Bullet Journal Ideas for Beginners: A Minimalist Guide
Are you a complete beginner to all things bullet journaling but are determined to organize your life? Or an avid planner enthusiast who can no longer find the “perfect planner” but are curious about designing your very own productivity system? You’ve come to the right place!
The vast world of bullet journaling is promising but also overwhelming. In this article, we break down the absolute basics: from the tools you’ll need to key spread ideas to get you started.
What is a bullet journal
In his book The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll describes a bullet journal as a notebook that goes at “the speed of life.” In many ways, it’s more than a notebook with dots in it. Much like Passion Planner, it’s meant to be a companion to living with intention, to minimize the chaotic noise of our lives and drill down to what matters most.
Consider it a bespoke notebook tailored exactly to fit your needs--because you are the one creating it. Many bullet journal spread ideas on Pinterest may contain intricate hand lettering and complex planning systems. But that doesn’t mean yours has to look that way too. You can make it as colorful or minimalist, as complex or basic as you’d like.
Bullet journal essentials
The only things you’ll really need are a journal of your choosing and your favorite pens. I’m using a dotted Passion Journal here because I enjoy the minimalist but structured feel. (The two ribbons and page numbers are a bonus too!) If you don’t care for structure too much, I’d recommend the lined Passion Journal; if you plan on creating lots of lines and boxes, I’d recommend the grid format.
What makes the Passion Journal the best bullet journal
There are lots of different bullet journals to choose from, so we’ll give you a quick rundown of our bestselling Passion Journal to shorten your search! Here’s why you’ll love it:
- Number of pages: The Passion Journal has a whopping 210 pages, plenty of space for at least a full year’s worth of bullet journal spreads.
- Paper thickness: With thick and sustainably sourced 120 GSM paper, the Passion Journal makes ghosting and pen bleed a thing of the past.
- Size availability: Find the best fit for your lifestyle in Small (5.8” x 8.3”), Medium (6.9” x 9.8”), and Large (8.5” x 11.25”) sizes.
- Colors: The Passion Journal comes in four stunning colors: Elite Black, Seaside Blue, Luminous Rose Gold, and Pine Green.
Best pens for bullet journal
As far as pens go, one reliable pen will do. Though if you enjoy color coding like I do, you can equip yourself with a wider variety. Here are a few of our team’s favorite pens to use:
- Pilot G-2: Bold and definitive, Pilot G-2 pens deliver a striking ink payoff. Its thickness makes it ideal for those with larger handwriting.
- Sharpie Pens: This one has been my personal favorite for almost five years. The small felt tip brings clarity to your journal’s contents and comes in a variety of colors. (Please note that Sharpie Pens will not bleed through our paper, while Sharpie markers and other alcohol-based markers will.)
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens: A staple of our creative team, the Tombow Dual Brush Pens are perfect for lettering and coloring.
All other tools are optional, but you’re welcome to use rulers, stickers, and other stationary favorites.
How to start a bullet journal
If you’re feeling anxious about putting pen to paper in a brand new notebook, I hear you! Begin with an intention: who is the person you want to be? How do you want the BuJo to help you get there?
And another thing: think of systems first, then aesthetic. It’s easy to get caught up in the Pinterest vortex of bullet journal ideas. Start with what will functionally make sense for you then explore ways to customize it later.
Bullet journal tips when you’re just starting out
- Is your inner perfectionist preventing you from writing on the page? Use a pencil when you’re starting out then go over with a pen.
- Don’t create a spread for the sake of having it. If it’s not useful or enjoyable, it doesn’t need to be in your bullet journal.
- Download free bullet journal printables for inspiration or if you don’t want to create systems from scratch.
Bullet journal ideas for beginners
Here are 13 spread ideas to include in your bullet journal. Remember, you don't have to use all of them! Maybe start with three to five that you love and go from there.
1. Bullet journal table of contents
Keep a running list of your variety of spreads and trackers.
2. Bullet journal key
Create a legend of shorthand symbols for your journal. If you color code, write a key for what each color represents.
3. Bullet journal goals page
If you could be anything, do anything, and have anything, what would it be? Write your life’s wishlist on one page to refer to as the year progresses.
Need a little more guidance on your goals? Download our FREE Passion Roadmap goal setting exercise to reflect on the ambitions that matter most to you.
4. Bullet journal monthly spread
Your entire month at a glance, all in one place.
5. Bullet journal weekly spread
Keep an easy, no fuss schedule in your bullet journal of your weekly appointments. Decorate with stickers and washi tape or go without for a minimalist feel.
6. Bullet journal daily spread
Prefer to take life one day at a time? Keep it simple with an appointment calendar for the day and optional sections for gratitudes, highlights, and goals.
7. Bullet journal finance tracker
Monitor paying off debt and building your savings with an easy to create finance tracker.
8. Bullet journal movie tracker
The best way to keep up with a bullet journal is to include spreads you genuinely enjoy. Record all the movies you watch this year and write down which scene was your favorite too!
9. Bullet journal book tracker
Draw a shelf with the reads you want to take on this year and include a section of your favorite quotes from each below it.
10. Bullet journal gratitude log
List all the things, big and small, for which you’re thankful.
11. Bullet journal mood tracker
Use the ever popular Year in Pixels method to track your mood each day.
12. Bullet journal habit tracker
Focus on a few habits you want to build. Color code based on whether or not you met a habit goal for the day.
13. Bullet journal to do list
If weekly scheduling isn’t your thing, opt for a weekly to-do list instead. Write down your most important tasks and cross them off as you complete each.
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Paula Palomar is a copywriter with Passion Planner. In her free time she enjoys bullet journaling and spending time with her English bulldog, Bella.