How to Start a Bullet Journal – Plus Examples to Get You Started

What if I told you there was a planner that could help you track absolutely everything in your life while still being flexible and creative? Well there is, it’s called a bullet journal.

I first started bullet journaling a little over a two years ago. I was working 60 hours a week at the restaurant while trying to build my online business and raising my kid. I needed something that could track work, my blog, appointments, my meal plan and my budgets.

Update: Since starting my bullet journal and really falling in love with the process I have since started a whole site dedicated to bullet journals. Visit it here for loads more ideas and help with starting your own bullet journal.

I was looking for an all in one planner but wasn’t finding much that would work for me. So I did a google search for a whole life planner. What I found was bullet journaling.

I was extremely intimidated by the pretty bullet journal spreads I was seeing all over Instagram and Pinterest. Even with an artistic background I wasn’t prepared to create magnificent spreads like these.

I took a moment to really look at the spreads and realized I could do a minimalist version of these spreads. It would be easy to create what I needed with out all the fancy spreads, at least until I got into the habit of using my bullet journal.

As I progressed in using a bullet journal I started purchasing better supplies, but in the beginning all you really need is a pen and a notebook. I used a college ruled composition notebook as my first bullet journal.

Bullet journaling has been a lifesaver for me and my schedule. Gone are the days where I overbook my to do list or my day. Hello to organization, planning, goal setting, and tracking anything and everything under the sun.

Table Of Contents

For returning visitors or if you are looking for something in specific here is an easy jump to table of contents for you. Just click the link and jump to the part in the post you want to view most. To come back there is a link after ever section to send you back to this table of contents.

What can I use a Bullet Journal for?

Bullet Journals are great to use for everything from a planner to a bucket list. Furthermore, you can customize your journal for what you need. It takes effort to set up but allows for easy recording of only the things that are important to you.

A bullet journal keeps everything in one place and allows for massive amounts of customization. The appeal of starting a life tracker like this though often leads us wondering where to start.

You can create a savings guide, habit tracker, upcoming movie list, budget, planner, meal planning, to do list, health trackers and anything else you want to record or stay accountable too.

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What do I need to set one up?

A notebook, a ruler, and a pen. That’s all that is necessary. You can get fancy bookmarks, you can use colored pens, some papers allow for watercolor. Washi Tape is a fantastic way to spruce up your journal without needing artistic skill. You can make it as fancy, pretty, or plain as you would like.

These are the products that I use for my own bullet journal journey. Make sure to visit my post 17 Bullet Journal Resources to Make Your Bullet Journal Instagram Worthy.

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Bullet Journal Basics

In bullet journals we have pages, these pages can be collections, spreads, or trackers. How you put these in your journal are called a layout.

Bullet Journal Collections

A bullet journal collection is just a collection of things you want to remember. These could be books you want to read, movies you want to watch, quotes you like, or any other number of things.

Collections are extremely useful in making sure you keep track of or remember to do certain things.

Bullet Journal Spreads

Spreads are usually referred to in our actually planning. These are the yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily spreads. These are the spreads we use to plan out our life and schedules.

Bullet Journal Trackers

Trackers are things that we want to track. Weight loss goals, habits, exercise, water intake, food, reading, writing, and anything you can think of to track.

Trackers are important to building good or healthy habits and stopping the bad ones. They are crucial to helping you get all your work finished. Trackers are an important part of the bullet journal and whole life planning experience.

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How To Start A Bullet Journal

You can set up your bullet journal any way you like. However, I would caution that you create an outline first. Planning out your bullet journal keeps it clean.

The first two pages should be left for your key and your index. This will help you to keep track of where in the bullet journal everything is and what shapes stand for what.

Number every page in your notebook so you can easily record the information in the index. You can also purchase the Scribbles That Matter bullet journal and all the pages are already numbered.

Check out my post 16 Minimalist Bullet Journal Spreads.

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Setting up your Bullet Journal

After you set up the key and the index, you want to add your additional trackers that are not the planner portion of your bullet journal. The planner portion of your journal should not be completed far in advance as you may need additional space.

Once you figure out what types of collection pages and yearly trackers you want to keep in your bullet journal you can then start setting up your first monthly layout.

Monthly layouts can be minimalist, artistic, have a theme, or not. The first page is usually a cover page of some sort to announce the month. After that I personally do a monthly page. This page helps me to record all my plans for the month ahead.

From there you can add any monthly trackers or collections you want to have before eventually doing your weekly or daily spreads. I personally have a habit tracker and gratitude log in every month.

I like using a weekly spread so I can see my whole week and everything that needs to get done.

Check out 14 Bullet Journal Spreads That Are Perfect.

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Trackers and Collections

Below are some great examples of trackers and collections. Use these as inspiration to create your own.

