Bullet Journal Quick Start Guide

BuJo QSG

After writing yesterday’s post on the importance of using a Bullet Journal, I felt like it was time to write a Quick Start Up Guide.

What is a Bullet Journal?

A lot of people have heard of the Bullet Journal by now, and most people still want to know: is it a calendar, a journal, or a planner? The answer is: yes. This system sounds sleek and fancy, but it really is super simple. So simple that you could look around your house and find everything you need to get started right now.

The system is a method of keeping your life contained in one journal. So, your calendar gets written in here, your grocery list, the notes from last week’s seminar, your plans and dreams for the future – all of it. Just turn to the next page, title it, and start writing.

Sound too random to really work for you? Maybe at first. It might take a couple weeks to fully transition to the method, but I guarantee that the writing part of it all will be so rewarding that it will far outweigh your original feelings of skepticism.

How does it work?

There are four main pillars of the system: a spread, the index, migration, and future logs.

Most importantly, before you give this method a try, you will need to abandon any notion of doing it “right or wrong.” This is your journal, do what makes sense to you. The only essential piece to the success of your journal is to just keep writing.

Now, for pillar #1: A Spread

This is the next open page in your journal. What goes on the new spread is totally up to you.

Spread = the next blank page

Spread = the next blank page

A spread could be:

  • Your daily agenda
  • The current month’s events and dates to remember
  • A grocery list
  • You name it – whatever is going on in your life can be written down on a spread

#2: The Index

This is the only organization piece of the Bullet Journal system. It’s simple, easy, and streamlined. It’s commonly what people want to skip in using the system, but trust me when I tell you that this index will serve as a valuable record once you’re well into the middle and end of your journal.

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How to index:

  1. Section off the first 4 pages of your blank journal and dedicate these pages as the INDEX. (If you choose to use the Lechtturm journal – recommended below – the Index is included as the first 4 pages.)
  2. Title each new spread. (Keep it simple! And use shorthand. See picture above for example.)
  3. Write a page number at the bottom of each spread.
  4. Record the page number and title on your index page.

#3: Migration

Sometimes when I write a to do list, I include everything I must do and everything I want to do. When the want-to-dos don’t get done, the mark of their true importance is whether I want to move them to the next day’s spread and list them again. This is the process of migration.

Benefits of migration:

  • Rewriting tasks takes intention
  • Intention fuels productivity
  • Conversely, rewriting a task multiple times reveals that the task may be irrelevant

Threading is also nice when migrating tasks or thoughts to a new spread. To remember where in your journal you first wrote a specific plan or idea, just write that page number at the bottom of the new page next to the current page number.

It would look similar to this: 45 | 62

The “45” is the first page a topic was written down, and the “62” is the current page you are on.

#4 Future Logs

A future log is usually a collection of plans, dates, and events for the future. Since the point of the system is to remain in a daily mindset and not write plans in advance, the future log is a place to jot down future events that need to be remembered.

So, if you are currently in the month of January, then you would write out the whole month in dates and days on the first of the month for reference. Every day in the month of January would then get a fresh spread. (You can combine days and write more than one day on a spread.)

May 2016 166

To create a future log:

  1. Open a spread and section it into months of the year
  2. Label the months
  3. Jot down dates and events you’re already aware of
  4. Include the page number and record this log in the index 

Can I customize it?

Yes! One of the beauties of this system is how unique it is to the user. Some prefer to go all out and buy tons of scrapbooking extras and others work best by using a simple spiral notebook with no bells and whistles.

I created a Budget Bullet Journal for keeping track of our ledger. I keep this in a separate notebook which is technically a breaking of the Bullet Journal rules.

Thou shalt not keep separate calendars, notebooks, or planners.

But I’m okay with that. I’ve been with the system long enough to know what encourages me to write and keep the system going and what discourages me and leave me staring at blank pages.

Do what works for you in order to just keep writing.

What makes this system different than other packaged systems?

For those who struggle with fear of failure, this system is golden because you simply can’t fail at it. Each new day is a blank page. Start fresh.

For the creative types, there isn’t a box you have to fit your ideas into. Live it up, the Bullet Journal is your muse.

For the rebels and control freaks, you are in complete charge of where your Bullet Journal goes. You can be as ordered, organized, and OCD as you need to be.

What do I need to get started?

Simple Start – you probably already have what you need. A simple spiral notebook like this one and something to write with works fine.

Better Start – I have used a spiral notebook, a plain Moleskine (no lines or grid), a dotted Lechtturm 1917 (dots are my favorite – plus the pages are already numbered for you!), and an Official Bullet Journal.

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The Official BuJo doesn’t add any value for the added price (and it’s often “out of stock”) so my top recommendation for starting out is to get a dotted Lechtturm.

Optional accessories:

  • Specific pens, these are fun but these are my favorite
  • Page flags, I’ve used these in the past to mark months
  • Washi tape, YouTube videos abound on how to dress up your journal – I do not recommend this (I tried it, and it proved to just slow me down and make me feel obligated to make a system out of the colors of tape). Some people really enjoy adding this flare, so to each their own!
  • Pen holder attachment for a Lechtturm, there are many options to choose from – none are necessary

What’s in the name?

Bullet Journal comes from the creator of the system who recommends writing your lists using a “bullet” mark. Once the task is complete, you mark an “X” through the bullet. I personally prefer to use the “Dash-Plus+” system. Again, their’s freedom and beauty in the uniqueness of using the Bullet Journal system.

So. What are you waiting for? Get writing!

Want to learn even more? I share even more tips and challenges in the Accountability emails. Click here to get started and make sure to mark “Yes!” to get motivation in your mailbox.

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4 thoughts on “Bullet Journal Quick Start Guide

  1. Thanks Cara! This is the best post I’ve read on bullet journals. I’ve been thinking about it and reading various blogs, but usually ended up overwhelmed. Now I think I’m ready to grab a blank notebook and get started. Thanks!

    1. You aren’t the first person who has told me that they feel overwhelmed to try the Bullet Journal system! I was hoping this post would help. It truly is simple, and it can be whatever you need it to be – you just need to jump in. :)

  2. Excellent post.

    And to anyone else that feels intimidated; I got started with just a paperback school exercise book (A5 size) and a normal ball point pen. That gave me a chance to “mess around” and try things out before finding what worked for me.

    The real trick is to persist for a month or two until the system really starts to click for you.

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