Bullet Journalling – EVERYTHING You Need To Know (Setting Up, Essentials & more!)

by Mia M.

**Quick note: I’m an Amazon affiliate, which means that if you click a link I’ve provided to Amazon and buy something I get a little comission of the purchase. You don’t get charged extra money (the price is the same without my link) – but it’s like a little tip for me.**

Hello and welcome to another edition of this-post-is-so-long-that-by-the-end-of-it-someone-will-have-assassinated-Trump-you’ll-have-six-kids-and-the-world-will-have-been-taken-over-by-sea-horses. As per a few requests, today we’re going to be talking about bullet journalling.

If that doesn’t fill you with excitement, then congratulations – so far you’ve managed to escape indoctrination. I’d recommend running as far away as you can. Rip the power cord out of your computer; slam shut your laptop. Just leaving the page isn’t enough – the cult of the bullet journallers will find you.

We will find you and we will convert you. And then we will teach you how to set up a bullet journal.

Be afraid . . . be very afraid.

What Is Bullet Journalling?

The. Best. Planner. Ever.

Bullet Journalling is a quick, easy-to-use and personalised method of organisation.  It combines the features of a planner, journal, scrap-book and sketchbook.

The system was developed to be quick and avoid all of the pressures and pitfalls of the other peasants methods of journalling. You don’t need any more than 5 minutes a day – most days you’ll only need to jot down a couple of words anyway! Even to set up a bullet journal will take you less than ten minutes!

It’s called a “bullet journal” because you literally only write in brief bullet points. Quick, efficient and to the point.

There’s no one way to describe bullet journalling because it’s no one thing. Everyone that uses a bullet journal has to create it first – and it’s always something a little different, something unique to you and your needs.

(Pin that image for me!)

In my opinion, bullet journalling is mainly a planner. As I’ve mentioned, it’s open-ended, so you only need to create as much or as little as you need. Typically, you’ll have monthly and weekly spreads that you can fill in to keep track of anything you need to do or remember.

You create “spreads” to monitor or record anything you like – TV shows, how many times you’ve exercised, New Year Resolutions; you could even have a written down swear jar! (Although, why would you want to do that? Swearing’s awesome.)

Unlike other planners, you can set up a bullet journal to be as minimal as you want it to be – my weekly spreads are literally just:

  • The date
  • Any notes or thoughts I’ve had
  • Any to-do tasks

This completely removes the pressure of other journalling tactics. I mean, most of us can relate to starting a journal of some kind – only to hardly ever use it because we feel some secret pressure that the entries all need to be perfect, or creative, or deep and meaningful.

So, all in all, bullet journalling is a quick way to record your life and stay on top of everything.

Bullet Journalling was developed by Ryder Carroll.

What Is Bullet Journalling Used For?

There’s a pattern starting to form here; most of bullet journalling is completely subjective – and this answer is no different.

A planner and organiser

Bullet journalling has all of the practical abilities of a planner; you can use it to set appointments, give yourself tasks, organise and schedule whatever you need over a certain period of time.

To this point, it’s probably more effective than a typical planner because you have everything in one place – you had a cool idea for something to do at the weekend? As soon as you realise you’re meeting your best friend at the weekend and you need something to do . . . well, you took a note of that last weekend!

Tracking habits

You can use set up a bullet journal to track anything you need to track – which is more helpful than you might think.

Okay, not to be all like “bullet journalling changed my life!” – but I realise that, to the many people who aren’t weirdly obsessed with documenting their life, the idea of tracking your habits may seem slightly pointless. However, tracking your habits can actually be really useful.

Bullet journalling helped me to identify what was causing my chronic pain.

I not-so-occasionally suffer crippling abdominal pain. It used to be occasionally, but since I’ve started working it’s become more frequent – which is bad because sometimes it’s so bad that I can’t apply any pressure to the area, which makes standing and walking a no go.

I went to the doctors for it and they told me to track the pain against my periods. Bearing in mind that I was like 14 and lazy I didn’t do this; for the next two-three years, the pain was so occasional that it wasn’t worth the return trip.

Now, fast forward to this year. My aunt suffers the exact same thing (same expanded and solid stomach; same crippling pain) and she told me that she actually has a gluten intolerance – and that gluten is a trigger for it in her case. After this, I decided to track what I was eating against when I was in pain – and I’ve noticed a few trends.

think I may have a fructose intolerance (it happens mostly when I eat a lot of fruit; this also explains why it’s more frequent in the past year as I’ve put more effort into eating fruit recently) – but I am going to track it for a while longer and monitor it against all types of food and other things before going back to my GP and asking if they have any idea.

