Bullet Journal 101 – Introduction

Ever since I started sharing my Bullet Journal journey a little over a year ago, I’ve been asked repeatedly to do a “Getting Started” post or video. I’ve been hesitant to do it for a couple of reasons:

  1. I never really considered myself a “Bullet Journal Expert”.
    Yes, I realize how silly that sounds since SO many people look up to me as a source of inspiration in the Bullet Journal community. However, the honest truth is that I wanted to have a little more experience under my belt before I started doling out advice for fresh new beginners.
  2. I truly believe that the best way to start is at the source.
    If you are one of the hundreds of people who have asked me how to get started with your own Bullet Journal, chances are I told you to head straight on over to www.bulletjournal.com. It’s SO important to start with a solid foundation, and there really is no better way to do that than from the creator himself, Ryder Carroll.

All of that being said, I still keep getting requests day in and day out to create a guide for beginners. So, I decided to go for it! While trying to organize my thoughts into a single post/video though, I quickly realized that it was way too much information to cover in one sitting.

And so, the idea for Bullet Journal 101 was born.

Let’s start with a little backstory, shall we?

How the Bullet Journal Changed My Life

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an intense love for pens, stationery, office supplies… you name it.

But… I used to be a complete mess! There. I said it.

I was scatter-brained. I had stacks of notebooks, random pieces of paper, and sticky notes strewn about my house. I was always on the search for the next planner system, the next app that would somehow get all of my thoughts, appointments, and tasks organized.

^^^ This is the generic planner that I used briefly before turning to the Bullet Journal ^^^
Can we also marvel at my photo skills in those early days? ;)

For years I hopped around from system to system… Franklin Covey, Erin Condren, random planners from the local office supply store. I was constantly searching for that perfect app (or combination of apps) that would somehow help me wrangle everything that was going on in my life.

Finally, in September of 2014, I stumbled upon the Bullet Journal. I researched the system briefly and then went out and picked up a cheap Markings brand dot-grid notebook from the office supply store. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with it for more than a couple of weeks. Honestly, I just think it wasn’t the right time for me. For some reason it didn’t “click”, and I soon abandoned my very first Bullet Journal.

^^^ Here’s a fun little throwback to that very first Bullet Journal ^^^

Fast-forward almost 1 whole year to August, 2015… and I found myself in a much busier stage of my life. I was working full-time as a server/bartender at a local restaurant. I also had a growing blog and a small Etsy business that I was trying to get off the ground.

Again, my search led me to the Bullet Journal. This time, I did a bit more research. The Bullet Journal website had since been updated, and there were new resources from amazing bloggers like Kim (Tiny Ray of Sunshine) and Dee (Decade Thirty) who were constantly innovating and expanding upon the original Bullet Journal concept.

I was hooked.

Not only did the Bullet Journal revolutionize the way that I organized my life and business, but it opened doors for me that I never anticipated. Before I knew it, I was sharing my spreads on Instagram, participating in the #PlanWithMeChallenge, and blogging about the new and different ways I was using the Bullet Journal.

Today, an entire year later (and then some), I finally feel like I have enough experience under my belt to bring you this series with confidence.

Start at the Source

Although I’m creating this series as a go-to resource for those looking to start a Bullet Journal, I can’t stress enough how important it is to start at the source.

I can’t tell you how often I run into folks online who discovered the Bullet Journal through pretty pictures of elaborate and artistic spreads on Instagram and Pinterest. Although these images are great for showing how adaptable the Bullet Journal system can be, they can be misleading to those looking for a good starting place.

The bare bones of the Bullet Journal system are much more simple, functional, and minimalist than most people realize at first glance. I highly encourage you to head on over to www.bulletjournal.com and click on the “Getting Started” tab.

At the very least, take the time to watch the following video and get familiar with the different parts that make up a traditional Bullet Journal:

I know that all you artsy (or artsy-hopeful) folks out there will want to skip this step. But trust me when I say that learning the basics will create a strong foundation for you to build on later on when it comes to making your Bullet Journal your own.

You’ll be glad that you took the time to learn the basics first, and there’s absolutely no better way to do so than by going straight to the source.

The Parts in this Series:

Every Monday during the month of September, I’ll be uploading a brand new video to YouTube along with a companion blog post for each topic.

Below is a brief outline of the topics that I’ll be covering each week. As each new subject is covered, I’ll turn these headers into clickable links so that you can easily navigate through the course.

