This is the ultimate beginner’s guide to bullet journaling, so hopefully, you can be your most productive and organized self without feeling stressed.
This guide is a one-stop shop for what a bullet journal really is, what it consists of, and most importantly, a myriad of bullet journal ideas to get those productive creative juices flowing!
Before you get started on your bullet journal journey, it’s important to know that what makes a bullet journal different from other journals is that there are little dots on every page that help you draw straight lines and create incredibly organized plans for yourself.
If you’re having trouble finding a bullet journal and just don’t know where to start, here is a link to one on Amazon with a great rating!
What I love so much about bullet journals is that the possibilities are endless.
While I break these down into more categories throughout the article, here are just a few of my favorite general bullet journal ideas that I hope will keep you motivated to keep up with it.
What is a Bullet Journal?
This is probably the hardest question to answer about bullet journaling because honestly, it’s whatever you need it to be! It can be used as an everyday planner, a way to track habits and practice mindfulness, or even a kind of personal diary that isn’t just writing pages and pages of thoughts.
In essence, you take a bullet journal and decide what you need help with keeping track of in your life. If I were going to create a bullet journal, I would have each month start with a general calendar of big events (weddings, doctors’ appointments, tests) and then have a week-by-week planner as well for smaller things (homework assignments, meetings).
But the best thing about a bullet journal is it can be so much more than just a planner. I would add other pages each month that track how much water I drink, how much money I’ve spent, how many pages of a book I’ve read, or how much sleep I get!
Even more than that, it can be a way to help you meditate and practice mindfulness. I would probably include a log for tracking how often I practice breathing exercises, take a walk outside, or practice some form of self-care.
I’ve also seen a lot of bullet journals where people track their emotions – certain feelings that might come up during the day so that they can look back and see that even if one day kind of sucked, the next day is always full of possibilities!
I know, I know… it might still seem overwhelming, and if there are so many things you can add to a bullet journal to track, where to start?
Keep reading for more ideas!
Key Bullet Journal Ideas for Beginners
A common misconception about bullet journals is that they need to be super elegant and fancy, which just isn’t true – those are just the ones that everyone loves to show off! What’s important to keep in mind as a beginner, is it’s much more about creating habits, finding ways to help productivity, and helping to hold yourself accountable than how good your artistic skills are. However, if you are super artsy and have a beautifully crafted bullet journal, there is also nothing wrong with that (and I am jealous of your artistic ability)!
I think one of the easiest bullet journal ideas for beginners is keeping track of your day-to-day schedule. Creating boxes where you can write down all that you have to do that day can help you visualize the day – one of my best friends even organizes hers down to the hour to help keep herself on schedule.
Another easy bullet journal idea for someone wanting to start is picking some habits that you want to implement into your everyday routine, like working out, cooking, yoga, meditation, reading – and tracking how often you are able to do them. I love this option because I think it helps you hold yourself accountable when you want to be able to check off that day!
Tips on How To Start Your Bullet Journal
- First, pick a theme! A big theme you will see throughout this post is floral patterns and that’s because I think a lot of people see flowers as pretty and captivating.
- Keeping your pages nice, even if you’re not an artist, and picking a theme you enjoy will make bullet journaling a more fun experience.
- Another option for a theme that comes to mind is making it about your favorite TV show or movie.
- In terms of what kinds of things to include in your bullet journal, a great thing to start off with is long term goals
- Find quotes for each page or draw pictures that remind you of the characters.
- If you’re more on the minimalist side or just get frustrated with art projects, then just pick a color palette that you enjoy or even just a few colors you like to keep a theme going, like in this one from @lqbujo, which can help make things visually appealing enough to make you want to go back without bullet journaling becoming a daunting and stressful art project.
- Another option I think is super beneficial, especially when you’re first getting started, is having a day-to-day checklist of things you want to get done.
- I think having different activities, assignments, or even chores that you want to complete on a certain day can help make things look less intimidating daily.
