How to Bullet Journal Cheat Sheet for Beginners

Is your head exploding with all the possibilities and expert proclaimed “rules” of bullet journaling? If so, you may need this bullet journal cheat sheet to make a quick and informed decision of what this type of journaling may look like for you! Read on to learn more about - some of the different styles of bullet journals, ways of starting to bullet journal, ideas on how you can customize this journalling style to fit into your lifestyle (and if it’s something you even want to try).
How to Bullet Journal Cheat Sheet for Beginners overlay with example bullet journal spread

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First of all, you may want to ask yourself if bullet journaling is something you feel excited about, or just another thing you think you “should” do?

Some people feel that a bullet journal is a waste of time. That’s something only you can answer for yourself, but I will say it can be an awesome tool for planning, goal setting, self discovery, creativity, and time management. In my book that’s not a waste of time! Here you can find ideas on how to realistically add a planner to your daily routine.

The concept of bullet journaling can be so confusing that it stops you from even trying this awesome form of journaling. There are so many different ways to bullet journal. The key is embracing that YOU make the rules of what works for your lifestyle. Learning the different ways to bullet journal (BUJO for short) should free you up to use what you like and leave the rest! Let’s get started:)

What is a Bullet Journal: A Simple Explanation of the Different BUJO Styles and What It’s Used For

There are lots of different styles of bullet journaling. In fact, it’s a very personal and personalized way to journal, plan, and keep track of your busy life. Use these styles as a starting point and feel free to mix and match to come up with a system that works for you.

Gifts

Organize and Plan Efficiently

One of the most popular uses for the bullet journal is as a daily planner and a way to organize your busy life. It will keep track of your appointments, tasks and anything else that comes up. It’s the ultimate daily planner that can be customized to work for you, your work and personal life, and keep track of just about anything and everything for you. Color coding or adding different sections makes it easy to keep track of different aspects of your life.

Brain Dump Your Ultimate To-Do List

If you love making and working from daily to-do lists, you’ll love the bullet journal. It’s the ultimate to-do list system since each daily section is nothing more than a list. The same goes for collections which are nothing more than thematic lists that you use in addition to your daily to-do lists. Since everything is collected in the journal, you don’t have to go hunt down random scraps of paper.

Easy Scrapbook and Creative Outlet – Drawing Skills Not Needed

If you’ve been thinking of keeping a traditional journal, art journal, or memory scrapbook, but you don’t want to commit to a dedicated book, consider using your bullet journal as a creative outlet to explore your artistic side. You can make it as simple or involved as you’d like and still use the journal to keep track of the things you need to get done as well. Remember drawing skills are not a mandatory part of bullet journaling, just an option!

Goal Setting and Self Development Tool

A bullet journal is also a great way to keep track of goals and make sure you’re doing something every single day to help you move forward. Trackers help you track your progress and you can add monthly and daily reminders to help you create positive habits. Use trackers, mind maps, and dedicated lists for books you want to read, courses you want to take, or new things you want to try. The bullet journal makes a great personal improvement tool.

How you use your bullet journal is up to you. Use the list above to inspire you to come up with your very own style of bullet journaling. Remember, it is a tool that’s supposed to make your life easier, more enjoyable, and more inspired. Make it work for you.

bullet journal spreads

Easy Ways To Start to Bullet Journal

Before you start your first bullet journal, you need to decide on the type of journal you want to use. Here’s a quick overview over the three main styles of bullet journals people use, which will hopefully make your decision easier. Most importantly just start, get your feet wet and if needed switch to a different type of journal until you find the one that’s right for you.

What bullet journal should you buy? The one you’ll be most comfortable using!

A Plain Notebook

The easiest way to get started is with any notebook that you have lying around. Of course you can also pick up an inexpensive one at the store. If you just want to give this a try, it doesn’t matter if it’s ruled, lined, or has blank pages. Any type of notebook will work.

Disney

The advantage is that it’s easy and inexpensive to find something to play around with. The disadvantage is that inexpensive notebooks tend to fall apart after a lot of use, aren’t very customizable, and you have number the pages yourself. That being said, I recommend this is where you start. Give it a try and see if bullet journaling will work for you. If so, you can move on to one of the other types of notebooks.

