Bullet Journal DOs and DON’Ts #BulletJournal #BuJo

After using my Bullet Journal for a while now, some clear DOs and DON’Ts have emerged. These are not research-based in a traditional sense, but they are experience-based. If you’ve never heard of this type of analog/planning system, click here for a brief introduction, but if you’ve been using a bullet journal for any length of time whatsoever, I hope this post is helpful. I’m also curious to hear how your bullet journal journey is going and if your DOs and DON’Ts are different or similar to mine, so please feel free to share and keep this community alive and vibrant.

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

Bullet Journal DOs

1). Check out bulletjournal.com: Before getting started and throughout your BuJo experience, utilize bulletjournal.com. The video on the home page will get you started and the blog posts and other pages are extremely helpful. While most people make individual changes and modifications to the system, a lot of us follow the original concept highlighted on bulletjournal.com.

2). Dive in: Worrying about how to get started and letting your unused notebook collect dust for weeks benefits no one.  Don’t stress about “not doing it right” because there is no “doing it right”. So open that notebook and get started. Mistakes are going to happen. You will have scribbles, mess-ups, ink blots, etc. It’s okay. This is YOUR Bullet Journal.

3). Consider a habit tracker: Of all my pages, one of my favorites is my habit tracker. Most Bullet Journal users have a habit tracker. All of us have daily/weekly behaviors we wish would become habits but we have no consistent way of tracking them. Just using my habit tracker for one month has made me realize a lot about my daily behaviors. It has also reminded me to do things because I know I will color in the little square on my habit tracker. It may sound hokey, but I’m telling you, it works. And the coolest thing is that it’s individualized to you and your needs. I went a couple of months not using one and didn’t like it at all. I initially had too many habits to keep track of, so I decreased my list and now only include the habits that are integral to personal or professional success.

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

4). Join/form Bullet Journal communities and groups: Much of my inspiration and encouragement regarding the Bullet Journal comes from other people who are also using the system. Several of my friends are also BuJo addicts, so we often chat about how to best utilize and tailor the system. The Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook is a great a group of folks and offers a wealth of information. Also, I developed a Pinterest group board called Bullet Journal Collaborative with many valuable, Bullet Journal pins. If you’re not familiar with group boards, multiple pinners (72 right now) can all pin to the same board so that the resources are more plentiful and varied. Be sure to follow the board and comment on this post if you would like me to add you as a collaborator. All I need is you Pinterest URL or username. Lastly, two blogs that have been extremely helpful are Boho Berry and Tiny Ray of Sunshine. I’m also a part of the Bullet Journal community on Google +.

5). Have fun with art, banners and doodles: Let me start by saying, I am a TERRIBLE artist, but everything can be learned, right? I wanted to start drawing in my Bullet Journal, so I’ve been using my seven-year old’s learn-to-draw books to draw different animals and make them brainstorming/inspirational pages. I’ve started using more doodles, banners and varied handwriting as well. Again, the communities/groups mentioned above offer great tip and helps with doodling, handwriting, banners, etc. I’m a professional writer and I love words, but I must admit, these little pictures, drawings and doodles liven up the BuJo pages significantly. Even if you just draw a heart, star or rainbow, go for it!

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

BuJo Banners

 6). Constantly reflect/adapt/tweak: Keep changing what you are doing until you find your sweet spot. If the method you are using feels forced, change it up! If you need to, change it every single day until it feels fluid, beneficial and actually helps you become more productive. I have three monthly grids (one for my blog work, one for my freelance writing assignments/deadlines and one for personal events and calendars) so I need them to be in a format that works. I’ve tweaked my monthly grid so many times until I think I finally created one I like.

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

7). Create collections: Collections are lists or culminations that you gather and keep in your Bullet Journal to reference. Right now my three most utilized collections are Quotes I Love, Books to Read and Blog Thoughts and Ideas (on this last one I write down any epiphanies or ideas related to the blog so I can refer back to it). I’ve always loved quotes but have never written them down in one place. As you can see below, I’m only one month in to 2016, and I have three full pages of quotes.

 Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

Bullet Journal DON’Ts

1). Don’t compare your Bullet Journal to others: This is the worst. There are some Bullet Journal users out there who are incredible artists and have handwriting that should be a font. DO NOT compare yourself to these folks. While I highly admire their creativity, if I tried to be like them, my BuJo would not be mine. I don’t know how many times I can say this, but let this notebook be yours and yours only. While we can all learn from others and borrow (steal?) ideas, no two Bullet Journals should look even remotely the same. Are anyone’s fingerprints the same? Exactly.

