Learn how to start a bullet journal with just a few supplies and minimalist layouts!

How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Basics

So, you want to start a Bullet Journal, but you have no clue where to even start, or what the heck a Bullet Journal even is? I feel your pain! I first heard of Bullet Journaling from Kara at Boho Berry on YouTube and was immediately intrigued. So I started doing all kinds of research, but I immediately felt overwhelmed. There were all these beautiful artistic pages, and I thought to myself, I do not have time to create all of these!

After further research, I found bulletjournal.com, and it changed my perspective on the system! Gone were all the fancy spreads and artwork, and what was left was the bare-bones method of the Bullet Journal. This website belongs to the creator of the system, Ryder Carroll, and is a fantastic place to start your research, especially if you prefer minimalist spreads!

Once I felt confident in what I had learned from Ryder, I went back to those other blogs to really learn about how others were using the system. I discovered that some used the original system, while others had tweaked certain aspects of it to suit their needs. I learned that some have turned it into their creative outlet, while others use it as a way to keep a daily journal.

After all that research, I started my own practice Bullet Journal with an old notebook I had lying around the house. Very quickly, I learned what I liked, and what I did not. Now, I have figured out how this system best works for me, I want to share all these tips and techniques with you! So, if you are ready to get started with your first Bullet Journal, lets jump in!

How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Series

The Basics (You are here!)

The Collections

The Index & Key

The Future Log

The Monthly, Weekly & Daily Spreads

A Tracker & Expense Log Layout


I know that starting a Bullet Journal can be extremely overwhelming, and there is so much information! If you don’t have time to read each of these blog posts, you can grab the free downloadable guide here!


*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a small commission if you decide to buy a product, but it does not affect the price for you! All links provided are products that I personally use and recommend! If you would like to know more, please visit my Disclaimer.

What Is The Bullet Journal Method?

The Bullet Journal system was created by Brooklyn based designer, Ryder Carroll. This amazing system was created by him overtime in an attempt to keep himself organized, accountable and intentional about his time. He started sharing it with his peers and friends until it eventually became the world-wide organizational system we know it as today. 

To me, a Bullet Journal is a completely customizable planning and productivity system set to help you be more intentional about your life, but it is also so much more than that. It can also be your accountability partner, your creative outlet. You can utilize this system in so many amazing ways, it’s hard to even scratch the surface in just one blog post.

Whatever you are using your Journal for, with the right strategies and some hard work on your part, you can be on the way to living a mindful life.

Artsy, or Minimal?

Too often, I see people online saying they would love to start a Bullet Journal, but they aren’t creative enough. This breaks my heart, every time I see it. There is no right or wrong way to Bullet Journal. The only wrong way is to never start. In fact, the original Bullet Journal method was created to live an intentional lifestyle, and contains very basic spreads and layouts! The community has taken the system, and utilized the flexibility of it to make it their creative outlet as well! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! The only thing you need to worry about is what you want in your Journal, and try not to worry about what everyone else is doing.

I highly recommend that everyone start at this point. Starting with the basic foundation allows you the room to experiment and grow within your system. In this series, we are going to be creating very minimal layouts that are still very beautiful, but more importantly, they are functional! These spreads will pave a path for you to set goals, track your habits, journal your day, and more. And the spreads will only take a few minutes to set up.

Once you feel like you have the system down, and if you are comfortable with it, then I would suggest adding a little bit of creativity to it. This could be in the form of color, some pretty lettering, stickers, doodles, etc. 

The Terminology

If you were anything like me, I was seeing these terms, and thinking to myself, what the heck does that mean? I am going to give you a very quick rundown of the terminology that you will often hear in the Bullet Journal community.

Bujo; This is the short form of Bullet Journal.

Bleeding; This is when the marker, pen or paints you are using bleed through the page, resulting in a mostly unusable page on the other side. Bleeding will depend on the type of paper you are using, as well as the tools you are using.

Brain Dump; This is a place where you can “empty your brain”. By writing down everything that is on our minds, we are able to clear it so that we can stay focused on the other tasks at hand. When you have time, you can go back to your Brain Dump, and decide what to do with the items you wrote down. Most Brain Dumps use the Rapid Logging technique.

Collections; These spreads are the extra items you can add to your Bullet Journal to make it your own. For example, you may have an entire collection of spreads dedicated to your home or places you want to visit.

