Bullet Journal 101: The Basics and How To Get Started

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Since I don’t shut up about my bullet journal, I’ve seen a few of you guys express interest in it and some have even asked for more information. I put together this post with as much information I could think of to include, I hope it helps some of you who had questions about it. Warning: this post will be VERY picture heavy! The best advice I can give you is to not overthink things! Do your journal however way you want to. Use whatever layout works best for you and don’t worry about making it pretty, adding drawings or having nice handwriting. As you’ll see below, most of my layouts are pretty plain compared to the gorgeous ones on Instagram, but it works for ME and for that reason I love it either way. Don’t worry about messing up and if a layout doesn’t work for you, try a new one the next week. That’s the beauty of the bullet journal, you can customize it however way you want. I love to play with different layouts, but I found one recently that I love and I’ll be sticking to that one for a while. Don’t worry about doing things in a certain order either. I keep my dailies together but other than that, I just do whatever spread I feel like at the moment.  I have my workout, meal logs, book stuff and other random pages mixedthroughout my journal and I use my index to reference the page number if I need to find a certain page (that I know I will keep coming back to). The more you use it, the easier and laid back it gets. Don’t worry about making mistakes, I make them all the time and ignore them. There are a ot of mistakes in the pictures below but it doesn’t bother me. Just don’t overthink it.

What You Need:

Here is what you need in order to start your own bullet journal:
1)  Any journal or notebook, you can even use a planner.
2) Pen(s)
That’s it!
Obviously, from the picture above, I went a bit crazy with the pen part, but I do love me some pens. If you wanna get more technical you can also add a ruler and pencil/eraser if you aren’t confident using pen at first. Depending on your journal preferences, you can also use washi tape, stamps, stickers, post its, etc. I don’t use any of that stuff but I see a lot of people that do. Here’s what I use other than a ruler and pencil/eraser:
I use my black pens the most, I have gone through 2 black Staedtler pens and I recently purchased this 5 pack of journaling pens with different tip sizes. I also use a black PIIT calligraphy pen (I suck at t but I practice anyway) and I have a white gel pen that I have yet to use.

I personally like to add pops of color to my journal although I like the black minimalist too. These Staedtlers are my pen of choice. I have the 36 pack which I got from Amazon for about $20 bucks.

These are my favorites, my Zebra Mildliners (also from Amazon). They are light highlighters but…milder? Highlighters would bleed really bad in my journal and were too neon so these are perfect. They are also dual tipped with a finer tip at the other end.

These Tombow dual brush pens I don’t use much…yet. These I use to practice my handwriting which is still not good enough to use in my journal I think although I use it every once in a while. These are great, write very smooth, don’t bleed and have a great brush pen.

The Journal:

When it comes to your journal, you don’t need an expensive one! I’ve seen plenty of people use a normal notebook or journal. You can get one with blank pages, lined, a graph grid or a dot grid which is my personal favorite. I use a Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Journal (Medium/A5) in Pink. They have sooo many colors and different paper options. I love my journal but there are sooo many options. You can see some here, or look some up online. Baron Fig has a great one, a lot of people love Nuuna and Moleskine journals and Erin Condren and May Designs have a grid journal too. There are so many other options to pick from but I love my LT.

Getting Started:

There are some pages n my journal that I keep coming back to, such as my weight tracker, review copy tracker, etc. So I won’t have to keep flipping through my journal to find these pages, I track them in my Index in the front of my journal. I have 3 pages dedicated to my index. Some people don’t use an index at all so it’s up to you if you wanna add this. My LT has numbered pages.

This is my Legend or Key, which is just the symbols I use throughout my journal. Honestly, for now I mostly use the X symbol when I finnish a task and the –> symbol when I have to migrate a task (move it to another day). I hope to incorporate this more in my journal in th future.

Monthly Layouts:

This was my first monthly layout back in September and I hated it. The calendar took me waaaay too long to do, I spent so long trying to make sure the squares were even (I still messed up) and the squares left no space to write much. This was the only time I used this layout but a lot of people love it.

For the next month, I decided to try the original monthly bullet journal layout with a few modifications (the other 3 columns I added) and I loved this! I was able to see my monthly dates as well as what bills I had due, what I had on the blog that day and what workouts I did. I also added a mini calendar in the top corner and a goals and to-do section for that month.

I stuck with that monthly layout minus the extra columns since I was tracking that in my weekly layouts anyway. I added a calendar, notes section and to-do as well. On the next page I added a cute page of things I was looking forward to in November.

As you can see, I really like this layout. This month, I added a books read section for that month too. On the opposite page I did a Christmas Countdown where I color in the ornaments as each day goes by. We celebrate the 24th, which is why my countdown goes up to that day.

Weekly Layouts:

Of course, I need more space for what I have to do. I decided to try out weekly layouts in addition to my monthlies. This was my first weekly layout and it worked for me, but I kept trying more layouts cause I liked trying new ones and coming up with some of my own.
I wanted more color so I tried using highlighters, although I like the look, they bled through a lot.

