Three Steps to Start Your Bullet Journal—Article Two

by Lynn S. Schwebach

After a few weeks of my new bullet journal sitting in its shrink wrap on my desk, I finally opened it, and I started my new organized life.


My friend Chip introduced me to the bullet journal concept, and she came to my house to show me her FABULOUS (a.k.a. artwork masterpiece) journal. (See my last article “Bullet Journals Help Artists, Entrepreneurs and Professionals Get Organized.”)

I will start by telling you that my journal will not and cannot compare to Chip’s. I am an amateur while Chip is a pro. Also, I have to keep a sketchbook and I am an artist, so while I would love to put more effort into the artistic side of this project, I logistically cannot.

But that’s what I love about this concept—you can make your bullet journal your own and put as much time and energy into it as you desire. Always keep in the mind the end goal is to get and stay organized, and to reduce anxiety about your “to do” list.

In addition, this is Chip’s second journal, and she warned me that it takes some trial and error to get a system in place. She is right. (Some websites recommend starting two journals at once, a “practice” journal and then a “pro” journal, but who has time for that? If you do, go for it! For a good article on this approach, see “Bullet Journal 101.”)

Still, after only an hour of taking the first few steps, I already saw the benefits. As I wrote down my overview for October 2017, everything planned plus things that need to get done, it became apparent how I overbook myself. I will be working on that.

Chip and I spent some time painting in my studio before she showed me the intricacies of bullet journaling. See and for more art!

Here are the first three steps of my bullet journal adventure.  I am calling my journal the “down and dirty” bullet journal. In other words, it’s NOT FANCY.

Step One. Either number your journal’s pages and/or create an index. I bought a Leuchtturm1917 journal. Its pages are already numbered, and it comes with 3 established pages for an index. If you bought a different journal, you might have to number the pages and create index pages. No big deal. Maybe you don’t even want an index. That’s fine!

Index – This is your table of contents. What should you index? Whatever is most important to you. I think that I want to be able to quickly reference my “Books to Read” page. People tell me book titles and I scribble them on old receipts, gum wrappers, etc. I need a place to reference my books and this will be it. Plus, it will be fun at the end of the year to see how many books I have read!

I also think that “birthdays”  will be important page for me to flip to quickly, as well as a page listing all the training videos and articles I need to watch and read. I am not sure about how many other special pages with “lists” and other information I will need so I added a few that I saw in Chip’s journal, or on other websites about bullet journals.

Do you need to index every page in your journal? No. Make this YOUR journal. So far on my index page, I have: 1) Big Goals 2) Birthdays 3) Travel 4) Training Modules/Articles/Videos 3) Movies to Watch 4) Books to Read 5) Brain Dump 6) Key

My index page and attempt at some fancy calligraphy on opposite page.

Please don’t judge my attempt at hand calligraphy. One of my overall goals as an artist is to improve my artistic handwriting, and you can see why. After spending too much time one one page,  I realized that my journal is not my artistic outlet. (Note the “6” next to “Key.”  For now, I only added my Key on page 6. After I add these other pages, I will go back and enter their page numbers.)

Step Two. Create a Future Log. That’s what most bullet-journal websites call this next section, but simply stated it’s just a yearly calendar. You write the month with about 2.5″ of space under it to list some of the bigger overarching events, such as travel, art show deadlines, etc.  I am starting my journal in October 2017, so I have 3 months on one page, which gave me an open facing page. It was here that I decided to start gluing some of my paper scraps into my bullet journal. It is a way for me to recycle and still add color (creativity) without spending too much time.


Disregard the “Key” under Thanksgiving. I will be going over that next. I lost my head here and thought I might need a Key for each page, but that’s ridiculous. First big mistake of my bullet journal.  (You have permission to make mistakes!)

firstsetofmonths  secondsetofmonths.jpg

Here is my future log for 2018: 4 pages with each month listed. (Those hearts in January are from the ink on the previous page—another thing to be careful of if using markers!)

Step Three. Create a Key. To keep track of things that need to get done, things that get done, things that need to get moved to the next day/month/year, you need a list of symbols. I searched #bulletjournalkey on Instagram to see what other symbols people were using, as well as looking at Chip’s Key in her journal. I tried to fit my list of tasks within the context of an art business. Here is what I came up with:

This is my “Key” page. Again, I am just gluing scraps of art papers from my art studio into the journal rather than spending time drawing things.

The whole bullet journal gets a little too left-brained for me here, and I am not sure I will be able to stick to my predetermined “Key.” However, it’s a start. As the year, progresses, I will see if I stick to my little icons or just start riffing.

This is Chip’s “Key page.”


Whew. Are you overwhelmed? Don’t be. Even if you simply buy a journal and start writing down things that need to get done, you’ve started on a system for getting organized. Just add some bullets in front of your tasks, and call it a bullet journal.

Watch for my next article on my next steps on bullet journaling!



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