Beginners' bullet journal Q&As
Planning & Organization

Bullet Journal Questions Most BuJo Beginners Ask

If you’re thinking about starting a bullet journal or you’re an absolute bullet journaling newbie, many bullet journal questions may come to your mind.

By browsing the web you probably came across the term “bullet journal”, or seen images of some of its pages, and got intrigued by it.

I can’t blame you – the majority you see online look very attractive and it’s no wonder why you’d like to keep one for yourself.

But, after searching for some explanation about everything that surrounds a bullet journal, you might be more confused than you were in the beginning about what it actually is and how you can use it.

You might have noticed, there are also some differences between the bullet journal “language” and the one you’re accustomed to when talking about a regular planner, so all of this adds up to the “mystery” that follows a bullet journal.

In this post, I’m giving the answers to the most common beginner bullet journal questions – the ones many people have before deciding whether or not to start using a bullet journal in their life.

Here they are!

What exactly is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is a planning method originally created by Ryder Carroll

It was made with an intention to be more productive and organized (and by that I mean personal organization, where you organize your thoughts and actions, not things that surround you).

In a way, it resembles a “regular” planner since you create a place for the days and months in a notebook and add dates to them. You also put your tasks in their appropriate spot, just like you would with any other planner.

The difference is that the bullet journal uses a “bullets” method to track and organize your tasks – hence its name.

This leads us to another question, which I’ll quickly explain here – what are bullets?

Well, bullets are actually symbols that you add to the specific task. They graphically represent the category of a certain task (it can be a “regular” task, a meeting, an appointment…) and the progress that’s made (have you started it, finished it, decided it’s not relevant anymore…). The meaning of these bullets doesn’t change and they remain the same throughout the entire bullet journal.

Is bullet journaling hard?

Depending on your wants and needs, bullet journaling can be hard in a way – whatever “hard” might mean for you.

In its original form, bullet journaling is a pretty easy and quick method after you set up your bullet journal. And setting up your bullet journal also doesn’t have to take much time.

You might have some rooky issues with bullet journaling until the logic behind this method settles in – like, getting used to flipping through the pages to look for your yearly calendar (or some other information you might need in a moment), or memorizing the meanings of your bullet points.

However, these are not things that will make or break your bullet journaling routine. Therefore, when using a bullet journal this way, you could say it’s a pretty easy thing to do.

Alas, there’s also the other side of the coin – the one you’ve probably seen on the web. Remember those beautiful bullet journal pages? If you want to follow that route, you can be certain that it will take you a lot more time then – if spending more time is your definition of hard.

But considering the word “hard” in its strict meaning, I don’t think bullet journaling is any harder than other planning methods out there.

What do I need to bullet journal?

Bullet journaling is a method that’s very adaptive to different peoples’ lifestyles – and also their budget.

Allow me to explain how this relates to the question.

Even though bullet journaling can turn you into a stationary-hoarding person (believe me on this one!), and therefore be quite expensive, you probably already have all the bullet journal essentials you need to get going.

The absolute must-haves are a notebook and a pen or pencil, depending on your preferences.

Since these are the only two things you actually really need to start, you can consider bullet journaling to be a cost-free way of planning and you’re ready to go!

Think I’m kidding? Here’s the thing – we all have a notebook (or a few) that’s mostly blank and has only a few used pages. Who says you can’t use it for this purpose – especially when you’re just starting out?

Most probably, there will be a lot of trial and error at first, so you don’t have to go overboard with your supplies straight from the beginning. Take some time and see what you actually need and want from your bullet journal.

If you think this way to start is too minimalist for you, then additional supplies might be a ruler (unless you have a steady hand I highly recommend this, plus, you probably already have it at your place), and the fancy-schmancy (not saying it in a bad way!): stickers, stencils, washi tape, specialized brush pens (or other more “glamorous” stationery supplies such as metallic or glitter pens), watercolors (and everything that follows it)… the list can go on and on.

Of course, none of these extras is a must, it’s just a matter of your choice.

Bullet journal stickers

Can you bullet journal on a lined, graph, or blank paper notebook?

Among all bullet journaling questions, this one probably ranks the highest on the list of bullet journaling misconceptions, so let’s clear it out.

You’ve probably seen the images of peoples’ bullet journals online, and the vast majority of them use a dotted notebook. Therefore, this is a logical question – can you bullet journal on a lined, graph, or blank paper notebook? Here’s the answer.

Even though the original method uses a dotted notebook, you can have any type of notebook you like.

My personal vote does go to the dotted notebook because the dots on pages are not as intrusive as lines or square grids, so you get a better view of what’s written on the page. Also, as opposed to a blank paper notebook, dots serve as handy guides, since they are evenly distributed both horizontal and vertical, so you can more easily place whatever you wish on a page (for example, boxes of the same size that are evenly distributed).

