Bullet Journal Setup: 7 Essential Steps for Beginners
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. Choose Your Journal and Pens
  2. Set Up Your Key
  3. Create an Index
  4. Start Your Future Log
  5. Plan Your Monthly Log
  6. Prepare Your Daily Log
  7. Incorporate Collections

Setting up a bullet journal for the first time can be a game-changer. It's a fun and effective way to get all your thoughts, plans, and lists in one place. This bullet journal setup guide will walk you through the seven essential steps that every beginner should know. But remember, the beauty of a bullet journal is that it's customizable to your needs and creativity. So, let's dive into this adventure together!

Choose Your Journal and Pens

The first step in your bullet journal setup guide is to pick your journal and pens. You might think any notebook could do the trick, but a bullet journal is specific. You need a journal with a dot grid or a square grid. The dots or squares serve as a guide for your layouts and designs.

Popular options for bullet journals include the Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine, or Archer & Olive. These brands offer quality and durability, ensuring your journal can withstand daily use. But don't worry if your budget doesn't stretch that far, any grid notebook will do just fine.

On to pens: You don't need a fancy pen for bullet journaling, but you do need one that doesn't bleed through the pages. Some of the popular choices among bullet journalists are the Pilot G-2 Pens, Staedtler Pigment Liners, or the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens. Again, the key is to choose a pen that fits comfortably in your hand and writes smoothly.

So, there you have it, the first step in your bullet journal setup guide. Remember, the journal and pens you choose are the tools of your bullet journal adventure, so choose wisely and according to your preference. Happy journaling!

Set Up Your Key

Now that you've got your journal and pens figured out, it's time to move on to the next step in our bullet journal setup guide. Let's set up your key.

A key in a bullet journal is like a legend on a map. It's a reference guide that helps you understand the symbols used throughout the journal. It's a simple system of notation that helps you track your tasks, events, and notes.

Typically, a bullet journal key might look something like this:

  • A dot for tasks
  • An open circle for events
  • A dash for notes
  • A star for priority
  • An exclamation point for inspiration

Feel free to tweak this convention to suit your style. Maybe you prefer squares for tasks or hearts for inspiration. The key is to keep it simple and easy to remember. Once you've decided on your symbols, dedicate a page right at the beginning of your journal to your key. This way, you can always flip back to it if you're unsure about a symbol.

Setting up a key is an important step in our bullet journal setup guide. It's like learning a new language - the language of your bullet journal. And with this language, you'll be able to navigate your life with more clarity and purpose.

Create An Index

Okay, you've got your key in place — let's forge ahead with our bullet journal setup guide. The next step is to create an index.

Think of the index as your bullet journal's table of contents. This is where you'll list the contents of your journal and their corresponding page numbers. It's an organizational tool that'll help you find everything quickly. No more flipping through dozens of pages to find that one note you wrote down last month!

Here's how to do it:

  1. Dedicate the first few pages of your journal to the index.
  2. Whenever you add a new entry to your journal, jot down the topic and page number in your index.
  3. Try to group similar items together. For example, all your monthly logs can go under one heading, and all your collections under another.

Crafting a clear and effective index might seem like a small thing, but trust me, it's a game-changer. No more random scribbles lost in the labyrinth of your journal. Everything is neatly organized and easily accessible. Now that's what I call an organized life!

Ready to move onto the next step of our bullet journal setup guide? Let's go!

Start Your Future Log

Alright, we're on a roll! Following our bullet journal setup guide, the next step is to start your future log. Now, the future log is essentially a broad overview of the year to come. It's your personal crystal ball. A place where you can jot down important dates, birthdays, holidays, or any long-term plans you might have.

Here's a simple way to get started:

  1. Reserve the next few pages of your journal for your future log.
  2. Divide each page into three sections, each representing a month. Include a small calendar for each month for easier reference.
  3. Fill in your known dates and events. Don't forget to keep some space for things that might pop up down the line!

Voila! You've got your very own future log. Now, you can glance at your year-at-a-glance anytime you want. And, when you're setting up your monthly logs, you'll know exactly what's on the horizon. Talk about planning like a pro!

Excited for the next step in our bullet journal setup guide? Me too! Let's keep going.

Plan Your Monthly Log

So, you've got a handle on the future, now let's zoom in a bit. The next step in our bullet journal setup guide is to plan your monthly log. Think of your monthly log as your personal assistant. It helps you keep track of your tasks, events, and goals for the month.

Setting up your monthly log is pretty straightforward. Here's a quick step-by-step guide:

  1. Dedicate a two-page spread to your monthly log.
  2. On the left page, write down the dates of the month along the edge. Next to each date, write the first letter of the corresponding day of the week. This is where you'll record events and tasks for specific dates.
  3. On the right page, write down your goals for the month and tasks that don't have a specific date. This will be your monthly task list.

There you have it. Your monthly log is ready to help you stay on top of your days. Remember, the bullet journal setup guide is flexible. You can adjust your monthly log to fit your needs. Want to track your habits or mood? Go for it. It's your journal. Make it work for you!

Ready for the next part of the journey? Let's move on to the daily log.

Prepare Your Daily Log

Coming down to the nitty-gritty of our bullet journal setup guide, let's prepare your daily log. This is where the magic of your bullet journal really comes to life. It's your day-to-day planner, to-do list, and diary rolled into one.

Here's how to get your daily log ready:

  1. Find a fresh new page. Each day deserves a clean slate, right?
  2. Write down the date at the top of the page. Feel free to get creative with lettering or doodles.
  3. Now, jot down your tasks, events, and notes for the day. Remember to use your key symbols to stay organized.

Keep in mind, the beauty of the daily log lies in its flexibility. If you have a busy day ahead, dedicate a full page. For quieter days, a few lines would suffice. Your bullet journal setup guide is all about adapting to your life, not the other way around.

Feeling good about your daily log? Great! Now, let's dive into the final step: incorporating collections into your bullet journal.

Incorporate Collections

Completing your bullet journal setup guide, let's talk about collections. Collections are themed lists or notes that you compile in your bullet journal. They can be anything from book lists, meal plans, workout routines, to tracking your mood or sleep. Collections are your opportunity to personalize your bullet journal and make it truly yours.

Ready to get started? Here's how:

  1. Find a new page. Depending on the length of your collection, you might need a couple of pages. So, plan accordingly.
  2. At the top of the page, write the title of your collection. It could be 'Books to Read', 'Monthly Budget', or 'Yoga Poses'—anything that serves your needs.
  3. Now, fill in your collection. For a book list, jot down all the titles you want to read. For a monthly budget, outline your income and expenses. You get the drift.

Remember, collections are completely optional. Include them if they make your life easier, skip them if they don't. That's the beauty of a bullet journal—it molds to fit you.

And voila! You've just completed your bullet journal setup guide. With these seven steps, you're well on your way to becoming a bullet journal pro. Remember, it's not about perfection, it's about making your journal work for you. So, don't be afraid to experiment and most importantly, have fun!

If you're excited to start your bullet journal journey and want to learn more about visual diaries, check out the workshop 'Visual Diaries: Let's Get Started!' by Ruby Elliot. This workshop will provide you with additional tips and tricks to help you create a captivating and organized bullet journal that reflects your unique style and personality.