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Bullet Journal Setup (2024 Guide)

Today you’re going to learn how to create a successful bullet journal setup in 7 simple steps:

  • brainstorm ideas (without Pinterest or Instagram!)
  • sketch the bullet journal spreads with a pencil
  • create bujo layouts with a pen
  • decorate your bullet journal (optional)

 In fact, this is the ultimate guide on how to bullet journal.

So if you want to learn :

  • what is the point of the bullet journal
  • how to you create a bullet journal setup in 7 simple steps
  • how to start the first page of a journal & get over the first-page anxiety

and

  • how to start a bullet journal in the middle of the year

Then keep reading.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It means that I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase a product that I have recommended. It won’t cost you any extra money.

What Is The Point Of Bullet Journal

bullet journal life quotes

Undoubtedly, there’s one, most common question I get from people who want to try bullet journaling.

Basically, they ask what’s the point of creating all layouts like a monthly calendar, or weekly log by yourself instead of buying an already set up planner.

In fact, from my personal experience of being a planner nerd for such a long time, using a planner always intimidated me.

Basically, I felt obligated to fill all the tables out.

And yes, while I chose beautifully designed planners, I never stick with them for more than maybe two weeks.

On the other hand, bullet journaling gave me a lot of freedom and flexibility I needed so badly. 

Obviously, in the beginning, I was overwhelmed and disoriented.

But after giving myself time to learn the bullet journal basics and permission to mess up and be imperfect, I chose a bullet journal and have never looked back.

Of course, in the meantime, I took productivity courses and improved my time management skills.

After all, both a bullet journal and a standard planner are the only tools.

When you have trouble focusing and like to procrastinate, neither bujo nor planner will work for you.

How Do You Create a Bullet Journal Setup in 7 Actionable Steps

weekly spread key ideas
my bullet journal pages from the days when I believed in one of the most common bujo myths

In most cases, setting up a bullet journal doesn’t have to be time-consuming at all.

But you have to find a couple of minutes throughout the day to create bujo layouts and spreads.

Also, I’d recommend starting simple and slowly building some solid bujo basics.

Of course, you can decorate the spreads. But it’s the less important, totally optional step and saves it for last.

Also, one more thing. 

The most popular bujo myth is that you have to be an artist in order to start a bullet journal.

Unless you want to keep an art journal, you don’t even have to decorate your layouts with doodles, lettering, etc.

Moreover, you can draw like a five-year-old, your handwriting might be terrible, and still, you can start a bullet journal and make it work for you.

Finally, here are 7 actionable steps that will help you to create your bullet journal setup.

1. Learn Bullet Journal Basics

Before you even start to brainstorm bullet journal ideas, learn bullet journal basics like:

To be completely honest, when I started a bullet journal almost two years ago, I ignored this step.

In the end result, I had a really tough time figuring out how a bullet journal works. 

Definitely, you want to learn from my mistakes and do your own research.

2. Get Bullet Journal Supplies

Yellow Bullet Journal Lechtturm 1917
LEUCHTTURM1917 - Notebook...
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LEUCHTTURM1917 - Notebook...
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  • Features 80g/m² acid-free paper with high ink compatibility to help prevent bleed...
SAKURA Pigma Micron...
56,862 Reviews
SAKURA Pigma Micron...
  • Precise archival pens create fade resistant, waterproof, bleed free marks for...
  • Includes 6 black ink Pigma Micron pens in point sizes 005 (0.20mm), 01 (0.25mm), 02...
  • Pigma Micron ink is pH neutral, quick drying, and approved by ACMI toxicologists;...
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Zebra Pen Mildliner...
52,375 Reviews
Zebra Pen Mildliner...
  • Versatile creative tool! With a broad chisel tip at one end and fine bullet point at...
  • Bring your bullet journal or Bible study to life! Zebra Pen Mildliner Highlighters...
  • Layer ink for extra creativity! Translucent, water-resistant ink in soft colors...
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Tombow 56185 Dual Brush...
9,360 Reviews
Tombow 56185 Dual Brush...
  • Water-based pens ideal for coloring, fine art, illustrations, doodling, journaling,...
  • Set of 10 Tombow Dual Brush Pens
  • Flexible brush tip and fine tip in one marker.
Crayola Super Tips Marker...
4,757 Reviews
Crayola Super Tips Marker...
  • CRAYOLA SUPER TIPS & SILLY SCENTS: Enjoy more variety with 100 count Crayola Super...
  • SCENTED MARKERS: Silly Scents Markers include sweet and smelly scents like Spice...
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Last update on 2024-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Without a doubt, it’s the favorite step for all off-stationery lovers. 