- Keep in mind as you keep reading that I couldn’t find an example for every idea, so just let your imagination run wild and find ways to organize your life in ways that are best suitable for you – everyone is different!
In this Post:
You can break these down into different categories like in the picture, or you can just pick long term goals (maybe one for each month, or every three if that is too intimidating) and that can be one of the first things you look to when you first open your journal.
1. Favorite memories
I love this idea from @dark_sunlight on Instagram because it makes your bullet journal a place full of positivity. At the end of every month or year, you can look back on all the moments you wanted to remember.
2. Big events coming up in your life – weddings, parties, job interviews, etc.
3. Wishlist of things you either want to achieve, to buy, to get for others.
4. An “end of day” release – a place to write a few sentences, or pages if you need, about how you are feeling in that moment.
5. A birthday calendar by month! This way, you’ll never have to rely on social media stories and posts to remember someone’s birthday.
1. A list of shows and movies you want to watch that you can check off as you go to make sure you don’t accidentally start something twice.
2. If you are trying to take up knitting, keep a chart of how many stitches you can knit a day.
3. Maybe you enjoy cooking as a hobby…make a list of recipes you want to try and keep 1-5-star reviews of them to know whether you would make them in the future.
4. Exercising is a hobby that SO many people enjoy, so trying to keep a chart of all the different kinds of exercises you do and write them down daily so you can always mix things up.
5. I think learning a new language can be an incredibly fun and challenging hobby. If it’s something you’re interested in, keep a log of how long you spent working on learning that new language daily and maybe even add a fun word you learned while studying!
Get the best journals on Amazon!
Physical and Mental Health
1. Monthly Exercise Log
Keep a log of how many times a month you exercise! It’s a great way to see your achievements right in front of you. If you are someone who wants to be able to cross out every day, it’s an awesome way to encourage you to do so.
2. Exercise Time Log
Alternatively, if you are regimented about working out (almost) daily, write down how long you work out.
3. Mood Tracker!
My absolute favorite mental health log in bullet journals is a mood tracker. There are tons of different ways to design them or split them up (weekly, monthly, or the entire year) but I think picking your most common emotions, giving them a specific color, and coloring how you felt that day using the corresponding color is a great way of keeping track of how you’re doing.
A meditation tracker, as well, is super helpful in my opinion, because being able to check off that you took time to relax and just breathe will make you feel so accomplished. It’s a great way to make sure you are taking time to settle in with yourself!
5. Drink Up
Water intake logs are also great for both physical and mental health. Writing down how many cups, ounces, or maybe even gallons of water you drink in a day can help hold you accountable and keep yourself hydrated!
1. Packing! List!
A packing list, in my opinion, is the most important necessity when traveling. If you have an upcoming trip, dedicate a whole part of your bullet journal to making sure you don’t forget anything!
Just remember to write everything down twice – once for when you’re leaving, and once for when you’re returning, to make sure you don’t leave anything there, either!
2. Bucket List or To-Do List
If you’re a planner like me, make a bucket list of things you want to do while you’re there. Investigate if places you want to visit have cheaper or free entry days and write all that info down.
Check out restaurants you might want to go to and see if they need reservations; it’s more work upfront, but it can make the actual vacation part of vacation a lot more relaxing when it’s Monday at 5 and you’re not trying to figure out what restaurants are near you.
@everydaybulletjournal has a great example of a bucket list on their page that you could easily turn into a vacation destination bucket list!
3. Places You’ve Been
Keep a travel log of places you’ve been and when you visited them. It sounds simple, but it can be so amazing to look back and think “wow, I really did that!”
Also, if you’re horrible at remembering when you went to certain places, it will help jog your memory.
4. Places You Want to Go
Kind of like a goal list, find a way to incorporate pages of places you want to visit. I think it would be so exciting to see the places you want to visit become places you’ve visited in your logs.
