Setting up

Today is a great day to start our new Bullet Journals!  Actually, in truth, I’ve been saying this for over a week.    I decided to commit to bullet journaling last November and dove in purchasing supplies, reading books and visiting websites.  I was very excited about this journal method considering it a great creative outlet. But, when it came to putting pencil to paper, I procrastinated, realizing that I couldn’t create the artistic journals I’d seen on Pinterest. After several days of fumbling around,  I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to create art rather than organize my life. So, I have simplified and  here is my plan. I will start by sharing all the knowledge on Bullet Journals that I have gathered from my studies and what I am doing. Then, we are going to share the truth of how it really works in real life.

Let’s get started!  Setting up the journal includes creating a cover page, index, future page, the first month and weekly and/or a daily logs.  These pages will be the bones of the journal. But, before we can properly set up these pages, we need to have a general understanding of the Bullet Journal method created by Ryder Carroll. 

First, some terms you should know:

Index- the ‘search box’ for your journal

Future Log- a yearly calendar to place appointments and events for a monthly calendar you have not created yet.

Monthly Log- a birdseye look at your monthly appointments,  events, goals and tasks

Weekly/Daily Logs – Calendars and to-do lists that manage your daily tasks

Migration- a term used to evaluate and  move uncompleted items to a new to-do lists.

Collection- a term used for lists that do not fit anywhere else in the journal.  Examples include lists of books to read, places to go, things to learn, quotes, gratitude, shopping lists etc.

Habit Tracking is creating a grid chart to track habits.  It helps create new habits or break bad habits.  Examples include tracking exercise, volunteer hours, computer time, etc.

The success of the Bullet Journal is creating thought out to-do lists, breaking your goals into tasks and creating useful collections. Check off tasks as they are completed and then in a step called migration, evaluate the unfinished tasks before you create a new to-do list.  This is done at the end of a day, a week or a month. When you learn the power of migration, you will understand why you don’t set up the whole year at one time like a standard calendar or daytimer.  The migration step is what makes a Bullet Journal different. During the migration process you take the time to  evaluate unfinished tasks. Ask your self questions.

Why has this item not been checked off?  

What is keeping you from finishing this task?

Has it lost its importance?

Do you need to make it a priority?  

Does it need to be broken down into smaller steps?

Getting the basics established isn’t necessarily the fun part of this journaling method, but you want a good foundation and organization to be successful.  Sounds easy enough, so let’s break it down and put pen to paper.

1. COVER PAGE AND THE INDEX:  Your road map

As you move forward with this method of journaling, you find the index is what  allows you move from page to page with your writing without worry about where to put something so you can find it later.   When you write something important in the journal, you will return to the index, add the topic and page number for future reference.

My Plan:

The first page of my book will be my cover page. I used a pencil to sketch out the year in simple block letters.  At the bottom of the page I added my contact information just in case I leave it sitting on the table at the local coffee shop.  I am going to add a little color to the page by coloring in the 2019 using colored pencils. Not exactly Pinterest worthy stuff  but I enjoyed it.

For the index to work, the pages need to be numbered.  The Bullet Journal Website recommends 4 index pages so I am going to skip 5 pages, (a cover page and 4 pages for the index) and then begin numbering because I want my future page to start on a left hand page. You can number all pages now or number as you go along.  

Then I drew my lines to create my index pages. I used a little washi tape to decorate the pages.  Done very simple!

2. FUTURE LOG: Your calendar at a glance

The Future Log  will be on the pages immediately following the index.  Since we will be creating monthly pages as they come around, this is where you can write down appointments and events for the future.  This is a calendar at a glance that will help you set up future appointments and your monthly logs as you get to them.  It will be the place to take a quick look at your schedule for an overall picture of your year.

There are so many ways to set this up.  I encourage you to look at the layout options on our Pinterest board and create a Future page that will work best for your lifestyle. Don’t get caught up in the art work if that will intimidate you.  And, if you are a normal person,  it will intimidate you.

My plan:

The first step is to decide if you want to do the whole year or just the first 6 months.  Ryder Carroll, the originator of this method suggests six months. Since my goal is to create one book where I organize my life and schedules, I am going to go ahead and  create a 12 months spread. I may run out of pages before the end of the year, but I can always migrate the remaining months over to a new book. I am choosing to create each months calendar and then leave space to write my appointments in the column underneath.  I am not going to worry about keeping appointments in chronological order but instead just list them as the appointment is made. I will organize them when I create each monthly calendar.

I am allowing 4 pages with 3 months on each page.  My plan was to create neatly lettered calendars for each month. However, in the small space that is easier said than done and is very time consuming. To set up my journal faster and in a less intimidating  manner, I decided to take a 2019 pocket calendar and use the calendar at glance from that in my journal.  I have cut each monthly square calendar and glued it into my journal. Remember there are no rules- so do what works for you. Again, I slapped some washi tape on the borders and called it art.

3. MONTHLY LOG: The place to take an inventory of your month.

This is where you migrate your future events, set your goals for the month and assign tasks. From here, you migrate your tasks to your weekly and/or daily pages.   

