Bullet Journal Basics

Curious about the bullet journal but overwhelmed by the multitude of beautiful journals you see on Pinterest and Instagram? Don’t worry! This post will show you the basic ideas behind the bullet journal system.

What is a bullet journal?

The short answer is, a bullet journal is anything you want it to be. That’s right. The bullet journal is designed in a way that allows (and encourages!) the user to adapt the system to fit their personal needs. There is no “wrong” way to bullet journal. A bullet journal belonging to a student like myself will most likely look a lot different from one belonging to an artist or a parent. Because the bullet journal doesn’t have a set layout like most planners, you have the freedom to do whatever works for you. Your bullet journal can be your planner, your diary, your to-do list, and your sketchbook.

Before starting your bullet journal, it is an absolute must to watch the official bullet journal video. No one can explain the bullet journal better than its inventor, Ryder Carroll, so head over to this link and watch the video.

Alright, now that you understand the basics, let’s dig a little deeper.

The first thing you need to do is grab a notebook and a pen. Or a pencil, if you prefer. That’s it! Those are the only two supplies necessary to have a bullet journal. And they don’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, it’s best to start off with just a regular notebook and pen so you can get the lay of the land, so to speak. I like to splurge a little and get nice supplies for my bullet journal, because making it look nice motivates me to use it, but if that’s not what works for you, keeping it simple is totally awesome.

To start, I would recommend just grabbing any old notebook you have lying around the house. I practiced in an old journal for a few weeks before I invested in a nicer notebook. This would definitely be a good idea because you can get a feel for what works for you and make sure you like the system before you spend money on supplies. In this post, I’m going to be using a $5 notebook I picked up at Michael’s a little while ago.

If you do end up wanting to get a nice notebook somewhere down the road, my favorite is the Leuchtturm1917 A5 hardcover notebook in dot grid, a very popular choice among bullet journalists. Some other popular notebooks for bullet journaling are Moleskines, disc-bound notebooks or binders like the Filofax, and traveler’s notebooks. I won’t go into a ton of detail about supplies though, because I’m planning on writing a whole blog post on them soon.

The original system is split into four main modules, or building blocks: the index, future log, monthly log, and daily log. I’ll eventually write in-depth posts on all four, but here is an overview of each:

Note: the pictures I took for this post are examples of the basic modules, intended to show you the “bare bones” of the bullet journal. For more examples of variations, check back for posts on each of the modules.


a list of pages with page numbers

The index is where you record all of the pages in your bullet journal. You write the title of each page and the page number(s). For example, if my future log spans pages two and three, I would write future log: 2-3. If I continue the future log later on in my journal, perhaps on pages 44-45, I can always add a comma and 44-46 directly next to the original future log entry. The index allows you to easily flip to any page in your journal. I would recommend that you number the pages in your notebook if it doesn’t already have numbered pages. A great thing about my Leuchtturm notebook is that it already has numbered pages and a space for an index in the front.

Future Log


The future log is your place to record big goals and plans for future months. For example, say it’s July. You think to yourself, I would really like to start my holiday shopping early this year, maybe in September or October. While that thought would normally be lost in the back of your brain, you can write start holiday shopping under September in the future log. Then, when September rolls around, you’ll look at September in your future log and remember that you want to start shopping that month. You can also use the future log to write down specific events happening in future months. The standard future log setup is to divide two pages into six sections, one per month, like the one in the picture above, but there are many variations on the future log layout.

Monthly Log


The monthly log gives you a view of the whole month. Most people set up a new monthly log right at the start of the month. The monthly log has spaces for events and tasks for each day, either in list or calendar format, and tasks or goals for the month.

Daily Log


Daily logs are the heart of the bullet journal. Every day (or the night before), you set up the day. This is the place where you “rapid log.” Instead of writing long paragraphs with full sentences like you would in a normal journal, you just jot everything down in the simplest way possible.

There are different bullets used for different things. Here is the original bullet journal key:


That said, many people tweak these bullets a bit or change them completely to fit their needs. (Are you starting to notice a trend? I told you a bullet journal can be whatever you want it to be!)

Here are the basics:

· Bullet: task; anything you have to get done

◦ Circle: event; things you have going on

– Dash: note; use this for ideas, feelings, things that happened

X Cross out a bullet when the task in completed

· Irrelevant; put a line through a task that isn’t relevant anymore

<, > Migrated; when a task doesn’t get done, but it’s still worth your time, you can do one of two things with it:

a) draw a right arrow if it’s relevant in the short-term and copy the task in the next log (whether it be future, monthly, or daily), or

b) draw a left arrow if it’s relevant in the long term and schedule it for a later date. (hint hint: future log).

*You can also add signifiers to show something that is especially important


Collections aren’t technically one of the four main modules of the bullet journal, but they’re too important to not include here. A collection is any list in your bullet journal that isn’t part of the index, future log, monthly log, or daily log. Some collections you might have are books to read, playlists, shopping lists, etc.

I hope this was a helpful! Please let me know what you thought in the comments below and check back here at the blog regularly for new posts. I am a newbie blogger, and constructive criticism is welcomed! Feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments or using the contact form. Don’t forget to subscribe!


♥ Annie

7 thoughts on “Bullet Journal Basics

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