However, this is only a matter of personal preference, and therefore, any notebook can be used to bullet journal.

Keep in mind, bullet journaling is a planning method and not an actual planner.

Which bullet journal to buy?

Even if you don’t have many bullet journal questions, I’m almost absolutely positive this one is on your list.

Having said everything above, you can use any notebook you already have by your side, so you actually don’t have to buy any bullet journal for a start.

Just don’t use notebooks that have glued pages (don’t ask me how I know this!).

Now, to be honest and more direct, the answer to this question will depend on which pen or pencil you plan to use.

If you’ll use a common ballpoint pen or a graphite pencil, I think any notebook will serve its purpose.

However, if you plan to use fineliners, gel pens, felt tip pens, or similar tools, you probably need a notebook with thicker paper. 

Believe me, it’s quite frustrating to turn the page and see what you wrote on a previous one – either the entire thing or some of its random spots. 

Therefore, if you use this kind of pen in a mix with a thinner paper notebook, you can expect to see a jumble of letters from both sides of the page, or you’ll have to skip every other page so you could actually read what’s there. (not fun either way!)

The most commonly used notebooks in a bullet journal community come from brands like Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine, Rhodia, and Midori, but again, they are not a must – especially considering how easy (or hard) it is for you to get these notebooks. 

You can always visit your local office supplies store and on the spot choose a notebook that suits you the most.

What size of bullet journal should I get?

The most commonly used bullet journal size is an A5. I like to think of it as not too big, yet not too small, but again – the choice is yours.

Since I’ve already mentioned a number of times that any notebook can be used for bullet journaling, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same thing goes for its size. 

You can go as large as letter size, A4, or B4, or even as small as B7, and any other paper size in between – all options are available and you can pick whichever one you like.

Think of the way how you intend to use your bullet journal – will it be only at your home or do you plan to carry it with you wherever you go? In the latter case, a smaller format might work better for you.

Which pen to use for a bullet journal?

The answer to this one depends on how you plan to use your bullet journal.

If you use it in its essence, then any pen that writes smoothly and dries quickly will work well.

As already mentioned in the question about which bullet journal to buy, you should also choose a pen that doesn’t bleed through (but since this mostly depends on the thickness of the paper, maybe this should be viewed as the other way around, and choose a notebook with pages of appropriate weight).

Personally, I like to create my bullet journal pages with a black fineliner, and later I use a regular biro pen to fill them out (blue and red for accent). Also, highlighters for color-coding needs, where necessary.

However, if you plan to use your bullet journal in a more artistic way, you have a wide variety of options to choose from – gel pens (along with their fancy metallic and glitter options), felt tip pens, fineliners, and markers in different colors (do try to find water-based, since they generally don’t bleed through), you can even use watercolors, colored pencils, or a graphite pencil (I know these are not pens, but they are still writing tools worth mentioning!).

Again, I say go with what you have or visit your local office supplies store, but if you insist on some examples, then Staedtler, Sakura, Stabilo, Tombow, and Zebra, are a few brands you can check out.

Open bullet journal notebook

When should I start a bullet journal?

There’s a high chance you used some other planning method before you came across a bullet journal, meaning – you had experience with some planner in your life.

Since planners mostly start at the beginning of the calendar or school year – when it’s the right time to buy and start using them (unless you don’t mind having half of your planner empty) – taught by this experience you might think it’s the same case here.

Hence the questions like: when should I start a bullet journal, can I start a bullet journal in the middle of the year (or month)…?

The shortest answer is – yes. You can start bullet journaling at any moment you wish to.

Remember, you’re starting off with an empty notebook, so any time can be the right time to begin.

What should a bullet journal include?

“What should a bullet journal include?” and “What pages should I have in my bullet journal?” are two quite similar bullet journal questions, so here’s the answer to both of them.

Since bullet journaling is a very flexible method, you can have any pages you want.

Note that a bullet journal doesn’t have to be structured in the same way a planner is. You have more flexibility and the freedom to create whatever you want out of it.

However, there are some pages you should always have in your bullet journal.

These pages are:

  • Key page – where you write the legend for your bullets.
  • Yearly overview page(s) – although this is not how this page is called when using a bullet journal, it’s purpose is the same. (there are differences in the terms used in a bullet journal, and since here I want to make things easier for you to understand, I don’t want to add unnecessary terms that might additionally confuse you) You use it to mark important events or activities for the time ahead.
  • Contents page – again, it’s not how it’s called in a bullet journal, but that’s its point. It’s just like the contents page of any book, where you have a chapter title and the page number it corresponds to. You create this page so you can more easily navigate through your bullet journal. (because, as you’ll see if you start using this method, you’ll often have the need to flip the pages and search for what you need)

You could call these three pages “mandatory”.