I added a food tracker to this layout and liked it so much I made more layouts dedicated to it.A simpler layout, also liked this one.

One of my more simpler layouts, which I also liked. Proof that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on your layouts. This took like 3 minutes, if that.

I really liked this layout. I had space for my days, and a separate little space for my workouts and blog schedule as well as a to-do at the top.

A simple layout that tracks a lot of info. I have space for my days, my blog info, my workouts and what books I was reading that day.

Another similar layout.

One of my favorite weekly layouts, it was around this time I realized I wanted more space for my days…

Daily Layouts:

This was my first attempt at a daily layout and although I wasn’t too happy with the vertical timeline, I knew I wanted to keep it in my dailies.

I added things like the weather tracker (just cause I like how it looks) and my water intake. I’ve noticed if I start tracking things, I improve on them.

I was much happier with this layout with the horizontal time tracker. It helps me keep track of my time and find out what I spend my days on and where I waste time. I still like adding my ‘week at a glance’ at the beginning for each week.

I also added my workout trackers and what I was reading.

This is my most recent daily layout and I think I finally got it right!

I decided to add my mood tracker, gratitude, reading, blog, food log and workout trackers right on my daily because I was tracking these on separate pages (more below) and this saves me pages.

Habit/Sleep Tracker:

I’m weird and like tracking random shit. When I’m aware of how often/or not I do things, it makes me want to do better. I keep track of my sleep and habits and as you can see, I’ve gotten better at things like working out, washing my face at night and reading.

These habits are so easy to do, and I love seeing it filled out at the end of the month.

I switched my sleep tracker to dots, not sure how I like it yet…

Workout Tracker/Meal Planning/Food Log:

              I’ll have a more in-depth post on how I use my bullet journal to help with my workouts and healthy eating soon!



Books, Books, Books:

bj-read-7 Since I’ve been taking advantage of my library, especially for backlist books, I added a tracker to help me keep tracks of the books I checked out and their due date. I love how simple and easy this layout is and will keep it when I need to add a new page. For November, I wanted a new layout for the books I read that month. I kept it super simple with a list and star ratings. I didn’t read many books that month unfortunately.

bj-read-12I happened to like the simpler layout for my December tracker so I’m currently using that to keep track of the books I’ve read so far this month. Since I ran out of space on my to-be-reviewed page, I started a new one for new books I have to review.

bj-read-9I was also running out of space on my Audiobook list so I had to add a new page. I added boxes this time and for my doodle I did some headphones that had the shape of a heart. I am oddly proud of my doodle. On the right, I was inspired by a layout I see all the time on Pinterest. I hae so many of these I want to do, but my first attempt was for some of my favorite book quotes. I need a few more pages for more quotes I love.

bj-read-16This is a brand new layout I did last night. I had seen a tv show tracker a lot but I had neer seen one for book series trackers so I thought it would be fun to make one. I have series I don’t care about anymore and have no plans to finish, but there are some I still want to finish and I forget about them. This will help me remember them.

bj-read-10  bj-read-11  bj-read-13  bj-read-14 For the times when I’m too lazy to do a proper review on my blog, I like to do these bullet journal style mini reviews. These are great for when I don’t have a whole lot to say and I love that they are easy, fast and to the point. I eventually want to get in the habit of doing this for every book I read, keep in mind I don’t read as many books as most bloggers.

 bj-read-17  bj-read-18 I loved my favorite quotes layout so I decided to do a few more. Here are some I did on my favorite books, my favorite series, my favorite chick-lit and romance books and my favorite book characters. These were so fun to do and I want to do many more!

As you can see, the best thing about this is the freedom and finding what you like and what you don’t like. Hope you found some good inspiration!

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Nereyda is a 31 year-old mother of two girls with addiction to Friends, fashion, books, Pinterest, Netflix, the color black and a little bit of everything else. Also, the world's worst texter...
  • Yay! Thanks for this, N! I’m interested in doing a couple of these spreads, especially the work out ones. I’m hoping having a workout log will help me do better with my workouts.
    For now I think I’m going to keep my review notes in my smaller lined notebooks. I love the idea of dailiies, but that’s what I use my planner for and I definitely want to separate my academic stuff with my other stuff. I need to get some midliners …

    • I love love love my workout logs, they are such great motivation! No lie, there are some days it’s 9pm and the last thing I wanna do is workout but I think about having to put ‘none’ in my log and it makes me get off my ass and do my workout. Same goes for the water tracker and washing my face at night.
      I love the mildliners, you can get a 5 pack for $5 if you don’t want or need all 15 colors.

  • Nereyda, teach me your ways. I WISH I HAD THE SKILLS TO BUJO like you and Nick do. I’ll just continue hoarding pens and looking at your guyses gorgeous spreads


    I am equally overwhelmed and inspired..I really think I might give this a go for January!

  • WOW! Now thats a lot of pages.. I would love to do this, but i have no idea where i would start, or how i would figure out what i needed to put in!

    Ill give it a try in january, that seems like a good time to begin new things..

