HOW TO BULLET JOURNAL FOR BEGINNERS! Simple Step-by Step Guide


In this article, I am sharing my first dotted (bullet) journal set up. This article is great if you are looking for bullet journaling for beginner.

I have been told that this is a great way to stay organised, focused and track milestones, achievements and habits. I have been all over the place lately, so I feel so excited to see if this will change. If you are new to bullet journaling, so am I. This means you are in the right place as we can start the process together.

I wanted to get organised and start using a dotted journal for a while. I have so many things that I want to do and I feel that they all are just ideas scattered in my mind. It would be nice to have a place for them. I love writing and I do write ideas and thoughts on note pads or pieces of paper or even on my phone that end up being in random places. Most of the time they end up in rubbish bins or forgotten on my phone though as I get overwhelmed with the pile of paper that I end up creating. And trust me I tried pretty much everything, even organisational apps but I could never keep up with them as I like writing. Writing is a meditative process and always makes me feel better.

So, you see why I got excited about journaling!

RESEARCH/REQUIREMENT STAGE

Before deciding which journal to choose I did actually do a lot of research in order to identify the structure that would work for me. I have seen so many beautiful journal setups but some of them are unrealistic for me. I wanted to create something beautiful but also something practical. I want to create an organised version of me.

I knew that I wanted to test journaling for 6-months, as 12 months seemed too long of a time right now. If I get into it, I will definitely look into a bigger sized journal but for now a journal with 150 to 160 pages should be more than enough for me.

I also used Pinterest and Youtube to draw ideas on how I can potentially structure my journal. I knew that I wanted to leave creative spaces sparingly so I can doodle, sketch or write down my thoughts. I am also forgetful so an event calendar would potentially work for me. Some bullet journals had bucket lists for 6 months or a year and that is great to truck achievements. The biggest challenge for me was to find great ways for me to record my daily tasks and my habits.

FINDING THE PERFECT DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL

So after identifying my requirements, finding a journal that inspires the process of planning, organising and reflecting is important. I consider myself lucky as I managed to come across an eco-friendly brand with biodegradable dotted journals. ZenART Supplies was founded off the back of the creator being frustrated with not finding what she needed in the market. Their B5 journal is ideal for me. It is a perfect size to fit my daily needs and fit in my bag. I love the Japanese patterns which are different for each journal and they come in various colours. I chose the one that would inspire me and that is the one in turquoise color. These journals are faux leather bound, soft and quite flexible. I love the feeling of the paper inside. Pages are numbered which is great. This means I do not have to number them.

First page is where I probably will write my name and a quote if I feel like. The first 4 pages are index pages which I thought is fantastic as I can create an index of my journal content. At the back of the journal, there is a pouch with some information on how to register the product, there is also a message from the owner of ZenART Supplies, and finally some stickers in case they are needed.

ZenART Supplies Bullet Journals in the UK

ZenART Supplies Bullet Journals in the US

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNALING TOOLS

Besides this dotted journal, I am also using a pencil and an eraser that I will use to create the structure and then I will go over the structure with a black pen. I have seen a lot of people using colorful pens and markers. I brought them with me, not sure if I am going to use them but good to have just in case. I am also using a ruler to connect the dots with straight lines when needed. I also have my laptop next to me for help when I need inspiration.

STARTING BULLET JOURNALING

Now that we have everything, let’s start creating our bullet journal structure!

I have done some pre-work in advance using a pencil to save some time.

Let’s start by stating whose journal this belongs to. You can add a quote or something that represents you. I will just write my name for now and add the bells and whistles later as I am journaling.

I will skip the index pages and will go to the one of the first dotted pages. Here I will number my dots, so I know how many are horizontally and how many are vertically. This will help me split the pages in equal sections, and trust me when I was creating my structure they came in handy a few times.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL KEY SECTION

I have copied the key section from a template I saw on Pinterest. I found creating some key symbols to indicate the nature of the tasks or the stage of the tasks to be quite clever and helpful!

I like geometrical shapes and so you will find that I use boxes many times to capture sections. This is my KEY section. Within the key section I have included:

  • A circle that symbolises a task I have to do

  • A circle half filled that symbolised a task in progress

  • A black filled circle that symbolised a task completed

  • A circle with a line means that the task is cancelled

  • A triangle symbolises an appointment or an event

  • A star symbolizes something important, and

  • An arrow to the right symbolizes that the task has been moved (I added this as a last minute option otherwise it would have been under the cancel symbol).

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL CREATIVE SPACE

My next section is called creative space. It is basically a place where I will unleash my creativity, a place where I will doodle or sketch or write anything that comes to my mind. Quite excited about this space and similar spaces that I will create throughout this journal.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL CALENDAR

Following the creative space is a 6-month calendar and important events sections. Now, you may like to start your journey from 1st of January or cut it half way and start on 1st of July but I was never able to keep up with my new year's resolutions. However, I did notice that if I made a decision or started a habit on a random day of the year, I would keep up with it. I guess because the pressure of new year’s resolutions was not part of the decision anymore. So, for the last 5 years, any resolutions I put in place, they are put on a random day of the year and so starting journaling in August instead of January or July made more sense to me. You can do whatever works for you.

For me it was very important to know the number of weeks for the 6 months I am journaling so I ensure that I have enough pages and I do not run out of space.

And so we start! As with the key section, my calendar will be surrounded by a box and then with the help of the calendar within my mobile device I will create the six month calendar in my journal. I have highlighted some important dates for me which are mainly the dates my family members have their birthdays. I also ensured that I starred the day I have my birthday because that is an important day for me :).

