First Steps to Start a Bullet Journal (So It’s Not Totally Overwhelming)

Are you thinking of starting a bullet journal? After some trial and error, I’ve found the first steps I think any new bullet journaler needs to take when they first start.

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The complicity of a bullet journal lies, unfortunately, in its simplicity.

Because bullet journaling is so customizable, it can feel sometimes crazy overwhelming to start bullet journaling.

This is especially true if you’re a Type A like me, who hates the idea of screwing something up that they then have to look at every day for a year.

But I’m here to tell you that after 3 full months of bullet journaling, I’ve finally worked out my beginner kinks, and I’m now moving onto the next stage.

And with those beginner kinks now behind me, I thought I’d share with you five simple steps to starting a bullet journal that I wish I’d been a bit more considerate with in the beginning. If not for anything than nailing these steps might’ve saved me a bit of time and reorganizing once I realized what I needed!

Ready to hear what the best first steps are in bullet journaling? Ok, let’s begin.   

(But first: pin this post so you can refer to it as you go!)

First things first: Get comfortable with the idea you’ll make mistakes and it won’t be pretty right off the bat.

Honestly, this was the biggest hurdle for me to jump over. And for you, dear reader, planner, busy person: I recommend you try to move past the idea of perfection from the get-go.

Instagram, Pinterest, Google, Youtube…. they’re all FULL of gorgeous spreads and fast motion videos of talented calligraphers and artists that make completely breathtaking spreads. I watch them as transfixed as my kids watching disembodied hands unwrap Kinder eggs; it’s a little in awe, a little jealousy, and fully wishing those were MY hands.

But like everything in social media, we need to move on from the idea that the only presentation is a perfect one. You won’t be perfect right out of the gate. The bullet journal will have some ugly spots. Just keep going and you’ll find your rhythm. Promise.

Next Step in Starting a Bullet Journal: find a sizable journal that fits your life.

I started out with a giant bullet journal, this A4 size. I initially really liked it, since I write big and I could fit EVERYTHING on a page.

But after a while, I found myself not bringing the journal out with me when I left the house… only to wish it was nearby so I could add things to it.

So I’d write things to remember on little scraps of paper, which I would inevitably lose. Or I would add thoughts to the list app in my phone, which is just a wasteland of grocery lists and random links.

And then I’d forget to write it in the bullet journal, anyway!

This meant I was using my bullet journal way less than I should have been, and it wasn’t as useful as it was supposed to be.

I mean, that’s not the point of a bullet journal, right? It’s supposed to be an extension of your brain, not a desktop-only item.

So I bought a new small one and spent a few days transferring over the best and most important spreads. It goes everywhere with me, and it suits my lifestyle way better than the huge one.

Think about how you’ll use your bullet journal: as an everything planner? As something strictly for work? Take these things into consideration when you’re buying one.

Third, start your first few pages with these spreads: yearly, monthly (start with this month), and weekly.

I did it like this (you don’t have to do it this way!)




I’m still tinkering with the style of weekly spread I use (and I blacked out some private info), but I like the simplicity of the year and monthly spreads.

Then, make a brain dump page.

This is my favorite spread and the one I use most often. If you’re like me, especially sleep deprived and trying to find the creative part of you that got just too tired to function after kids came along, then you’ve probably got a head full of ideas that slip away like your sanity during a prolonged bedtime routine.

If so, then brain dump pages are the BEST. I have a quickie page that I just write down half assed thoughts like, “Finish docs December” and “Spreadsheet Shutterfly”.

I usually think of things to add to the Brain Dump while I’m doing something else, like wiping a butt or washing dishes. If it doesn’t get written down, who knows when I’ll remember it again, so this page is amazing for keeping random thoughts in one place until I can organize them better at a later date.

If you think of it, a Brain Dump page kind of controls the crazy in your journal, so you can put things a little more organized in other locations.

The last step in starting a bullet journal? Once your first few spreads are done, THEN find some fun hashtags, bloggers, YouTubers, etc to follow.

You’ve planted the first few seeds of your journal- now’s the time to grow those seeds into something fun and personalized. I follow different bujo accounts across the web and save fun ideas I like to an Evernote folder.

From there- you’re all set to add more ideas to your bujo as you see fit! But these few beginner steps set up a system that lets you build on it, meaning you’ll be more likely to continue with your bujo as time progresses.

Gotta great bujo spread? Having trouble knowing where to begin? I wanna hear it! Upload a pic to Instagram Stories and tag me in it. I’ll share your idea to see who else can help, and maybe have some thoughts of my own., Let’s get more organized this year- together!