    Charlotte xx

    • I’ve been using my journal for 4 months now so yeah, that’s quite a lot of pages. Start with whatever month you’re on and just fill them out as you go. The more you use it, the easier it is to get a hang of. And yes, January is perfect to start although you can practice now 🙂

  • I’m bowing down to your bullet journaling greatness, Nereyda. This post is the best! Thanks for posting it!

  • kindlemom1

    I seriously need to add all those markers and pens to my Christmas wishlist! Thanks for the informative post!

    • The Mildliners are my favorite of the bunch although I use the Staedtlers most often 🙂

  • what a great post. love all the pictures. I just read about bullet journaling a while back. I started to read this post before work this morning. left it up and came back to it. while at i work I decided to give it a shot. I do believe you do better when you track things and write things down. I forget so much.I always have written things down but lose it or forget where I wrote. So I thinkI will do good wih this. The hard part is deciding what all to put in there and the order. I love some of your layouts. I think I might use them as imspiration.

    • Yes, I definitely do much better when I write things down and track them. I hope you love bullet journaling, have fun with the layouts!

  • Oh such a beautiful post here!! I love ALL of your pages, so pretty.

  • Well, my Bullet Journal looks nothing like yours, at all. But still, I love how easy it is to use and modify to your needs, you can do anything and I use it for blogging and RL so I basically carry it everywhere with me, I just love it. And now I think I need to add some creativity to mine because yours looks stunning ^^

    • Yup, I totally get that. I get such bullet journal envy when I look at other journals, but I love mine anyway.

  • I need to find the right notebook to use and stock up on loads of pens. Gotcha. 🙂 I think I need to sit down and make a list of what I I should keep track of in my journal.

    • Yep! This notebook is pretty new, it’s not too pricey, has a dot grid and really great quality paper (http://amzn.to/2hytJAV). I actually have a list in my journal of all the things I want to keep track of in my journal 🙂

  • Awesome 🙂

  • I saw this yesterday but was too distracted by the pretty to comment (bc I immediately went to Pinterest to look at others), but now I’m back and oh my god, Nereyda, you’re amazing at this! I love all the pages you’ve shown here and I’m seriously considering a bullet journal for next year.

    I’ve got an online to-do list and weekly planner and I like those things digitised so I don’t think I’ll change that, but I love what you’ve got for reading and meal-planning (I do like 99% of the cooking at home and meal-planning always annoys me). Thank you for sharing this. 💖

    • Thanks so much! A lot of people use a normal planner (or digital planner) for every day stuff and a bullet journal for collections. Some people even us their planner as a bullet journal combo. There are no rules, you can do whatever.

      I hope you give it a try and that you like it Reg 🙂

      • I like that idea of using both a digital planner and a bullet journal!

        PS: I WENT AND DID IT. I got a BuJo over the weekend, haha. Oh god this really only shows how easily influenced/swayed/excitable I am – but I just fell in love with the idea and after seeing tons of inspo on Pinterest it’s like, why the hell not? Thanks for introducing me to the idea. 😂

  • Wow, I’m impressed and you’re obviously inspired and super creative! The last time I journaled was a decade and a half ago, I use to draw “smileys” (aka emojis) to express my day. So cool!

    • I was obessed with smiley faces at one time when I was a kid so I get it 🙂

  • Oh my gosh! This is so pretty! I always feel like I should do something like this, than I realize what a lazy butt I am sometimes! But seriously, you’re amazing. Thanks for sharing this! If I need inspiration, I’ll know where to go!

    • I am super lazy, just ask Nick, but I really have fun with this so I enjoy doing it 🙂

  • Jazmen

    I started bullet journaling a couple of weeks ago, started being the key word. I’ve gotten nowhere far–not to mention it doesn’t look nearly as awesome as yours. I don’t even think I could get it that great looking. But, I so love the idea of it!

    • Awesome! Mine doesn’t look anywhere as good as the ones I always see online, but I still love my journal cause it’s mine ad I made it 🙂

  • Holy CRAP, Nereyda! This is incredible! I still stand by my previous comment that you should make these for people like me and sell them to our lazy asses at highly marked up prices. Just good business ideas, I churn out 😉 Like, even with rulers I cannot draw straight lines, I am so hopeless. And every time I try to keep a notebook or anything, I lose it. So… yeah, I am seriously a mess. I will just drool over yours, mmmkay? Great!

  • Nereyda, I definitely needed this post in my life. I’ve got all my little bullet journal info and inspiration pages bookmarked and this is going to the top. This is exactly what I need to help me get some ideas of how to set things up and it’s clear. Also, suggestions on stationery is always good because I cannot have enough pens ever. It gives me some ideas for what I need in my bullet journal and stuff I hadn’t even thought of like a page for my library books (I can never remember when I need to return them so I keep renewing them blindly).

  • OMG Nereyda! This is just amazing! I actually started bullet journalling last year but I just felt that it was too much for me to keep up! I am always drained when I get home from work, only because traffic drains all the blood from me! But I’m definitely bookmarking this for ideas this year!