2). Don’t make it another thing on your to-do list: Again, if using your Bullet Journal become an item on your to-do list, you are not doing it right. Your BuJo should be your guide for your day. In it should be all of your to-do lists, but it in and of itself should never be something that you bemoan.

3). Don’t continue down a path where you are using numerous journals and notebooks: I did this for YEARS until I learned about the Bullet Journal system. Anytime I needed to find something (a date, a phone number, a set of notes, a calendar), I would have to look through so many notebooks and journals. Why do that when I am telling you, you can put everything in ONE place! Your BuJo.

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

 4). Don’t wait on the perfect materials to use the system: I won’t lie, I’m slightly obsessed with the Leuchtturm 1917 Medium Dot Grid notebook from The Goulet Pen Company. The dots on each page make it so easy to line up a ruler and create grids, boxes, etc.  I like the hard cover, the weight of the paper, the folder in the back, the fact that the pages are numbered, etc. However, if you don’t want to buy a pricey notebook (it’s not that pricey) or if you haven’t received yours in the mail yet, don’t delay. Begin with whatever type of notebook you have.

5). Don’t delay: What are you waiting for? If you’ve been searching for an organized and efficient way to keep up with life, a system that uniquely fits your needs, this is the one. Enjoy!

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

I consulted some of my pals in the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group and the Bullet Journal Google + community. Here are some of their DOs and DON’Ts.

Don’t forget that mistakes give your bujo character. Whether your creative or not fixing your bujo is easy as 1,2,3… and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. Do whatever you want to make You love your bujo!” -Nicole A.

DO use it every day – even if you’re new at it and not accustomed to it yet – it will soon become a part of your everyday life and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. It’s great to have everything written down and in one place!” Beth S.

I like to watch Ryder’s original video (on bulletjournal.com) at the start of each month to remind myself of what drew me to bullet journaling almost 2 years ago now. And as a reminder that simple works.” -Deb

Don’t be be afraid to change course if what you are doing is not working for you, turn the page and write out that new idea. Do take it slow at the beginning to figure out what works for you.” -Ellen C.

Do – Have and Index and make sure to keep up with it. There is nothing worse than filling out a whole journal then not being able to find anything.” –Marissa B.

Don’t write with bold tipped black sharpies…..” -Brianne H.

Do what works for you!” -Janey M.

Do start simple without too many modifications and additions. Add as you go along.” -Tammy N.

“Don’t get hung up on perfection….live, learn, relax….enjoy the process. It may take trial and error to figure out what works best for YOU.” -Diane O.

Don’t forget to put your contact info in the front should you ever lose it!!” -Allison S. (put email or cell; not address)

Don’t feel overwhelmed with the prettiness. Start with a simple system and enjoy the process of making it work for you.” -Kazia T. at Happy Little Blogger

Do the best you can with what you have,,,beautiful expensive notebook, pens, tapes, etc are not necessary. Many people are unable to purchase these items. That should not deter them. A bare-bones setup of a basic notebook or tablet and a basic ink pen will do the trick. The reason for the bujo is what is written in it.” -Elizabeth M.

“DO make your own system customized to fit your needs. It’s ok to have a plain journal, a pretty journal or apply bullet journal concepts to a planner, whatever inspires you to be the most productive and will encourage you to stick with it.” -Tanya M. at Mom’s Small Victories

“It’s better for new users to stick to Ryder Carroll’s basic system and get the hang of it before experimenting with layouts, etc. A bullet journal is completely useless if people are so afraid of doing it the “wrong” way or make it unnecessarily complicated with all kinds of modifications to the original system that they never actually jump in and begin.” -Shauna

“DO be a bit neat. My normal handwriting is terrible and almost unreadable. Writing in small caps in the space of a Moleskine line with a decent pen has enabled me to get better but I have to keep practicing, of course.” -Derek

Do you use the Bullet Journal system? Check out this list of DOs and DON'Ts and see how they compare to yours! #BuJo #BulletJournal @zealousmom.com

Share Your Thoughts

  1. I don’t have a bullet journal, but I think a lot of these apply to many of the planners/journals out there. I have one planner, but it has space for all of the “extras” I need in my life. I just need to remember to check it daily. 🙂

  2. I hadn’t heard a bullet journal. I really like the idea of it though. I like that I will have less journals to have to go through to find dates etc.

  3. I have always considered starting one – but I have enough trouble keeping up with my planner addiction, and my journal addiction, and all the paper goods I love addictions. But this is awesome. Maybe someday soon I’ll find my way to doing it!