Now, of course, I’m not claiming that bullet journals are going to save your life or cure cancer, but the habit tracking does have a lot of practical applications.


If you’re a list maker, you’re in luck! Bullet journals can be used to fulfill all your dirty listing desires.

A future log/calendar

How else are you going to remember birthdays?

Note/Idea Taking

Which leads me nicely to the next point . . . bullet journals are great for jotting down any stray ideas or inspirations that you may have. Which ends up becoming really handy – imagine all of the ideas you’ve spread across post-it notes, random journals, back of envelopes and random pieces of paper all collated into one book.

Goal Setting

P R O D U C T I V I T Y .

Sneak peek at an upcoming post; how I plan my blog using a bullet journal!

A sketchbook

A bullet journal is the height of practicality and usefulness because it can be anything you need. You can tailor it to your exact needs; you develop it for your exact needs. If something doesn’t work one month (RIP, daily motivational quotes – you were a good idea . . . for someone else), all you do is don’t make it the next. Bullet journals are flexible and meet all of your needs as they arise.

Why Should I Bullet Journal? – The Benefits Of Bullet Journalling

Okay – quick-fire reasons to join the cult. Hey; let’s bullet them!

  • Practical
  • Easy
  • Creative and fun
  • Very quick to do – you only need a few minutes a day
  • Incredibly useful in day-to-day life
  • Personal to you; suits all of your needs
  • Productive

So, by this point, you know whether you want to set up a bullet journal or not. (The answer is that you do. Of course you do.) Which means that the next logical step is . . .

How To Set Up A Bullet Journal

Spoiler alert: easily.

How To Set Up A Bullet Journal Explainer GIF
How To Set Up A Bullet Journal Explainer GIF

You will need:

  • A notebook
  • A pen

And that’s it.

Now, I highly recommend that you use either a dotted grid or a grid notebook as opposed to lined or plain paper (this will make it easier to create spreads and layouts), but it is up to you.

Here are a few of my top notebook picks:

Amazon US:

Dot Grid Notebook – $11

Watercolour Dot Grid Notebook – $6.99

Pink and Black Cacti Dot Grid Notebook – $5.04

Amazon UK

Lilac Dot Grid Notebook – £3.18

Succulents Dot Grid Notebook – £4.63

Watercolour Dot Grid Notebook – £7.32

As for pens, I recommend a plain black ink pen – these are easily replaceable so you can get that coveted uniform look.

Let’s get into how to set up a bullet journal!

  1. Set up a key.

    Your key is one of the most important things you can do; this is what helps you to identify the bullets quickly.

    My key is:

    To do/Task

    The “key” to bullet journalling (moment of appreciation for the monstrosity that was that pun) is to keep everything as bare-bones as possible and build it up as you learn. This makes it as easy to follow and use and possible.

    Starting off with 300 different symbols is off-putting and confusing; if you use your journal and start to realise that you need other symbols, you can always go back and add more.

  2. Add page numbers

    Page numbers are essential for making sure that you know where everything in your bullet journal is . . . but we’ll get to that in a second.

  3. Index

    An index is what you need your page-numbers for. You use your index to keep track of where everything in your bullet journal.

    This is especially helpful as your bullet journal gets more full and you add in various other spreads.

  4. Future Log

    Having this at the front of your journal is a helpful addition; a future log lets you take a glance at your year in advance and add in any important dates of things to remember.

    I’m semi-bitter; for one of my mother’s birthday presents I’ve made her a kind of guided bullet journal and set up her main pages for her . . . and her future log is cuter than mine. Typical.

  5. Collections

    Your collections are essentially are just a space that you can fill in where you keep “collect” data on things. Common examples of collections are: “Books I’ve Read”, “TV Shows I’ve Loved”, etc.

    While you can have mini-collections and habit trackers at the beginning of the month and you can, of course, add in collections on new pages if you want, I like having a little space at the front for collections that will span the year.

  6. Monthly Spread

    Now, we’re getting into the really useful parts!

    To really start using your bullet journal, you need your practical day-to-day spreads. The first thing you need is your monthly spread. You only need to do these one at a time – a pretty good rule for bullet journalling is don’t go too far ahead – but having an overview of the month you’re in is very helpful.