At this point, I always have a dilemma. 

On the one hand, using the standard notebook as a bullet journal test notebook and an ordinary pen is the best choice for all bullet journal beginners. 

In case it turns out that this bujo system doesn’t work for you, you don’t lose almost any money. Also, it’s a great way to overcome the common fear of the first page.

Definitely, you won’t feel bad if you mess up with your spreads and have to rip out the page.

On the other hand, having a notebook with smooth, thick paper and a high-quality black ink pen makes keeping a bullet journal so much more pleasant experience.

Moreover, it can motivate you to use your bujo daily so it’s more probable you stick with it and become a regular bullet journalist.

3. Brainstorm Bullet Journal Ideas

unlimited quote lighbulb drawing leaves

Next, you need to brainstorm some bullet journal ideas. 

First and foremost, log off your social media like Pinterest or Instagram.

Definitely, I don’t want you to feel discouraged by all of the artistic and creative spreads.

In fact, that’s not the point. 

First and foremost, you have to do is to decide what to put in your bullet journal.

In fact, I think that setting up the bullet journal’s first page is definitely the most difficult.

Of course, you can leave it blank or come back to this later.

However, if you’re struggling to get started with your first (or brand new) bullet journal, you can find my favorite ideas for the first page below. 

But, that’s not all. So keep reading to learn how to get over the first-page anxiety.

First Page of Journal Ideas

  • “hello” page
  • word of the year
  • pen swatches
  • drawing
  • washi tape swatches
  • brush pen swatches
  • bullet journal key
  • index
  • future log
  • your “Why”
  • about you
  • your name
  • title page
  • mind-map
  • an affirmation

As I mentioned before, there are three bullet journal pages you should include in your bullet journal:

  • key
  • index
  • future log

Then think about yourself.

So what are your lifestyle, needs, dreams, resolutions, and goals?

For instance, maybe one of your goals is to develop healthy habits like drinking more water, practicing yoga 20 minutes daily, or eating more fruit and veggies.

workout tracker

With this in mind, you may want to create the following fitness bullet journal spreads:

  • sleep tracker
  • water log
  • exercise tracker
  • favorite yoga positions
  • healthy snacks list
  • meal planning spreads
  • step tracker
  • period tracker
  • supplements tracker

Along with this, here are some other examples.

Financial Goals

  • savings tracker
  • bills log
  • income tracker
  • spending log
  • no-spend day tracker

Self-Care Goals

  • daily affirmation page
  • gratitude log
  • meditation tracker

Family & Home Goals

Cleaning Schedulet Chores Bujo
cleaning schedule
  • grocery list
  • kid’s chores
  • school schedule
  • emergency phone numbers
  • family tree
  • packing list
  • bucket lists

Blogging Goals:

Bullet Journal Blogging Spreads
blogging spread
  • pageviews tracker
  • social media schedule
  • Instagram caption ideas
  • new blog post ideas
  • blog stats
  • affiliates tracker
  • blog income & expense
  • sponsorship tracker

After having all primary bullet journal page ideas written down, now you can log back into Instagram or Pinterest and see which kind of pages inspire you the most.

Simply to say, a bullet journal can be also a beautiful hobby.

So there is nothing wrong if you want to put in your bujo some creative, funny layouts or lists.