  4. DO be a bit neat. My normal handwriting is terrible and almost unreadable. Writing in small caps in the space of a Moleskine line with a decent pen has enabled me to get better but I have to keep practicing, of course 🙂

  5. Great list! Because I’ve seen too many would-be BuJo users become overwhelmed and overly fixated on fancy layouts and finding the “perfect” journal, pen, and complicated custom setup before they start (even though all they really need is an old notebook and a writing utensil), I would advise people to hold off on joining Bullet Journal Junkies or other support groups until after they’ve been doing the basic system from bulletjournal.com for at least a little while. I like seeing all the customizations people come up with and I also follow those groups and Pinterest boards, but in my opinion it’s better for new users to stick to Ryder Carroll’s basic system and get the hang of it before experimenting with layouts, etc. A bullet journal is completely useless if people are so afraid of doing it the “wrong” way or make it unnecessarily complicated with all kinds of modifications to the original system that they never actually jump in and begin.

  6. These are some great tips! I’ve been hearing a lot about Bullet Journaling lately and have been nervous about jumping in because it seems so intimidating.

  7. i never heard of a bullet journal before but it do like the idea of the habit page, i could do something like that~

  8. Great post! Aw, thank you for the sweet mention! I particularly liked the whole not comparing your pages to that of others, so true! I feel bad when people don’t want to dive in because they see others’ bullet journals and think that that’s what they should look like, when it’s not the case. It’s up to everyone to dive in and make it their own, which you illustrated well here 🙂 I also enjoyed reading commentary from others in your post! 😀

    • Yay! Thank you for your sweet comments. And thank you for all of your helpful blog posts, IG posts, etc. I’ve learned so much from you! One thing I truly love about the Bullet Journal community is the support we all glean from one another. I look forward to reading more of your posts and to see where Bullet Journaling takes all of us. 🙂

      • Thank you Susannabarbee for your attention to this subject (bullet journaling). I loved the idea so much I did some research in Dec 2015 so I could begin Jan 1st 2016. I have a squared Moleskine I began on Jan 1st, 2016 and just love it!!! Awesome Sauce! Mine is a sort of Bullet Journal Smashbook, because I stuff everything in it, including my dailys, gratitude, monthly planning, future planning, Bible promises I want to remember, and even list of things I love. The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can start out one way and change if it doesn’t fit you anymore…it shapes around the person you’re growing into, quite nicely. Morphing with you…growing with you…and it’s all YOU.

        And If this isn’t enough inspiration…come join my closed FB group, “Barefoot Journaling Chronices”, for much more inspiration. We have a treasure trove of ideas to inspire and delight you. You all would be welcome.

        Blessings,

        ~Evon Robinson
        Barefoot Journaliing Chronicles

  9. This is a great post. I love the reminders that nothing has to be perfect and mistakes give it character.

    I was wondering if any one has advice or experience in helping a high school boy get started with a bullet journal. My son had pretty bad anxiety that has gotten worse lately and we have come to the conclusion that he is feeling overwhelmed with >ALL THE THINGS< he has to do for school. Being that he is a 15yo boy and he also loves to draw I have been looking into the bullet journal idea more since it does look like a one book for all stuff kind of solution and I may be able to get him to remember to carry one book around and use it if he also can draw in it. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. 🙂

    • Yes! I love this idea. As a former middle school teacher, I would love to assist parents and students with Bullet Journaling. Let me do some research and develop post about this. I will email you directly when the post goes life. In the meantime, the two of you should watch the videos on bulletjournal.com and just start with the basic system. He can draw as much as he’d like in it. 🙂

      • Susanna, Thank you! I look forward to seeing more. I have read your other post about getting started with it and also been reading through bulletjournal.com I am excited to get him started and I will share what we come up with to adapt it for his needs with classes and what-not.

    • Hello Brigitte…bumping in here.

      We have a closed FB group called Barefoot Journaling Chronicles, you and your son can request to join, if you’d like. We share all kinds of creative ideas for journaling, scrapbooking, and short story writing. We even have a quarterly contest you can join in on and win a prize. You’d both be welcome.

      I took on the Bullet journal in January and am loving the versatility of making it my own…it grows with me as I get better and better at it.

      If I can help in any way…don’t hesitate to ask. We all get better by helping each other.

      Blessings,

      ~Evon Robinson
      Barefoot Journaling Chronicles

  10. Dont keep writing the same task down day after day just to migrate it to the next day unless its something being actively worked on.

    Do add that task to a Monthly Task log so you do keep track of it. When it is active, add it back to the daily list.

    Do keep track of Monthly Wins. If there was a task/project that finally finished during the month, make a note of it. Ive added mine to the bottom of my Monthly task list and to the Index

    I use my BuJo for work. If I notice Im migrating a task each day and havent had any movement on it I will move it to my monthly task list. Then its not a daily grind but a reminder to check when I have an empty moment and have time to add a new task.

