What is a Bullet Journal? How I set mine up*

There was once a time when bullet journals were simple, uncluttered diaries that allowed you to remain on top of all of your daily tasks and appointments. The name was coined because the journalist would create a key at the start of the journal featuring bullet points. A heart, for example, would notate a social meet-up, or an exclamation mark would mean an appointment. You can see an example of the key in my old journal to the left. This way one would be able to take a glance at their day and visually recognise exactly what it had in store. In theory, this should save a lot of time and stress. However, since the birth of the bullet journal it has evolved in many ways – you only have to search #bulletjournal on instagram to see the huge range of styles that people adopt nowadays.

Nowadays ‘bullet journal’ is an umbrella term to encompass any journal that is set up by the owner. In other words it doesn’t have any kind of pre-made layout as you would find in conventional diaries. Because of this it allows a greater flexibility – you do not have to write in it every day, and you can make it look as complex or as simple as you like. Many bullet journalists are also highly skilled in calligraphy and illustration, but really all you need is a notebook and pen.

In this blog post I’m going to explain how I set up my bullet journal and why I do things differently to many other journalists!

Firstly, I no longer include a key. For the first few journals I used I did, but I found I never remembered to use the correct symbols, now it’s just easier to write things out fully!

I do, however, include an essential feature of any bullet journal: A Future Log. To the right you can see my future log in my current journal. A future log is essentially a calendar that allows you to see your whole ‘year at a glance’ (another term for it). Some people chose to create their future log by drawing out the calendar template, as you can see in the picture below. Personally I found this time consuming, and it’s just as easy to write out the dates in a list as I have done this year.

Many bullet journalists also include an Index at the beginning of their journal to write in a contents page. I don’t do this anymore as I found I never used it properly – if I needed to find a particular page I just flicked through until I found it!

As well as a yearly overview I also do Monthly Overviews – whilst many people use these to rewrite out their calendars for the month, I use it more as a reflective exercise. I’ll often use a motivational quote, write out my goals for the month, reflect on where I was at that point the year before, and write what I’m looking forward to that month. Why write out your calendar when you already have it in the future log at the start of the journal?

A lot of people use a different theme for every month but I find this too restrictive. I like to change up my journal from page to page depending on my mood.

Note how you can easily make a simple page look lovely by investing in some printed quotes and a lovely washi tape!

Then, of course, comes the Weekly Overview! I vary as to how I make these. Sometimes I will draw out very structured spreads at the start of the week and then fill in each day as I go along, or I will start with a completely blank page and gradually fill it in a more organic way to complete it by the end of the week. Whatever I do I always put a whole week on a double page spread. Some people are more flexible than this and use as many pages as they like for their week, depending on how much they have to write for each day.

Each of my weekly spread includes a ‘week number’ to track how far into the journal and the year I am, and a calendar with the week highlighted. I’ll usually include an illustration of some sort and a quote.

It’s on the weekly spreads that I feel you can really let your creativity and personality shine through.

But of course, a lack of structure in a bullet journal means that you can add extra pages whenever you like (see examples below). I’ve added in pages for book reviews, recipes, memorable days, and for general reflections.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into how I set up a bullet journal. There are no set rules – you can do yours however suits you best! I hope that you feel more confident to set up your own if you’ve not already. You can always email me if you’d like any advice! If you already keep a journal, do you do anything differently from other journalists? Let me know in the comments.

See you soon!

Meg x


*Please note I am transferring content from my old website. This blog post was originally published on 23rd January 2020

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