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How to Set Up and Plan in Your Bullet Journal

Make your own bullet journal with these easy-to-follow steps.

Make your own bullet journal with these easy-to-follow steps.

Bullet Journal How-to

You can set up your bullet journal in whatever way you like—whatever way works best for you—but I drew my inspiration from Nadine's Mixed Plate on YouTube. I have her bullet journal video at the bottom of this article, so you should check her out. She also notes her inspirations. I am loving my bullet journal and use it not only for my events and to-dos but also for my creative tasks such as drawing, writing, brainstorming, hand-lettering, etc. Like I said, use it however you like.

The Notebook and the Cover

My ideal bullet journal notebook would be small enough to fit in my purse, cheap, with no lines, spiral-bound, having pockets, and at least 100 pages. The notebook I found hits almost all of these criteria. I found it at Office Max. It's just a Mead Five Star spiral notebook. It has 100 pages and two pockets, which I will show. It's the right size, and it was only $4. The problem is that it has lines. They are, however, faint, which helps.

Spiral vs. Moleskin

A lot of people use Moleskin. They are a bit pricier, and they don't lay flat, which would really annoy me. I like the spiral because it lays flat, and you can fold previous pages behind the one you're working on. That's ideal for me.

I decorated my cover with black Sharpie, thinking permanent marker would surely stick. The smooth plastic material got in the way of that permanence, unfortunately, and it is smearing off. So maybe decorate your cover with stickers. Oh, well! It looked cool for a little while.

Bullet journals can be used for almost anything you can imagine.

Bullet journals can be used for almost anything you can imagine.

Setting Up Your Sections

The beautiful thing about the bullet journal is that the sections aren't as strict, mainly because you have an index. So you can have what they call "collections" in between sections or calendar pages or wherever. You just note where these are on your index.

Check out the picture above.

In the first square, you can see one of the pockets. Here I keep miscellaneous things like shopping lists, coupons, and apparently, my daughter's Frozen stickers.

On page one, you write your Index. I chose to go according to the colors of the rainbow down my index. If you don't know me very well, I like rainbows—a lot.

On the bottom two squares, you can see my December and January lists, AKA "Monthly To-Dos." Here you can write all your events for the month and the things you hope to get done in that month.

How to Set Up Your Month Events Page

Go down the page, writing the dates, i.e., 1–31. On either the left or right, indicate the day of the week with the beginning letter of each day: SSMTWRF (I do R for Thursday). Next to each date, write any special events you have going on. It's like a calendar. Get it?

On the page next to that Month's calendar, write all your to-dos for that month.

These two pages are called a "spread." (There is some bullet journal jargon.)

The Biggest Chunk of the Bullet Journal

For me, it's the Day on a Page pages. Every day is on a page. Sometimes I put two days on a page if I don't have a lot going on.

Each day, I have a spiraldex.

What Is a Spiraldex?

It's meant to look like a clock; it's a visual representation of your day, a way to organize and record what you do each day. It starts on the inner ring at 6 am and spirals out to midnight.

There are many different ways to color in your spiraldex. Some people use highlighters or pencils. I like to make pretty stripes and symbols using my felt pens.

I will show you a picture of my key, but I fill in my hours spent sleeping, playing, eating, going out 'n about, hanging out with my husband, and doing my computer work.

Headings for Each Day

  • Don't Forget: written at the top, and it is where I write anything very important that I might forget as well as events for that day.
  • To-Do: where I write my to-dos for the day, which includes blog work, cleaning, phone calls, etc.
  • Caleb: where I record my son's nap times and what he eats for dinner.
  • Activities: where I write down the things I want to do with my daughter during the day. These could include letter practice in her workbook, writing her name, crafts, painting, art projects, outside time, etc. I'm trying to do more academic activities with her.

Each day, I also try to do a drawing or some hand-lettering. I place stickers or washi tape whenever I can/feel like it/have time. During Advent, I was writing a bible quote in calligraphy or hand-lettering each day.

Sometimes I journal on these pages.

Day on a page

Day on a page


Collections are lists or pages that go in between your Days on a Page. To give you some ideas, here are my collections so far:

  • My Sister's Wedding: notes about bridesmaids, the bachelorette party, and the bridal shower.
  • Drawing: my drawings. Self-explanatory
  • Writing: I've been dabbling in creative writing/fan fiction.
  • Blog Notes: I pin a lot of great tips on blogging, and I decided to jot some of these down.
  • Thumb Chart: We are trying so hard to get our daughter to stop sucking her thumb. I made a 16-square grid to help her. Every time she goes an entire car ride (big trigger for her) without sucking her thumb, she gets a smiley face in a square. When she fills it up, she'll get a little toy as a prize.

