How to Start a Bullet Journal

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Need a new, reliable way to keep track of your monthly, weekly, and daily tasks? Learn how to start a bullet journal and take control of your productivity!

tips for starting a bullet journal in 2020

What is Bullet Journaling?

Before we dive into how to start a bullet journal, you may be asking yourself what the heck a bullet journal even is. Essentially bullet journals are a to-do list/note keeper/planner on steroids. The most basic form is a series of bulleted lists, either for tasks, appointments, due dates, projects or anything else. It can be customized as much as you want to fit your own personal needs to make it work for you. You can learn more about the bullet journal method here.

black lemome bullet journal with mildliners

Why I started a bullet journal

I started using a bullet journal as a replacement to my Happy Planner in the summer of 2017. While I loved the idea of the Happy Planner and the creativity it allowed me, it just wasn’t what I needed to help keep my brain and life organized. Running a business, working from home AND outside home, trying to keep us fed and the house somewhat cleaned was making me lose my mind. I was also the girl who had a desk full of random paper scraps and post it notes with to do lists, blog post ideas and whatever idea popped into my brain at any given moment. I was desperate for some simplified way that I could not only keep track of my must do lists, but also the ideas I wanted to implement for both our home and my businesses.

Blank dot grid journal with brush pens

I was familiar with the concept of bullet journaling and had been intrigued by it for awhile. I pinned pictures of what I thought a bullet journal HAD to look like, bought some supplies and then became paralyzed with fear. What if my bujo wasn’t pretty? I can letter, but I really can’t doodle or draw well.

What finally made me jump in with both feet is a book by Kalyn Brooke called Brainbook. She broke it down so simply and in nice, easy to follow steps. Once I read her book, I was inspired to move past the idea of needing to be an artistic genius to start a bullet journal. I started with a very minimalist approach–which the whole premise of bullet journaling was built on–and went all in. I haven’t looked back since!

How to Start a Bullet Journal

Ok are you ready to boost your productivity and take the first step forward into getting your life organized? Then let’s dive into the fundamentals and basics you’ll need to learn how to start your own bullet journal!

What supplies are needed to start a bullet journal?

  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Ruler–if you are a perfectionist like me and want straight lines

THAT’S IT! That is all that you need to start a bullet journal. Of course you can go out and buy all the extra supplies like highlighters, stencils, stickers, and pens, but you definitely do not need them to get started.

Read Also—My Favorite Bullet Journal Supplies if you want to see more

Here’s a word of solid advice–Instead of buying all of the supplies you think you’ll need, sit down and just start journaling in the first notebook you pick up. Get a feel for it and see if it will even work for your needs. Then move on to the fancy stuff if you want.

What goes in a bullet journal?

Let me answer that question with a question. What do you want to go in your bullet journal? What will you be using your bullet journal for? Is it to help you manage appointments? your business to do list? school work and due dates? All of the above? There really is no wrong answer to any of those questions.

Sit down and think about how you want to use your bullet journal. For me, I use it to manage my household cleaning schedule, weekly meal plans, blog and business to do lists, home projects, and that’s just skimming the surface. You can put anything you want or need to track in your own bullet journal.

Perhaps the best part about starting a bullet journal is that if something doesn’t work for your life, you can just change it. Seriously! If you start using one particular weekly list and realize it just doesn’t fit your personal needs, then try something else. YOU CAN MAKE IT YOUR OWN! That is the beauty of a bullet journal!

Here are some page ideas to include in your bullet journal


Makes it easy to refer back to a page if needed. This is usually the first few pages of a bullet journal so that it is easy to flip back to. You could also put it at the very back of your journal!


A legend can come in handy if you will be using symbols and colors to code your lists and tasks! Typically you’ll put this at the beginning after the index to get started.

Pen test and legend for bullet journal

Year at a glance

This a spread with a written out calendar for the year. Highlight the important days such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc and make note of when/what they are.

2020 year at a glance spread

Read Also: My 2020 Bullet Journal Set Up for more ideas and spreads!

Monthly Spread

This is usually a calendar, with a notes section to write out appointments, due dates, etc. for the whole month. Mine is usually kept very minimalistic. I use the left side to keep all of my appointments, due dates, activities and reminders. Then on the right side I will draw out a calendar and write in any blog posts or sponsorships due. It’s nice to have that calendar to refer back to when planning my weeks.

Monthly January spread, month at a glance and calendar for bullet journal

Weekly or Daily Spread

I use a weekly spread that is basically just one big to do list for the week. It also includes our meal plan, things that need to be cleaned, and then a spot for a “brain dump” which eliminates all of the random post it notes 😉 You could also do something similar in a daily spread

weekly to do list bullet journal spread for January

Habit Tracker or Mood Tracker

This is a very popular spread and you’ll find a never ending list of inspiration on Pinterest. I tried to do a Year in Pixels mood tracker last year and failed to fill it in consistently. For 2020 I am just going to focus on tracking some habits that I would like to start. Here is a simple idea of how I have my personal habit tracker set up for January.

January Habit Tracker ideas

Master Lists

These can be a list for any topic. In my current bullet journal I have master lists for home projects I want to do, blog projects, blog post ideas, Etsy Shop ideas, and more! It’s so nice to have these ideas that would usually end up on a scrap piece of paper filed away in one spot. When I have an idea, I just write it down in the appropriate Master List. If my bullet journal is not near me, I have a NOTES section on my phone I add it to. Then later when I have my bullet journal, I’ll write it down.

home project master lists

Goals Tracker

This is pretty straight forward, but another great spread for a bullet journal. Decide how you’d like to set up your goals. For me I just like having a place to write them down and refer back to often. In my business I generally set quarterly goals. This year I was inspired to try a 20 in 2020 goals tracker and I am still excited about the idea!

goals tracker twenty in 20

Ready to start bullet journaling?

Great! The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to just go for it. You don’t need to have beautiful hand writing, lettering or tons of artistic ability! Just start with the very basic concept of tracking tasks and list making. You can build up the creativity from there! Start, evaluate your progress, make some tweaks and evolve your bullet journaling skills.

I plan to share more about bullet journaling both as blog posts or videos and on social media. If you aren’t signed up for my weekly newsletter you can sign up below! Also make sure to follow me on YouTube and Instagram!

Don’t forget to pin this for later:

tips and ideas for starting a bullet journal long pin

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