A Moleskin or Leuchtturm Notebook

When you’re ready to upgrade to a journal you’ll enjoy writing in and are proud to display, consider spending a few dollars on a Moleskin or Leuchtturm notebook. You’ll end up with a nice sturdy book that you can carry around with you or keep by your desk.

In addition to making your bullet journaling a nicer experience, a quality notebook has some added benefits. The paper will be nicer to write on, it usually has quite a few pages, so you may be able to fit an entire year’s worth of notes and journaling in one notebook.Bullet journaling requires you to use numbered pages in your journal for indexing. There are a few editions available that include numbered pages including the Leuchtturm 1970 journal.

A Travel Journal or Midori

Another option is a travel journal or Midori. This consists of a piece of leather used as a cover and a series of replaceable inserts held in place by elastic bands. The big advantage of using a Midori style journal for your bullet journaling is that it’s highly customizable. Instead of using an index and having your collections or lists randomly spread throughout your journal, you can keep a dedicated insert for collections.

If you’re missing a more traditional calendar layout for your monthly pages, you can use a more traditional monthly and weekly calendar in your bullet journal.

Last but not least, by having the essential parts of your bullet journal (monthly spreads, daily sections, and collections) separated, you can replace only the parts you need to replace. That means when your daily journaling notebook is full, you simply start a new one, and there’s no need to go back and copy over any essential collections in a new journal. You keep your collections until you’re ready to replace it and start a new journal for those.

set of three notebooks with dotted and lines pages for bullet journals

A Hybrid of a Traditional Journal and Bullet Journal

There are many printable bullet journal pages that are available to be used on their own or to be included in your own customized journal. These are usually added in a binder that you’ve created to include the types of planner pages that work for you. After a lot of trial and error I’ve found this to be the ideal solution to get everything I want and need in a planner/journal. You can find some of these bullet journal printable inserts in our free resource library;)

How to Make Your Bullet Journal Fit Your Personal Needs

The initial allure of the bullet journal is that it’s simple and flexible. Because it’s so flexible it’s a great personal creative outlet – which is also why people get so confused when they see all the different layouts people have created. I would say the best way to make it work for you is to start simple and and build on it from there.

Don’t be Afraid to Create,Test, Make Mistakes, and Learn From the Process

Yes you can read all about using a bullet journal and watch a ton of YouTube videos to get ideas. But you won’t get a feel for what will work for you until you start to give it a try. Start with an inexpensive notebook and just try it out. Follow the basic bullet journal layout with an index, a key and a monthly spread. Track your daily tasks and see how it feels. Add in a few lists or collections and get a feel for what type of information is useful and what isn’t. Try trackers and various other “hacks” you come across and determine what works for you.

Bullet Journaling Does NOT Have to Be Time Consuming

woman writing in a bullet journal

When you first start out bullet journaling, you may be tempted to write down and track every single thing. You have lots and lots of ideas for collections. The enthusiasm is wonderful, and while it’s perfectly fine to try a bunch of different stuff, you may over-commit and start tracking too much. You don’t want your bullet journal to become a dreaded chore. It’s a tool. Start small and figure out what works and what’s sustainable for you to write down and track. Always keep in mind that this is supposed to be helpful, not add to your workload.

Embrace Your Bullet Journal Mistakes as Part of the Process

If you find that something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to rip it out. Did you think the weekly reading collection was a good idea, but now it is a dreaded task? Rip out that page. And if your overall layout for your bullet journal isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to toss it and start over. This is exactly why you start out with a small and inexpensive notebook. Grab another one and start over.  You’ll find the setup and system that’s right for you.

Find the Bullet Journal Method that Work for You

Expect some testing and tweaking, and changing stuff around until you come up with something that works well for you. We all lead different lives and our brains work differently. Our bullet journals should reflect that. Keep working on it until you come up with a system that feels natural. You’ll know it when you get there. The end goal is to have a bullet journal setup that makes your life easier and helps you stay organized without feeling that writing in it is a time wasting chore.

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