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Bullet Journal: Step by step setup guide to starting your first BUJO

Are you a productivity junkie? Are you obsessed with to-do lists, calendars, habit trackers and have thousands of post-it notes and notebooks floating around?

Well, meet your new friend here -> the bullet journal system.


What the hell is a bullet journal?

Never heard of it? just look up #bulletjournal on Instagram or Pinterest and be ready to be amazed by a sea of neatly drawn notebook pages.

Bullet journal is an analog method of keeping all your lists, goals, resposibilities and daily habits documented in on place. It was originally created by NYC-based designer Ryder Carroll and quickly became popular due the its flexibility as well as minimalist dewsign.

You can basically use a bullet journal to plan your day, track your habits, record ideas, store your lists (things to-do, books to-read, placestogo etc).

The possibilities are endless.

Why is bullet journal so popular?

The fundamental system of bullet journal is so simple, you can use it to create a journal that truly fits the way your brain works.

Some even call it their second brain.


With a bullet journal, you now have a second place to store all your random ideas, thoughts, to-dos, schedules etc - it frees up your brain space.

And your brain can now focus on doing the things it does best - analysing and thinking CREATIVELY instead of remembering (pronounced: boring) things.

How to setup a bullet journal: step by step guide

Now that I have sold you the benefits of starting a Bujo, guess it’s time for us to …start a Bujo

If you have looked up #bulletjournal on Instagram or Pinterest (as per advised earlier), you would have noticed a lot of fancy stationeries, stickers, tapes, drawings and doodlings etc on other people’s bullet journal.

and you might think to yourself

“Well, that’s not something I can do”

You are so wrong…

For now,  just forget about the sophisticated pens, or cute Washi tapes, or the fancy artwork other people have on their journal (Pssssss….there are actually printables and stencils to help you with that– I will share it at the end of this post)

For now, just forget all of that. The most important thing right now is simply to get started

To get started in bullet journaling, all you need is just a pen and a notebook.


First, get yourself a good notebook

Blank bujo page |step by step guide to starting a bullet journal

You want to get something you like. My personal preference is normally an A5 size journal with dotted pages – but you can use basically any notebooks.

Spend a bit of time on researching the notebooks as it will be your companion for the next few months (hopefully).

Consider things like size, paper weight (it matters if you are doing calligraphy or using fancy pens), page design (whether it’s lined or dotted or blank), and binding.

If you feel like investing and you have the budget – here are some of the big brands- the original  Bullet journal by Ryder Carroll, Moleskine Bullet journal, Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal, Baron Fig and Kikki K.

or you could just get something from our store here.

(optional) Get a good pen

This step is totally optional, you could just use any pen you have.

While you are reading this, why not just shamelessly show you some of the pens we have at our store

Step 2, number all your pages

You will need a reference system to quickly refer to all the ideas or contents you put into your journal

Step 3, create your index on the first two pages

You will need to refer your index very frequently as you add more and more content into your bullet journal.

An index is basically a place where you track page numbers are all your logs, monthly planner, tracker, collections etc.

It could be as simple as this

Or it could be a fancy one like this one

#bujo #bulletjournalindex #bulletjournaljunkies #bujojunkies #handlettering link in profile

A post shared by Margi (@margilaurinart) on

So the idea is – everytime when you add a piece of new content – be it your daily log, monthly log, or a collection (books to read, ideas you learnt etc), you write down the title of that page and the page number on the index page.

Step 4: Create your future log over the next four pages

Future log is basically a reminder for events due in the the future.

It could be a friend’s birthday,  an appointment, or a holiday.

In essence, a future log is equivalent to a yearly calendar – a place to record all the important dates for the whole year

There are many creative ways to draft up your future log but here’s one simple way:

  1. divide you page into three equal sections with horizontal lines
  2. write the names of the month on the top left corner of each section
  3. Events that are due for that month go into the corresponding section

Some other bullet journal future log ideas

#planwithmechallenge Next Year.

A post shared by Dara 👻 (@gothamhaus) on

note: Don’t forget to add the page number of your future logs to your index

Step 5: Create your monthly spread on the next two pages

Simply put, a monthly spread of a bullet journal is a monthly calendar, where you list all the things you want to get done in that month next to the dates that you want them done.

