My Bullet Journal Set Up and Essential Tools

If you're new here, you must know I'm a journal junkie. There is nothing like collecting ideas and solidifying them through ink on a paper. I'm an on-the-go, get shit done kinda woman and I need a planner to organize my thoughts and master plan... or else I'm just a hot a** mess.  Though I love experimenting with different planners, soon enough I came across Ryder Carrol's bullet journal system (bujo) and it's been love ever since.

The bullet journal grows as I do, and evolves as my lifestyle does. It is complex when I need to buckle down on planning logistics and simply a safe home for my creativity when I need to vent or doodle it out. That's the beauty of bujo, you can create it to be customized to your wants and needs. Planners are fantastic for structured routines, but with bullet journals you create your own path.

I've been using this system for over a year now, and am thrilled to share my favorite essential tools and set up when starting a fresh bullet journal.


The Essential Tools

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A medium, hard covered dotted notebook.

First off, you can start a bullet journal in any notebook! Don’t think you can’t try it out unless you have “the right” one. But, there are so many reasons why this one is worth the buy.

  • My absolute go-to is a Leuchtturm1917 medium notebook, and can easily be found on Amazon or local art stores. They come with a index and numbered pages. For me, lined pages are limiting and grids are too bold. I left gridded paper back in high school geometry. Dotted notebooks are perfect to guide your lines... no ruler needed! Also, the weight of the paper in these notebooks are thick, and don't have issues with ink bleeding through pages. 
  • Leuchtturm1917 also creates an official bullet journal notebook, which you can find online here. Essentially, it is the same as their best selling hardcover notebooks, but with the bujo directions listed inside... a great place to start for beginners! 
  • Alternatively, Moleskines hardcover notebooks make a great alternative.
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Favorite black ink pens

  • Pigma Micron Fine Line Set | meant for drawing and doodles, but perfect fine tips for tiny notes. These can be found at art stores like Michael's or online on Amazon
  • Papermate Inkjoy Gel | These retractable gel pens can easily found at Target or local office supply stores
  • Papermate Flair Medium | This this like the felt-tip cousin to the Inkjoy gel pens. These can also easily be found at Target or local office supply stores.
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My go-to accent pens                                                                                     

Accent pens are perfect for adding block letters, coloring doodles or highlighting section subtitles. Here are my favorite brands to use for this:

  • Mildliners are a real game changer! I love highlighters, but don't like how vibrant the neon colors are. Mildliners provide the same stand out effect, but with softer hues and unique shades. My favorite essential: the grey highlighter. I've never seen anything like it! Bold, but easy on the eyes.

  • I know I just said these above, but any of the papermate inkjoy gel pens or papermate flair medium pens work wonders because they come in plenty of colors! For me, I love a minimal bujo look; mostly with black ink. For those that desire colorful planners pages, I love using these papermate pens for many reasons, especially because they are easy to find, write smoothly, and don't bleed.

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My 2018 Bullet Journal Set Up

When starting a fresh bullet journal, it's not usual to jump right in. You want to set up several important pages before going into your monthly, weekly or even daily pages. These pages set a strong foundation for tracking big events, goals and intentions to guide you as you fill the pages. 

There are many ideas online and it's easy to fall into the pinterest frenzy, but my biggest tip is to start small! Add what you need as you go. Remember, it's meant to make your life easier, so don't get too caught up in trying to make it pretty.  No ripping pages out! Just move forward when you don’t like something and keep going. 😜

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Future Log

Here, I did a simple vertical calendar layout for January-December over four pages. This is place to plan important dates and events for the year. As the year goes on, I track my monthly milestones on these pages, so at the end of the year I can easily reflect back.

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Intention of the year

Every year I select an intention to carry out as an annual theme. Usually, it's a verb... an annual call to action for me to make [money] moves.

 Essentially, after reflecting on the past year, now is the time to identify an area of focus, feeling or state that may have taken the back burner the previous year. It could be one word or a few, but the intention should motivate you to elevate your life throughout the year, in more than one area of life.  To learn more about intention setting, read my post on Setting New Year Intentions.

I created this two-page spread as a bold reminder to follow through with my intention all year long, and to always keep it in front of me.

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Goals for A Thriving Life

Now that I have my heart set out on an intention, I write out goals on how to carry this intention through different areas of life: mind, body, soul, career, finance, family & friends, love and any other commitments that fall into separate categories from the above. For me, I added home and blog since I will commit a lot of energy and time into those areas in 2018.

This is a fantastic way to create a one-pager and define what your successful year looks like. Too often we chase success, but never know when we reach it... we just keep desiring more, without realizing how far we've come. With a page of your holistic goals, by the end of 2019, you'll know what you were able to accomplish, and what you will need to bring focus on the following year.

Most importantly, this page should answer one question... What does an ideal thriving life look like to me?

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Wheel of Balance

I found this idea on pinterest, and now it's the 2nd year in a row I've added it in! This is an illustrated reminder that life will never solely be about one area of life, but how all the areas work cohesively to build a thriving, balanced lifestyle. 

These initial pages are all migrated from my 2017 bullet journal. (Migrating is a term used by the bujo community, and refers to moving the contents from an old page to a new page or journal)

Now that I've gotten my bujo all set up, I jump into my collections and weekly layouts in the next pages to come!

Are you a bullet journalist or want to be? Questions on how to start? Let me know in the comments below!

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If you're loving the bullet journal content, please tap the heart below and let me know you like it!

If this is the stuff you enjoy, I'll create more upcoming content on my monthly and weekly layouts and favorite bullet journal inspos!