1. What is a Bullet Journal?

    • From www.bulletjournal.com: “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”
    • Why Analog?
    • General overview

2. Pre-Planning

    • Brainstorming – What do you need your system to do for you?
    • Start simple
    • Supplies – What you need vs. What you want

3. The Basics

    • The parts of the Bullet Journal System
    • How they work together
    • Helpful resources

4. Make it Your Own

    • Hacks/Upgrades
    • Collection Ideas
    • Regular Review
    • Getting Creative (or not)
    • Resources & Inspiration
    • Dealing with Overwhelm

It is my sincerest hope that this course will help all of you Bullet Journal newcomers, as well as those of you who have been at it a while but would like a little more in-depth guidance.

Please feel free to comment below and let me know your thoughts, as well as any questions you may have that I might be able to address in this series going forward.


Introduction (You’re here!)
Bullet Journal Overview
The Basics
Make it Your Own
Bonus Wrap-Up + Q &A


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  • An invite to my monthly Live Q&A exclusive to Tribe Members!
  • A 10% off coupon for Boho Berry Paperie for each month that you remain a Tribe Member.

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Kara Benz
Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy - Boho Berry Paperie.
  • Winne Oliveira

    Oi! É a primeira vez que comento aqui mas já venho acompanhando seu trabalho há algum tempo, e adoro seus videos e posts, adorei saber que vai ter essa serie ajudando os iniciantes no Bullet Journal, eu sempre acabo me perdendo no meio do caminho.

  • Ellen Allard

    Perfect timing! I’m so glad you’re doing this series. I’ve been looking at instagram and fb posts for about a month now. I haven’t yet decided on which journal to purchase, though leaning towards the Leuchtturm1917 Notebook Medium (A5). I am looking forward to getting started. Thanks again!

  • Alexis M.

    I’ve officially made it one month with my bullet journal and I am loving it! It’ll be interesting to see your series though to learn more about the system and how to make it work best for me.

    • Thanks Alexis! I’m glad that you’re loving the system so far… hopefully you’ll find a few things in this course to help you on your journey :)

  • emwynning

    I am very excited for this… I started my bullet journal in June, and after a very good month of journaling, July and August were just a mess. My main question is how you do stick with it, especially when your routine is thrown out of whack by travelling? I see you’re already planning on dealing with feeling overwhelmed, which is also something I need help with… but also, how do you get back to it, if you’ve fallen off the wagon for a while? Thanks so much for your wonderful content, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the posts in this series :)

    • I’ve definitely had those “planning slumps” as I like to call them. I’ll absolutely be covering this in the series :)

  • Rosemary M

    Great timing. About to create my first weekly. i only wish I could watch them all now.

    • Thanks Rosemary! I thought about releasing them all at once for that very reason, but ultimately time caught up with me and this way I can split up the workload throughout the month. I hope it will still be of value to you :)

  • Life in the Slow Lane

    I’ve been irregularly keeping a bullet journal since March 2015, and have become more interested again since joining Instagram and seeing how different people are adapting it. I’m starting to think the size and paper matter more than I realized. I started in an 8.25×11.7 blank Fabriano EcoQua, and have a few pages left. The size and the blankness of the pages have allowed the content flow all over the place. Having too many things going on, on each page, makes it hard to index. I get mentally overloaded just looking at the pages, once they start filling up. I have ordered the now-popular dotted Leuchtturm, 5.75×8.25, to make a new start in September, so your series is good timing for me.

    The one concept I need to clarify in my mind is that there are two information flows going on. In the dictionary world, it’s sort of like prescriptive vs. descriptive; in accounting, it’s sort of like budget vs. actual. There is both a planning/calendar flow and a logging/journal flow—-what’s going to (should?) happen and what has actually happened. Part of the power of the bullet journal is how these two are melded together.

    The beginning brainstorm needs to take both into account–what you want to plan (proactive) and what you want to track (reactive). Also, a new element I’ve begun to notice is users building in self-correction, the evaluation of what’s working and what’s not.

    • I couldn’t agree more! And the part about evaluation and reflection is so true! I think it’s so important to take a step back and analyze what’s working/not working for you so that you’re not just mindlessly continuing forward. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      • Life in the Slow Lane

        You’re so welcme!

