How to Start a Bullet Journal [2021 Step by Step Guide]

Today you’re going to learn how to start a bullet journal.

In fact, it can be really overwhelmed.

You got a dot grid notebook plus cool fountain pen and suddenly this weird feeling appears – what the heck should I do now.

So if you want to know:

  • how to start a bullet journal
  • what are bullet journal basics
  • how to create a custom bujo pages in your notebook
  • what is the best bullet journal setup for work or school
  • what are these little tips, tricks, and hacks that’ll make your start easier

Then you’ll love this awesome beginner’s guide to bullet journaling.

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.

How To Start a Bullet Journal

After one year of regular bullet journaling, I know exactly how enormous overwhelmed is to start your own bujo. 

Especially if you spend a lot of time scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. 

Undoubtedly, you see these amazing bullet journals set up with a lot of spreads, gorgeous hand lettering and fancy doodles.

As a result, you stuck. From my experience, there are three most common obstacles that bullet journal newbies meet.

Problem No. 1: First Page Fear

In my opinion, an empty first page of your brand new (and sometimes really expensive) notebook is like a blank page syndrome for many writers. Especially if it’s your first bullet journal and you don’t know where to start (about it in a moment).

Indeed, fear of ruining a perfect notebook can be so strong that you into a procrastination trap, giving up an idea of organizing life in a flexible diy planner.

Bullet Journal Actionable Step No. 1

First and foremost, before you even think of investing in any bujo products, get a random notebook. For example, I bought mine in a local store. Without a doubt, the temptation of buying all these stunning notebooks, fancy pens, and funny accessories is high.

Nevertheless, you don’t want to end up with tons of useless products and empty bank account. In general, getting awesome bujo supplies really drains your wallet.

Problem No. 2: You’re Not Sure How to Start a Bullet Journal

Last year I read a ton of bullet journal blog posts, watched YouTube videos. Moreover,  I even bought books about bullet journaling. Generally, all the information I found was super useful. However, I wasn’t able to make them work for me.

For a long time, I didn’t understand why bullet journaling took me so much time and somehow it didn’t serve me very well. I loved the idea but I couldn’t find a way to suit my needs. Do you know why? – because of copying other bullet journalists’ setups.

How to make a bullet journal? – The very first thing you want to do is to try this kind of system. Maybe you’re a ready-to-use planner girl and that’s ok too.

Bullet Journal Actionable Step No. 2

If you’re wondering what kind of spreads you should make in your fist bujo, some of the bullet journal pages examples you’ll find in this article as well. However, you need to take action right now.

As a warm-up, create one simple bujo weekly spread. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the month or today is Thursday. Just do it now and see how you feel using it for the whole week.

Problem No. 3: Being a Perfectionist

There’s nothing wrong with having aesthetic bujo pages. However, if your next obstacle for not starting a bullet journal is your inner perfectionist, please get rid of her. It doesn’t matter that your lettering is terrible. No one cares that you can’t draw. Of course, you may not get tons of likes on Instagram but does it matter at all?

Here is an example of starting a bullet journal, using ordinary stationery from a local store. And yes, I misspelled one word – who cares?

Besides, after spending some time on regular bullet journaling, you’ll see how it improves your writing and doodling skills.

Now let’s talk about mistakes. There is no way that you’re able to avoid any mistakes in your first bullet journal. Accept them and move on.

Bullet Journal Actionable Step No.3

Learn from other bullet journalists’ mistakes and check out how to fix them easily here.

Bullet Journal Supplies

Now, when you know what is a bullet journaling, how to create spreads and make them useful, you decide if it’s something that is worth your time.

If yes, it’s shopping time. It can be the funniest part or the worst nightmare of starting a bullet journal. You visit Amazon and suddenly you have absolutely no idea what you should get.

No matter if you’re tight of budget or can afford more pricey products, it takes a little bit of time and research ahead to find perfect bullet journal supplies that work for you.


When it comes to the notebook, there are several important factors that you should take into consideration.

First of all, think about what kind of bujo you’d like to use.

For all artistic souls, when doodling, drawing, using watercolors, inking are priorities, the main factor that influences decision making should be the paper thickness.

It literally means how thick is the paper – if you want to avoid bleeding through the paper and ghosting from fountain pen or markers, focus on the weight of the paper and invest in a more pricey option.

Secondly, decide how much you want to invest in bullet journaling. Good news – there are still many great options for a reasonable price under $10.

Thirdly, consider some other features like the paper color, cover (hard or soft), additional conveniences (page numbers, index, key, inner pocket, bookmark).