Dailies; These spreads are the overview of your day. Through the use of bullet points and rapid logging, you can create an overview of your daily tasks. You may also wish to include daily habit trackers, a weather log, or even your daily journal!

Future Log; One of the main components of the Bullet Journal is the Future Log. This collection allows you to see the important events that will take place in the future, like doctors’ appointments or events.

Ghosting; This is when the marker, pen or paints you are using create a ghost. When you flip the page over, you will see ghost marks from the flip side of that page. While it is not nearly as bad as bleeding, some still find ghosting very frustrating to work on top of.

GSM (Grams per Square Meter); This is the measurement of the paperweight. The higher this number is, then the better quality the paper is.

Index; Again, you are going to be adding a lot of different spreads to your Bullet Journal. One day, you will be thinking to yourself, where did I put …? This is where you can go back to your Index, and locate the spread you are looking for!

Key; A Key is a list of what each symbol means or represents, and will help give your Bullet Journal structure and clarity.

Migrating; this is the process of moving tasks to a different day/week/month when they do not get completed.

Monthlies; These spreads are the overview of your month and can include to-do lists, tasks, events, and anything else you can think of.

Rapid Logging; Rapid Logging is a method that combines short-form journal entries and bullet points to write down ideas, thoughts, or notes in a quick manner. You can use Rapid Logging in your Journal wherever you see fit. I use a combination of Rapid Logging and traditional Journaling in my Bullet Journal.

Signifiers; Signifiers are the symbols you are going to use in your Bullet Journal to track different elements. For example, you may use a checkbox for a to-do list item, and a star for an idea.

Spreads/Layouts; These are the main component of your Bullet Journal, and they can be absolutely anything! A spread is anything you create for a certain topic. For example, you might create little box charts to track habits or a checklist for your packing list. You will create monthly/weekly/daily spreads to track your tasks, events, important deadlines, and anything else you want to plan! You can get really creative with your spreads, and there is a lot of different inspiration on social media!

Threading; If you are Bullet Journaling in a more traditional fashion, you will soon find your collections scattered! Threading is the process that connects all of those scattered collections. The first step is to go back to your original Index entry and add your new page numbers beside it. The second step is to go to the corresponding pages and write the additional page numbers at the bottom beside the current page number. That way, you can tell what page to flip to without having to go back to your Index!

Trackers; These spreads have become very popular in the Bullet Journal community. People use different tracker spreads to track different things. This could be anything to do with your goals or habits you want to include in your day to day life. It could even include habits you are trying to break!

Weeklies; These spreads are the overview of your week. You can use these spreads to action your goals and to-do lists with the use of bullet points and rapid logging.

I am sure I missed a ton of terms, so let me know if there are any terms you would like to see added to the list by leaving a comment below!

What Supplies Do You Need?

The last topic we are going to cover in this post is what supplies you need to get started. Now, for the purpose of this series, we are keeping things very simple. Therefore, our supply list is going to be very simple.

To really get started with a Bullet Journal, you only need two items. A notebook and a pen. If you aren’t sure you want to go straight into your notebook with a pen, then I would suggest you also grab yourself a pencil, eraser, and maybe even a ruler. All of these supplies can be found very cheap at places like the dollar store.

If you want to know what supplies I am using in this series, I have links to them here. Please note that these are the supplies I am using, but you can use whatever you have available to you! I started my first Bullet Journal with a notebook and black ballpoint pen from the dollar store!

Recently, I was using a Discbound Journal for my Bujo that I created using Happy Planner supplies. If you want to learn more about my Discbound Bullet Journal, please visit my blog post, How To Make A Discbound Bullet Journal.

If you want to know what other supplies I use in my Bullet Journal, check out my 7 Must-Have Supplies for your Bullet Journal post.

Next Steps

Well, that is it for the basics! In the next post of the series, we are going to be going through one of my favorite brainstorming techniques to decide what collections to include in your Bullet Journal!

Is there something holding you back from starting yours, or a question that needs answering? Please leave a comment below so that I can answer all of your questions!

Until next time!

How To Start A Bullet Journal – The Series

The Basics (You are here!)

The Collections

The Index & Key

The Future Log

The Monthly, Weekly & Daily Spreads

Learn How To Start a Bullet Journaling starting with the basics. In this blog post, I discuss the basic terminology, and the supplies I recommend for minimalist layouts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bullet Journal 101

Get Your Entire Life Organized

This FREE mini-course will help you get started with your own diy planner in 2 hours or less!