Bullet Journaling 101: Getting Started

Bullet Journaling 101: Getting Started main article image
Posted on March 21, 2021 by Melika Jeddi

So, if you’re anything like I was, you’ve heard of journaling, but have no idea what it actually entails. Is it just a fancy term for a planner? Is it just about keeping a diary? Do you use it to set goals for yourself? Is it a creative writing aid? Well, the answer is simultaneously none of the above, and all of the above. Journaling is a great tool for free expression, self-growth, and introspection, and it’s also just a fun hobby. In short, journaling is whatever you want it to be!

I know that can be confusing, so in this series we’ll be breaking down all the ins and outs of starting your own bullet journal. There are so many different things you can consider, but the most important thing is just to start. That’s what this guide is all about! Over time you’ll be able to try more advanced methods of journaling, and figure out exactly what you want from it, but first you need to get to grips with the basics.

The Journal

There are hundreds if not thousands of options for a journal, and we can explore this in more depth in future articles, but for now, you just need something you can write in. Typically, a bullet journal contains paper with a dotted grid, but this isn’t essential. You can choose lined paper, plain paper, gridded paper, or any other kind of paper you like. The only important thing is that the paper is bound together so that you can keep all your notes in one place.

Try to choose a journal/ notebook that appeals to you. There are so many different designs out there, and by choosing one that you find pleasing to look at, you’ll feel more motivated to use it frequently. Your journal is personal to you, so pick one that feels right, and don’t be influenced by what other people use. Of course, if you’re splashing a bit of money on a more expensive journal, then it’s a good idea to look at reviews, but there’s also nothing wrong with choosing a cheap one from a supermarket. It’s what you fill it with that truly matters!

The Stationery

This step is optional, and depends very much on your personality. The only other thing you really need in order to journal is a pen, but many bullet journal fans prefer to have a range of stationery items to choose from.

A range of pens tested in a journal. Image Credit - Brittany Huffman

You may like to add some colour into your journal, and so getting some coloured pens could help encourage you to journal more often. Make sure that when you’re choosing your pens, you consider the quality of your paper. Thinner paper may bleed when you use stronger inks, so if you have thin paper you might stick to fineliners and gel pens. However, if you have thick, 160gsm paper, then you can branch out to brush pens, acrylic markers, and even watercolour paint! Be aware that alcohol markers like Sharpies are likely to bleed through the paper regardless of the thickness, unless you get a notebook specifically made for use with alcohol markers.

You can also add decorative pieces into your journal. A great way to do this is to buy some washi tapes. These come in a whole range of colours and patterns, so you’ll be able to find ones that suit your aesthetic. You can then use washi tape to create outlines in your journal, or to stick in cut-outs of pretty paper. The Creative Fabrica website has hundreds of thousands of gorgeous designs, so why not have a browse and find a pattern that you like? Then just print it out, and use washi tape to stick it in your journal. If you have a Cricut, you can even create stencils using the many fonts available through Creative Fabrica! Check out this blog post for tips on how to use your Cricut.

Stencils used in a journal. Image credit - @pinkcoatclub on Instagram

Stickers are another great way to personalise your journal, and you can buy these individually, or get them as sticker sheets. If you look online or in crafting shops, you can find stickers for any and every aesthetic, so keep an eye out and see if any take your fancy!

The Purpose

Okay, you’ve got your journal, you’ve got your pens, and you’ve got any additional stationery you want. Now you need to figure out what you want to use your journal for. Try not to limit yourself early on. It’s useful to try a range of different journaling options, and see which one feels most natural to you. Below, we’ll look at some of the most popular uses for bullet journals, and you can try out the ones that sound interesting!

Keeping a Diary

Some people use journaling as a means of keeping a diary. They want to capture the special moments, and so they write everything down. Diaries don’t have to be about exciting days, they can be about the memories we form each and every day. It’s a way of remembering your past, and there are valuable lessons that can be learned through introspection like this. You may find that you enjoy writing about your day, however, don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you find that this doesn’t really appeal to you. There are many other less intense methods of journaling!

Tracking Habits

Many people use journaling as a way of taking stock of their lives, and making plans for self-improvement. Tracking habits can be a great way of figuring out what’s important in your life, and building a consistent routine. You can see which areas you already have solid habits in, and which areas you’d like to improve. Journaling is excellent for creating accountability in this department, and can be a visual reminder of the habits you’d like to improve upon. However, it’s important to be kind to yourself, and you shouldn’t push yourself too hard to achieve all your routine habits at once. Take it at your own pace, and make sure to keep journaling as a positive practice in your life rather than something that makes you feel bad about yourself.

15 Minute Tasks. Image credit - Brittany Huffman

Setting Goals and Planning Ahead

If you often find yourself forgetting important dates, or neglecting necessary activities, journaling could be the perfect way to remedy this! You can think about any upcoming events you have, and make a note of them in your journal. That way, as long as you keep journaling a regular activity for yourself, you’ll be able to see any commitments that you have, and can use the journal as a reminder. You can also create a checklist of tasks you would like to accomplish in a given timeframe. Many bullet journal fans create monthly spreads where they list out everything they want to achieve that month, and then they can check it every time they use their journal.


Maybe you’re a budding writer, or you have a penchant for art. Either way, journaling could be a great way to express yourself. If you enjoy art, you can use the pages to draw doodles based on certain themes, and you can practice your lettering. You can choose different themes to base your designs around, and maybe incorporate some of the other ideas above into your artwork. If you like writing, journaling is great for exploring different concepts. Many journal users will choose a prompt each day, and write a page based on that. Prompts can be personal, speculative, or anything in between. In future articles, we’ll look at prompts in more detail, but for now try and think of questions/ topics that resonate with you.

You’re Ready

We’ve covered the basics, and now you’re ready to start your very own bullet journal! Remember, this is your journal, nobody else’s. Don’t feel pressured to fill yours out in a certain way, and if you want to use it for a purpose that I haven’t mentioned above, then go for it. Journaling is a great way to help discover who you are, and who you want to be. So grab your supplies, and try it out for yourself!

Image Credits:

Cover Image – @itsallhanmade on Instagram

Images in Article – Brittany Huffman, @pinkcoatclub on Instagram, Brittany Huffman.

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March 22, 2021

The stencils is such a good idea! With my journal I got so irritated that my drawing wasn't perfect, so I think the stencils are a perfect solution for me!

Melika Jeddi's profile picture
Melika Jeddi

March 22, 2021


Haha, I'm always so messy with my writing, too! Stencils can be really useful :)

Ellen Woolf

March 21, 2021

Ooh this makes me want to start journaling!

Melika Jeddi's profile picture
Melika Jeddi

March 22, 2021


You should! It's such a great way for taking stock of your life! :)

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