Bullet Journaling 101

I’ve been bullet journaling for three years now, which is wild to think about. I started in college after seeing it a lot on Tumblr, definitely before it blew up as a mainstream hobby (#trendsetter?). I’m so glad it has become mainstream, because it’s a wonderful hobby that helps me to stay focused and organized. I’ve always had hobbies that let me express myself creatively, so when I learned about bullet journaling, I automatically gravitated towards it. As an avid list-maker and someone who was unable to leave a set of notes doodle-free in school, it just made sense for me.

For those unfamiliar with it, the bullet journal system started as a way to create a custom day planner and has become hugely popular over the last few years. Everyone customizes their bullet journal in a different way. You can use it for maintaining self care, setting and meeting goals and tracking habits, or just for daily lists. Some people prefer to make theirs artsy and colorful, others like a simple, minimalist look that’s more about organization than aesthetics.

I love using my journal as a way to relieve stress and stay connected to my creative side. I've also discovered new hobbies through the bullet journaling community, like hand-lettering. Creating a bullet journal instagram account (@moirajournals) helps me stay connected to the community and find new inspiration as well!

In this post, I’m going to break down how I organize my weekly bullet journal spreads, the supplies I like to use, resources for those interested in starting a “bujo,” and more.

My Weekly Spreads

Every week, I make a new spread in my bullet journal that has a to-do list for each day and trackers for my sleep and habits. The habits I currently track are taking my birth control and other medications, exercise, reading, my sleep percentage (which I get from the Sleep Tracker app) and no-buy, a.k.a. if I spent money on anything non-essential that day. I also include a graph to track the amount of hours I sleep each night, which is information I also get from my Sleep Tracker app.

On each day, I list the things I have to do, such as work shifts and appointments, and tasks I am hoping to get done, like meal prep and laundry. I also sometimes include a weekly to-do list of tasks I want to get done at some point during the week, but that don’t have a specific timeline.

I fill in a bit of my weekly spread each day, adding in new tasks and embellishing the spread with stickers, doodles, washi tape and quotes. I usually decide on my color scheme and general page theme on Sundays when I’m setting up for the week. Last week, I went for a simple theme designed around the painting of two women in bed and the photo of flowers in a vase that I cut out of an Anthropologie catalog. Then I picked some pens and washi tapes from my collection that matched the flowers!

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How To Get Started

If you like doodling, making lists and using a planner, bullet journaling is perfect for you. When I first found out about bullet journaling, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, because I’m not very good about updating my traditional diary/journal, so I didn’t start with anything fancy - just a pack of colorful pens from Michael’s and a grid notebook I found at my student bookstore.

It’s okay to start simple - the photos you see on social media are not people’s first spreads, they’re ones done with lots of practice.

First bullet journal spread vs. most recent - how different, right?

First bullet journal spread vs. most recent - how different, right?

Most bullet journals are created in a square or dot grid notebook. A few of the most popular notebook brands for bullet journaling are Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine and Archer & Olive (which is what I currently have - I mentioned it in a recent favorites post).

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The basics of a bullet journal often include a key, weekly spreads that break down the week day by day, and habit trackers, like the one I showed above. Some people prefer to have a page where they track their habits by month, but I like to do mine by week. You also need to develop a key of symbols that indicate what status a task is at - finished, cancelled, etc. Mine is over there on the right - it’s very basic and easy for me to remember!

As for supplies, the world is your oyster. Craft stores like Michael’s and Paper Source have lots of fun gel pens and markers to choose from, as do office supply stores like Staples. My personal favorite markers and pens are:

I used to buy all of my supplies to JetPens.com, but now Michael’s sells individual Stabilo fineliners and Zebra mildliners, so you can also find them there, along with Pigma Micron pens. Most art supply stores sell individual Tombow brush pens and other great gel and ballpoint pens that work well for bullet journaling. Tombow brush pens can be a bleed through some notebook pages, so I didn’t use them very often when I had my previous journals, but my current Archer & Olive notebook has really thick pages that accommodate brush pens with no bleeding.

For washi tape and stickers, you can find cool options literally everywhere. Craft stores sell lots of washi tapes, and my collection is made up of tapes from tons of different places. Etsy has a lot of cute washi tape designs, as do some independent designers. Stickers can also be found everywhere - from traditional craft stores to fun online shops. I love to buy stickers from artists in the bullet journal community because they’re unique. Ban.do also sells awesome sticker books that are an easy and affordable way to start your collection. And of course, one of the best places to find anything fun for your bullet journal, including the notebook to start with, is the love of my life, Paper Source.

A few places I like to buy washi tape:

Some of my favorite sticker sellers:

For embellishments, I also print stuff off from Pinterest and collect scraps of wrapping paper, photos from magazines, cool product tags, and anything else that speaks to me visually. I save them all in a box and go through them when I need inspiration - sometimes a picture I printed off Pinterest 6 months ago will be the central image that inspires my week’s spread. I really enjoy the collage aspect and mixing different textures and styles to create my pages.

One of my all-time favorite weekly spreads.

One of my all-time favorite weekly spreads.

Just like your spreads shouldn’t be compared to others’, neither should your supplies! A lot of people will use fancy supplies (Tombow pens, for example, aren’t exactly as cheap as Crayola markers), but the supplies don’t matter. You could use just one of those multi-color clicky pens and still create functional and beautiful spreads.

Staying Motivated

Two questions I get often about bullet journaling are “How do you stay motivated to do this?” and “How do you get over perfectionism?”

First, motivation: bullet journaling doesn’t just help me stay organized, but it’s a huge part of self care for me. So I look forward to using my bullet journal and making fun spreads in it. I like to spend a little bit of time each night on my journal, usually while watching tv. Consistency is key for developing a good bullet journal habit, but I didn’t personally have to work too hard to build that consistency because I truly enjoy and look forward to it.

Bullet journals are also great for keeping a record of your life! I can look back on my first journal and remember what was going on while I was filling it out, which is really cool. What music I was listening to, major events in my life, current favorite things, etc. are all in there. So that motivates me too - the desire to record that kind of stuff so I can look back on it years from now.

With perfectionism, it’s hard! Sometimes, I really hate a weekly spread and I think about all the beautiful ones I’ve seen online that are better than mine. The best thing you can do is remind yourself that everyone’s version of perfect is different. Everyone uses a different system in their journal and a different layout, which is the beauty of bullet journaling. It’s extremely personal to the individual. Also, no one posts the work they do that they hate, so whatever you see on Instagram or Pinterest is an edited photo of the best journal page someone thinks they’ve done. Not the iffy ones they didn’t love. I don’t post mine if I don’t like them most of the time!

To quote Georgia Hardstark, my favorite podcaster: “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just f**king do things.” I think she sums it up pretty well - if you’re waiting for something to be perfect, you’ll never start it. Evolution is a major part of creativity - the more you practice and try new things, the more your style develops. I started my bullet journal three years ago and it looks pretty different now - not better, just different.

Resources & Inspiration

The internet is full of amazing resources for bullet journaling and talented bullet journalists. Some of my favorite resources are:

I get a lot of inspiration for my spreads on Instagram and Pinterest - check out my bullet journal Instagram here and my journaling Pinterest board here! There is a story highlight on my bullet journal instagram of some of my favorite journal accounts and I share others’ posts in my story a lot for inspiration.


Feel free to leave a comment with any journaling questions and I’ll answer them!