The Gratitude Tracker

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I use a gratitude spread every month because I find it really helps with keeping my mind on the positive things going on in my life. You might find it to be useful for your mindset as well.

The Meal Planner

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Meal planning in a bullet journal is a dream come true. You can stay within dietary needs, plan grocery shopping lists, plan around sales, and even know what you might need to prep ahead of time.

The Pet Tracker

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The pet tracker is useful for us animal lovers. Track flea treatments, vet visits, shots, and grooming appointments so that you can make sure your furry family members are healthy and happy.

The Habit Tracker

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Habit tracking is a great way to help yourself set healthy and good daily habits. I use a habit tracker to get me into the habit of reading every night before bed. I also use it to help me stay on track with drinking water and eating healthy.

Check out more habit tracker layouts and ideas at 50 Bullet Journal Habit Tracking Ideas.

The Savings Tracker

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Financial planning in a bullet journal is a great way to keep you on track with your money goals. Because the bullet journal is basically a planner that you use daily you are always aware of how you spend or save money.

Check out my post The Ultimate Guide to Save Money and Get Ahead.

The Book Tracker

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I personally use a book tracker to keep track of all the books that I have read. It’s a way for me to have something to recommend to people as well as see just how much I read in a year.

The Brain Dump

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The brain dump is a great personal spread that can help you clear out your brain so you can organize tasks, plans, and goals. I often use brain dumping for brainstorming new ideas for my business. It also helps me to be able to focus more on one task at a time.

The Cleaning Calendar

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The bullet journal cleaning calendar really helped me to get on track with making sure my home is cleaned every day. I hate cleaning so getting organized and having a handy calendar helps me to just power through my chores and get it done.

Check out my post 11 Cleaning Schedules for Your Bullet Journal.

When Did I Last Tracker

Bullet Journal Cleaning Schedule and When Did I Last
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This tracker helps you track things like doctor appointments, changing filters, oil changes, changing toothbrushes, or cleaning behind appliances. It’s a handy little tracker that can help you to stay on top of those every once in a while chores.

The Running Tracker

I’m not a runner and if you aren’t either consider changing this into your exercise of choice. For me having a yoga or Pilates tracker helps me to stay on track with my exercises. Especially, now that I am trying to keep my health and physical well being in check.

Check out my post 11 Health Trackers For Your Bullet Journal.

Weight Loss Tracker

Bullet Journal Weight Loss Tracker
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Speaking of fitness if your goal is weight loss this tracker will keep you on track. Set milestones that you can celebrate with a cheat meal or a shopping trip to give you that extra motivation.

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Daily Layouts

Now that you have your potential tracker and collection ideas planned out you can start working on your daily, weekly, and monthly layouts. These layouts help you to plan out your time and keep you on track to reach goals.

Create a Bullet Journal
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Last week’s spread in my bujo is teaching me that my water intake is shit. ?

A post shared by @writingbravely on

Check out my post 19 Beautiful Weekly Spreads for Bullet Journals.

I included positive phrases in my daily spreads to help keep a positive attitude daily. Find out more on how we strive to be positive daily.

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Monthly Spreads

Check out my post 15 Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads.

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Bullet Journal For Beginners

Remember, all you really need to start out with is a notebook and a pen. Keep it simple while you get into the habit of using your bullet journal. You don’t want to overload yourself with new designs and end up giving up.

As you get into the habit of using it you will get better about planning out your day and staying on top of your tasks. You will start working with purpose because you will have more realistic expectations on what you can get done each day.

Finally, you will find yourself starting to live more purposefully knowing that you are working towards goals in different areas of your life.

For example, tracking your weight loss journey while also tracking your financial goals will have an affect on how you decide to spend money on food. To go even further if you are planning your meals you will find yourself eating at home more and reaching all three of your goals faster.

This is because your bullet journey keeps everything flowing together in a cohesive way instead of keeping things separate from each other.

Make sure you stop by my post 17 Bullet Journal Resources to Make Your Bullet Journal Beautiful. There are FREE worksheets and tutorials for illustration. There are even a few awesome online classes to make your bullet journal Instagram worthy.

Recommended Products

You now know how to set up a bullet journal and you have lots of inspiration to pull from to create your own. Follow me on Pinterest and pin this for reference when you create your own. Happy Journaling!

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    Crystal Lynn

    Crystal is the founder & CEO of MommyThrives and also full-time mom to a very active little guy. She’s passionate about cooking, cleaning, and organizing and turns her experiences into actionable systems to make mom-life simpler. When she’s not busy, you can find her reading, painting, or even on occasion indulging herself shooting bandits in Borderlands on her PC.

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    2 Responses

    1. Thanks for your post it was amazing and very helpful

    2. Beth says:

      This is so in depth! I know how much time this must have taken to write so I appreciate it! As a newbie in bullet journaling I am so happy to have found you ?

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