1. Laundry, Laundry, and More Laundry
Track how many times a week you do laundry. It sounds simple, but I promise it is a great bullet journal idea.
I can never remember the last time I did laundry or the last time I washed a pair of jeans (you aren’t supposed to wash them after every wear, but you should wash them eventually!!).
Keeping a log of when you wash clothes, towels, sheets, and anything else you may need to wash can also help keep you organized without having to keep everything straight in your head.
2. Cooking In vs Eating Out
Log what days you want to cook versus what days you want to eat out. I know that it’s so easy to just decide “I don’t want to cook today,” but then that happens 4 days in a row and you’re spending money like crazy.
Add a monthly log and write down what days you want to eat at home and what days you want to eat out. If you have something big happening on Tuesday and you know you won’t want to cook, plan that day as an eating-out day!
3. Bed-Making Tracker
Making your bed every day can be a great way to get moving each morning. If it’s hard to get yourself to do it, though, try making this a little victory by crossing it off in your journal.
It’s a great bullet journaling idea to help keep you motivated and start the day off right.
4. Cleanliness Log
Keep a log of which rooms in the house you clean on which days.
My roommates and I have a modified version of this where we keep a calendar in our kitchen that lists what chores need to be done in each room and what days someone cleans them.
This is super easy to transfer into a bullet journal and it’s great for keeping a reminder on the last time you cleaned your floors!
College Life Categories
1. Income Tracker
If you’re like me and have a job where the income changes (i.e., you pick up/drop hours some weeks and the paycheck is never the same), keep an income log on either a weekly or bi-weekly basis (depending on when you get paid).
This log is a great way to keep track of your money and how much you are saving.
2. Spending Tracker
What I love about this bullet journal idea is that it’s extremely helpful. When I log onto my bank app, I see that I spent X amount of money at this place, but I don’t exactly remember all that I got to make it add up to that.
Keep your receipts and make a list of what you bought and how much everything was (including tax) so that when you realize you have more or less money than you were expecting, you can go look at what exactly you spent without having to keep a million receipts.
If you’re having trouble picturing what this would look like, @everydaybulletjournal has a great example of how to set up a spending tracker!
Logging your bills and when they are due can help you make sure that you never miss a payment. If you’re living on your own for the first time, all the bills start to get overwhelming (me currently).
Being able to check off when you’ve paid a bill, what it was for, and how much it was can really help keep your finances in order.
4. General Finances
Think of this one as kind of a general page combining an income tracker and your bills.
Keeping a log of how much you have in your account at the beginning of each month and then figuring in how much you will spend on bills will help you predict how much money you need to budget each month.
This way, you have a way to see how much you are saving.
You can check in each day or week with how much money you have and keep making sure that you have enough to pay whatever is necessary, while also leaving some to make sure you can enjoy dinner out with friends or something.
5. Finance Goal (Monthly or Yearly)
Now, what would a bullet journal be without some overall goals! Making a log for how much money you want to have saved at the end of each month, and ultimately at the end of the year, can help make sure that you are prioritizing your savings.
Maybe you want to save up for a vacation or buying something expensive for yourself, or maybe you just want to save!
Making long-term goals for yourself and keeping track of whether you’re meeting those goals will help you be more financially responsible, making this one of my favorite bullet journal ideas.
1. Recipe Tracker
I know my biggest problem with cooking for myself is coming up with ideas. I always see things on TikTok and then forget they exist.
Keep a log of meals you want to try each month, and what ingredients go in each. This way, you can see what you want to cook and keep track of it, and @everydaybulletjournal has an amazing way of setting this up!
Alternatively, just write down a running list of meal ideas that you want to try and cross them off as you try them
2. Weekly Meal Plan
For me, organizing what I want to eat every week helps make me feel less overwhelmed when deciding what to eat for dinner. Keep a log of what you’re going to eat each day and maybe even give yourself a little idea of how long it’ll take to make it, so you know when to start.
