Bullet Journal 101 – Pre-Planning

Welcome to week 2 of Bullet Journal 101! Today’s lesson is all about pre-planning — you know, all of those things that you need to do to prepare before you dive into your very first (or next) Bullet Journal.

Before we dive in, I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to each and every one of you for all of your positive feedback over the past couple of weeks. This series has become a labor of love on my end, and it makes me so happy to see so many of you embracing it each week!

It may seem silly to some to “Pre-Plan” for your Bullet Journal, but I believe it to be an integral part of creating a customized system that suits your specific needs.

It’s so easy in this digital age to go on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, or even Facebook and just copy what others are doing. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking inspiration from others, I also don’t believe in a “one size fits all” Bullet Journal.

The beauty of the Bullet Journal system is its flexibility to adapt to your life and your individual needs. Just because a particular layout or “spread” is working swimmingly for someone else doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit for you.

So today, I’m encouraging you (yes, before you even think about diving into that next notebook) to do a little bit of brainstorming and to determine what you need – or don’t need – your Bullet Journal to do for you.


Pre-planning will do three things for you:

  1. It will help you to gain clarity.
  2. It will help you to start off on the right foot.
  3. It will help you find your WHY.


“What do you need your system to do for you?”

While brainstorming was created as a method to help groups come up with new ideas, the process can be equally as helpful when done on your own.

Brainstorming can be as simple as writing down a list of ideas on a page. They key here is NOT to make any effort to organize this list as you go. Think of this as a “brain dump” of sorts if you will.

Starting with the question “What do I need my Bullet Journal to do for me?”, make a list of any and all ideas that pop into your head. Don’t judge any of your thoughts as they come; instead just write them all down free-form onto the page.

Filofax Brainstorming

Another way to brainstorm is to create a mind map.

Use that same question as the central idea or topic for your mind map. Then, start drawing branches to new thoughts as they come up in your mind.

Each of those new thoughts may have sub-ideas of their own. Soon, you’ll see your mind map coming together, with each new idea triggering another.

The following video, while not at all Bullet Journal related, is a great starting point if you’re interested in learning how to mind map your thoughts and ideas:

Some questions to consider when pre-planning your Bullet Journal:

1. What type of notebook will suit me best?
– Bound notebook like a Leuchtturm1917 or Moleskine
– Ring binder like a Filofax
– Disc-bound system like Arc
– Travelers Notebook

2. What do I need to keep track of on a regular basis?
– Habits
– Projects
– Work deadlines
– School assignments

3. In what areas of my life do I need to set and review goals?
– Personal development
– Health and fitness
– Finances
– Career

4. Do I need to organize multiple schedules and recurring events?
– Extracurricular activities for the kids
– Class schedules
– Work schedules
– Doctors appointments

Once you are done with your brainstorming session, you should have an (albeit fuzzy) picture of what you want your Bullet Journal to contain.

Bullet Journal Pre-Planning
I got inspired to create this spread after reading Kim’s post here back in November of 2015.

You should now be able to use your list or mind map to pick out themes and wrangle your thoughts into a more organized plan.


Before we dive into supplies, I want to talk briefly about practice.

If you’re a member of any of the multiple Bullet Journal groups on Facebook, the chances are that you’ve seen people who are struggling with the fear of getting started. Maybe you’ve even BEEN that person.

There’s something about a brand new notebook that can be both exhilarating and daunting all at the same time. Stage fright, if you will, is very common among beginners not wanting to “mess up” their brand new notebook that they so carefully picked out.

My biggest tip to overcome that fear is to practice in a cheap notebook or even on loose-leaf paper BEFORE you dive into your journal of choice. Spend a few days trying out different layouts and getting a feel for the flow of the Bullet Journal in your “practice BuJo”, and you’ll feel much more confident when it’s time to dive into your precious Bullet Journal.


Now that you have a good idea of what you want/need your Bullet Journal to do for you, it’s time to start thinking about the supplies that you will need.

