The Essential Bullet Journal Tips

how to start a bullet journal

Have you heard of bullet journaling and want to consider trying it for yourself? This post has tons of bullet journal tips that will show you how to get started bullet journaling as early as today.

Maybe you’re already a journal or planner junkie, and you want to try something new to get organized. Or maybe this is the first time you’re hearing about it.

Whatever the case, you may find, like I did, that the bullet journal is the best, customizable organization system you’ve ever used. It also happens to be an amazing way to practice mindfulness.

What Is A Bullet Journal?

It’s difficult to give a simple answer to the question, “What is a bullet journal?” because it is so many things and it can vary based on the person, that is the real beauty of it.

So let’s explore the basics and how some people use their bullet journals so you can understand how it will work for you.

A bullet journal is basically a book or journal that you write it to help you stay organized. It can be a to-do list, a journal, a sketchbook, a writer’s notebook, a daily diary, and nearly anything else you want it to be.

The Bullet Journal Notebook

I am currently using a soft-covered Moleskin notebook for my bullet journal and when it’s full, I’d like to try a bullet journal favourite, the dotted paper Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal notebook. The dotted paper would make it simpler and neater to draw calendars, grids, checklists and more.

bullet journal tips beginners

The bullet journal idea was invented back in 2013 by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn-based digital product designer with the purpose of a creating a self-evolving, mindful organization practice.

Since the early days of Bullet Journaling (also know as BuJo), people have been adapting the simple system into ways which work for them. That’s the beauty of this system, you can take it and make what you want from it.

There are upgrades, bullet journal hacks, tricks and more bullet journal tips that abound the community and the system is designed to encourage you to get creative and make your own path. This means your journal will continuously be changing.

I always find an inspiring array of bullet journal tips on Pinterest, and I’ve been collecting them all on the below Bullet Journal Pinterest board which I like to refer for new ideas.

Bullet Journal Pinterest Ideas

My own bullet journal is constantly changing. I started out drawing in monthly calendars and quickly dropped them in favour of monthly to-do lists sorted by personal and professional. I’m definitely following a minimalist bullet journal style.

One of the appeals to using the bullet journal analog organizational tool in our digital age is that it encourages you to stop, focus, connect and put pen to paper. This is something many of us have drifted away from in favour of digital tools.

A notebook is distraction-free. You won’t have pop-ups, email notifications, Facebook, or anything else to distract you.

Following my recent 7-day gentle digital detox, my bullet journal has reminded met that it really is an excellent way to get a screen break. In this technological age, most of us can really use that.

There is something creative that opens up in a new way when you put that pen to paper. It’s also beneficial because writing things down will help you remember them better than just typing a note into a digital planner.

The Ultimate Bullet Journal Tips Guide

How To Bullet Journal

So now you know what a bullet journal is and why it works, but how do you do it?

If you just start Googling “bullet journals” you’re likely to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the info out there. If you look on Pinterest, you will feel either inspired or intimidated by all the creative, crafty designs (or both).

However, if you’re thinking of trying it for yourself, you should start simple. Just a good notebook and a comfortable pen will do. Don’t worry about trying to make it fancy or pretty, or it will hinder your ability to use this as a tool.

The Bullet Journal Setup

First and foremost, the bullet journal should make your life easier. If you’re the creative type and you want to pretty it up later, then go for it.

However, the first step is to turn it into a system that helps you organize your life.

You can vary the structure of your bullet journal to fit your needs but here are the essential parts that most people use:

Rapid logging – This contains topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets to help organize your entries.
Entries – This contains tasks, events, and notes, organized with signifiers are described below.
Modules – This is a way to separate various tasks like your index, your future log, monthly log, and the daily log of things to do.
Signifiers – This is how you categorize your entries. You will mark your signifiers in your Key, which we discuss further below.
Migration – This can be done on the daily, weekly, or monthly. Re-writing unfinished tasks will help keep them fresh in your mind and motivate you to finish them, so you don’t have to continue migrating them.

Again, these are just the basics of a bullet journal layout, and you can alternate or vary these to suit your needs better.

Using these basic parts and a notebook or journal that suits your needs, you will log your daily activities, appointments, to-do lists, grocery or shopping lists, and pretty much anything else you need to track and remember.

