Bullet Journal 101: The Art of Being Organized

An introduction to bullet journaling and how to get started.


Ashlyn Martin

December weekly spread created by Ashlyn Martin.

What is Bullet Journaling?

Bullet journaling first began as a phenomenon started by thirty-nine-year-old digital designer Ryder Carroll. He first began journaling as a way to cope with his ADHD and he often carried around many of them. After taking courses in web design and working for media companies, he began looking for ways to condense his organizational process. This birthed the “Bullet Journal.” In Caroll’s own words, its purpose is “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” Essentially, it functions as a multi-use journal that can be used as a sketchbook, idea planner, schedule, task manager, and more. 

To learn more about bullet journaling, you can visit Ryder Carroll’s website here.

What You’ll Need

The most important thing to consider before starting a bullet journal is its purpose. Why do you want to create one? Is it to better organize your life? For a place to jot down your creative ideas? Knowing this will be useful for deciding how you want to lay out your journal and what you will need to do so.

You can use any journal for bullet journaling, however, most typically people use journals with dotted paper rather than lined, gridded, or blank. From my own experiences, I prefer to use dotted paper because it makes it much easier to draw out and plan my journal in correct proportions. These journals are relatively easy to find and are sold at a majority of craft stores, such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, as well as at Walmart and on Amazon. Ryder Caroll also has his own line of bullet journals which you can find here. Bullet Journals range from about $8-$25 in price. I found mine at Walmart, complete with an index and numbered pages for just under $10. 

The kinds of supplies you need depend on how elaborate you want to make your bullet journal. Many people in the bullet journaling community get creative with theirs, using a variety of pens, stickers, washi tapes, and other supplies to personalize their journal. This goes back to determining your purpose. Feel free to use your journal as a creative outlet, but don’t feel pressured to either. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use your pages!

For beginners, I recommend purchasing a couple of fine-tipped pens, felt tip pens, and 2-3 rolls of washi tape. Many bullet journalers swear by Microns for their fine-tipped pens, but I have found that they dry out quickly. I prefer Michael’s brand, Artist Loft fine-tipped pens. They are much cheaper too and last longer. There are a variety of felt-tipped pens I use. My favorite brands for these are Staedler, Tombow, and Zebra. You can buy most of these individually or in packs. Washi tape isn’t necessary, but it’s a great way to add flair to pages that seem empty or to cover up mistakes made in pen. You can find it at a majority of craft stores. They are usually sold in packs, but you can sometimes find them individually as well. Below I will link my favorite supplies to use:

Exceed Dotted Classic Notebook, Black, Large, 7.5″ x 9.75″

Artist’s Loft™ Illustration Pen Set, Black

Staedtler® Duo Fiber-Tip Pens

Zebra Mildliner Double Ended Creative Marker Set

Getting Started

There are many ways to start your journal, and it’s up to you how you decide to do so. The best places for finding bullet journal spread ideas are Pinterest and Instagram. I’ve found both to be very helpful in planning out my journal.

I began my journal with an index. Luckily, my journal already had one, but not all do. If yours doesn’t, I would highly recommend drawing one in. Some people like to start their journals off with things such as goals for the year, but I began mine in November, so I decided not to. My monthly spread for November was very short because I was excited to move on to December. For this reason, I’m going to focus on detailing the process of my monthly spread for December. The slideshow below does, however, feature a few pictures of my favorite November pages. 

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I began my December spread with a festive title page/calendar. Many people like to stick with a theme for their entire monthly spread. I like to mix it up, but for December, all of my pages generally stick to being Christmas themed. Next, I drew out my weekly spreads. For the month of December, I kept mine simple. They all feature the days of each week and their respective dates, and a small section for notes. I reserved the end of my monthly spread for pages such as notes, doodles, lists, and trackers. A couple of examples of these are featured in the gallery below as well. 

This is just my method, however, there are many ways to utilize your own journal. For this reason, I not only featured some of my pages in the gallery but also pages by Lauren Watercutter, a senior here at WCHS who inspired me to start my journal. Towards the end of the gallery, I also included some examples of my favorite spreads and pages done by well-known bullet journalists. Hopefully, these pages will all serve as an inspiration to help you make your journal your own!