“All you need is a notebook and a pen…”

While many in the Bullet Journal community (myself included) recommend specific notebooks and pens, it’s important to stress that you do NOT need to go out and spend a fortune to get started.

Speaking of “cheapie” notebooks…

I decided to reach out to the Boho Berry Tribe over the weekend to request some examples of Bullet Journaling in non-traditional journals. Boy, was I not disappointed!

Here are some great examples from the Boho Berry Tribe of what you can do with even the simplest of tools. You can click on each one to view them up close and personal :)


Here are my favorite Bullet Journal supplies that I have used and loved.

Related post: My Favorite Bullet Journal Supplies

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!

Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dot Grid Notebook:

The Leuchtturm notebooks are hugely popular amongst Bullet Journalists and for good reason. With pre-numbered pages, an index at the front, a back pocket, and built-in bookmarks, this notebook takes a lot of the stress out of setting up your Bullet Journal.

Add in the quality paper and the fact that it comes in a wide array of gorgeous colors, and it’s no surprise that this notebook has become so popular within the community.

The Official Bullet Journal Notebook:

The Official Bullet Journal
Ryder Carroll himself uses a Leuchtturm1917 as his Bullet Journal, so it’s no surprise that he collaborated with the folks at Leuchtturm to develop the Official Bullet Journal Notebook.

The “Official BuJo” contains all of the elements that we know and love from Leuchtturm with the addition of a Bullet Journal introduction, a glossary of signifiers, a dedicated index and future log, and the addition of an extra bookmark as well.
This notebook is my current Bullet Journal, and it has served me well!

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens:

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens
These pens are my go-to when writing in my Bullet Journal. I love that they are waterproof and acid-free, and they write a gorgeous dark black that you’ll be hard-pressed to find in other pens. Even better? They don’t bleed through my pages even when I color things in or shade heavily.

I currently use the “S” size (0.3mm) in my journal.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliners:

Staedtler Triplus Fineliners
I love the variety of colors that these felt-tip pens come in. I use them throughout my Bullet Journal for a pop of color, and also for color-coding my schedules, events, and tasks.

Tombow Dual Brush Pens:

Tombow Dual Brush Pens
Another one of my favorite pens for adding color to my Bullet Journal is the Tombow Dual Brush Pen. These markers come in every color under the sun and are perfect for headers and coloring in large areas since they don’t bleed through my pages.

Fountain Pens:

Fountain Pens
I love to use fountain pens in my Bullet Journal! Unfortunately, it can be tricky to find the right combination of pen and ink that will work in most notebooks. Here is a great article that I collaborated on with Goulet Pens about using fountain pens in your Bullet Journal.


Composition Book (Amazon)
Moleskine (Amazon)
Picadilly (Amazon)
Rhodia (Goulet Pens)
Midori Traveler’s Notebook (Goulet Pens)
Filofax (Goulet Pens)
Arc System (Amazon)

Pilot G-2 (Amazon)
Uni-Ball Jetstream (Amazon)
Papermate InkJoy (Amazon)
Papermate Flair (Amazon)
Pilot Frixion (Amazon)
Pigma Micron (Amazon)
Stabilo .88 (Amazon)

While this is in no way meant to be an all-inclusive list, it should give you a good starting point when trying to figure out what will work best for your own Bullet Journal.

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!

That’s a wrap for week 2, y’all!

Next week, we’ll be covering each of the core components of the Bullet Journal system in more detail. Until then, I highly recommend heading over to my good friend Kim’s blog to download her oh-so-useful Bullet Journal Reference Guide.

Bullet Journal Reference Guide by Kim (Tiny Ray of Sunshine)Print off a copy to keep handy as you’re embarking on this new journey!

As always, I welcome any questions, comments, and conversations in the comments section below or over on YouTube :)


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


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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.
  • Christina Grandrath

    I liked the video but I think all the tipps about pre-planning are more suitable when you already have at least tried rapid logging for a week or two. It is really easy to overthink the whole system and get the mentioned stage fright because of that. Especially if you have some perfectionist tendencies.

