Bullet Journaling 101: How to Set up a Bullet Journal


If you enjoy this post on how to set up a bullet journal, check out the other posts in the Bullet Journaling 101 series:

In part one of this series, we looked at the key principles of bullet journaling. Today, we will put them into action. In this post, I’m sharing a simple guide you can use to set up a bullet journal in the next 10-15 minutes.Let’s go!

The Key

The first thing you need to do when you set up a bullet journal is create a key. At a minimum, you’ll need symbols for:

  • Events
  • Tasks
  • Appointments (I find it helpful to differentiate between events and appointments so I can see at a glance the difference between a fixed appointment like the dentist and something moveable/optional like going to the cinema)

You should also have some way of showing whether these things are:

  • Migrated
  • Scheduled
  • Complete

It will also be helpful for your key to include symbols to show:

  • In-progress tasks
  • Important/urgent tasks
  • Ideas and inspiration
  • Things that require more research or exploration

Here’s mine from yesterday’s post (this is very similar to the standard bullet journal key, with a few additions) Again, feel free to copy/adapt it for your own needs:How to set up a bullet journal: Bullet Journal key

The Table of Contents

If you’re using a Leuchtturm 1917 or other notebook with a built in table of contents, leave this blank for now. Otherwise, take the first two pages of your notebook, and designate them as the table of contents. You’ll come back to this and fill it in as you create pages.

The monthly spread

I find it helpful to start with a monthly spread on the next double page as it gives me a birds-eye view of the month. With the month as the header, I write the dates and corresponding days of the week down the left-hand side of the page, then write in any existing appointments or eventsOn the opposite page, I write a list of projects and to-dos for the month, and upcoming but unscheduled events. It's worth mentioning I rarely complete all of these tasks. Rather, this is a brain dump area to get everything out of my head and onto the paper. Once I’ve written everything down, I can then look at what’s realistic over the next 30 days and plan accordingly.I create a new monthly spread at the start of each month, with daily spreads for that month afterwards. You can see what I mean in my table of contents here:How to set up a bullet journal: Bullet Journal Index

The daily spread

You can create your daily spread in a few different ways. My preferred way is in the style of a planner. I create a grid over a double page, with one box for each of the seven days of the week, plus an extra box for any notes or things to carry over into the next week. When a new month falls in the middle of the week, I look at which month contains the majority of that week’s days and add the week to that spread. So if the new month started on a Friday, I would still add that week to the previous month. If it started on a Tuesday, I’d add that week’s spread to the next month.How to set up a bullet journal: Bullet Journal Weekly SpreadYou can also go day-by-day and simply use as much or as little space as you need for your notes.How to set up a bullet journal: Bullet Journal Weekly SpreadAlternatively, you can use a page per day. This is especially helpful if you want to use your bullet journal as a scheduler too.How to set up a bullet journal: Bullet Journal Daily PageOnce you have these pages set up, you can add them to your table of contents. At the beginning of each month, I like to plan out the pages for the month ahead so I can keep them all together in a block (as you can see, I also add a habit tracker and reading/watching/listening list to each month). Although I find this makes finding relevant entries easier, it isn’t necessary as the table of contents will help you navigate between the different sections of your bullet journal.And that’s it! You’ve started your bullet journal. Before we move on to talking about more advanced bullet journaling tomorrow, let’s look a migration.


At the end of each week and month, I do a migration. As I mentioned in part one, this involves taking any incomplete tasks from the week or month and making sure they are deleted, scheduled or added to the pool or tasks for the next week/month.On a side note, I personally have a rule never to migrate a task over two months in a row. If I don’t get to it in that time frame, I either need to reexamine how important it is or, if it is important, why I haven’t taken action.

Making it a habit

Once you’ve started your bullet journal, the next step is to keep it going. Bullet journaling is most helpful when we record and revisit daily, so it’s worth thinking now about how you will make your journal a regular part of your life.I find it helpful to review certain sections of my journal each day. I also do a mini-migration each week so I can review the week gone by and plan for the week ahead. The end of each month brings a more thorough review and planning session.I hope you've enjoyed this post on how to set up a bullet journal. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a list of bullet journaling page spreads you can use to make your mark on your journal. For now though, I hope this helps you get started. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post when I'll be sharing 49 ideas for bullet journal spreads. Until then, happy writing!

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