In 2013, I stumbled across an article on Lifehacker about a brand new productivity method called the Bullet Journal. As a productivity geek and journal lover, I knew that this new system was going to work for me big time. The creator of the system, designer Ryder Caroll, had setup a video and website to show the basics of his system, and I was all over it. But at the time, that’s all I had to get started. There was no Bullet Journal community, the method was still new and no one was talking about it, really. There were no Facebook groups, no Instagram accounts on the topic, I felt like it was just me and my notebook, and, quite frankly, I was a little lost.
Fast forward to 2017, the Bullet Journal community is a fast growing entity, with dozens of very active Facebook groups, thousands of Instagramers taking pictures of their notebooks, and Bullet Journal experts poppin’ up here and there. As there’s more and more awareness of the Bullet Journal method, I see new people asking all the time “do you have any advice for starting out?” That’s how I got the idea of asking experts to offer their best tips for Bullet Journal beginners. It’s been a while in the making and I am super pumped to share the advice of the top influencers in the blogosphere in this round-up post. Let’s dig in!
Shelby | Little Coffee Fox
“There’s a common anxiety among new bullet journalists that I want to address, and that is the fear of making mistakes. Usually it strikes when you open up your journal to that first blank white page, but it can happen at any point. You might be afraid to try a new spread, play with fun colors, letter out a header, or simply doodle – you want to make it perfect the first time. But my advice to you is to do it anyway, because perfect will never happen. The only way to improve on anything, from your planning to your handwriting to your creativity, is to try and try again. You can’t imagine yourself to a higher level of skill. You can’t get better by only looking at other bullet journals on Instagram. You just need to roll up your sleeves, uncap your pen, and make a mark.”
Jessica | Pretty Prints and Paper
“If I had to give advice for a Bullet Journal beginner, I’d say to just start. We get really caught up with pretty prefect images on Instagram and complex spreads and layouts so we keep from starting in order to achieve those spreads. Think of the first month as a grand experiment and start cheap. You’ll figure out incredibly quickly what works for you and what doesn’t, what is useful and what isn’t, and you’ll never know until you do it. You can’t preplan all the sections you’ll need, how you need to structure a weekly – it took me months before I found a layout that would work for me and even then, it changes depending on what is going on. You are the one expert on your life and ultimately how your Bullet Journal will work for you. Never the other way around.”
Kara | Boho Berry
“If you’re just getting started with the Bullet Journal system, my best advice is to do your own thing. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or if your BuJo doesn’t look exactly like that one persons’. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is its flexibility and customizability. No two Bullet Journals will be alike, just as no two people are. Take the time to learn the system over at bulletjournal.com, and then play around with it and tweak the system until you have something that works for you. Sure, you can turn to others for inspiration (our community is amazing), but remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Your BuJo will be uniquely your own.”
Alexandra | Alexandra Plans
“Remember the purpose of why you’re keeping a Bullet Journal. Don’t get so overwhelmed with everything out there. Find your style, stick to it, and have fun in the process! The minute you stress out over how it looks, then it defeats its purpose. Remember that it’s a tool for productivity, a creative outlet, and a place to gather your thoughts. Make it yours and let it be a place to document your life!”
Cristina | My Life In a Bullet
“My #1 tip for beginners would be to start simple, with the very basics. Looking for inspiration online can be truly overwhelming at first, so the safest way is to start simple and see where the journey takes you. I would encourage everyone to get a notebook and a pen, visit the official Bullet Journal website to get familiar with the system and start from there. Then as you get more familiar and comfortable with it, you can search for more inspiration and figure out how to adapt it to work with your lifestyle.
Most of all, be patient with yourself and understand that it’s a journey to a better self. Allow yourself to make mistakes because perfectionism has its place, but not in your journal. The only rules are the ones you make yourself. So remember, whether you want to prioritize practicality over creativity, minimalism over chaos, the choice is up to you.”
Kim Alvarez | Tiny Ray of Sunshine
“When starting out, it’s important to see where you are and think about what you need and build from there. I recommend sitting down and diving in after watching Ryder’s introductory video. As you’re going along, feel free to experiment little by little by adding a small amount at a time. If you add too much all at once, you might get overwhelmed or feel like it isn’t for you. To help you out, I suggest creating a spread of ideas you’d like to try out. This will help you brainstorm and think about how you want to improve your system. Make sure to write down your sources of inspiration on your ideas page, we all get inspired from one another and it’s nice to remember who to thank for sharing an idea that resonated with you. Try out ideas and switch them up and play around with the freedom that the Bullet Journal affords you. If something doesn’t work out, simply turn the page. Remember that the Bullet Journal is a reflection of your life, so try not compare your Bullet Journal with that of others’. We all have different lives and your Bullet Journal will support you with yours, so have fun and embrace making it your own!”
Sandra | Wundertastisch
“The advice I would have loved to get when I first started out is this: ‘Don’t try to make everything look perfect. A bullet journal is meant to be a safe place for you. A place to be creative, to plan ahead, and become a better version of yourself.’ It is so easy to get discouraged looking at all those beautiful Instagram feeds of talented bullet journal lovers and to beat yourself up when yours doesn’t reach this level of beauty. But how it looks doesn’t define what it can do for you. The way you use it does. So don’t be afraid to try out different layouts and see what works best for you. The pages that help you to get the most done every day, the ones that inspire you to go for your wildest dreams and the ones that allow you to remember past successes and adventures are the ones that truly make a difference in your life. So focus on these, no matter how they look and celebrate your successes as they come along.”
Sheena | Sheena of the Journal
“The Bullet Journal is such a wonderful tool because it’s so customizable. So don’t be overwhelmed by all the supplies available or all the super pretty bullet journal pages you see on Instagram. This is just for you and you can go as big or as minimal as you like. When you commit to writing every day, whether its a full page spread or just a few quick notes, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your life begins to change. Suddenly your goals aren’t quite as out of reach as you may have thought. And putting your life on the page every day can help you define a sense of self – who you are, where you are in life, and where you’re going. So don’t be overwhelmed, the Bullet Journal journey is worth it! Start small and you’ll see some magic start to happen!”
Ryder Carroll | Creator of the Bullet Journal
“My advice would be to start simple. There are a lot of intimidating Bullet Journals online. They may be works of art, but Bullet Journaling is not about how it looks, it’s about how it makes you feel. Start with the fundamentals as I teach them on Bulletjournal.com. Stick with it for 2 months until you have the basics down. Then start adding or taking away from there. Be patient with yourself. Bullet Journal can be anything you want it to be. Figuring out what that is, is part of the practice.”
So there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog post! I would like to know what would be your advice for beginner Bullet Journalists? What is the one thing you wish you’d learn before you started bullet journaling? Let me know in the comments below! As always, you can follow me on Instagram for more Bullet Journal goodness!