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How To Set Up A New Bullet Journal

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It may seem daunting to set up a Bullet Journal in a blank notebook without knowing where to start. In this article, you’ll find easy layouts that you can customize to fit your daily bullet journaling practice.

Why start a Bullet Journal?

Before we dive into setting a new Bullet Journal, let’s first remind ourselves of the purpose of this simple but mighty notebook.

The original Bullet Journal way of planning was created by Ryder Carroll and documented with step-by-step guides in his book “The Bullet Journal Method”. If you’re not familiar with it, I would highly recommend reading (and re-reading) because it’s so helpful. One thing that stuck with me is the way Ryder describes the Bullet Journal (also referred to as BuJo) as a “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” Mindful planning is just one of the many positive outcomes of bullet journaling. 

Other reasons to keep a Bullet Journal include:

  • being able to track different habits and areas of your life
  • use as much or as little space as needed and not feel pressured to use pre-dated pages
  • have all the information you want in one book
  • using a system that has basic guidelines but can be customized as you want

I came across a photo of a Bullet Journal spread on Instagram in 2018 which intrigued me, and after watching Ryder’s videos on, I set up a pen-only  Bullet Journal. Not only did it help me get organized with the thoughts and tasks that distracted my mind all day, it also helped me remember things a lot easier as intentional writing is one of the aspects of bullet journaling. I felt more in control of my day and when it became hectic, I could turn to my BuJo to keep me grounded and present.

I’ve  since experimented with different notebooks, supplies, and styles to find layouts that are functional and also aesthetically pleasing to my personal taste. I find it fun to create spreads from scratch, but if a blank page seems a bit intimidating, then below are some layout ideas for you to get you started. I encourage you to play with the ideas and make them your own.

The Basic Setup of a Bullet Journal

In my opinion, there is no “right or wrong” way to keep a Bullet Journal, but there are fundamental building blocks to help you streamline the practice. The original method to a Bullet Journal according to Ryder Carroll, if you choose to build on it, is based on an analog system (paper and pen) along with basic sections (referred to as “Collections”) that make a BuJo effective. These include::

  • Future Log
  • Monthly Log
  • Weekly Log
  • Daily Log
Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings July, August, Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec as part of a Future Log layout
The Future Log is a collection to record upcoming events and tasks for the next year.
Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings Monthly Log and Weekly Log
Collections of tasks and events broken down to the current month and upcoming week.

To make the Bullet Journal a useful reference and tracking tool for me, I also include the following sections to mine:

  • Chores
  • House Notes
  • Hobbies
  • Projects
  • Books
  • Happy Mail
  • Things To Look Forward To
  • Monthly Intentions
  • What Mattered? (A line a day)
Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings Chores and House Notes
Layouts to track chores and other important notes.

The “Chores” page is where I track weekly cleaning tasks – it helps me to see what has been done and what is still outstanding in this easy-to-read layout. The “House Notes” page is where I write down irregular tasks for the house (such as repairs and home improvement projects).

Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings Hobbies, New, and Projects
Layouts to track hobbies and projects.

I like to look back on a year and reflect on what interested me at the time as well as new hobbies I wanted to learn, so that’s what I document on the “Hobbies” page. The “Projects” page is where I list yearly big projects (mostly creative) that I want to try and accomplish. It can be as big as “write a book” to “create a recipe index”.

Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings Books I read, TBR, and Happy Mail
Layouts to track books that I read and happy mail that I receive.

I enjoy reading, so this “Books” page is where I write down what I read and books I want to read (To Be Read). The “Happy Mail” page is for snail mail that I receive from friends and family that makes me smile. It acts as a reminder of who I corresponded with as well as thank-you notes I may still need to send out.

Open page in a Bullet Journal with the headings Things To Look Forward To, Intentions, and What Mattered?
Layouts for reflection.

The “Things I Look Forward To” and “Intentions” sections are a way for me to reflect on the coming month while the “What Mattered?” section is for a daily line of gratitude or highlight that I can look back on.

Supplies Needed to set up a Bullet Journal

All you really need to set up a Bullet Journal is a pen/pencil and a notebook. However, if you enjoy stationery as I do, you may want to use a few additional supplies to add interest to your Bullet Journal and make the process more creative.

To set up my spreads as shown above, I used the followings supplies:

  • Bullet Journal Edition 2 (collaboration with Leuchtturm1917)
  • Faber-Castell PITT Artist Brush Pens
  • KITTA washi strips
  • Midori stickers
  • TWSBI Eco fountain pen with Monteverde Blue-Black ink

If you’re interested in trying out the official Bullet Journal referenced in this article, you can save 10% with my affiliate code: FROMCAROLA at

A black notebook embossed with the title Bullet Journal by Leuchtturm 1917 along with stationery supplies such as markers and a TWSBI fountain pen

Tips to Bullet Journal Daily

Being more mindful and in-tune with emotions on a daily basis is why I keep up with my Bullet Journal. If you want to make bullet journaling a daily habit, here are some tips that may help:

  1. Keep your Bullet Journal with you at all times (when possible). Make it a point to pull out your book every time you have a thought that you would like to revisit later or a task that needs to be done and just write it down.
  2. Keep it simple. A notebook and pen is all you really need on-the-go. I like to add decor (washi tape, stickers, etc) in preparation for the week or when reflecting on the past week but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you find yourself spending more time than you want on trying to get each layout “perfect”, maybe it’s time to simplify.
  3. Set aside time at the end of your day, week, and month to reflect on the contents of your Bullet Journal. A few things to reflect on are:
  • What did you NOT want to accomplish and why? Is it something that you absolutely need to do or can you choose to let it go?
  • Are there recurring themes that come up in your tasks? If so, you could create a separate section (or “Collection”) for this area.
  • Are there ways to make the bullet journal work even better for you? Changing up layouts and spreads is part of experimenting with the BuJo practice, so do it.

As we know, life gets busy and sometimes the Bullet Journal gets pushed to the sidelines. It’s okay – don’t force yourself to keep up with it if you find yourself resisting. Come back to the practice when you’re ready, pick up where you are at that moment and keep going.

If you have been wanting to try bullet journaling, I hope the above tips and layout ideas help get you started. Happy journaling!

If you would like to see a real-time set up of my Bullet Journal, check out my YouTube video

You can also find more inspiration on my Instagram feed: @fromcarola

Related articles: How to Start a Journaling Routine for Self-Care

hand lettered name Carola, mompreneur blog post author

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