Bullet Journals & Planners,  Productivity

Bullet Journal Essentials: A starter guide

Bullet journal starter guide how to use a bujo

Bullet journals, or Bujos, are a fantastic journaling system that I swear by.

If you are unsure about what a BuJo is you can find more information on my blog post Bullet Journal Essentials: What on earth is a BuJo

When starting up a bullet journal it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many ideas, thoughts, uses and types of books you can use. Despite this, it is super easy to start one and you can do it right now! All you need is a pen and a notebook.

A great read for the avid Planner user is our post Bullet Journals vs Planners.
Here you can see the key differences and work out which is the best for you!

Who can benefit from starting a BuJo?

  • Those who prefer pen-to-paper to-do lists and reminders
  • If you have a million to-do lists floating around on a million pieces of paper
  • If you have things, events, ideas they want to track
  • People who like journaling and planners
  • Artistic individuals who like to draw, doodle or express themselves through journaling
  • People who want to track their goals
  • People. Just people in general. That’s right, you don’t need to fit into any category to use a bullet journal!

Common terms

When you are new to the bullet journal world, you will come across a lot of terms that may make you think “is that even English!?”
Don’t worry, I’ve got your back!
Here are some common terms used throughout the Bullet Journal community


Short for Bullet Journal


A key, or legend, is your main organisation system. A series of symbols used to categorise your events and to-do lists.


You will come across this term quite a bit when reading about bullet journals. To migrate means that an item on your to-do list has not been successful or completed and it has now been located to another day (ie: if you reschedule a doctors appointment). An arrow through your symbol is usually used for this key to represent that 


A collection is a part of your BuJo where you organise things into specific categories. Unlike a spread, these are more extensive. This can be anything from shopping lists to a weight loss tracker.


The way in which you use your pages. Each one is a spread. Weekly layout? That’s a spread. Fitness tracker? That’s a spread. Calendar? You guessed it.. spread!

Future log

A long-term overview that cannot be used in your weekly or monthly spread. This is usually a dedicated 2-4 page with small monthly calendars on them. You can see an example of mine in the photo.


Leuchtturm1917 is a type of notebook/bullet journal. It one of the most commonly used within the Bujo community (and also the one I choose to use)


This is the term used when your pen is visible on the reverse side of the paper. Many bujoers use pens that minimise ghosting as they feel it can affect the cosmetics of their notebook but generally doesn’t affect the use. (Severe cases of the pen in leaking through pages and causing damage or compromises uses is called bleeding)

bullet journal future log
My future log
bullet journal key
A (very messy) BuJo key system.

The best tips for starting your BuJo

Don’t compare yourself or your BuJo to others

I cannot stress this one enough! There are so many amazing and talented BuJo users out there and they have absolutely gorgeous spreads. It is hard to not feel envious and like you have to do the same. If you are artistically inclined then, by all means, go for it if you want! However, this is your journey and that is what matters.

As you can see from pics posted throughout my blog, some of my pages are decorated, neat and decent. Others are a train wreck with scribbles, uneven lines and mismatched ideas. It took me a while but I actually prefer it that way.

And that brings me to tip two!

Accept the mistakes

Mistakes are common in all walks of life and journaling is no exception!

When I first started mine I ripped out more pages than I care to admit. Over time I realised this was an awful idea, not only does it ruin the structure of your book but it also leaves less room for personal growth.
Now when I make a mistake I curse my clumsy hands and then get on with it. This method of acceptance saves you a LOT of time as well as helps your personal growth and patience.

Realise that not every page or idea will work for you

I have so many plans, so many ideas and even more goals. This makes me feel that I want to track everything. Just because you can track something, doesn’t mean you should!
I have made up a page with the best intention and then never used it. It’s not necessarily because that page was a bad idea, the page was just not something I needed or worked how I had imagined.
It is all a learning process, especially in the beginning, and your first BuJo may very well be full of unused trackers and lists, and that is completely normal.
Through trial and error, I have learned so much when using my BuJo.

Don’t make it a chore

Due to the flexibility of BuJos, it is really easy to make it a chore. When you feel obliged to rule up a layout every week it can be very tedious if you don’t enjoy it.
For me, creating layouts and planning every inch of my existence is really therapeutic. I become more mindful, aware and calm.
If it works for me it doesn’t mean it will work for you!
If scribbling down notes and having a scattered layout is how you make it work for you then you are 100% succeeding in your BuJo use!

Adding items to your To-Do list just to cross them off is your decision

This tip can go both ways!
For some, adding items and ideas just to cross them off can give a sense of accomplishment.
For others, doing this can lead to an overwhelming frustration that you just have no time in the day to do it all.

As above.. Don’t make it a chore! Do what you feel most comfortable with.

Have fun and enjoy the journey

I think this one speaks for itself.
Personally, I love to set some time aside every few days, put on some delicious essential oils (Elevation from doTERRA is one of the favourites for journaling!) and let my creativity and ideas flow!

You’ve got this!

With these tips, I hope you find the best way to make your journal work for you!

What is your favourite way to use your Bullet Journal?

Jess is an aspiring blogger, born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. After relocating to remote Christmas Island, Australia, to be with her fiance, she became a mother for the first time. As a long-time sufferer of anxiety, Jess knew that as a mother she couldn't keep letting it take control of her life. Using the power of planning, Jess has learned how to use her passion for organisation to minimise anxiety and maximise her self-worth. Now she runs her blog, Mindful Galaxy, to bring all of these lessons straight to you so that you can live your best life.


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