You can make any kind of collection you want: lists for anything, notes, etc.

On the Back Cover

I folded a rectangular piece of pink cardstock and glued one side of it to the back cover. I folded it closed.

On that side, I glued the flap of a small white envelope that my daughter had put stickers all over.

Then, I opened the pink card stock and glued my two keys. The first is my Spiraldex key, and the second is my bullet journal key:

  • Tasks
  • Completed Tasks
  • Notes
  • Events
  • Priority
  • Look Up
  • Inspiration
  • Migrated
  • Irrelevant
  • Buy or Pay
  • Spiritual
  • E-mail

The way the card stock opens up, I can actually refer to my bullet journal key from any page in the notebook. I like that.

Back cover

Back cover

Spiraldexes—those creeper heads indicate Minecraft night with my brother.

Spiraldexes—those creeper heads indicate Minecraft night with my brother.

How Do You Plan Your Days?

So this is how I plan out my days. One morning, my husband woke up and asked me, "So what's your Time Tornado say we're doing today?" I found the question hilarious, as well as the phrase "Time Tornado" for my Spiraldex. Ha!

I use my bullet journal and Filofax together. The Filofax is more formal and has the visual calendar and week on two pages that we all know and love. It also has some other fun sections and lots of places to use washi tape!


Amie on August 13, 2016:

Thank you so much for your post! I've just found out about the bullet journal method a few days ago and doing a bunch of research before I actually start using a journal this way. I've been journaling and using a day timer for a couple years semi-successfully, I think this will be a better system for me :).

Actually just bought my journal today! Drew down my index pages (I chose to make it 2 pgs since I have a good chance of needing more then one page to make sure I can find everything easily) now I'm doing sponge last minute research and found this!

I'm planning for this to be a great organization tool and a daily outlet for my creativity, and you set a great example how to mend the 2. So thanks again!

Tasha on April 20, 2016:

I forgot to ask, do you draw your spiraldex by hand? Or, do you trace with a template?

BTW, if you are still using the Mead Five Star, I wanted to point out that they also make a 5 subject in the 9" x 6" size. It has 180 pages. Not sure if you want more pages. It comes with 4 pockets. I just bought mine from Target for $4.99

Tasha on April 20, 2016:

Great post! I thought I was the only one who used a Mead Five Star Notebook for a bullet journal.

Jamie Jensen (author) from Chicago on March 16, 2015:

@Cristina that's how I felt when bullet journaling and I were first introduced!

Cristina on March 16, 2015:

This is awesome. I have to reread it and maybe look at the videos but you had me at spiraldex!!! Holy cow woman! I feel like I just fell in love!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on February 07, 2015:

Wow! This is cool. I have my journal but this is the first time I heard of a bullet journal. Yours is very organized. Thanks for the share. Voted up and useful!

allamazingstuff on February 07, 2015:

I absolutely love this!!! I was just saying I need a diary for 2015 but I can't find one exactly for my needs... I guess you just gave me the solution! I'm gonna make one myself!

Marilyn L Davis from Georgia on February 07, 2015:

Good morning, Jamie; anything that is decorated, organized and keeps me on track gets a voted up, and this one met all of the criteria. I'm so old that I lived before Daytimers. When they first came out, the college, where I worked, had a training on the Franklin method. I still find aspects of it helpful; prioritizing with A-B-C noted. Of course, we didn't have all the wonderful colors of inks then, but I personalized mine with what I had.

I'm going to the office supply store, change my focus and create a Bullet Journal today. Thanks so much for such a detailed Hub and the images were such an excellent addition. ~Marilyn

Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on February 07, 2015:

Although I think that I will be doing this exactly as is here, I think I will incorporate some of these ideas into my journeling techniques. Thanks for the article and the ideas!

Donna Herron from USA on February 07, 2015:

I keep more of an idea journal or sketchbook for my projects, but I like the idea of including daily "to do's" along with my projects. Although it seems like a lot of planning to set up a bullet journal, I think it would be worth trying it. Thanks for sharing!

Claudia Porter on February 07, 2015:

This is really cool. I have a journal of sorts that I write down article ideas for, but nowhere near this detailed. Love this and love all the colors and organization.