An example of how to do this is the photo posted by @fransbujo on Instagram, but instead of writing what you’re doing that week as she does, write in what you’re going to eat!
3. Grocery List
So, now you have all these ideas and meal plans, but no idea what to get from the store. Make a list! Keep a list of necessities you may need (flour, sugar, eggs, etc.) and then what you will need to make each meal.
Then, you can color code items that overlap and just make sure you get extra of that – if you’re making two meals with chicken, then you will need to get two meals’ worth!
4. Favorite Foods
This one is probably my favorite because I just think it sounds so fun.
With every meal you make, whether it’s new or something you’ve made for years, give it a score, and write down what you like about it, just like @dark_sunlight. Maybe even write down what you would do differently next time!
That way, when you’re in a pinch and don’t know what you want to make but don’t want to come up with new ideas, you can see what worked and what didn’t… and why!
Studying & Homework
1. Writing Schedule Log
As someone who writes a lot in college, I think this is probably the most useful. Keep a log of how many pages you want to write each day for a long paper or even shorter assignments.
Then, keep a log under that of how many pages you wrote. While the goal is always to write the desired pages or more, it’ll help keep you on a set schedule to know how long it will take you to write X number of pages by the due date
2. Class Assignment Log
This example is probably one of my favorites for a bullet journal log idea. It’s from @dark_sunlight on Instagram, and I love the way she’s set up her productivity. In place of “planning,” or “editing,” you would just write the name of each class you’re taking a give it a symbol.
From there, you can keep track of when you study which subjects depending on your workload that week.
3. Logged Study Hours
This one is a bit more general but just try keeping a log of how many hours you spend studying on each subject.
If you have a big test coming up, mimic the writing log and write down how many hours of study time you want to dedicate to just that one subject, and change the others accordingly.
I bet you will find that you spend way more time studying than you maybe think you do.
4. Homework Organizer
This one from @lifeismessyandbrilliant is both pretty and functional – and not too intricate in its design!
Try organizing your homework by using one color to mark what days you want to work on each assignment and then another (probably bold) color for when that homework is due.
That strategy can also be helpful for bigger assignments because not only are you writing down when it is due, but you are making time most days, if not every, to work on getting it finished.
1. Daily Cleaning Tasks
One thing I’ve realized since living in college is that there are certain chores that are just easier to do every day, but are also annoying to have to do every day.
The biggest one – the dishes. I lived for the first week in my apartment not doing dishes every day and it was honestly just a mess.
However, I also had a hard time wanting to do them every day, and it just became exhausting.
I think if I had a bullet journal, this would be the top chore I would write down to do every day because it makes such a difference waking up and not having a pile of plates in the sink.
You could use an example like this one from @lqbujo but instead of writing everything that needs to get done that day, just dedicate that page to writing what chores need to get done.
But you may also have other daily cleaning things you want to do – like making your bed or taking out the trash if you’re in a dorm room and don’t want your room to smell like food that you may throw away.
Adding a bullet journal log dedicated to daily cleaning tasks that you can check off as finished will not only keep your space clean, but will also make you feel accomplished at the end of each day.
2. Zone Cleaner Organizer
Other times, though, there are cleaning tasks that don’t need to be done every day but do eventually have to get done – like dusting, vacuuming, laundry, and the dreaded bathroom.
Group each place in your room into a “zone”, like bathroom, bedroom, closet, common areas (if you have them) and figure out what cleaning tasks need to be completed in that zone.
Every other week, pick a zone that needs to be cleaned. A great example of this can be seen from @coffeelover0524 on Instagram.
This way, you may be cleaning a zone every week, but you don’t have to clean everything at once, which for me is very overwhelming and exhausting – meaning, I don’t clean to my fullest, I just sort of make everything appear clean.