During my first year of bullet journaling, I’ve tested many pens. Only two of them exceeded my expectations.

In the fountain pen category, the winner is Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen. For a really great price, you get a pen which seems to be more luxurious than it is in reality. It writes super smooth and comfortable even on a cheap paper. More reviews you can find here.

PILOT Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)
2,313 Reviews
PILOT Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen, Black Barrel, Classic Design, Medium Nib, Black Ink (91107)
  • Pilot's sleek Metropolitan Collection signature pens
  • Finest quality at a mid-range price
  • Medium nib

Last update on 2020-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For regular pens, I highly recommend Sakura Pigma Micron pens. The pens are easy to hold and don’t smear (even if you’re left-handed). The black of the ink is unbelievable….black. You get them in a great variety of sizes – from thin (amazing for fine detailing) to thick (for larger areas). Check out more reviews.


There are so many stunning accessories you may want to buy right now. But take it slow – in the beginning, I’d go for stencil set (to make your life easier and create spreads faster), some color fineliners, highlighters or mildliners and that’s all.

Tombow 56149 Dual Brush Pen Art Markers, 96 Color Set with Desk Stand. Blendable, Brush and Fine Tip Markers with Stand
1,188 Reviews
Tombow 56149 Dual Brush Pen Art Markers, 96 Color Set with Desk Stand. Blendable, Brush and Fine Tip Markers with Stand
  • Water-based pens ideal for coloring, fine art, illustrations, doodling, journaling, hand lettering and more!
  • Includes 96 colors, including a colorless blender, and a desk stand
  • Flexible brush tip and fine tip in one marker! Brush tip works like a paintbrush to create fine, medium or bold strokes; fine tip gives consistent lines

Last update on 2020-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

My Favorite Bullet Journal Products

Although I tried quite a lot of bujo supplies, I’m still in love in my top three:

Dingbats Earth Dotted Medium A5+ Hardcover Journal - PU Leather, FP Proof 100gsm Coated Cream Paper, Numbered Pages, Inner Pocket, Elastic Closure, Pen Holder, 2 Bookmarks (Sky Blue GBR)
6,112 Reviews
Dingbats Earth Dotted Medium A5+ Hardcover Journal - PU Leather, FP Proof 100gsm Coated Cream Paper, Numbered Pages, Inner Pocket, Elastic Closure, Pen Holder, 2 Bookmarks (Sky Blue GBR)
  • LOTS O' FEATURES: Durable hardcover bound with PU faux leather, round corners, animal footprint endsheets, micro-perforated 100gsm cream pages, inner pocket, bookmark, a lay flat design and elastic closure. Also includes a pen holder - perfect.
  • For Bullet Journaling: Numbered pages, 3 index pages, 2 key pages and 16 micro-perforated pages. The endsheets are also finely printed with an infographic spread of the endangered region. Size: Medium A5+ (6.3 x 8.5); Sheets: 96 (192 pages)
  • MULTIPURPOSE JOURNAL: Can be used as travel notebook, journal, diary, business / executive / office notebook, gift, workout journal, travel journal, school journal, recipe journal etc.

Last update on 2020-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sakura Pigma 30062 Micron Blister Card Ink Pen Set, Black, Ass't Point Sizes 6CT Set
11,778 Reviews
Sakura Pigma 30062 Micron Blister Card Ink Pen Set, Black, Ass't Point Sizes 6CT Set
  • Experience smooth, skip-free writing in crisp, rich black ink to achieve consistent lettering and lines widths.
  • Professional inking pens used by comic artists, illustrators, watercolor artists, archivists, and laboratory professionals.
  • Pigma ink is archival quality on paper: waterproof, chemical resistant, fade resistant, bleed free, quick drying and pH neutral.

Last update on 2020-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Tombow Pen Dual Brush Markers (Bright)
5,776 Reviews
Tombow Pen Dual Brush Markers (Bright)
  • Ideal for fine art, brush lettering, faux calligraphy, illustrations, water color illustrations, journaling and more!
  • Set of 9 colors and 1 blender pen, with flexible brush tip and fine tip in one marker
  • BRUSH TIP: Durable and flexible nylon fiber brush tip, creates medium or bold strokes by changing brush pressure

Last update on 2020-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

New Bullet Journal SetUp

As I said before, starting a bullet journal can be a daunted experience. That’s why it’s so important to build it up slowly and create the following bullet journal layout step by step. There’s no need to rush.

One of the most common bujo myths is that it requires a lot of time. Of course, doodling, drawing art or hand-lettering are time-consuming. However, if you focus only on the practical part of the diy planner, you tackle it down with less than 15 minutes.