Fall Doodling Bullet Journal Page
fall doodle pages

Here are some examples of creative bullet journal ideas:

  • quote page
  • how to draw… page
  • my 23 before 2023
  • inking drawing
  • make-up swatches
  • washi tape swatches
  • pen test
  • astrology chart
  • countries you want to travel to list
  • reading list
  • movie tracker
  • podcast tracker
  • about me page

4. Map Out the Notebook

Mapping Out Post its
mapping out the bullet journal notebook with post-its

Now, that you’ve written down your bullet journal ideas, it’s time to map out your bullet journal notebook. 

What I mean by this is that you take post-it notes, jot down a specific bujo spread name and map out your notebook by putting them on assigned pages.

In this way, you’re forced to think about your bujo pages’ order.

It can be beneficial for the comfort and easiness of use of the notebook.

5. Sketch Layouts with a Pencil

Generally, you can omit this step.

However, if you’re one of the perfectionist bullet journalists, please consider sketching your bujo layouts with a pencil first.

In most cases, it eliminates mistakes and makes mapping out adjustments a lot easier.

6. Refine Your Sketches with Pen

After you’re 100% happy with your bullet journal setup, you can refine the sketches with a pen.

7. Decorate a New Bullet Journal Setup

artistic cover page september bujo

The last step is optional.

As I mentioned before, you don’t need to decorate your bullet journal spreads in order to keep a successful bujo.

But you may want to unleash your creativity.

Not only doodling or hand lettering. but also using washi tapes, stamps or even scrapbooking products can make your bullet journal prettier.

Once again, the very first bullet journal was designed (by Ryder Caroll) in a simple, minimal way, without any kind of decorative elements.

How to Start the First Page of a Journal & Get Over the First Page Anxiety

Obviously, many bullet journal beginners are afraid that they can ruin their perfect brand new pricey bullet journal notebook.

Maybe they think that other people won’t like their handwriting, calligraphy, or doodles.

Generally, they don’t want to be judged.

But let’s face it: bullet journaling is (or at least it should be) all about self-care and dealing with anxiety.

You create unique layouts that fit your lifestyle to improve productivity and express yourself (also with lettering, drawing, or other types of art).

So if keeping a bullet journal causes you to feel anxious and uncomfortable, it doesn’t have sense to even start the bujo.

However, there are three ways to overcome your inner perfectionist.

Set Realistic Expectations

I truly believe that practice makes progress and talent is overrated.

However, from time to time I fall into a comparison trap.

Recently, I’ve read that “the comparison trap is painful and often results in the hope for perfection, which is the enemy of progress” (you can read the whole article here).

Indeed, I couldn’t agree more.

For that reason, setting up realistic expectations is so crucial to make bullet journaling a hobby and a way to express yourself.

Let’s face it – a hand lettering artist with over 5-year experience draws cleaner letters with more confidence and ease than a newbie who has just started 2 days ago.

After you start comparing yourself only to who you were yesterday, you’ll see small improvements in your doodling skills, handwriting, or general implementation bullet journal system in your life.

Here is my favorite trick that enables you to see your progress over time.

Split the front page into two parts.

On the left side create maybe brush lettering art or drawing and leave the right side empty.

When you finish the notebook, recreate the art and see how you improve.

Get Comfortable with Imperfection & Enjoy The Process

blue notebook
of test bullet journal

Unfortunately, all your life you are learned that making mistakes are bad.

For example, at school.

In my opinion, most A-grade students, including me, have a real issue with being a perfectionist.

Luckily, you can always change your mindset.

I stop using the words failure or mistake and start to say more about life lessons.

For that reason, if you’re one of the people who tend to rip out pages when they don’t look good, please don’t do this any longer.

Besides, there are some amazing bullet journal hacks that will help you to fix your bullet journal pages:

  • cover up typos with a small piece of dot grid paper, stickers, washi tapes, etc.
  • use erasable pen
  • fix misspellings with a white gel pen or black it out with a brush pen or fine liner
  • for large mistakes stick printable artwork, polaroid pictures, or tape two pages together

In addition to this, you can always keep a test journal.

The ordinary affordable notebook and pen from Target are more than enough.

Feel free to experiment with different techniques without fear of ruining your fancy, expensive bullet journal notebook.

