‘notebook,’ because I have an unhealthy obsession with them! I probably boast more notebooks in my collection than a high street stationers and I am not ashamed to admit it (actually, if my other half ever happened upon my collection, I may have a little bit of shame… but that’s why us crafters are crafty with our stash!)
Then I realised that the best kind of notebooks for the job are those with dotted or squared paper, and I do love dotted paper. So with very few actual intentions of creating a journal, but devout protestations of NEEDING to start one to justify the purchase, I found a gorgeous notebook that fitted the task perfectly.
And then I fell down the rabbit hole. What started as a fairly blasé curiosity, turned into love. Real, true love.
I need to point out here, that I am the least organised human I know. I miss appointments all the time because even though I have all these apps in my phone, they are only useful if you actually input the information. So, if you too are terrible at remembering birthdays until they appear on Social Media, constantly have a nagging sensation that you should be somewhere but you just can’t work out where, then this is the perfect project to change your life for the better – and be creative with it!
Well, it is, in short, a log of anything and everything you need it to be. That can be anything from GP appointments, to books you want to read this year; it is in no way confined to another person’s idea of what it should be. There are guidelines you can follow however, and they are useful, so we will look at those first and you will begin to see how this kind of journaling works!
If you’d like to get to grips with how to bullet journal because you’ve never created one before, then checking out these staple bullet journaling pages is a great place to start…
Most bullet journals will start with an index page, albeit a blank one. As you fill in each page of your journal (and you can start slap bang in the centre of your notebook if you so wish), go back to the index page and write down what you have created, and the page number it is on (most journals are already numbered, if not, I would advise that your first task should be numbering all pages). As you continue to fill in your journal, this index will fill up quickly, and you will always have a quick reference to be able to find things (super useful if you have a page for Vet History, or School Appointments etc. that you need quick access to). If your journal was a body, the index page would be the heart. It is the main artery to the rest of the pages.
The order of the index doesn’t matter; you can have the contents of page 18 stuck just below the contents of page 76 and that is just fine; having the contents written down is a time-saving strategy. It is much quicker to look down a list of personalised contents on a couple of pages, than it is to thumb through the whole book.
The Key (or Legend) is another integral part of journaling. This is a list of symbols or signifiers that you use to keep your life organised. For instance, I might use a triangle to signify any events happening in my life throughout the journal, such as a weddings to attend etc. I could use a square to signify any tasks I need to complete (make dinner, do the laundry, create world peace). You can choose different symbols (and as many as you like) for different things; a heart might be for any ideas you want to work on, an exclamation mark might be for things that need your urgent attention.
You then need to give your icons a ‘status’. I personally pop a line diagonally through any icon once I have actually made a start on it. I then colour it in when I have completed it. Putting a cross through an icon means I have cancelled it (this mainly gets used on the hair-brained ideas I have at 2am, when I can’t sleep). And then I have a forward arrow as a status too. This gets put through my symbols when I have moved the completion date (for instance, I might decide that creating world peace needs a little more time so I might jot it down for next month too).
This can all sound incredibly complex when you first start learning how to bullet journal, but it is actually very simple and wonderfully time saving. The main advice I can give, is to keep your key simple. Adding symbols for everything is unnecessary and confusing, you really don’t need to jot down a reminder and a special key to shower (unless you really want to). The simpler it is, the more likely you are to use it.
From this point forward, the journal becomes your happy place; your ‘whatever you need it to be’ place.
It is totally up to you to decide exactly how to bullet journal your lists, plans and goals, but the majority of people usually create the following spreads as standard:
The Future Log (this is essentially a year long calendar starting from the month you are now in, no need to wait for January to get cracking). In here you can write major annual happenings such as Christmas, Halloween, Mothering Sunday etc.
The Monthly Log, which is a month-to-view spread where you can write down important things for the coming month (using your symbols to keep it organised).
You can also choose to have a Daily Spread, which is your Day-To-View and you can do these when you have a particularly crazy week coming up so you can keep everything logged and keep on top of everything.
You can have all or none of these spreads, they are personal choice and some will be more useful to you personally than others. They are a good starting point though, and as the years go on you can refine your journaling to the pages that work for you.
All of these images are samples from the journal I use, and I really hope you’ll find them helpful as you get to grips with how to bullet journal yourself. It is a mixture of organising spreads, doodles, positive quotes… anything that strikes me at the time! My journal is a total dumping ground, anything and everything in my head can be put in there and you have a really wonderful end of year visual to look back on.
(Because I am generally hopeless in this area!)
(Because I’m even more hopeless with birthdays)
(My worst area!)
(A visual representation of whether I am falling into bad sleeping patterns)
Crafts to Try is a list of crafts I’d like to have a go at, or have tried already (note the use of the KEY symbols and statuses).
Sometimes I just like to play, with no intention of purpose… who needs an excuse to colour in, right?
Your journal can be minimalist if you prefer, you do not need to be artistic. You can find images to use on royalty-free websites; you can use distressing inks and any scrapbook materials you have to get truly creative.
For me personally, discovering how to bullet journal allows you absolute creative freedom and escapism, combined with the reigning in of a disorganised mind. Have a go, and I bet you won’t go back to juggling a ton of apps! I’ve yet to find a banking app that lets me colour in my statements to make them prettier and slightly more palatable. If that’s not a worthwhile reason to learn how to bullet journal, I don’t know what is!