Below I wrote down recommendable bullet journal page structure. Think about it rather as a reference than the ultimate guide.

Bullet Journal Key

If you’re wondering what bullet journal key is, it’s a page where you set up all of the symbols and icons you use to categorize all the information in a clear, visual way. Simply said: it’s your personal code.

The main goal of creating a bujo key is to manage your personal or business (or both) tasks, memos or to-do lists and their stage of process aka progress (completed, migrated, canceled).

The basic symbols include tasks, appointments, events, notes. You’ve already known that the beauty of bullet journaling is in customization.

In order to personalize it, you may need to add some icons important for any aspect of your life. It could be symbols for prioritizing the tasks (urgent, important), managing a budget (expenses, bills), deadlines (due date, reminders) or personal life (birthday, ideas, inspiration).

key ideas bujo

Aside from the signifiers, there is another bullet journal key option. By adding a color code to your notebook, you make your notes easier and faster to understand. It’s a huge time saver.

Bullet Journal Examples: Index

Don’t underestimate bullet journal index power. At the beginning of my bullet journal adventure, I considered it a waste of page.

I was so wrong. I started my current notebook in January and after five months I made many spreads.

It’d be hard to know where is what without a bujo index. It’s like a guide. Very good guide. It enables you to stay on track of your layouts, bujo collection spreads, habit tracker and other stuff you create in your diy bullet journal planner.

For me personally, keeping your bullet journal index and key as simple and minimalistic as possible is the best way to make it work.

bullet journal spread ideas

If I have to completely honest, the hardest thing to describe and help you is to tell you how to set up the following pages. There are so many bullet journal page ideas you’ll find on Pinterest or Instagram.

My only advice would be to keep it simple, try out something new every single time, and see what works the best for you.

Monthly Layout

The main goal of the monthly layout is to have a glance for your entire month in one or two pages. It’s a great place to organize your appointments, deadlines, events and other important dates.

bujo monthly layout

Weekly Spreads

Similar to bujo monthly pages, bujo weekly layouts help you to keep up with daily tasks and goals.

Bujo Daily Log Set Up

For the most part of my bullet journal journey, I haven’t used daily pages very often.

Maybe I’m more monthly and weekly planning kind of gal. However, adding a daily spread in your notebook helps you to get the most out of your day.

Currently, I’m trying out Tim Ferriss’s morning routine that includes a 5-minute journal.

bullet journal beginners spread

Bujo Collections

sleep tracker habits bujo

Bullet Journal Printables

Let’s make an assumption. You’re a busy person. Searching for bullet journal inspiration and creating bujo spread isn’t necessarily your thing. Does it mean that you can’t using a bullet journal system to manage your time and organize daily tasks? Absolutely not.

There are plenty of ready-to-use bullet journal pdf templates on Etsy. Feel free to choose between monthly layout with goals section or weekly spread with habit tracker and water log.

It’s a very affordable option – on average it’s a cost of one Starbucks medium coffee latte.

How to use a bullet journal print?

First of all, get printable of your choice and print it out (in order to avoid scaling the pages when your print, set the print size to “actual size”). Next, cut it out and glue into your notebook. I share with you my secret hack: I love using Tombow MONO Adhesive Dots Applicator – it’s easy to use and leaves no mess.

Bullet Journal Apps & Digital Bullet Journal

There are a whole bunch of people who journal online using apps like Bear or 5 Minute Journal.

I know, nowadays it’s very simple to replace (or complete) a physical item with a correspondent digital product. That’s why you shouldn’t be shocked (as I was at first) that you can start a bullet journal on your Ipad.

But I was.

Recently I’ve played around a digital bullet journal and must admit – it’s kind of cool concept.

There are quite a lot pros: no spending on bullet journal supplies, easy to fix mistakes, reducing the use of paper and be eco-friendly, portability. Although I’m a team of pen and paper, I think it’s worth to try it out.

In the near future, I’ll gather all my experience and write an article about how to start a bullet journal in a digital way. So stay tuned. For now, please check out how to start a digital bullet journal video to see how it looks like.

Bullet Journaling for Beginners – Final Thoughts

No matter if it’s the beginning or middle of the year, do not hesitate to start a bullet journal right now.

Avoid falling into a trap of being a perfectionist. Mess up with these beautiful pages with horrible handwriting and be more productive and organized than you’ve ever been in your life.

What’s Next? Here You Can Find More Tips On Bullet Journaling:

bullet journaling
beginners guide bullet journaling
bujo guide beginners
how to start bullet journal
step by step bujo guide
getting started bullet journaling 2021

How to Start a Bullet Journal

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