The Basics of Bullet Journaling

by | Jul 12, 2019 | Bullet Journaling

One of the reasons I love bullet journaling is how flexible and customizable it is. You can play around with it until it’s exactly how you like it, then, make it even better as you come up with new ideas. But that can also be one of the hardest parts too! Where do you start? What’s the most important part? 

The basics!

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed with the idea of starting a bullet journal or if you’ve been keeping one for a while and feel like it’s getting a little out of control then this post is for you. The most important part of a bullet journal will always be the basics. 

Learn the basics of bullet journaling from the master: Ryder Carroll!

What Are the Basics of Bullet Journaling?

The basic philosophy of bullet journaling is that it’s a simple organization method that helps you streamline your thoughts. 

If you’re scared to write in your journal in case you mess up your spread, it’s not fulfilling its purpose. 

The bullet journal is a productivity method that should make your life easier, less stressful and more creative. Keep that in mind. 

The Basic Elements of the Bullet Journal System

The key elements to a bullet journal are: 

  1. The Index
  2. The Future Log 
  3. The Monthly Log 
  4. Dailies/Rapid Log 

You can set this up in minutes and keep up with it in just minutes a day. And these are all you really need to start your bullet journal journey. 

Sometimes, when I get a little carried away with trackers and collections I take a step back and refocus on a simple set up that’s going to emphasize my priorities and downplay my doodles. It reminds me that I don’t have to make every spread “Insta worthy” in order to have it be effective. 

Starting out with bullet journaling doesn't have to be overwhelming! Keep it simple.

Your Basic Needs 

The other essential part of the basics of bullet journaling relate to your specific needs. What you need in your journal is going to be different from everyone else. What do you want to get out of your journal?
Is it a place to house all your lists like to-dos, groceries and projects? Is it a space for you to track your habits, progress and goals? Or maybe it’s somewhere you want to record memories and open up your creativity. It could be any combination of these things. 

Your basic needs in your journal should be considered on at least a monthly basis and if your layout isn’t helping you meet those needs then you should backtrack to something that does. 

My Experience

I started a bullet journal since I had daily numeric goals I needed to hit for my work but I also had to do’s, meetings and family responsibilities.Finding a planner that had enough room for me to keep all of this organized and accessible was impossible.

My journal was pretty simple to start with but then I started to explore adding in more design elements and there were weeks where I would have blank space because I added things I didn’t need so didn’t use, or I would get so caught up in my artistic portion of my spread that I would forget the functional aspect! 

That happened just a few weeks ago. I tried out a new weekly spread and I didn’t have room for a task box which is a MUST for me. I didn’t realize I hadn’t added it until it was all done and I didn’t have anywhere to write the to-do’s. 

In the following weeks I made sure I had space for that first. Since I’m moving next month this was especially important as I have a lot of stuff to do and keep track of. Since this is one of my basic needs it was key to reflect and make sure that it was incorporated. 

When you start out with bullet journaling it can get overwhelming. Check out this guide to the basics.

A Note on Experimenting 

I strongly believe that the basics in bullet journaling are the most important and you should come back to them regularly to make sure you feel centred and productive when you’re bullet journaling. But experimenting is definitely something you should do!

Like I said, your needs will be different from others and taking the time to find what works or what makes you happy is a huge part of the bullet journal journey. So make sure to test new things out. 

The advice in this post is to help you get started if you’re feeling a little like a deer in the headlights or if you feel like you’ve been getting less productive in your method. If that’s the case then go back to the tried and true and settle into a rhythm of accomplishment and declutter. 

Once you've mastered the basics you can get creative with your bullet journal!

About the Author

Rachael is a productivity and time management enthusiast who swears bullet journaling changed her life. She’s a successful entrepreneur and mother to two little darlings as she likes to call them. You can find her blogging at or cuddled up in a massive sweater with her cat October-March since she lives just outside of Toronto, Canada. You can also find her on Instagram where she posts spreads, tips and subscriber’s art. 

Read more about bullet journaling!


  1. Alisa m Gannon

    Great info. I’m working on my own bujo-like planner and it’s nice to see some of the basics. Thanks

    • Sarah

      Glad it helped you out! Good luck with your planner 🙂


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