    Some of these tasks are waiting for decisions that are out of my control. If its waiting for a response, when I review my monthly list I will send an email to goose the person Im waiting for and add a task stating such. While the daily task can be crossed off, the monthly stays active until that item is complete.

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  12. Great ideas! I’ve been Bullet Journaling for almost a month now and love it! However, my one constant hang up is honestly the biggest point: the index! My semi-OCD mind can’t get over not being able to keep everything together physically. I’m really tempted to switch from my current notebook to some type of small 5 ring binder (like some planners come in) so that I can physically move a page with the others that are relevant to it and put a sticky tab at the beginning of the section, which would eliminate my index that I never look at in the first place… Also, there are so many great printables (scatteredsquirrel.com is amazing) I can then print a few that I’ll use, and just punch them to go into the binder. Or, there are little pocket divider’s I’ve seen that would be great for holding stickers, or other little things that you can include.

    Has anyone else had this problem, or used a product with removable pages? Did it work out well?

    • That’s the cool about it. ‘Bullet Journal’ is a system, not a product, so if you feel like a binder would work better for you, I say go for it! I would love to hear how it goes.

  13. I tested the bullet journal system for 2 months now and it’s perfect for me! Not only it helps me plan my day and get things done, but also it teaches me not to be perfect and add a drop of creativity to my everyday (:
    I must still learn not to compare myself to others and let go those ideas that someone finds useful, but they simply not work for me.
    I started with an ordinary notebook, I’ve found in my house, but it’s paper is thin and ink bleeds and shadows as crazy… But it was just a test ride, now i know bujo works for me, I go with a dotted Leuchtturm in March! ^^

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  17. These are great tips! I find my perfectionism coming through in my Bujo, and I have to remind myself to just Let It Go (especially when I see that my 2yo has “helped” me color in my Daily spread).

    I’d love to be added to the Bullet Journal Collaborative Pinterest Group, please! I’m @evieandsarah. Thanks!

  18. I’m not at ALL creative so I’ve been having a lot of difficulty with not comparing my layouts to some of the more amazing ones out there. I’m slowly learning that what’s iportant is that it WORKS… and that stencils and stickers are things. And that I love to add colour to mine

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  20. Love this! I’m gonna start doing this. You’ve inspired me with all of your Bu Jo posts! <3 Thanks. Loving the blog~

  21. Hi. I’d love to be a collaberator. I’ve been bullet journaling for 2 1/2 months in a softcover Dot Moleskine. I’m learning a lot everyday about what works for me. I own an independent bookshop called Inklings and I combine personal and business lists and goals. I think my productivity has quadrupled and the stress nightmares that have plagued me for years are nearly gone. I wish I had known about this system years ago, it especially would have helped my grown daughter who has ADHD tendencies. Thanks for all you do. Your info is so helpful!

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  23. I’d love to be on the Pinterest board! I know this is an older post but hopefully you’re still getting comment notifications. (; my username is TwoMoreSeconds.

  24. I’m so lost, if you do a bullet journal do you not need a planner? How do you know how many pages to set aside etc for other ideas, or lists?

    • The beauty of the bullet journal is you only use one book. I use mine as a planner/journal/ budget book/ meal planner/ grocery list/ prayer list etc. One day I got so frustrated looking for one of my notebooks (I had separate books for everything) and randomly came across a bullet journal pin on Pinterest. Life changing! As for the layout, you just fill out pages as you come to them…for example, if you have a list that takes up two pages and you find you want to add more, just go to the next available page and continue the list there. Make sure to keep track of all that in the index.

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  27. I started mine within the past month and LOVE it! It is so great to have everything I need within reach in one place. I have been getting more done than I can ever remember and it is fun to decorate the days!

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  29. I just learned about bullet journals and am 3 days in. Best idea ever! I am very excited to learn there is a pinterest and facebook group! The best thing is you don’t have to abandon other systems that you have used before, just add a page! I love it.

  30. I’ve been using a bullet journal since April. I love routine and neatness. I also suffer from depression & anxiety – finding the journal such a help. The last two months I’ve used it as a basic ‘diary’ too with some journal prompts I found online and writing a summary of my day.

  31. Hi,

    The Pinterest group sounds amazing! Could you add me please? My username is @twinklytanya. I haven’t posted my pages on my own Pinterest wall yet, but I have posted them on Instagram (same username) and was planning on posting on Pinterest as well. Thanks so much!