    • Stephanie Serrano

      This is a very helpful perspective, thanks for sharing!

      • Life in the Slow Lane

        You”re welcome!

  • Jan Barlow

    My comment is as simple as the Bullet Journal is effective —> YAAAAAAY!

  • Stephanie Serrano

    Perfect timing. I’ve been fooling around with BuJo for a couple of months in whatever notebook(s) are lying around (yup, there are a lot of them). I’ve got a lovely blue Leuchterm on the shelf to be started in October as my b’day present, but don’t feel I’ve figured out what works for me yet. Weekly spreads are the biggest challenge, and I could use another month to further explore whether or not to put work projects in a separate notebook or keep everything together — have tried both ways, back and forth, and whichever one I’m using I think the other would work better. Looking forward to using your September series to work out a few more kinks and fine-tune a personal system.

  • Carrie

    Thank you so much for this introduction! I am brand new to the world of bullet journals and just started my first one last month. I love looking at all the inspiration on your blog and others! My question/comment is that I get confused on how everything should be organized, given that the original bullet journal is just that: bullet points. I understand that everyone will want their own system and everyone’s journal will look completely different, but I was wondering if you were going to show us your own bullet journal and the order your pages are in? I would love to see how you spread out your lists and plans throughout the week/month/year, and how things change over time. Thank you and I can’t wait for the next post!

    • Thanks Carrie! I hope you’ll find some good guidance within the course! You might be interested in checking out my flip-through videos on YouTube to get an idea of how I lay everything out.
      Here’s my very first Bullet Journal: https://youtu.be/EAk_ZusrRJQ
      And the second: https://youtu.be/0VSl1K6JxAA
      Hope that helps! :)

      • Carrie

        So helpful! Thank you!!

  • I’m looking forward to sharing this with my husband. He’s still a newbie and I think this will help him a lot <3

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  • Natalia

    Hi! I’ve been watching videos about bullet journalling for a long time now but never actually decided to get into it myself, a little bit caused exactly but what you say about all this creative spreads I saw all over the internet. I’m not too creative, and certainly not hand-gifted with nice lettering or doodleling. But I finally decided to give it a try because my current planning system is not working for me. I’m looking forward to this series as I think it’ll be a good training for me until the end of this year so that I can start fully confident next January!

    • Thanks Natalia! It definitely does not have to be super creative! The Bullet Journal can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. That’s the beauty of the system :)

  • Wrenaissance Art

    Really looking forward to this series! :-)
    I’ve been playing around with the Bullet Journal since March. So much of the system is useful, but I’m still having problems getting everything to sync to my flow.
    Still can’t wrap my head around the Index and write-straight-through format–separate topic areas are my preference (using the Filofax Notebook with 8-hole paper, currently).
    Also, weekly vs. daily logs: what goes where?
    I’m really attracted to 1 life, 1 notebook–but wanting to use this as a journal as well as organizer means things get bulky!
    Finally: I get overwhelmed and anxious by my ever-growing to-do list. Tips on editing and letting go of the stuff that can’t get done today/this week would be helpful.

    • Sometimes it takes a while to get in a flow of what works/doesn’t work for you. I’ll definitely cover the questions you addressed here, but keep in mind that the Bullet Journal system is SO forgiving. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You can always switch it up and rearrange things if something is not working for you :)

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  • jaland1127

    I’m glad your doing this series, I am awful at sticking with a planner, I know the benefits of planning but I always fall back to the same old habits. I’m hoping by following this series I will be able to get a grip on my planning and to organize my day. I do have a bullet journal and I have actually used it consistently for a month then it fizzled. I keep reaching for it because it the perfect system for me. I’ll just start a new month where I left off. I’m looking forward to pretty much “brain dumping” in my journal and starting better habits. Thank you!

    • You’re so welcome! Hopefully you’ll get some good tips and tricks from this series that will help you get back on track :)

  • Mary-Beth

    Hi Kara!

    I just stumbled upon Bullet Journals through Buzzfeed and Pinterest. I am particularly interested in tracking and how this can benefit my mental health! Buzzfeed has an entire article on Bullet Journaling to advance your mental health and this in particular is what has me hooked. But I am confused on a couple of points, so I’m just going to practice rapid logging by jotting down some of those confusions/questions/thoughts! So excited for your Bullet 101 class!

