How to Bullet Journal, Part One: What is a Bullet Journal and What You Need (And May Want)

I had heard about Bullet Journaling for years and had spent a lot of time off and on wondering about the method. It sounded interesting, but I would quickly feel confused by all the terms on the “Getting Started” section of bulletjournal.com (collections, modules, rapid logging, future logging, Calendex?? What???) and when I would look at many websites devoted to Bullet Journaling or check Instagram, I would feel defeated by the many beautiful images that I felt I would never be able to match.

Maybe you feel like I did. You want to Bullet Journal but the whole thing feels like a confusing mess. While you love looking at the photos, you worry you will never have it look that good.

Or maybe you have never heard of Bullet Journaling before now. You are like “What the heck is all this? Will this actually be useful for me?”

Well, I have good news. Whether you are in either camp, I have the solution, a series I’m going to run on how to Bullet Journal.

What is a Bullet Journal?

It’s a specific system created by Ryder Carroll as a way to plan your days, keep your to-dos, and remember important notes or events in your life. Basically, it is if your planner, to-do list and diary had a baby. It is the place to keep all your stuff in one central location.

Hey, that sounds like something I could use. What do I need to start?

Oh, good question! Here, check out this handy dandy list and accompanying photograph:

  1. A Notebook
  2. A Pen (or other writing instrument)
Yes, this is really all you need to Bullet Journal

Wait, What?!?!?

Yup. That is all you NEED. While many people use other stuff to design their Bullet Journal, all you actually need is a notebook and pen.

All I have is this  $0.50 notebook and ballpoint pen from Target. That can’t be enough!

Actually, it is. At the core of Bullet Journaling, that is all you actually need. Of course, that isn’t what most people use, but if that is all you have, then you have what you need for a Bullet Journal.

Fine, that is all I need. But I want mine to look like the other ones. So what am I looking for?

Ah, so now we get into the fun part of the supplies.

Notebooks:
I have found what works best for me (and I learned this from my awesome BuJo mentor, Queen Mari) is dot grid paper. The most common notebooks in dot grid are Leuchtturm 1917 and Moleskine. They both have the advantage of being sewn together instead of bound like a typical book. that makes it easier for them to lay flat without worrying about the pages tearing out.

My personal preference is the Leuchtturm 1917 because it already has the pages numbered and includes an index. Also, it is the recommended notebook from the official Bullet Journal site. The down side is that it is harder to find them in your local stores if you live outside of Europe. Moleskine doesn’t have the extras, but is easy to find in most big box and office supply stores in the United States.

Most people use an a5 size (called Medium by Leuchtturm and Large by Moleskine) but you can go larger or smaller if you prefer.

If you are interested in buying one online  (something you basically have to do with L1917 and is the easiest way to find different colors or sizes for Moleskine) I recommend checking out jbwelly.com. They have a large selection, prices are the same as if you were to buy from either official site, and they have amazing packaging. Amazon, on the other hand, is probably one of the worst options in my opinion. Their selection is spotty and since it is largely 3rd party vendors, the prices are outrageous for some colors and sizes.

Writing Instruments and Accessories:

Look, writing instruments (and accessories)!

Pens are the most common thing to use. You probably have one (or a dozen) in a random drawer. A basic ballpoint is all you’ll really need. But of course, you probably want more.

I love fancy pens (OK, so maybe semi-fancy pens. No quills here!) I tend to use Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens. My favorite sizes are the Fine or Small for every day writing and Brush for fancier lettering. I also use Micron pens (03 size) and Sharpie pens for everyday writing. For colorful pens, I really enjoy Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

You probably also want a pencil. You remember a pencil, right? The things you probably bought at back to school sales and now have floating around in a drawer. They are actually really useful for your Bullet Journal. When I’m trying out something new or want to design something I might want to fix, I use pencil first. That way I can fix my mistakes instead of seeing the mess with pen (I probably should use them more often with stuff I think I can draw out. Hot mess, BuJo right here!) My teacher friends tell me that the best pencil out there is Ticonderoga. After buying them this year for my kids instead of the cheap Target ones, I finally get it. Buy these, it is worth the extra.

Other things you want? A ruler (to draw straight lines) and an eraser (to fix the mistakes. The eraser on a standard pencil almost never last long enough.) Queen Mari told me to use a stainless steel ruler with a raised edge (Helix makes one that is good and fairly easy to find) and an art eraser instead of the classic pink one (I like the Staedtler erasers.) Of course, once I gave them a try, I found she was totally right.

Other Fun Stuff You Can Use in Your Bullet Journal

Whatever you want? I use stickers, washi, stamps, and stencils in my Bullet Journal all the time. Stencils are probably the most common thing used by most BuJo people. If nothing else, they save you the hassle of trying to carefully draw things over and over. I have some for boxes, for some fancy dividers and designs, check lists, and I make some for one off projects (like my Christmas gift tracker) using my Silhouette. My everyday stencils are purchased from Etsy.

Washi is fancy, colorful tape. Officially, it should be Japanese rice paper tape. But you’ll find most colorful, easy to pull up tape is labeled as washi. It’s easy to find at Michaels or Hobby Lobby and even Target and the big box office stores like Staples carry some. You can also get it from Etsy, which has a much bigger selection.

Stickers are, well, those lovely things you probably used as a kid. They have become a huge thing in the world of decorative planning. I buy most of mine from Etsy or from websites run by planner sticker shops. Michaels is making strides in making planner stickers, but they don’t have nearly the selection or options as the other two.

Stamps are another one of those lovely things you used as a kid and have now become so much more. Again, Etsy and stamp specific websites are wonderful options. Michaels has a bigger selection of stamps then planner stickers, so I use them a lot too.

Great! So now I want to get all this stuff! What do I do with it? How do I actually make a Bullet Journal?

Ah! Good question! But you’ll have to wait on that. I did mention it was a series, right? Up next, Bullet Journal Basics!

Just a heads up, all of the Amazon links in the pens section are affiliate links. That means if you click them and buy something, I will earn a small amount. If you prefer, you can go directly to Amazon or a different website to buy them. Also, all of the items I listed are available at Michaels or Hobby Lobby and many are available at Target or big box office stores if you prefer.

Parts Two and Three are now available to read! Check them out!