    Btw, I sometimes do put bullet journaling on my to-do list, but more to help me remind I should rewind that day and take the time to enjoy doodling in my journal. It doesn’t feel like a chore at all that way! But if I don’t plan in leisure time, I often will not allow myself to have my me-time! 😉

    Xx,
    Tanya

  32. I admit, I was a little sceptical about reading this article. I was expecting a “because I have been doing this for a long time, I feel like I have the authority to tell people what to do just because.” It is something I’ve experience in the community of another hobby of mine. But I am delighted that even the ‘Don’t’ section is still very positive. Good job! It’s a good read, especially for those like me who are new to bullet journalling.

  33. #4 on your don’t, I totally agree. I started my first bujo in Jan but it is hard to find a grid or dot journal in the store so I got a grid composition notebook and decorated the cover. It worked perfect. I only wished it was a bit smaller. I finally found the dot one I really wanted and bonus it was on clearance however there are still things about that first one that I miss. Saw another lay flat brown page journal at Walmart the other day for only $4 and it was soooo hard not to buy it just because. Hahaha….

  34. Hi Suzanna. I love your enthusiasm for bullet journaling, your boys, and blogging. If you could add me to the collaborative page on interest, i would live to be a part of the community. I discovered the bujo life just three weeks ago, ordered my Leuchtturm 1917 immediately, and have been so thrilled to have accidentally discovered the-bullet journaling concept on Interest. Bullet journal combines so many of my loves: organization, collections of quotes, thoughts, ideas, stories, calligraphy, design, paper art – and communicating with others about it all. Seems like a simple idea that Ryder Carroll devised- but, by the passions expressed, regarding the process, i would say it’s a simple idea, with a global reach. Thank you Susanna

  35. On Pinterest I read about bullet journals. as I pinned it on my board my sister has seen it as well. The best for me is to include all trackers – weekly, monthly, quarterly and semi-yearly and yearly. It is absolutely great!! Thanks!

  36. Make sure whatever journal you use has at least 31 lines!! I am having to improvise a bit, since mine only has 27 and I don’t want to buy a new journal.

  37. Ty for sharing…you had me at “Worrying about how to get started and letting your unused notebook collect dust for weeks benefits no one”. Please add me to the bullet journal group. Thx, from another busy mom

  38. Hi I was wondering if I could be added to the Pinterest group? I just started a new semester in college and I think a bullet journal would really help me organize my life. My url is sammycochrane13. Thanks!

  39. Great post! I use a 3 rings folder, and perforated sheets 1/2 letter sized I printed with dots, squares, lines and whatever I need, so I have the chance to change the order of pages always I want or I need…sometimes I preffer to print some special layouts and I can include easely in my bujo. I found it’s very useful to have the chance of do this. Best regards!

  40. I’ve just ordered my first Journal as 3 note books lying around with various ideas quotes txt has become a pain trying to find things is annoying so it’s been great & encouraging looking through this Pin xxx

  41. As a long term preprinted planner/calendar book failure I will add my voice to the chorus – bullet journaling and habit tracking works! I especially recommend it if one leads toward being creative and having Attention Deficit tendancies. Mine has been life changing. (I should call mine the NON bullet journal though because I don’t actually use bullets – I love scratching off a finished task with the fourish of a big old line through it, and seeing a page full of big old lines tells me I accomplished something. No problem – its MY bullet journal.) I did invest in some pretty stickers and washi tape etc after I knew this was a system I would stick to, but to begin I used what I had on hand then graduated to dollar store finds. Though I admire the beautiful artwork many do in their Bujo, I dont have interest in doing that, so washi, rub on transfers, stickers and lots of colorful pens take the place of it. My recommended DONT if you have a tendancy to misplace things is DONT take your bujo out of the house or office (I have a super colorful at home Bujo and a more subdued office version.) Keep some pretty memo paper and your electronic calendar handy to transfer shopping lists and appointment details to instead. My recommended DO is to put page numbers in the right hand column of your index, not the left, starting closer to the middle of the page than the edge so you have room to grow. This worked much better for me than the left column index. I also started my running to do lists – daily, weekly, general – at the back of my bujo working toward the front and I dont Index them. Pages I use for a longer time are indexed and in the front. Eventually, the two will meet and I will have an excuse to buy a new notebook!

    • PS – since I don’t take my BJ out of the house, I also sometimes take a picture of a page so I have that info on my phone, and send myself emails of things I want to add. And that was supposed to be “flourish of a big old line” not “fourish.” Ah well, just like bujoing – perfection not required!

  42. I really want to build a bullet journal to get me through my deployment in July. I’ll be gone for 6 months in the desert & I really want something girly for me to help track my goals & progress.
    Any suggestions?

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