    – I feel overwhelmed with the starting point! Where do you put modules? Where do you put trackers?
    – Do you set up the pages monthly or all at once?
    – What are some ideas for tracking mental health, set up, reflection, a daily journal, and any other ideas for modules?
    – What do you do when you finish one journal? How do you make a smooth transition to the next journal?
    – Some of the Instagram pictures are beautiful and also overwhelming! How do you decide what to put in the Future Log, monthly, daily?

    Thank you so much!

    • This is awesome, Mary-Beth! Thank you for taking the time to ask so many great questions! I’ll definitely be covering these topics for you in the course :)

  • I am looking forward to your posts and videos. I just discovered bullet journalling about a week ago and even though I have read and watched the video over on Ryder’s site, I am still struggling with figuring out how to make this work. I have ADD, I was diagnosed about a year ago and I’ve always been a bit disorganized but things slowly fell apart when my youngest left home. I have the basics set up for Sept. and a simple weekly spread so far. So my goal is to get my bullet journal functional for me ASAP.

  • Liz

    I’m so excited for this series! I just started officially bullet journaling in July. I’ve actually been doing it for years, just didn’t know what it was called… But it’s still a little overwhelming. :)

    My challenges are integrating my google calendar into my bullet journal- I don’t have monthly/weekly layouts yet, because my calendar has been digital- and I’m still on the fence with which direction I want to go with it.

    Also, I just started a new blog, so I’d love to see how you integrate your blog organization into the bullet journal.

    Great idea on going back to the basics! Currently I’m using a traveller’s notebook setup, but just got a Lechturn that I think I’m going to use for my blog.

    • I love it, Liz! Thanks for joining in on the series! I’ll definitely be covering those topics and more :)

  • Stacey Albin Schmier

    I am curious what everyone does with their collections when you start a new book? For example, I have a collection of dinner ideas and use it regularly. When I start a new book, should I copy it, start a new one, or just refer back to my ‘old’ bullet journal. ( I have a long way to go before this happens, so really just wondering).

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  • shaun

    I love that you’re emphasizing the basics, especially the basics of the system. Pretty planners are great, but not at all important for getting the most out of a bullet journal. Looking forward to the next post!

    • Thanks so much, Shaun! I think it’s crucial to start with a solid foundation, for sure.

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  • Amber Edwards

    Please sell this!!
    So I absolutely love what you do, but I don’t want to do it and now that I’ve seen how pretty yours is mine will always seem horrible in comparison. If you would just sell the notebooks with blank pages with your writing I would certainly fill it in. Thoughts?

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  • Brizza Almendarez

    Hi! Im completely new to the bullet journal and I feel a bit overwhelmed for the moment, although on the big amount of blog posts have been reading in the past days about BJ, almost every one says “it look difficult, but it isn’t”, so that calms my nerves a little bit. I’m a t a point in my life where I really NEED and WANT organization at work and personally. I haven’t started my Bullet journal yet, because I want to understand very well the basics, so I can stick to it and not leave it away, just like I’ve done with other organization methods I have tried in the past :/. Thank you for the time you put into your blog posts, they are clear and simple to understand. Looking forward to have my first bullet journal and stick to it.

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  • Hiya! I’ve just turned 15 super recently and next school year I’ll be doing super tough exams and it has been really stressing me out. So I’ve recently started joining blogs and been looking up ways to organise my life better and be more productive. Bullet journal seems ideal and fun and your blog so far has been really effective in helping me so I want to say thank you in advance and I hope to see more of you!

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  • Brianna Powell

    Hey Kara! Do you recommend the book you have, the Leuchtturm1917, or could you use a regular ruled composition note book to use as a starter. I recently found your beautiful website and really wanted to start bullet journaling. Also, would you start in the middle of the year or would you start at the beginning of a new one? One more thing – Is there any way that you could make a video on how to start a bullet journal for starters? Bullet journals seem fun and your blog and video posts have been so, so effective in helping me so I wanted to say thank you in advance and I hope to see more of your fantastic posts!

  • Eugene Seegers

    Second only to Ryder Carroll’s website and YouTube content, your website has become my go-to guide for Bullet Journaling. I have also watched all your videos, and though I am not arty or even remotely artsy, thoroughly enjoy the way you present tour material and ideas. My wife has recently also embarked on this journey, and I suspect her journal will soon far outstrip mine with its Instagrammable insides and colourful, often floral, designs.

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