If you have roommates, write down which person cleans which zone that week so that you take turns. Keeping track of that kind of thing will only help you avoid tense roommate situations and a messy room, so it’s a win-win if you ask me.
3. Laundry Days
If you’re going to use any bullet journal idea from this section, I suggest this one. If you’re living in a residence hall, odds are there are going to be a lot of people needing to do their laundry.
Early on, try doing your laundry on different days and at different times. Keep track of which days and which times had more washers and dryers available.
I know it seems tedious, but you have no idea how many times I lugged my laundry into the laundry room only to find all the washers were taken.
Humans tend to be creatures of habit, though, and usually will try to do their laundry around the same time each week because that is when they don’t have class, or something.
Find a time that not only works for you and your schedule but also isn’t crammed with people.
Also! Keep track of how much laundry detergent and everything you have, the last time you washed your bath towels, your sheets, if you separate your lights and darks maybe don’t do them at the same time and keep track of what days you cleaned different clothes…it’s up to you!
1. Sports Reminders
There are probably a lot of big things you don’t want to miss in college. One of those, for me, is sporting events.
While this could only mean Homecoming for some people, maybe you want to try to go see football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, or any other sporting even your friends might compete in.
Try to keep a calendar solely dedicated to sporting events you may want to go to each month to make sure you never miss out on something!
2. Exam Days
Probably the most important tracker to have for your bullet journal during college.
While I think having something that shows what days you have exams or big papers/projects does help, I would also make sure that you have a system for writing down when you are going to study for those things or work on the projects.
@fransbujo on Instagram shows a great example of a beautiful calendar, and you can add in whatever information you need!
That way, not only do you have the actual reminder for what’s coming up, but you also have a plan of attack to get things done.
3. Greek Life Events
Whether you’re thinking about rushing and want to go to Greek Life events to see what they’re like, or you’re involved in Greek Life and need to remember to go to things, I would recommend having a log of when the events are, what house it’s for, if you’ll need money, etc.
Especially if you’re thinking about rushing or planning on rushing, I would suggest dedicating an entire log to just things recruitment related – the dates, if there is a dress code, your schedule for each day.
With that, make sure to document how you’re feeling with each day as part of the process if you’re going through recruitment. Setting some space in your bullet journal to let out your feelings and reflect is a great idea during a super stressful time.
4. Three Good Things from Each Day
College goes by fast (I say, as I’m in my last semester). At the end of each day, even if it is just a sentence or one word, write down three good things that happened.
It can be so easy to gloss over little moments when you’re stressed or overwhelmed with school. However, my favorite part of bullet journals is that they can also help you practice gratitude and practice slowing down.
Or maybe, use @everydaybulletjournal as an example and make a gratitude log. Whatever helps you remember the good times!
1. Countdown to the Day
Having a countdown calendar to when you move in can really put things in perspective. On your tracker, put days that you want to have certain tasks done by.
For example, if you move in on the 14th of August, you want to wash all your sheets and bedding on the 11th before you pack them to make sure they’re clean when you get there.
2. To-Do List
While you could put your to-do list and calendar together, my brain would feel overloaded by all the information.
Adding big things to your calendar (like “pack all your clothes today”) and smaller things on your to-do list (like “buy bathroom essentials”) can help make sure you’re getting everything you need to finish without making it feel overwhelming.
Using the example from @dark_sunlight, you could fill in what needs to be done on which days leading up to move-in, so you make sure you have everything ready to go!
3. Packing List Organizer
THIS! When I moved in, I had boxes everywhere and absolutely no idea what was in them. PLEASE make a part of your bullet journal dedicated to what boxes have what in them.
Making this part of your journal instead of just a random list somewhere (that you are more likely to use on instinct) is smart because if you’re into bullet journaling or are trying to hold yourself accountable, it ensures that you will put in the work to get organized.
Write down what every box has in them and then NUMBER THE BOXES! As you unpack, check off everything you pull out of the box, so you can make sure that everything you wanted is there.
