How To Start A Bullet Journal: Easy Setup For Bujo Beginners

woman starting bullet journal diy planner spread in notebook

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For some time now, I’ve been yearning for a practical solution to help me be more productive on a daily basis. After trying my fair share of useless daily planners, printables, and countless productivity apps, I found myself doing what I often do when I’m in need of consul. I searched for the answer on youtube. 

I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal. And after watching a single How to Start a Bullet Journal tutorial, Youtube’s algorithm kept offering a seemingly endless number of suggested videos all relating to Bullet Journaling and how to do it. 

Among them, Bullet Journal for Beginners, Bullet Journal setups, Bullet Journal flip throughs, — I found myself in a whole new world of boundless productivity. From Amanda Rach Lee’s soothing and beautifully creative Bullet Journal setups to Matt Ragland’s simple and minimalist take. Apparently the Bullet Journal is “a thing”. Who knew?

But why all the hype over a simple dotted notebook with a bulleted to-do list? 

The truth is, typical daily planners often don’t work for many people. I’ve certainly struggled to use ordinary daily planners consistently. Furthermore, the idea of creating your own custom daily planner spreads, which perfectly suits your life, is quite intriguing. (Although truthfully, the creative aspect is kind of intimidating if you’re not super artistic.)

But at its core, Bullet Journaling isn’t about beautifully artistic Bullet Journal spreads. Bullet Journaling is about being productivity, setting and crushing goals, and getting things done. 

So what is a Bullet Journal?

What does Bujo mean?

Bullet Journaling is a methodology. It’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. It’s designed to help you organize your what while you remain mindful of your why. And a Bullet Journal is how you do it.

With 2020 being just around the corner, I figure, if the Bullet Journal Method (also known as Bojo for short amongst Bullet Journal fans)(who call themselves Bullet Journalists) is working to help so many become more productive, it couldn’t hurt to give Bullet Journaling a try for the upcoming new year. 

And so begins my Bullet Journal journey. 

How To Start A Bullet Journal?

Step by Step How I Started My First Bullet Journal

As a Bojo newbie, the Bullet Journal looked to me as if one could use any generic composition or spiral notebook. It even seemed practical to perhaps choose a lined notebook vs the dotted notebooks I saw all the Bullet Journalists advocating and using. But as the perfectionist I can sometimes be, I wanted my very first bullet journal to be proper. 

Bullet Journal Notebook for Beginners

I decided to go with the Bullet Journal notebook I saw many popular Bullet Journalists using, the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted notebook. I found that a number of Boju advocates seem to be quite fond of the Leuchtturm1917, who describes themselves as a luxury stationery brand. I also thought this the best brand as Leuchtturm1917 is the brand and official producer of the official trademarked Bullet Journal.

The Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebook is a simple black leather-bound notebook with 251 numbered dotted pages, table of contents, expandable pockets in the back, 2 string page markers, and a stretchy strap to keep the journal closed. 

I was a bit disappointed that a “luxury notebook” didn’t come with a stretchy pen holder affixed to the side (first world problems, I know). But I figure I’ve lived my entire life without a single notebook with a stretch pen holder affixed to the side, so somehow, I’ll manage.

Bullet Journal Supplies

I purchased my Bullet Journal notebook from a lovely little stationery store in New York City named Goods For The Study. But you can also find the full specs and purchase your Leuchtturm1917 notebook on Amazon

After picking up my Bullet Journal notebook, I headed to Muji (another favorite brand of bullet journalists) to round off my bullet journal stationery essentials. See everything I got (all that you really need) in my bullet journal essentials roundup.

Bullet Journal Essential Supplies For Beginners 

  • Bullet Journal notebook.
  • A nice pen. (I really like this smooth gel pen.)
  • 1-2 colored highlighters.
  • Ruler (or something with a straight edge).
  • An outline of the bullet journal spreads you intend on creating (see mine below).
  • Design Inspiration for each spread.
  • Patience.

Bullet Journal Tips for Beginners

Bullet Journal Tips Before You Begin. 

If you’re starting your very first Bullet Journal, the following questions and answers may come in handy. They certainly did for me. You’re welcome.

How many dots did the Leuchtturm1917 A5 bullet journal have going down? How many dots did the Leuchtturm1917 A5 bullet journal have going across? 

The Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebook has 38 dots going down (37 row cells).
The Leuchtturm1917 A5 notebook has 27 dots going down (26 column cells).

Trust me on this one, it may be worthwhile to dedicate a single page in your bullet journal to a spacing grid guide. Use the spacing grid guide to quickly reference, for example, the halfway (½) page mark, one third (⅓) page mark, and/or (¼) page mark of your Bullet Journal page spreads. 


How to make or write nice fonts or lettering for your Bullet Journal when you’re not a calligrapher or artistically inclined?

Keep it simple. Embrace minimalist lettering to save yourself the disappointment of failing terribly at trying to make beautiful lettering.  


Beginner Bullet Journal Set Up 

Pages and Spreads From My Very First Bullet Journal set up

Take a look at my very first bullet journal setup below. It’s not perfect, but keep in mind, that’s not the purpose. Not too shabby for a bujo newbie if I do say so myself. Progress, not perfection. 

// = Denotes pages on either side of a spread.  

FYI I left some pages blank for the flexibility of adding more spread ideas later. 

Spread 1: This Book Belongs To

Spread 2: Index // Index 

Spread 3: Key // Bullet Journal Tips

Spread 4: Grid // Blank Page

Spread 5: Year at a Glance Future Log // Year at a Glance Future Log

Spread 6: Year at a Glance Future Log // Year at a Glance Future Log

DIY Planner Bullet Journal Planner Spread

Spread 7: Running Shopping List // Blank Page

Planner shopping list for bullet journal bujo.

Spread 8: Blank Page // Blank Page

– The following pages are recreated monthly during monthly goals check-in. –

RELATED: How To Set Powerful Goals Like Tony Robbins (And Crush Them)

Spread 9: Monthly Brain Dumb & Notes // Monthly Quote Page 

Bullet Journal Brain Dump

Spread 10: Month at a Glance // Monthly Goals and RPM Outcomes

Bullet Journal Monthly Log Spread Alistair

Spread 11:  Monthly Habits Tracker // Monthly Habits Tracker

Bullet Journal Habit Tracker Example Spread for Inspiration

Spread 12: Week at a Glance (Daily Log Using Alistair Method) // Week at a Glance x # of Weeks

Bullet Journal Alistair Daily Log Example

Spread 13: Weekly Reflection //  Blank Page

Bullet Journal Weekly Review Spread

Thoughts After Setting Up My First Bullet Journal

After setting up my first bullet journal, I found that I really like the Alistair method for my weekly Bullet Journal spread. I find it to be much simpler than days being separated individually. I like the Alistair method because I tend to have quite lengthy to-do lists, and would prefer to have some flexibility in the completion dates for the week. 

RELATED: 106 Excuses That Keep you From Being Absolutely Great

Another thought after creating my first Bullet Journal is that I don’t like my handwriting. But, after all, that’s not what the Bullet Journal is about. 

“The goal of the Bullet Journal is to help its practitioners (Bullet Journalists) live intentional lives, ones that are both productive and meaningful.”

Ryder Carroll

Learn more about Bullet Journaling.

And there you have it, folks, my very first Bullet Journal setup. How’d I do? New to Bullet Journaling? What are your thoughts? Perhaps you’re an experienced Bujo Journalist? What are some of your favorite Bullet Journal spreads for the next time around?


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