Bullet Journal 101-Setting Up Your Bullet Journal

The bullet journal is an analog system, meaning you don’t need anything more complicated than a notebook and a pen or pencil. It's very customizable, allowing you to change things around as you wish. In this article, I will walk you through the setup for a traditional bullet journal as first introduced by Ryder Carroll from BulletJournal.com. Use it as a starting point, get comfortable with the basic system and then you can add to it or change it from there.

Getting Started

To get started you’ll need a notebook, a pen, and a little bit of time. The type of notebook you use is up to you. The traditional style is a grid or dotted paper, but I find even ruled or blank pages work just fine.

Bullet journal image shows an open blank bullet journal with a weekly log on the left side of the book and grid page on the right.
Bullet Journal

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Setting Up Your Bullet Journal

The Key

The first page of your bullet journal will include your key. Ryder Carroll developed and uses these traditional codes in his bullet journal. Feel free to add to it, or modify it as needed.

  • ᐧ (Dot) Task
  • X Completed Task
  • > Migrated Task
  • ⃝ Appointment
  • ⬤ Completed Appointment
  • ⟴ Migrated Appointment
  • –  Notes

The Index

The index will be the next two to four pages. This will allow you to quickly find any collection, or get to a particular month without having to flip through your entire journal. Title each page as an index page and move on to the next section. Some journals have pages designated for the Index, but if your journal doesn't it's easy to create an Index.

The Future Log

The Future Log is a two-page spread that records dates and other important information for the entire year. . A future log is a great place to record birthdays, and anniversaries, block out vacation time, or any event happening in the year. Note the page number and record your future log in your index.

Monthly Logs

Start each month with a monthly log. Here you’ll record appointments and due dates. You can use a grid layout, or use one line for each day of the month. The monthly log will come in handy when you need a quick glance at the whole month.

Daily Logs

The daily log is where you’ll spend most of your time in the journal. Start a new section each day and record anything important for the day. Make a list of daily tasks. Once completed mark those tasks off the list. Make notes of anything important you need to remember throughout the day as well as appointments as they pop up. From there you can move it as needed to the monthly or future log, or migrate it to a different day.

Migrating Tasks

Review your daily log at the end of your day, or first thing the next morning. If you have tasks that weren't completed migrate them to your current day. For example, if you didn’t get around to doing laundry today, draw an arrow through it and add the task to today’s daily task list. If you noted an appointment that came up yesterday, move it to your monthly list and draw an arrow through it in yesterday’s list. If something no longer applies then cross it out. Your goal is to deal with each entry from your daily list by completing it, migrating it, or crossing it out.


The final part of a bullet journal is collections. These are thematical lists you make. A perfect example is a list of books you want to read. Start the list on the next blank page. Title it and start jotting down the books you want to read. Make a note of the page you’re on and add this collection to your index page. Now when you want to add a new book title to this list or reference it to see what you want to read, you can easily find it via the index.

Artistic Pages

If you spend time on Pinterest or Instagram you will so many different spread ideas. If you start to doubt your journey with a bullet journal remember those spreads come with time. As you progress in your Bullet Journal journey you can add these types of pages. Now you can do this from the beginning too, but starting small is a good idea to help you build your new habit.

Bullet Journal Supplies


There are hundreds of journals available. Hopefully, this post will help you narrow down your choices. What it comes down to is what works best for you.

  • Scribbles That MatterThis is my favorite journal. I love the paperweight, the color, and the ease of use. I have several of these journals, and their quality makes me go back time and time again. I highly recommend this journal.
  • Moleskin or Leuchtturm NotebookThese journals are classic bullet journal books. They are great for traditional bullet journaling. If you are going to do more artistic pages these journals won't work well for you. The paper is thinner and you will have a lot of bleed-through if you use markers.
  • Erin Condren-Erin Condren notebooks are great for bullet journaling. The paperweight is high enough that you don't have bleed-through when you use markers. Spiral-bound notebooks are included in the product line. These are great because of the flexibility notebooks allow.
  • Archer&Olive– Another premium journal that is great for bullet journaling.

These are just a few of the hundreds of journals available. Find one you like and get started. As you progress in your Bullet Journaling you can evaluate other journals.

Pens and Markers

I could spend hours talking about pens and markers. I love them! In my opinion, you can never have too many. But I will narrow down the list and recommend a few to you.

  1. Micron Fineliner-these fineliners are 100% the best fineliners I've ever used. They are great for underlining and outlining. I love them!
  2. Tombow-a great dual marker that has a writing tip and a brush tip on the other end. If you are into lettering these are great!
  3. Papermate Flair-I love these markers! I have used these markers in one way or another for 20-plus years! They don't bleed through paper, and you always get a crisp line with them. You can also use them to color!
  4. Gel Pens-I used to hate gel pens. When they were new they didn't have great quality. In the years that have passed the quality has changed, and most gel pens are great to use. The metallic ones are great to use in a black paper journal!
  5. Ooly– This shop will make you feel like you're back in childhood! I love all their markers.


Stencils are great if you are not the best artist and need help with creating your spreads! There are so many different ones available you are sure to find one that meets your needs. I have used them often to create a spread that I knew I couldn't draw.

Getting Started With Your Bullet Journal

Getting started in Bullet Journaling is simple. Get your notebook or journal and create your index page. After you have done that make your future log, then your monthly page, and you're ready to go. Daily pages are easy to make and will get you started quickly. Remember this is your journal and if you don't want all of these spreads in your journal that is okay! Find your style, and what gets you organized easily.