As well as that, starting your art journaling from a simple sketch with a pencil might be a great alternative for you.

After all, it’s all about creativity, self-express, and feeling good about yourself.

Remember that the best bullet journal is the one that works for you.

Just trust and enjoy your process.

Stop Seeking the Approval of Others

First and foremost, it doesn’t matter what others think.

It’s your bullet journal and it’s perfect if it works for you.

Basically, all you have to do is to focus on your bullet journal journey and follow your own unique path.

All the same, if you’re still worried about others’ opinions I have for you some advice.

Definitely, don’t share pictures of your bullet journal anywhere.

Trust me, logging off Instagram was one of the healthy things I’ve done to myself.

Of course, I’m still a bullet journal blogger. I still share with you my journal pages.

But my main goal is to show you that a bullet journal is an amazing tool to improve your life on so many levels.

And the artistic side becomes less important, at least for me.

How to Start a Bullet Journal in the Middle of the Year

Unquestionably, it’s never too early or too late to start a bullet journal.

No matter if you’re reading this bullet journal setup guide in February, June, or October, you don’t have to wait until a new year. 

In fact, a bullet journal notebook comes with blank pages.

Contrary to standard planners, you don’t waste any pages just because you start one or four months later.

Moreover, you can set up your bujo by following the 7 steps mentioned before in the middle of the month or week.

Obviously, you’re the boss.

Bullet Journal Alternatives

In case you don’t want to spend time creating your own bullet journal setup, but still, you consider the general bullet journal concept worth trying, here are some great bullet journal alternatives.

Free Bullet Journal Printables

bujo pdf download files

Luckily, there is plenty of free bullet journal printables online to choose from.

You can print them out and glue them into a notebook or put them in a binder format. 

Here you can find the ultimate list of free bullet journal printables with tutorials on how to resize pdf files, cut out the printable, or create your own bujo templates.

Premade Bullet Journal

Also, you can always buy premade bullet journals on Etsy.

You get a hand-drawn, customizable, well-designed bullet journal without putting in a lot of effort.

Self Journal

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I Am Here Now: A Creative...
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Last update on 2024-02-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The self-journal is a combination of daily planner, goal-setting trackers, and personal development spreads.

This is the only bullet journal alternative I’d like to explore.

I’m really curious if guided daily journals will work for me.

Digital Bullet Journal

Undoubtedly, switching paper bullet journals to digital planning can be beneficial.

The main benefits of digital bullet journal are:

  • you reduce the use of paper 
  • it’s cheaper (assuming you’ve already had a tablet)
  • It’s convenient to carry
  • you can move spreads around
  • perfect for perfectionists – mistakes are easy and fast to fix
  • you reuse it over and over again

However, if you’re an analog person and paper lover, using a digital bullet journal may be difficult for you. 

In fact, it’s scientifically proven that you remember better once you write things down. 

Furthermore, you spend already too much time on your phone.

Definitely, it’s healthier to log off and have some quality off-screen time.

And you don’t have to worry about battery,

However, if you want to experiment with a digital bullet journal and you’re wondering if there are any bullet journal apps, you can find a list of the best bullet journal apps here.

Bullet Journal Setup Cheat Sheet – Final Thoughts

Hello Page Bullet Journal
bullet journal hello page

Obviously, what makes a bullet journal such a powerful tool is its flexibility and individuality. 

Indeed, none of the standard planners will give you this freedom that this one is made from beginning to end by you.

So as you begin to design your bullet journal, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

In my opinion, you have to test out a lot of different layouts and experiment with some collections.

Definitely, it’s the only way you find out if bullet journaling is for you, what kind of bullet journal pages you need, etc.

Basically, it’s a whole learning process.

On the other hand, remember it’s just a notebook.

So enjoy your bujo journey but, above all, have fun.

What’s Next? Here You Can Find More Bullet Journal Ultimate Guides:

Bullet Journal Tips: Make Your Bujo Work In 2023

Bullet Journal Hacks (Get It Ready For 2023)

2021 Bullet Journal Setup

Bullet Journal Setup