I have such a strange obsession with planners. I swear, in 2016 I had four different journals/planners that were dated 2016. It’s not that I had four different lives or one planner dedicated to a specific area of my life… I just had little restraint when it came to walking into a bookstore and thinking, “This is so cute. I definitely need to buy this.”
Bullet Journal for Beginners: Maximize Organization + Productivity
I also had a variety of issues with my various journals. I suspect I didn’t stick to just one because I felt like at some point, my notes and thoughts and braindumps became very disorganized and cluttered. I would also find myself running out of space and writing on separate sheets of papers or in different spiraled notebooks. I also found very little room to doodle and create reference sheets for future reflections. Needless to say, I got bored of my pre-designed, pre-templated journals and eventually started to just live in my Google Drive.
Why I Moved from Journal / Planner to Bullet Journal
Missing the pen to paper action, I decided to investigate bullet journals. So, on one bored day I started to click around on YouTube for Bullet Journal for Beginner tutorials and five hours later became obsessed with watching every bullet journal video. In each video, I came to realize how much creative liberty and free-flowing scribing was involved. How effective the key and index was and fell in love with all of the blank pages with numbers already pre-written in. Bullet journals seemed to be the perfect solution to all of my challenges described above.
Scribing is an Important Part of Your Productive Morning
As if this wasn’t enough reason to get one, I was in the process of reading a book called The Miracle Morning which covers the 6 Daily Habits of Highly Successful People. One of the habits is scribing and I felt bullet journaling could be a perfect way to get the creative juices flowing.
So, I immediately jumped on Amazon and two days later I was ready to start mapping out my own bullet journal. I am loving every scribble in it and I’m here to show you what you need, how to do it, some photo inspiration from my own journal, and of course, introduce you to my favorite YouTuber who got me inspired in the first place!
Bullet Journal for Beginners: Materials
The beautiful thing about a bullet journal is that you could really just keep it to a notebook and a pen. However, if you’re a big fan of doodling, watercoloring, and decorating… there are a few additional inexpensive supplies you can pick up along the way!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
There’s a lot of heated debate about which journal is the best for bullet journaling. Having bought countless journals myself including MoleSkines, I was really impressed with the Leuchtturm 1917.
The Leuchtturm 1917 has no bump down the spine so you can literally write consistently across the other page and when you write on the left page in the notebook. There’s never any awkward positioning for your hands because the transition is so smooth! All of the different mediums I use to write in it go on smoothly. And finally, the paper is thick enough that nothing ever bleeds through, even my thick markers. I haven’t watercolored in mine yet but from what I’ve seen in the YouTube tutorials… not an issue! The journals come in grid, dotted, or blank. Because I’m a newbie and can’t write in straight lines for the life of me, I went with grid. The lines are very faint in color so they don’t bother me at all. I’m loving it but as I become more advanced I may progress to dotted and then to blank!
Next up, let’s talk pens. Having a really good pen is important. I am a fan of the Morning Glory Mach 3 Liquid Ink .38 Fine Point Tip. I know the Microns are also really popular. I used to have these and lost them all but so far the Mach 3 has treated me really well!
One of the other pens that is a must-have is the Uni-ball Signo Gel Pen in white. This is almost like a very precise white-out marker and it’s brilliant when making mistakes in the bullet journal. Once your original pen dries, you can just re-trace the lines you don’t want with this and magic… it’s gone! For big mistakes, I learned in one of the videos linked below to use a black marker and color in the shape and just use the white pen for a white text on black background effect.
As far as markers, one of the most popular ones is the Tombow N-15 Dual Brush and Tip Marker. I love this as it’s very precise, glides smoothly, and has overall great quality. I like that it’s a dual tip so you can easily write or practice brush calligraphy. I use this pen on every page.
Moving onto highlighter markers, the Zebra Mildliners are all the rage. The 5-packs come in different colors but I went with the neon-ish colors that actually have a pastel effect to them. I like that these, too, are dual tip markers so you have a thick marker on one end and a fine point on the other.
The only other supply I use not pictured here is washi tape! If you don’t know what washi tape is, you’re missing out. It’s basically lightweight decorative tape that can be used for a variety of reasons including: tape, masking mistakes, decorative shapes and borders, and used to bookmark important pages for easy reference. You can find these on sale at Michael’s and they have a huge variety of different styles, colors, textures, etc.
Also, basic items that might be helpful are: ruler, index cards, post-its
Recap of recommended materials to begin bullet journaling:
Uni-Ball Signo Gel Pen in White Ink
Mach 3 Pen
Key + Index for Bullet Journal Beginners
The bullet journal key helpful to reference to as the bullet journal system has a few organization terms. You can add on your own as needed if you have special recurring records coming up that aren’t categorized by the following. I used my good old washi tape and an index card to tape my key as a fold out so that when I wrote a new “log” (planning out tasks/days/events/etc.), I would be able to quickly reference it without having to flip back for pages. The key can also have color codes… I hope you’re getting the point, the bullet journal is completely customizable so let your creativity run wild!
In this key attached you’ll notice I have the following:
- Dot denotes a task
- O denotes an event
- > denotes I’ve moved a task or event forward into the future (migrated)
- < denotes something needs to be re-scheduled but not sure when (scheduled)
- X denotes completed
- Strikethrough denotes completed
- Star denotes priority
- ! denotes a note you can of course change this key to your system and what makes most logical sense to you!
And finally, the index, is a few pages in the beginning of the journal that allow you to write each page number and topic associated with it. As your journal starts to fill up, it’s great to see at a glance where you can find a specific checklist, log, braindump, tracker, monthly view, etc.
Bullet Journal for Beginners Inspiration
After watching videos and looking at Instagram feeds of various journals, I finally sat down to create my own. Every tip I’ve read is start basic when you’re just starting out as you will eventually get a feel for how you want to plan your pages and what kind of themes (if any) you’d like to build on. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful minimalist style ones so if you’re not big on doodles and art – don’t worry!
Many bullet journalers will start with something one week or one month and realize they never tracked or kept up with it, so the next week or month they will experiment with something else until they find something they are motivated to keep up with.
And if you are looking for even more inspiration, I highly recommend you check out AmandaRachLee’s YouTube Channel … she’s amazing! She has a ton of helpful tips and her journals are always very inspirational in the case you don’t know where to start. She posts her monthly themes and encourages you to draw similar ones if you don’t know what else to put in there. Finally, her videos are super entertaining and she’s got great personal development tips in many! Can you tell I’m a fan?
So there you have it folks, happy bullet journaling!! 🙂
First of all, I would like to say I like the way you write. I feel your kind and friendly personality through your articles.
I also would like to comment about the part you talk about key. You say “Strikethrough denotes completed”, but I think you meant “Strikethrough denotes cancelled”. It is kind of simple, but wanted to say it.
Thank you for your advices and articles; they are encouraging.