That way, you realize sooner if you forgot to pack something instead of waiting until it’s storming to realize that you did, in fact, forget to pack rain boots.
1. Dorm Room Necessities
Even after you move into college and feel “settled” after move-in, there will always be things that you will need. Whether it’s trash bags or forks, make a running list of things you need to get every time you make a Target run.
That way, you have a place where everything stays organized that you can look to instead of having a billion reminders on your phone (like I once did) and forgetting something in the end (again, I’ve been there).
2. College Life Event Reminders
During my first year of college, I simultaneously felt like I never knew when things were happening and that I had to go to everything all the time.
There can be a lot going on all at once, but organizing it like @dark_sunlight can really help you see what all is happening instead of trying to keep it straight in your head.
Keep a calendar specifically for events put on by your university that you 100% want to go to.
Whether those are residence hall events, roommate mixers, resident assistant meetings, or move-out dates, an event log will help ensure that you never miss something you want to attend.
3. Bathroom Essentials
Arguably one of the most important places in a dorm room. Make sure to keep a tracker of bathroom necessities that you are running low on. Do you have soap? Toilet paper?
On top of that, if you have roommates, make sure in your tracker to write down who supplied what so that not only one person is paying for everything – especially if everyone uses it.
4. Dining Hall Meal Menu Days You Like
If your university is like mine, they repeat certain meal days – like Tender Tuesdays or Fajita Fridays. If they make a weekly or monthly calendar available, make a list of days that you for sure like so you know when they are coming.
Also, different dining halls may offer different things on different days, so make sure to keep track of everything you like so you don’t show up to the dining hall one day and use a meal swipe only to end up ordering food anyways.
It would be super fun if you followed a theme example like @everydaybulletjournal does here and then fill in the days with what meals are being served!
5. Favorite Dining Hall Meal Tracker
I know, I know! Another “favorite”! But really, these are my favorite kind of bullet journal logs. Rate the meals you like instead of just writing down the days they will be served at your dining hall.
That way, if you see something and you know you’ve had it, but you just can’t remember if you liked it, you have the answer right in front of you!
1. Habit Tracker
This habit tracker from @lqbujo is a great example of how to make sure you are practicing healthy habits in college.
While this user has 9 habits that they track, maybe just pick a few to start if you’re new to bullet journaling.
A good idea is to include a habit you already have down solid, like maybe drinking a good amount of water, and then picking other habits you want to work on, like fitness.
Once you’ve mastered one habit, add another. The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can always go back and change things to make it fit your life in the best way possible.
2. Sleep Tracker
Another great log from @lqbujo is their sleep tracker. I think it’s a universal experience in college to lose a little bit of sleep occasionally, but I also think it’s a good idea to track your sleep to make sure you are getting enough rest overall.
Every great bullet journal needs to be personalized. A great idea, in my opinion, is to start your “self-care” section with some words of encouragement.
It is easy to lose yourself a bit when things get overwhelming. It might sound cheesy but finding images or quotes that inspire you can only help you keep going.
4. General Health
I think this example from @dark_sunlight is great for college students because you can track your overall health to make sure that you are prioritizing yourself.
While she has sections like “sleep”, which could very well be its own log, I would start by choosing things that are important for you to track.
Did you take your medicine in the morning? At night? Did you exercise? Are your allergy symptoms bad? Anything that you want to track that is related to your overall health is a great idea to add to your journal!
I know I’ve presented a bunch of ideas and it still may be hard to know exactly what to include.
What I recommend is to really take a close look at what’s important to you, whether that be making sure you get your homework done or trying to build healthier habits.
Whatever the case may be, a bullet journal is meant to fit your life…you are not supposed to make yourself fit into a style that isn’t for you!
And always remember – everyone had to start somewhere. Maybe it isn’t the prettiest starting out, but you’ll get there. Just stick with it!
Check out this video on 2021 bullet journals!
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