    My typical monthly spreads include:

    Any habit trackers I need that month (this is useful if you’re doing things like 30 Day Squat challenge)
    A monthly overview
    A goals/to-do list

    Side note – you guys have seen a monthly spread of mine before in my sneak peek at my August bullet journal spread!

  7. Weekly Spread

    Your weekly spread is the part of the bullet journal that you’ll be the most familiar with – your day-to-day view where you’ll get down a majority of your notes.

    Personally, I would recommend drawing up a monthly spread and then one weekly spread at the beginning of the month – and that’s it. Leave yourself room.

And that’s all you need! Setting up a bullet journal doesn’t have to take more than ten minutes!

Bullet Journal Essentials

Now that you know how to set up your bullet journal, let’s talk about how to maintain it. For me, my bullet journals essentials have to be:

  • A decent pen
  • Washi Tape
  • Stickers
  • A bag

How To Make Your Bullet Journal Pretty With No Effort

And here we have finally reached what I consider to be one of the most important things about bullet journalling . . . how you can make it look great without actually doing anything. Ah, don’t we all love getting great results with minimal effort?

A big tip I have for you is:

Don’t worry about making sure that your bullet journal is pretty.

See? Very minimal.

Seriously – I know loads of people get all twisted up over how their journal looks, but there’s really no point. Honestly, take a moment to think about it; what does it matter if your bullet journal looks nice?

I make sure mine does because I started it with the purpose of having a pretty journal; I wanted to be able to use it in featured images and to use it to help me develop my skills for things like typography etc. Also . . . I mean, I’m aiming to study graphic design next year, so we can clearly tell that aesthetics are important to me. However, most people won’t be starting their journal for the same purpose – most will want a bullet journal purely for the functionality.

So don’t worry about how it looks! Worrying too much about the appearance of your entries and weekly spreads is just another burden you’ll be adding that’ll make you less likely to actually do it.

That being said.

We’re visual creatures; pretty things hold our attention. Making your bullet journal pretty can make you want to use it more – it can make it something you treasure!

So here’s how I make mine pretty without spending too much time on it.

Washi Tape

Oh, sweet Jesus, how I love Washi Tape. It’s an instant cute addition to any layout – and you can buy it in loads of cute prints!

Me snazzing up a bullet journal layout with some washi tape.

There are so many cute washi-tape designs floating around out there on the interwebs . . . so I grabbed you some for use in your bullet journal.


Set of 6 – $8.97

Set of 30 Glitter Washi Tape – $8.99

Gold Washi Tape – $10.99


10-Piece Washi Tape Set – £0.82

Leaf Print Washi Tape – £1.28

Washi Tape Set x 6 – £5.56


Again, stickers are an amazing addition to bullet journals because they’re instant and . . . well, they’re just very cute.

Good Handwriting

This is something that makes such a massive difference – just spend a few seconds making sure that your hand-writing is neat for a really concise and tidy look. Or you could artfully scrawl!

Good Pens

 This is good for doodling, making your hand-writing look great, making sure you don’t smudge ink all over the page and 100 other things. I love some cute stationery – my go-to at the moment are the cute AF cacti fine-points.


If you haven’t seen these gorgeous pastel highlighters, I genuinely don’t know where you’ve been – but they’re a total essential of mine. While I do love me a bright colour or two, for bullet journal purposes pastel highlighters are great.


Pastel Highlighters Set of 8 – £7.70


Pastel Highlighters – $11


love using printables when I set up my bullet journal spreads. They’re a quick and easy way to create pretty graphics – and they take little-to-no-effort. For things like trackers, printables are absolutely great.

Damn . . . that was a long post. I hope you all enjoyed it and learnt a little about the brilliance that is bullet journalling.

And . . . I think we can call it a day! I’ll be posting more about bullet journals and my bullet journalling tips and tricks (because I’m an obsessive freak) but I thought we should get this base post up and out first! Do any of you guys bullet journal? Would you? Let me know your thoughts down below, you gorgeous human beings!


Tags: art, bullet journal, diary, DIY, journalling, new blog, new blogger, Stationery,

About Mia M.

I'm going through a bit of an existential crisis right now, I'll tell you about myself when I figure out if I'm real or not.

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hey, i’m mia

tattoo lover, plant hoarder, DIY addict and overall stoner grandma

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