In the events section, I have added the day of the month I starred in the calendar with the explanation of why it is starred. Example, nineteenth of August is starred as it is my partner’s birthday and 30th of September is starred because it is the day of my birthday and actually it is also the birthday of my nephew.

I am really happy how this section turned out.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL BUCKET LIST

My next section is my sixth month bucket list. Although I added fifteen TO DO’s symbols, I am actually planning to fill maximum 12, to stay realistic and not to overwhelm myself. I have left additional space at the bottom of this page for doodling. Also, the page on the left can be used as a creative space. Being creative even if it is drawing lines is therapeutic and I will take it any time. OK, so my very first TO DO in this section is finishing my dissertation, presenting it and getting my second Master’s Degree.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL VISION BOARD

Before getting into the day to day or week to week tasks. I decided to create a vision board with all the things I would like to manifest in my life. I am a massive believer in vision boards and some of the things in my previous vision board I have manifested, some I haven’t yet and some, well, I have changed my mind about them. So, I wanted to give a go having a flexible vision board that I can revisit and update every six months. I am experimenting anyway, so why not experiment with this too? I will leave this blank for now and will slowly populate it with quotes, sketches, images or anything else I find appropriate.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL MONTH COVER

Moving to the next page, this is going to be the beginning of the first month in my journal, which is August. I have drawn various lines in order to bring the box in the middle and also the dates and weeks to sit as close to the centre as possible. So, I am erasing what I do not need and that is the beauty of using a pencil first. Doing this for the following months is so much easier as I can compare the dots from August to September and so on. As with everything else, I will go over the drawn areas that I am happy with, with my black pen and basically the result is a beautiful box that hosts the days of the week. Around this box I can use my creativity to beautify this further if I want to. Now I am thinking of creating something that is relevant for each month or I can use shapes that I have around me like the leaf from this flower and use it to decorate my month covers.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL WEEKLY SPREAD

Well, this is my weekly set up! I think it is a good start. I have my heading with the week dates which is important for me and then I split each page in three vertical sections, each for a day of the week apart from the last section which is for the weekend as I tend to have less to-do’s. My to-do’s are not just personal but also include to-do’s for work, I tend to have 3-5 for work to-do’s and around 2 with maximum 3 to-do’s that are not work related, like appointments, or my content creation project. I haven’t drawn vertical lines all the way to the bottom, I found a template that had a similar set up and having a note section would not hurt. It can include something interesting I learnt that week or I can keep a reminder of something to look at, at some point that is not urgent. I will see how I can utilise this section as I use the journal.

On the upper side of every vertical section, I have added space for gratitude, where I can record one to three things I am grateful for that day. My to-do’s can be pre-filled on Sunday and amended throughout the week or filled as the week progresses.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL HABIT TRACKER

When I was researching the set up of my journal, I realised that I also wanted to include a habit tracker and a mood tracker. The way you see it set up right now is an initial set up which I will play with to see what actually works. I want habits to be stressed the same way across all days, so I will not merge days as I did with my weekly to-do’s. As a result, I split each page in four vertical sections. The first section is dedicated to the goals I have set for each habit I am tracking and the rest sections are days of the week. I am planning to track 4 things:

  • My water intake, the goal here is to drink 1.5 to 2L or 8 to 9 glasses of water per day

  • My vegetable intake, the goal here is to eat at least 5 portions per day

  • My fruit intake, the goal here is to eat 2 portions per day

  • My activity, although I wrote here 30mins intense or 60mins walk, I am actually just going to write what I did that day, example I might have gone for a run or to a pilates class or did nothing. So, it is important for me to write this down.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL MOOD TRACKER

Lastly, I want to track my mood of the day. I decided to start with simple face icons but that may change. I found some really beautiful mood tracker setups but they required a lot of time to be created, so for now I will use this setup and I will see if it works in the long run.

Any of the ways I am tracking my habits may change actually. I can change the boxes for the water to glasses, or having numbers in the vegetables may not work especially, now that I am thinking about it when I eat more than 5 portions. But for now this seems manageable and I am extremely happy.

So, each of my week uses four pages, 2 pages for weekly to-do’s and 2 pages for tracking habits. Knowing the number of weeks came in handy as I can calculate approximately how many pages I will need to cover all the weeks with month covers and a couple of blank spaces in between so that my creativity runs wild.

I have also prepared September with a pencil but I have not created the weeks as I want to see how two to three weeks of August will go and if I feel like I need to change something I will have the flexibility to do it for the following months.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL ADDITIONAL SECTIONS

I have created a few sections at the back of this journal. So, let’s go all the way to the last pages, here I have a section for my life bucket list, the bucket list with all the things I want to achieve at some point in my life.

And I have another section for any ideas that pop into my head, something like a brain dump. A section that will host all the things that I tend to write on random papers and notepads and that end up in the rubbish bin because of the clatter they create.

DOTTED (BULLET) JOURNAL INDEX

Lastly, do you remember the index pages that we saw when going through this dotted journal? Well, it’s time we went there and we used them, don’t you think? Again, I have pre-filled this section as well, so all we need to do is go through them with a black pen.

Shall we go through what we have created so far? I am so super excited!

In summary, we have our index pages, our key section with key symbols, a creative space, a 6 month calendar with key event section, a 6 month bucket list, a section for the vision board, month cover, weekly to-do section for work and personal tasks, a weekly habit tracker and mood tracker.

I won’t lie to you, it did take a significant amount of time to be created. However, maybe that is the beauty of using this type of way to be organised. You invest time and effort creating something so personalised, something that is relevant to you and your needs and so you end up using it and stay focused because it is part of you. Also, no matter how technology evolves, nothing beats the feeling of handwritten to-do’s I feel.

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