Many people are not sure how to bullet journal and don’t have the time to read the Bullet Journal Method. This is a short summary of the stages required to set up your Bullet Journal. You can also print a cheat sheet for future reference. Your bullet journal setup has to work for you so don’t feel you need to strictly abide by any rules. Find a system that works for you and use it. If you don’t want to draw the spreads feel free to open our free online app to create custom printables.
Starting a bullet journal can be a little overwhelming at first because all you have is a blank notebook and the bullet journal spreads you see online are often intimidating. There is no need to create a beautiful notebook. In fact, sometimes it is better not to. The focus should be on the system and embellishments should only be added if they serve a purpose. If you follow this bullet journal tutorial you will have your BuJo set up within two hours. Once all of the layouts have been created you can embellish your notebook. It is not a requirement.
Please note that the method described below is to create a bullet journal for beginners. Once you understand the bullet journal basics you can change the layouts, embellish them and make them more elaborate. Most of the core modules repeat themselves throughout your notebook so you will have enough opportunities to create beautiful spreads once you understand the system if you prefer.
How To Start a Bullet Journal
Before we go into the explanation on how to make a bullet journal we need to briefly describe the process of rapid logging. Ryder Carrol, creator of the Bullet Journal, refers to Rapid logging as the language in which your BuJo is written.
The bullet journal is handwritten. Although writing by hand has its benefits, it can also be slower. To overcome this, Ryder Carrol developed a system of Rapid Logging to write your BuJo. With the help of rapid logging, you can quickly write anything that comes to mind using the bullets listed below.
Entries are categorized into three categories: Tasks, Events, and Notes.
• = Task
X = Task Complete
> = Task Migrated
< = Task Scheduled
Mark events with “O”
Events are date-related entries that can either be scheduled or logged after they occur. They should be as objective and brief as possible.
Mark notes with “–”
Bullet notes are entries that you want to remember. They are written in short.
Priority – *
Inspiration – !
You can print a bullet journal key with a list of all the signifiers.
Bullet Journal Setup
If you want to create a bullet journal as you follow the steps then you will need a:
- Bullet Journal notebook
- Sheet of paper
There are many other bullet journal supplies that you can start using when you get a hang of the system but that is all you will need at this stage.
The bullet journal layout is described step-by-step below. The BuJo is made up of four core modules that each BuJo has and additional collections that each user adds as required.
The Core Modules
The Custom Collections
Custom Collections are specific spreads used to store related ideas. You can create any collection you want but the most common ones include bullet journal tracker ideas such as a mood tracker, habit tracker, book tracker, sleep tracker, period tracker, weekly spread, projects, gratitude log, etc. See bullet journal ideas.
The Custom Collections will differ according to the user and the user’s needs at a specific time. One month you might be planning an event and the next month you might be setting up your long-term goals. Here are some ideas for collections. Use our free online app to create your own custom printables.
How to Start a Bullet Journal
Follow each step below to see how to set up a bullet journal from scratch. We will explain each section so don’t worry if you are a complete beginner!
Step 1: Create a Mental Inventory
Ryder Carroll, suggests you create a mental inventory before you christen your bullet journal notebook. This process is similar to that often called a brain dump. You put all your thoughts and tasks on paper and then examine each one to see if it deserves to be moved to your BuJo notebook. You can download a printable brain dump template that will take you through this process step by step.
Step 2: Set up the Index
Each time you create a page, add the topic and its page number to the Index.
One page topic – Topic Name: 5
Consecutive spreads – Topic Name: 6-12
Recurring collections – Topic Name: 13-15, 24-28
Topics and Pages Numbers
Add a topic on the top outer corner of the page. A topic is simply a short descriptive title. Title and number your pages before you add content. See our title and date layouts for inspiration.
Step 3: Set up the Future Log
For items that either need to be scheduled way in advance or things that you want to get around to someday. This appears right after the index, at the beginning of your notebook, so that you can scan items periodically and move them to either the monthly log or the daily log when relevant.
Don’t want to start from scratch? Use our free Bullet Journal template.
Step 4: Set up the Monthly Log
The bullet journal monthly spread helps you organize your month. It includes a calendar to schedule and/or record events and monthly tasks (left page) and a task list (right page).
How to set up the monthly log:
- Title the page with the current month’s name.
- List all the dates of that month down the left margin, followed by the first letter of the corresponding day.
- Schedule events next to the relevant day.
- Add tasks on the right page.
- Add signifiers to the left of each task.
- Add a list of tasks you want to complete that month.
- Add any unfinished tasks that have migrated from the previous month. Before you migrate a task, make sure that it is still relevant and adds value to your life. If it doesn’t then don’t migrate it. The migration system filters out tasks that are no longer relevant or are not worth your time.
- Scan the future log to see if there are any tasks that have now become relevant. If they have, then you should migrate them from the future log to the new monthly log.
Step 5: Set up the Daily Log
How to set up the daily log:
- At the top of the page, record the date as your topic.
- Rapid Log your Tasks, Events, and Notes as they occur.
Step 6: Review the Mental Inventory
Scan each task to see if there are any tasks that you determined are neither vital nor meaningful. If you used the free printable mental inventory template then those will be the tasks in which the second and third columns are blank.
Step 7: Migrate the Mental Inventory
See a detailed explanation on how to migrate your mental inventory.
Step 8: Add Custom Collections
You don’t have to add any custom collections at this stage but you are welcome to do so. If you add a custom collection, don’t forget to number your page and add it to your index.
Step 9: Migration
At this stage, your BuJo is ready. In the last couple of days of this month, you will start your monthly log for next month. Once your new monthly log is set up you will start the migration process. Only once you have completed the migration process will you fully understand the BuJo method and appreciate its benefits. You are welcome to set yourself a reminder to read the explanation on monthly migration a few days before the end of this month.
How to Use a Bullet Journal
Now that you have set up your bullet planner you must be wondering what to do with it and how to use it. Setting up a bullet journal is the longest step but actually using it is where the magic starts. This what turns it from a notebook into a comprehensive system. The section on how to use the bullet journal, explains how to migrate content and how to use daily reflections to keep you on track.
The Bullet Journal® (or BuJo® for short) was developed by Ryder Carroll.