Bullet journaling can help you stay organized, process your thoughts, and even relax, and you don’t need any artistic or writing skills to reap the benefits. Curious? Here’s how to start a bullet journal.

What Is Bullet Journaling?

Bullet journals have plenty of space to be creative.
Bullet journals have plenty of space to be creative. 

A bullet journal is a personal journal that’s typically used to organize thoughts and ideas. You can think of it as part diary, part art sketchbook, part calendar, and part note-taking system. The best part about bullet journaling? You can customize to your specific needs. It’s completely what you make it. 

Unlike a regular journal, a bullet journal doesn’t have lines or blank pages. Instead, each page is filled with faint dots in a grid pattern, which make it easy to create lists, flow charts, doodles, daily to-do lists (known as daily spreads), and more.

To start bullet journaling, you’ll buy a blank dot grid journal and then make it your own. But don’t worry—there are plenty of examples and even bullet journal templates to inspire you. 

Your bullet journal can be filled with lists, doodles, notes, calendars, and more.
Your bullet journal can be filled with lists, doodles, notes, calendars, and more.

How Did It Start? 

Designer Ryder Carroll created the first bullet journal when he was looking for a way to organize personal information in college. He wanted a system in place that would help him cope with his attention deficit disorder (ADD).

After realizing how helpful it was to him, he created a Kickstarter that fully funded the creation of his bullet journal. Since the introduction of the bullet journal, it’s continued to gain popularity and is used by all kinds of people—from students to professionals to creators and more.

What Are the Benefits of Bullet Journaling?

Turns out, there are both short- and long-term benefits to putting pen to paper. Bullet journaling helps you express your emotions privately, organize your thoughts and to-dos, and reflect on your experiences.

Journaling gives you quiet time and space to pause, engage in some self-care, and record your musings and ideas. Plus, since many bullet journals use stickers, patterned tape, doodles, and more, it’s an artistic exercise that can help you channel your creative side. 

Believe it or not, journaling also has proven mental health benefits. In fact, a 2006 study found that of nearly 100 young adults, those who journaled had the biggest reduction in depression and anxiety. 

So if you were hesitant to learn how to start bullet journaling, those upsides are hopefully enough to prove it’s worth it and inspire you to get started. 

The 3 Steps to Bullet Journaling

Step 1: Get Your Supplies in Order

You can start with just a journal and a pen, or gather more art supplies.
You can start with just a journal and a pen, or gather more art supplies.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to create a beautiful bullet journal daily spread.

To build a bullet journal, you only need a dotted notebook and a pen.

But if you want to have more creative control over your bullet journal, stock up on art supplies. Build your bullet journaling art collection with tools like:

  • Colored pencils
  • Colorful pens
  • Glue
  • Paints and paintbrushes
  • Patterned tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Stickers

When it comes to the best pens for bullet journaling, many bullet journal enthusiasts swear by the Sakura Pigma Micron pens. But ultimately, the best pens are the ones you like best. You’re more likely to stick with a project you enjoy, so do what feels good for you.

Step 2: Consider What Purpose Your Bullet Journal Will Serve

When you figure out how to do bullet journaling, think about exactly why you want to get started. 

Do you struggle with time management and want to include calendars and to-do lists? Do you want your bullet journal to be a diary where you can jot down your daily experiences? Are you looking for a form of artistic expression where you can doodle and draw? Do you need a place where you can keep lists and random musings—like titles of books you want to read? 

Before you put pen to paper, consider how your bullet journal will help you. That will help you create a useful tool, as opposed to something that feels like a burden. 

Step 3: Just Get Started

Next? Just put pen to paper—quite literally. Remember, bullet journaling is a creative process without any rigid rules. So, start doodling and jotting things down. That process will teach you a lot about what does and doesn’t work for you. 

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect right away. Start small and stick with it. The best bullet journal is the one you actually use.

Bullet Journal Tips and Ideas

If you find yourself stuck staring at a blank, dotted page, we can help. Use our bullet journaling ideas and tips.

A bullet journal with a weekly schedule.
A bullet journal with a weekly schedule. 

Make a Key and an Index

One of the best bullet journaling tips is keeping your bullet journal organized with both a key and index. 

A key is a list at the start of the bullet journal that clarifies what different shorthand symbols that you’ll use throughout your journal mean (like a square for a task or a triangle for an appointment). 

Your index is like a table of contents that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. On a page near the front of your journal, draw two columns: one for the content and one for the page number. As you fill out pages, update your index accordingly with page numbers. 

Set Aside Time for Consistency

If you’re having difficulty setting aside time to work on your bullet journal, create an accountability system for yourself. Try setting an alarm for 15 minutes to spend working on your journal or going into a room alone where you won’t be distracted.

Remember, creating a consistent habit will take time. Be kind to yourself and keep trying.

Change Up Your Spreads

Sometimes the layout of a spread will work well for you. Other times, it won’t. It’s totally okay to change up the layouts you create or abandon a design that’s not working for you. You don’t have to stick with a specific system.

That’s why it’s helpful to review your bullet journal pages on a monthly basis. Look back at the spreads you’ve created and ask what worked, what didn’t, and what you want to change moving forward.

That reflection will help you continue to refine your system and build a journal that’s most beneficial for you. 

Start Your Own Bullet Journal!

Bullet Journaling for Beginners: A Quick Guide to Start Doodling

Written by:

Kaitlyn Arford