There are so many ways to set this up. Some nice samples can be found on  I am considering what has worked and what has not worked for me, pre-bullet journal, and what I hope to accomplish with this journal to decide on my layout:

How many appointments and meetings do I have?
Do I want lists or do I need to see a more traditional calendar?
Will I be setting goals?
What tasks do I plan to accomplish?
Do I need to set up trackers to accomplish any of my goals?

My plan:

My original plan was to set up a beautifully decorated traditional calendar page with a columns to list my monthly goals and an inspirational quote.  However, I ended up trying Ryder Carroll’s minimalist column method. Listing the dates with the symbol for the day of the week down the outside edge and creating a column for morning, afternoon and evening.  I quickly realized (with little room left) that I also needed a column for my family’s activities that affected my day in some way. This month will be messy and I will make adjustments on my February calendar.

On the facing page, I created spots for goals, tasks and notes .I migrated my appointments from the future log to the calendar and added these pages to the index. My artsy decor regressed to washi tape again. I forgot a spot for my inspiration.   But hey, no judgement at least I’m getting it done.

4.  WEEKLY and/or DAILY LOG:  Your to-do lists in detail

This is the location for your to-do lists. You are finally getting to the details and lists that organize your life.  You determine if you need a weekly or a daily list. You may find you need both. It may be that for most weeks you can get by with a weekly calendar but on busy weeks you might need daily lists.  There are no rules… do what works for you!

My plan:

I am setting up a page with 6 blocks as my weekly calendar. Saturday and Sunday share a block for the sake of making the division of the page easy.  I am migrating daily tasks and appointments  from the monthly calendar. On the facing page will be my goals for the week.  I divided it into 3 columns: work/volunteer, tasks, and fun.

Tuesday was my day for running errands in town, so I created a daily page that included my places to go, tasks to complete, my menu for the week and grocery list.  On Tuesday night, I will migrate tasks that didn’t get done and create a daily page for Wednesday.

My big events for the month are my committee work on a volunteer fundraiser and my Dad’s 90th birthday party.  I created a page to log my volunteer expenses including mileage, a to-do list for the fundraiser and another page for  the birthday party to-do list. To create a complete list for this event, I added items I had already completed. It’s nice to have a few things to immediately check off.  A little inspiration never hurts.

I added all these pages to the index.

The Truth:

  • One thing that I am learning — the method is much easier to do than to explain.  With that in mind, you have to have a little trust setting up the first pages. It is kind of like looking at a forest of trees.  They look jumbled until you get to that spot where you see the rows as they were planted.
  • Ten pages into numbering and I can see the value of the pre-numbered journal options.   At page 50 I decided to number the pages as I get to them. I should have done that at the beginning because…
  • There is a good chance you will accidentally skip a page when numbering.  You probably won’t realize it until you go to add the page to the index and there are no numbers. Just add letters to previous page number (ie page 4a, 4b etc. )
  • The dot matrix pattern is wonderful for helping you keep your lines straight and divide the pages. Go with the dot matrix paper!  However, don’t expect “old eyes” to see those dots pre-coffee in the morning.
  • If you are going to use art supplies (ie markers, water color etc) on your pages, I suggest adding a test page in the back of the book. Make a swipe in a box with the marker or paint to be sure it does not bleed through or damage the paper.  I learned this the hard way because I used a marker to put a date at the top of my future log and it bled through the paper messing up the index on the previous page. That is when washi tape came out.  It covers a lot!
  • After trying a little watercolor and some of my art supplies in this journal, I realized the dot matrix paper is really for writing not watercolor and markers.  I don’t know how the paper holds up on those elaborate pinterest examples. Just the truth.
  • Glue sticks are your friend.  Let’s not forget the cut and paste calendar.  That was a real time saver. Also, when the washi tape started to peel up- a swipe of stick glue and it is in place to stay. I am going to check Michaels for an archival glue stick for future use. 
  • Don’t feel like you have to recreate the fancy pages you see on social media.  Create pages without any decoration. Ryder Carroll didn’t create the original journal as an art journal. Simple chicken scratch works just as well as calligraphy.  If you become overwhelmed or intimidated, step back and simplify.
  • There is no list unworthy of your journal. Don’t be a list snob and try to save your pages.   The whole idea is to organize yourself in one spot. Put your grocery lists and errands in this book. Write your committee notes in this book.  Mark things off. Life is messy– your journal should reflect that.
  • You are going to make mistakes in your beautiful, kind of expensive notebook.  Don’t worry about it. A used journal with some imperfections is much better than a blank journal sitting in your closet.  That’s why white out was created.
  • Habits take time.  Organizing is a habit. Set calendar reminders or timers on your phone for a time to work on your journal and migrate tasks.  After a couple of months it will be a natural part of your schedule and hopefully a good part.
  • Don’t forget to take your journal with you.  Slip it in your pocketbook or whatever you are taking along as you work through your day!  Lists don’t work if you don’t have them with you. Don’t miss out on the thrill of staying on track and checking things off!  Enjoy your accomplishments no matter how small.

An important rule for Bullet Journaling is to make the journal your own and use it.  Try things. If they work for you continue and if they don’t move on to another idea.  No harm, no foul.  


More on Bullet Journaling with Fayette Woman:

Start Bullet Journaling

Bullet Journaling: Part 3 Migrating


Maggie Zerkus

Maggie Zerkus is in charge of all things social, sparkly and fun at Fayette Woman.

January 8, 2019
January 10, 2019