Everything You Need To Know About Starting A Bullet Journal

Whilst I haven’t quite unlocked the secret magic of successfully balancing a full time job, blogging and vaguely socialising, bullet journaling has definitely brought me a few steps closer.

Back when I was at uni, I used to purchase a week-to-a-page diary each year and meticulously fill it with my to-do’s and schedules. This worked perfectly when it came to balancing all my commitments and I was pretty organised back then. For whatever reason, I ditched this habit when I started working full time in 2015 and swapped it for sporadic to do lists that would quickly become over-ambitious and overwhelming. This year I finally realised that the time had come to find a new organisation system.

I originally had my heart set on buying a blog planner/regular diary like I used to use, however after I tweeted asking for recommendations, the response was a resounding chorus of ‘TRY BULLET JOURNALING!’.

After a bit of research, I decided to give bullet journaling a go for the following reasons:

  • Starting a bullet journal would allow me to start midway through the year without wasting pages like I would have done with a traditional diary.
  • Bullet journaling offered plenty of scope to customise a system to fit my specific needs with blogging and personal commitments.

What is a bullet journal anyway?

A bullet journal is essentially a personal organisation system that requires nothing more than a blank notebook and a bit of time.

If you haven’t already encountered bullet journaling, a quick search and you’ll soon see that it’s evolved into a community of its own with entire blogs, YouTube channels and Instagram accounts dedicated to people showcasing their own bullet journals – or bujos as they’re often shortened to.

There are countless resources out there on bullet journaling, but before you delve into any of them, I’d recommend starting with this video from the creator of bullet journaling, Ryder Carroll. I’d also highly suggest reading How To Bullet Journal from The Lazy Genius Collective – it offers a pragmatic, no-frills approach to getting the most out of your bullet journal.

How bullet journaling has helped me

Like I said earlier, I’m still not the goddess of organisation and productivity I’d like to be, but bullet journaling has been a huge help in getting me to visualise my priorities and make the most of my time.

Just the act of setting up my monthly spreads gives me a chance to reflect on the previous month and what I’d like to focus on for the upcoming month. Similarly, setting up my weekly spread at the start of each week helps me plan my tasks for that week whilst picking up on anything I didn’t manage to cross off the previous week.

And it’s not just in terms of practicality, bullet journaling has been helping my mental health too! I’ve been noting down good things that have happened each day, songs I have on repeat, things I’m grateful for, little things I’ll want to look back on and remember.

Above: My monthly overview spread. I set up each month with 2 schedules; one personal and one for blogging. I write the blog posts I have planned for that month on cut up Post-Its so I can move them around as necessary. Once the post has been published, I’ll write it in in pen. 

Sound great? Here are my tips for getting started…

Bullet journal advice for beginners

Give yourself a test run before you delve in: Bullet journaling doesn’t work for everyone. Try try keeping a bullet journal for a week or so in any old notebook you already have to get a feel for if it’s for you.

Invest in the right tools: Once you’re confident that bullet journaling will work for you, it’s a good idea to get the right tools (this is the fun part!). There are notebooks out there designed specifically for bullet journaling, but I went for a Leuchtturm 1917 notebook. This was mainly because it’s pre-numbered, conveniently sized and has a pre-printed index pages to fill in at the beginning. Moleskins are a popular choice too. I also ordered some washi tape (gold & lace print!) to add a little flair to my pages but that’s totally optional!

Don’t hold yourself to making your bullet journal look aesthetically pristine. I was convinced bullet journaling would never work for me as all the examples I’d seen online always featured perfect calligraphy, artful doodles and just general prettiness. It’s easy to feel pressured that your bujo should look a certain way, but don’t be put off – your bullet journal can be as off-the-cuff or pristine as you’d like to make it! I know I’m not naturally good at drawing or anything, so I knew that if I expected my bujo to look a certain way I’d just get frustrated. At the start I’d just focus on the functionality of it, however I have just started add in little doodles now that I’ve been journaling for a few months. [If you’d like some inspo of a beautifully put together bujo – AmandaRachLee on YT is literally goals].

Get comfortable with the idea that nothing needs to be in ‘order’. When I first started bullet journaling, I couldn’t get to grips with dropping in ‘collections’ (these are basically misc lists and logs you can add in). I wanted all the weeks to flow consecutively and started planning out weekly spreads way in advance. There were a few weeks that I missed doing spreads for entirely, but the beauty of the bujo is that you can just pick up wherever you left off! The Index is there to help you keep track of things for reference, so just take it one page at a time.

Don’t just use it for tasks, use it as a record of what you did do too. I picked this tip up from the Lazy Collective post I referenced earlier, and it’s been a game changer. The beauty of a bullet journal compared to regular to do lists is that it’s dated, so you can treat it like a log too. This means that instead of looking at all that you didn’t achieve on your list, you can write in ‘went out for dinner’ or ‘worked late’. It’s so easy to focus on what you didn’t tick off on your to do list and I’m definitely guilty of berating myself when things don’t get done. But bullet journaling has helped shift my perspective by reminding me of what I am doing.

Have you tried bullet journaling? I’d love to hear your hacks!


Sinéad xo