There are endless ways of creating your monthly spread, here’s one of the easiest way:

Simple bullet journal monthly spread | step by step guide to starting a bullet journal

  1. Write the name of the month on both pages
  2. On the left page, write down all the dates for the month
  3. On the right page, write down all the tasks you want to complete that month
  4. With all the dates and tasks listed, you can now match your to-dos with the dates.
  5. Don’t forget to check your future log for things you are supposed to complete this month
  6. Once you have finished pairing up your to-dos with the dates , that’s it. Give yourself a pat on your back – you have just finished planning for your month

Other creative Bujo monthly spread ideas:

Here’s one which looks more like your classic calendar + To-do list

Het begin is gemaakt... Inspired by @craftyenginerd #bulletjournal #monthlyspread

A post shared by Wendy (@lovelacquer) on

You can even combine it with your habit tracker. Here’s one beautiful example

At a glance calendar view – everything on one page approach

Bujo monthly spread idea| step by step guide to starting a bullet journal

Source: pinterest

This is a more complicated version. It has sections for planning for the future(calendar, to-do, list of goals) and sections for recording the past (memories, habit tracker, expenses etc) all on the same page. It’s probably more suited for advanced bullet journalist though.

Bujo monthly spread idea | step by step guide to starting a bullet journal

Source: pinterest

Optional: Create your own Bujo key/legend page

When Ryder Carroll first came out with the idea, he wanted to create a journal system where people can just quickly jot down ideas and to-dos – in BULLET POINT form.

Hence the name bullet journal

So the idea goes like this: when you come across an idea/to-do, you simply write it down in your journal

  • For a task, you add a bullet or a dot next to the text line
  • For a note, you add a dash next to the line
  • and for an event, you draw a small circle
  • When you complete a task, you write an x or cross sign over the bullet
  • if you don’t get a chance to complete a task, you can put a > sign over the bullet  to move it to next day/week/month
  • or you can put a < sign over the bullet to reschedule it to later date (goes to your future log)
Gif showing bullet journal keys or legends

    Source: buzzfeed

    These six symbols are normally sufficient for beginners like you and me, but more sophisticated bullet journalists start coming out with new ideas for the symbols.

    Like this one here

    Bujo key ideas | step by step guide to start a bullet journal

    Source: pinterest

    So a Bujo key or legend page is simply a quick reference guide to remind you of the meaning behind each symbols.

    This page is completely optional. You can stick to the original six symbols in which case you probably don’t need a reminder, or you can get creative and completely personalize your bullet journal with unique symbols of your own.

    Step 6: Create you daily log

    These are pages where you will jot down your daily activities/events/ideas – anything and everything worth noting.

    You start your day by checking for any to-dos

    • Scan yesterdays log. If there are incomplete task, make sure you migrate them - either to the future log (using < symbol) or to today’s log (using > symbol)
    • Check your monthly spread for any events or tasks you planned to do today earlier in the month

    As the day goes on, you continue to use your bullet journal

    • cross things off your to-dos
    • make notes about interesting encounters you had or ideas you came across using – (dash) symbol

    Bullet journal daily log| Step by step guide to starting a bullet journal


    Step 7: Create your bullet journal idea collection pages

    These pages will truly make your bullet journal yours. Basically you take the ideas you jot down in the daily log, and group them accordingly

    For example, you may have a page for books you want to read or places you want to visit one day

    Bullet journal books to read and places to go

    source: pinterest

    or you may want to track your habits

    Bullet journal habit tracker page

    source: pinterest

    perhaps mood tracking(?)

    Bullet journal mood tracker

    source: pinterest

    maybe you want to document your weight loss journey

    Bullet journal ideas for weight loss journey

    source: pinterest

    Basically anything that matters to you, you can create a page for it. Just remember the golden rule: everytime you create a new page, remember to add the title and the page number(s) to the index page.

    Everytime you create a new page, remember to add the title and the page number (s) to the index page


    So there you go – the seven basic steps to start a bullet journal.

    Just remember, there are thousands of different ways to style your bullet journal.

    But at its core, the system is simple and intuitive. Everything you feel like you want to jot down, you just write down in your bullet journal.

    After a while, you will find yourself becoming happier and more creative – because your brain no longer has to work as hard as it used to be.

    The key to a becoming a successful bullet journalist, is to make it a habit – to carry your bullet journal wherever you go, and write in it whenever you have a new idea or experience.

    Good luck and happy journaling.

    • February 25, 2018
    • PJ Lai
    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


    Dylan Moline

    February 13, 2019

    You mentioned “there are actually printables and stencils to help you with that– I will share it at the end of this post)”

    Where are they? :)

    Caressa Brady

    February 13, 2019

    You’ve inspired me to start a bullet journal TODAY!
    I’ll keep you posted on my progress, (I’ll remind myself in my Bullet Journal to do so)

    Thank you so much for all your hard work in making this website & inspiring others to be the their best that they can be…


    February 13, 2019

    Awesome post! I just started and this was a nice guide.
    One suggestion though, you might want to run it through a spellchecker – lots of errors!


    April 23, 2020

    Thanks! This was thorough enough to get me started without too much frill. I used a number of your ideas, and a few of the others. Thank you for including the others pages.


    April 23, 2020

    Very good helpful
    Thank you i just inspiring to how to do bujo