How Do I Start a Bullet Journal?

Last week we learned that the Bullet Journal (also called BuJo by those in the know), is a method of organizing your life. It was first developed by Ryder Carroll to create a system to help him keep organized. Ryder’s system helps you to organize schedules, to-do lists, a place for brainstorming, reminders, and any other organizing task all in one place - your Bullet Journal.

How to start a bullet journal, a blog by Paper Papier from Ottawa ON

Last week, we said all it takes to get started is a pen and a journal...Which is true. However, as it’s a system and for the system to work for you, it needs to be set up the right way to help you maximize your Bullet Journal and reap the rewards of keeping one.

Bullet Journal Terms

Bullet Journal terms explained by Paper Papier

Before we get into setting up your Bullet Journal, it’s very helpful to be familiar with typical Bullet Journal terms. Don’t get hung up on remembering all the terms. Once we start using them in the context of actually setting your journal they will be more useful.


One of the Bullet Journal system’s core concepts is being able to move tasks forward to new pages. This is known as migration. Migration allows you to take an unfinished task and move it to the next page - usually your current daily page, and keep it in mind. 


A Bullet Journal spread is a group of pages that are about the same or related topic. They are usually two pages which give you an overview of the whole topic quickly. For example, if you are setting up a week or weekly, you can have the week across two pages which is your spread. 


A tracker is a spread used to track certain information for a particular length of time. They can be a week, month, year or any time you choose. There is no limitation to trackers and next week we will explore what are different trackers and how to add them to and use them in your Bullet Journal. 


Daily or Dailies is the short term for Daily Logs. 


Weeklies are Weekly Logs.


As with Dailies, and Weeklies, Monthlies is the short term for Monthly Logs


How to start a bullet journal, a step by step guide by Paper Papier.

Last week in our Have You Heard of Bullet Journal blog, we explained that all you need to get started is a journal and a pen, The thing with Bullet Journals is that it’s also a creative outlet too! It’s not just about organizing. Your pages can be illustrated,  you can use colours, stickers, Washi tape or anything you please. Some people go for the minimalist look and others like their Bullet Journal to be a work of art.

How to start your bullet journal. A step by step guide by Paper Papier.

Cavallini’s Sticky Notes:

How to start your bullet journal from scratch. A blog by Paper Papier.

The Cavallini vintage letterpress rubber stamps includes:

The Cavallini Colour Wheen Pencil Set includes

How to start your bullet journal. A how-to guide by Paper Papier.

Getting Started...Essential Pages

You have your journal and pen at the ready. Let’s walk through each of the basic functions of the Bullet Journal and go through how to set it up. It might seem like a lot to do, but don’t worry! It’s a ton easier once you’ve got these basic elements set up.

If you’re itching to get something written down in your journal, now is your opportunity before we create the Essential Pages. Take your first page, write down your name, perhaps a title, a scribble or doodle. Anything works here but it can dispel some of the apprehension to get going.

1. Index

How to start a bullet journal. A step by step guide by Paper Papier.

The index is the first element in your Bullet Journal that sets apart this system from other journals. It will help you avoid flipping through pages to find a specific entry or note. Once in place, the index can lead you to exactly what you are looking for with little pain or effort.


If you purchased a Leuchttrum1917 journal from Paper Papier you’re in luck! It already comes with an index - yay! Also some stickers, page markers and pockets. Who doesn’t love pockets?! 

How to start a bullet journal. A how-to guide on starting your bullet journal by Paper Papier.

Not to worry if you have a different kind of journal...You simply need to add your index and number your pages. The way you do this is to choose the next blank page after your index page and begin numbering here...You can do all the numbering right away or do some now and add them as you go.

Different Kinds of Indexes

Your index can be as simple or complex as you desire. The page and its contents or you can use colour coding or sort by category. Whatever you choose to do, as long as you create an index, you’re on top of the game! 

2. Future Log

In a journal that’s a planner or agenda, the pages are pre-printed with days and months. This makes it easy to record an appointment, meeting or tasks. So this begs the question, how do you accomplish this with your bullet journal? This is where the future log comes in.

The Future Log is a page or spread you use to write down any future appointments or dates for a month that has yet to be set up. That way you can easily reference it to see if there is anything you need to add to your upcoming month once you’re ready to set it up. As you’re setting up your Bullet Journal, you get to decide how many months in advance you want to prepare - the recommended number is anything from 3 months to a year. Including a future log as a way to jot down, ideas or important meeting or appointments can be very useful. This gives you the ability to plan further than a year without having to work on the details too early. 

How to start your bullet journal.

Once you’ve chosen how many months you want to plan, divide your page into equal sections for each month. You can go ahead and label each section in the upcoming months. As you have a meeting or appointment or note, flip to your future log and log to make sure your notes get added.


3. Monthly Spread

The monthly spread is where you keep your month at a glance. How you set this up is up to you. Some people prefer a list format, other people prefer the calendar set up. Just keep in mind that there is no right way just the way that suits you best. 

There are lots of things you can add to your monthlies. To have a successful monthly spread you need to create the calendar (or list) or the layout that best suits you. Beyond this is up to you and your creativity.

4. Weekly Spread

In Ryder Carroll’s initial Bullet Journal setup, he doesn’t include “weeklies” but they are a natural progression from monthlies to dailies You can plan your next seven days in detail with a monthly. Weeklies cover your appointments, goals, deadlines and meetings or whatever you need. Perhaps you would rather use weeklies than dailies. Some people use dailies, weeklies, and monthlies depending upon what works best for them.

5. Daily Spread

Perhaps the most important part of your Bullet Journal beyond actually setting it up. Dailies are your to-do list at their peak. A daily is where you write down everything you need to get done today. It should include appointments, notes, goals and more. Add as much as you want to  - it’s entirely up to you. For example, some people use it to track exercise, meals or water intake. It’s up to you, your imagination and your needs. You can set up your spread (2 pages) to suit your requirements.

How to start your bullet journal.

*Thanks to


A little Help

The above section, Essential Pages, is a lot to digest. For those of you who prefer a video, we have included Ryder Carroll’s how-to video to give you a visual. Remember, there is no right or wrong and once you’ve set up your Bullet Journal, using it will be a breeze!


Your Collections are a catch-all for everything you want to add that doesn’t fit in any of the other categories (daily, monthly etc.). A collection can be a tracker, map, list, info dump (brainstorming session), and anything you can imagine or need.

It’s a great place for a project you want to work on or a place to write down thoughts you need to get out of your head. All you need is to take two pages, write down the title of the collection and off you go! In next week’s blog we will go into greater details about the different collections to give you inspiration for your own collections. 

How to start your bullet journal from scratch.

*thanks to


 Where To Add My Collection Pages?

This again is up to you. Some people like to add it to a specific month (the pages directly before or after), or week. You can also add it to the end of your Bullet Journal if it’s something relevant to more than one month. 

Just remember to add your new collection to the index so that it will be easy to find in the future!

First Page Jitters!

We’ve covered the essentials of setting up your Bullet Journal. A blank journal can still be daunting even with a how-to set it up. However, having jitters is normal and once you realize this, getting going should be easier. 

How to start your bullet journal, a step by step guide

The Frist Page Jitters is often a concern with making a mistake or wanting something to be perfect. The only problem is that it can stop you from getting started. Remember, getting started doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. After all, this is your Bullet Journal you’re making just for you! The sooner you get started the sooner the jitters will dissipate.

What's Next?

Here are some Tips and Tools that will help you in creating your Bullet Journal. We talk about different kinds of collections you can use in your Bullet Journal including but not limited to gratitude, memory, recipes and more! We also cover trackers and how to use them.