    I recommend just grabbing any old notebook you have laying around (doesn’t have to be empty) and do dailies for two weeks (I did just that) or the rest of the current month. Just to test out if rapid logging, the bullet key and migration work for you (You don’t really need the future and monthly log for this). Do some collections. Try some project planning. Maybe some sort of tracker. You will also see if bullet journaling is compatible with other planning methods you use and wouldn’t want to ditch (let’s say your calendar app).
    If yes, then go and buy a new notebook and maybe some pens. Then do some pre-planning but not too much because you don’t have to get it right on the first try. That is beauty of this system. Mistakes and failures don’t matter because the next page will be empty.

    • I totally agree, Christina. And maybe I should have put a bit more emphasis on the practice section. I think it’s SO important to practice with the system before you completely dive in to make sure that it works for you. Thank you so much for your always-thoughtful comments! :)

    • Aline Pinheiro

      Yeah, I’ve seen a lot on BuJo before starting it, and that’s exactly what I did for the past 15 days. Now I’m convinced the system works for me and bought a squared notebook :) I just wanna add that it’s definitely worth a shot on an old notebook if you aren’t sure yet.

  • Ingrid van Winsen

    Hello Kara, thank you for all your ideas and advices! I don’t use the bullet system for planning or anything. I use it like a personal journal, a place to clear my head by writing down what’s bothering, troubling or puzzeling me. I’ve adapted some ideas from bullet journalling to use in my personal journal an I’m happy with it. Soon I will be starting mt second journal and I’ve allready prepared my new journal for starting. I will be using some new ideas so I can’t wait to start with it! Thank you very much again, for all your ideas, explanation and all your video’s!
    The Netherlands

  • Laura

    Great post as always!

  • Vickie Sorlie

    Hi Kara. Thanks for all the information. I appreciate that there are so many choices featured.
    When I first started with my little $3 journal I really didn’t think it was good enough. This helps anyone to start with the supplies they already have.
    If bleeding and ghosting weren’t so annoying to me I would have stayed in my cheapie journals I find in the clearances racks. And thanks for the feature.
    Can’t thank you enough. This journey has literally changed my life. It was your inspirational YouTube videos that gave me the confidence to take this journey. Thanks so much!
    Hope you are feeling better!

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  • Arianna Domijan

    Where can I get that gorgeous mandala sticker from the video? Or one like it?

    • I make and sell these in my Etsy shop. Unfortunately, they are VERY labor intensive to make so I only release a few of them at a time. If you want me to notify you when I put them in my shop, you can sign up for my email list right here: http://bohoberry.wpengine.com/about/email-signup/

      • Kelley Zischke

        i was wondering what app you use to make you mandalas, i have amaziograph.

  • Lauren

    Has anyone experimented with using different bullet styles to differentiate between work and personal tasks? If so, how did it go?

    • I haven’t, but wanted to suggest trying out different signifiers. Keep your “bullets” the same, but put a little symbol to the left to differentiate between work and personal? Just a thought :)

    • Angelique Nolan

      Maybe different pen colors?

  • Arianna Dunford

    How do you label your journals with the stickers that come with it? The labels on the spine and cover?

    • Jeanette Stillwell

      Most label with a permanent marker and then place on the journal when they have completed it for archiving purposes.

  • I’m watching your video for pre-planning, and I have questions. I bought a Leuchtturm 1917 and started. Then I quit for a few months when I broke my knee. I want to start again-do I have to start a new book? Can I slice out the pages I’ve used and still use the same book?

    • Jeanette Stillwell

      No slicing needed unless it drives you crazy. Otherwise, just flip the page and start where you are.

  • Jay Steel

    Dear Kara! I’m from Russia and in ru-net we have no good description of BJ system. Only flat uninformative reviews. Now I’m trying to translate the basics and experience. Сan I use your publications? It will be posted in Instagram with reference to you. Thanks!

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