Of course, since bullet journaling is a planning method (and any planning system has to have days and dates), on top of these “mandatory” pages you’ll additionally use at least one of these – monthly, weekly, and daily page.

You can add to your bullet journal any other page that comes to your mind – or you don’t have to, the choice is completely yours.

What should I write in a bullet journal?

Among all bullet journal questions, this is another common one and I’ll try to answer it the easiest way I can.

Your bullet journaling adventure kind of starts as a blank slate – and I mean literally since you only have an empty notebook and a pen in front of you.

Even though you now know what are essential pages you need to create in the beginning, there are still many empty pages left in your bullet journal. So the question “What should I write in a bullet journal?” often comes up.

The answer is quite simple – write whatever you wish to note, track, pay attention to, analyze, or organize – or just write fun things that inspire you.

The possibilities are almost endless.

From planning out your days, events, holidays, outings, mapping out goals, projects (either personal or professional), household repairs, tracking habits, mood, your health and fitness routine, and many other things, to writing different lists and making pages with drawings or quotes.

Start with what interests you the most and go from there.

Bullet journal notebook

Can a bullet journal be a diary?

I must say there is no straightforward answer to this one.

In its strict essence, a bullet journal is not a diary, but no one says you can’t add elements of a diary into your bullet journal.

Therefore, if you look at it this way, a bullet journal can also be a diary (or at least it can become some combination of the two).

How to bullet journal if you can’t draw?

All other bullet journal questions are not as misleading as this one. This is heavily influenced by all those beautiful artistic images of bullet journals you can often see online.

To be clear, your bullet journal doesn’t have to have a single drawing unless you want to. (and to be honest, those pages do look wonderful – I don’t think you’d disagree on this, but they’re not a necessity)

If by chance you are someone who can’t draw but would like to have these kinds of pages (no one can blame you for wanting to have something as pretty as that for yourself!), there are still options for you.

You can either use your bullet journal as an excuse to grow your creative side and start practicing your drawing skills, or you can use printable bullet journal templates that contain drawings.

Another way to add a little extra to your “plain” bullet journal pages is to add some stickers and washi tapes to it, or use a scrapbook journal aesthetic to create a more eye-catching bullet journal.

Is bullet journaling a waste of time?

By now you probably realized there are many ways of using – and designing – a bullet journal.

How much time you’ll spend on it will depend on what you use it for and how. 

It’s needless to say that making detailed drawings on every page will eat up a lot more of your time than using a minimalist approach.

But then again, if you consider those drawings as a way to improve your skills and get more creative, or as the thing that helps you to de-stress and relax, then you’re still doing something good for yourself – so it’s not a waste of time.

Since you can use a bullet journal in a flexible way, you can always pay more attention to it when your schedule becomes less busy and go for a minimal option when you’re in a time-crunch – or you can always “cheat” a bit and use printable templates for any page you need in a moment.

(if you consider your days to be booked full almost all the time, try adding 10-30 minutes of bullet journaling to your daily schedule so you can turn it into a habit – although I don’t want you to think of a bullet journal as an obligation, it should be a helpful tool you look forward to)

In short, bullet journaling can take some time, but I wouldn’t say that time is wasted.

How do you make bullet journaling easier?

It depends on what you consider to be difficult.

If time is what’s causing you problems, see the question above for an answer.

If setting up your weekly or monthly pages is what you have trouble with, search for inspiration and get the ideas from the web, make your own cheat sheets, use printable templates (over and over), or try out stencils.

If you’re overwhelmed by all the possibilities available to you, start small and at first use only the pages that are essential for what you need out of your bullet journal (in this case you can even decide not to look at the accounts of people who post about bullet journals, and focus on your own instead).

The bottom line is that there are ways to make bullet journaling easier, whatever problem you’re faced with.

Is a bullet journal right for me?

Among all the bullet journal questions on this list, the hardest to give a straight answer to is this one.

The best and most honest response you can get is this – you’ll never know unless you try it for yourself 🙂 (I know it’s not the answer you were hoping to get, but it’s just the way it goes).

Different people have different experiences with it.

Some try it once and never leave it again. Others discover it’s simply not for them. There are also many people who use a bullet journal for some time, then leave it for a while, and afterward decide to get back to it. (to be completely honest with you, I belong to this third type)

Since it can take some time to get used to the bullet journaling method, I suggest you try it out for no shorter than a month and see how you feel about it. 

This is the exact reason why throughout this post I recommended you not to buy anything “fancy” in the very beginning. Take a bit of time to find out whether or not you’ll want to continue with it further.

Those were some of the most common bullet journal questions many beginners face when deciding whether or not to start their own bullet journaling routine.

If you choose to give it a go, take a look at my bullet journaling for beginners – it’s another no-fluff guide that gradually explains what you need to know in the beginning.

If you have other bullet journal questions not covered here, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to give you an answer.

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