Although I keep a really minimalist bullet journal, my favourite bullet journal hack is to use washi tape on the side of a page that is really important to me (e.g., notes from a meeting, health tracker etc.). This makes identifying the most meaningful pages super simple.

simple bullet journal hack

This is how I identify my most used bullet journal pages.

For many people, the bullet journal replaces the need for several different books and planners. You have it all in one place, making it easier to track and easier to complete.

Building Your Bullet Journal Key

When it comes to bullet journaling, your key is going to be the most important aspect of getting started. This page found near the front is used to help you track everything inside your journal.

So when you make lists and create logs and other pages, your bullet journal key will signify to you where you are regarding progress. How much work you still have to do, what has been completed, and what has been migrated will all be organized with the key.

Bullet journal layout

This index is the key to finding everything in your bullet journal

There are structures that exist to help you formulate your bullet journal key, but you shouldn’t allow yourself to feel limited by them or restricted in format. You can edit, change, or recreate your own key in whatever way works for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the common key indicators and then you can decide for yourself what you want to use and how.

Here are the backbone pages of a bullet journal:

• Index
• Future Log
• Year at a Glance
• Monthly Log
•Daily Log

Again, you can change these or add to them as it suits you.

The Bullet Journal Signifiers

Next, you’re going to need are your bullet journal signifiers. This is the term used for the icons that mark what something is within your bullet journal.

If you Google it, you’re going to see so many, it might overwhelm you. This is because you can make literally anything a signifier so people use the ones that work for them.

Whatever speaks to you and helps you remember your tasks and where you are with them, is what you should use. You might experiment with different bullet journal signifiers before finding the ones that really resonate with you. In fact, we highly encourage experimentation before settling on a final structure.

Here are some common bullet journal signifiers and how they are used:

Box – For tasks, you need to do. You can fill in or check the box once they are completed.
Triangle – For appointments or places to go. You can fill in or check once it’s done.
Star – Urgent tasks or things that need an added visual cue so as not to miss them.
Heart – For memories and special things
Dot – Things to remember or log. Lists, etc.

Bullet journal signifiers ideas

These are the signifiers I am using in my bullet journal.

Again, you can add to these, ditch ones you don’t like, and change up the meanings for them however you want. You will probably find as you use your bullet journal more and more that your key will change and evolve over time. This is a good thing. You want this to be customized to you so that you can get the most benefit from it.

Using Your Bullet Journal for Mental Health

There are many different ways that people are choosing to use their bullet journals.

This all-in-one planner concept is incredibly popular in part for how versatile it is and also because it is so useful in a variety of ways. People can use it to track their daily and monthly goals and to-dos.

You can also use it for logging your day, processing thoughts and ideas, planning a project, writing a book, and so much more. It’s your brain on paper and in an organized way. So it’s easy to see when looking at it like this that a bullet journal can also be very helpful for mental health.

Bullet Journal Ideas

Here are some ways people use their bullet journal for better mental health:

• To track and manage anxiety
• As talk/thought therapy – to journal about thoughts and feelings
• Stress management
• Logging diet and/or exercise
• Habit tracking

There are logical reasons why a bullet journal can help you with mental health.

For one, if you’re feeling out of sorts, anxiety, or struggling with thoughts and emotions that are running away with you, organizing things into a systematic layout can be very therapeutic.

You might not be able to make sense of everything in your life or solve all of your problems at once, but you can track, organize, and sort through ideas, goals, and things you need to do in the bullet journal. It brings some organization to the chaos, some understanding to the madness.

I consider using my bullet journal to be a part of my self-care practice  as taking the time to do a ‘brain dump’ and journal is known to help promote better sleep.

Here are some ways to add self-care to your bullet journal:

• Consider what makes you happy
• What gives you energy?
• What drains your energy?
• How can you structure your time to focus on the things that matter most to you?

You might create certain bullet journal sections that cover self-care topics such as Recharge, Gratitude Log, or even tracking your Meditation practice.

When using your bullet journal to help with positivity and mental health, remember that you are not your to-do list. Life isn’t about how many things you can complete in a day or a week. It’s about managing your time, organizing your tasks, and staying centered as you focus on a healthy work-life balance.

bullet journal mental health

The simple way I use my bullet journal for self care and wellness goals.

Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes, the time to recharge, and the space to grow.

Your bullet journal should be a tool to help you organize your life in a way to allow you to do more of the things you love. It shouldn’t feel like more pressure to get things done or another chore you have to check off.