Image Credits: Courtesy of Lauren Nickel, Courtesy of Lauren Nicke , Courtesy of Lauren Nickel

With the beginning of a new year finally here, many people are setting goals and working to be a better version of themselves in 2017. One fantastic way to keep track of your goals, accomplishments, and day to day life is to start a bullet journal. This past year, I went through a tough break-up and took up journaling as a way to channel my emotions. Since that day, bullet journaling has changed my life. It can change yours, too.

I want to start off with a disclaimer, everyone journals differently. No two bullet journals are alike, and that’s the beautiful thing about this hobby. It allows you to embrace your own unique creativity, while fitting into your schedule. You may not like some of the ways that I layout my journal and that’s okay. This guide is to give you ideas for getting started. Here’s a quick step by step how-to for beginners that are still trying to get a feel for bullet journals.

1) Choosing a Journal                                                                                                                              

To start off, you will need an journal. From my extensive research, I have found that Leuchtturm1917 makes a dot style notebook that is, by far, the most popular notebook for bullet journaling. It features a grid layout, rather than lines which is perfect for doodling. This notebook does tend to be a little pricey, selling for around $20. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re serious about this new endeavor. It can be purchased here. If you’re not so sure about this new hobby or not quite ready to drop $20 on a notebook, rest assured that you can use any notebook for bullet journaling. I personally was still unsure, and I wanted to get started right away, so I opted for a $10 notebook from Target (pictured below). One feature I do highly recommend is a built in bookmark to flag your page.

2) Deciding on Pens

Next, you will need pens. Similar to notebooks, any pen set will do for journaling. A popular option for pen sets is Staedtler Triplus Fineliner which can be purchased on Amazon. I personally opted for Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens, Medium Point which are also on Amazon.

3) Setting Up Sections
Once you have your materials, you need to decide on the types of sections you want in your journal. This is, of course, subjective and based on personal preference. Many people use a table of contents at the front of their journal so that they can find each section. I settled on using post it tabs that stick out because they’re easier to see. They are also easier to change around if I decide I don’t like my original plan.

4) Overall Tracker
In my journal, the first section is an overall tracker. I use this to track sleeping habits, spending habits, and my day to day mood. This is a great way to see a quick overview of your habits. I do this using a pixel layout and I have it set up for a year. Because I started my journal in the middle of September, it does look different than it would if I were starting now, but it will all work out the same in the end. Here are a few tips for the tracker section:

  • Use a ruler. If you opt for the grid journal, it will be a little easier to make straight lines, but still. You will look at these pages every single day, do yourself a favor and take the time to make it neat and easy to use.

  • Wait until you have all of your colors and pick contrasting ones for your legend. I only had pink, red, blue, and purple when I started. Looking back, I should’ve just waited for my green and orange to arrive before doing this section.

  • Keep your grid small. My grid is on the large side and it takes a lot of ink to fill in those boxes. Do your pens a favor and keep it small.

  • Keep your range small. My ranges are too large and that sometimes means my whole week is the same color.

5) Quotes and Verses

This section is comprised of quotes and bible verses that speak to me. I will admit that most of them do come from Pinterest, but I prefer to keep them in my journal. Not only does this keep them all in one place and off the internet, doodling them into my quotes or verse section allows me to really reflect on the words and why they spoke to me. I do have these separated under different tabs in my journal but they are essentially formatted the same. In my verse section, I have a subsection dedicated to studying one verse each week. I’ve found that this helps with memorization and a more focused reflection. Tips about this section:

  • Doodle beside the quotes, it’ll keep the page lively and fun.

  • Your handwriting doesn’t have to look like professional calligraphy. It’s okay to have messy handwriting. You’ll get better with time. It’s the words that really matter anyway.

6) Goals

In this section, I set long term goals for myself. With a new year starting, I just made my 2017 page and I can’t wait to fill it with my plans for the upcoming year. I also set short term goals for each week, but those will come in a later section. 

7) Weekly Overview

Bullet journaling was originally created to contain a day to day planner and task list. The idea behind this is that you have a planner and journal all in one. I personally am attached to my Lilly planner, so I’ve chosen to use a similar weekly layout, but with a different approach. This is the section I use the most, by far. I choose to limit each week to one page, but you can stretch it out over both pages if you find yourself running out of space. The weekly layout contains several elements. I try to switch them up and use different designs to keep each week unique.

The first element is an overview of each day of the week. In this section, I list random events and memories from each day. I use this partially as a quick diary, so that I can one day look back on the short and sweet events of my day. I also use it to reflect on the little things that happen each day that we often forget about. If you were looking to do a more traditional bullet journal with the planner aspect, you could easily substitute appointments and assignments for the memories I have entered in my daily view.  

The next section of my week overview page is a goal and habit tracker that I call my weekly focus. I use this section to keep track of things such as the number of times I make an effort with my hair or outfit, buy food on campus vs. eating at home, and go to the gym. The guilt of not being able to fill in that bubble is a motivator and it pushes me to better myself. I also set weekly goals that includes things from my to-do list as well as overall attitude or personality goals.


The next section of my weekly focus is about encouragement. It contains my gratitude log, an encouraging quote, and a prayer list. This section reminds me to lift others up in prayer, encourages me with a quote, and forces me to be grateful for something every single day.


8) The Catch All Section

In the final section of my bullet journal, I have a variety of pages. This section is dedicated to my random doodles or page inspirations that I run across on Pinterest.

One of my favorite pages from this section is dedicated to FFL’s #WhyIVote campaign and it’s a reflection on the importance of showing up to the polls.


A more personal subsection in my catch all section contains letters and bible studies about my future. One of my favorites is a letter to my future Husband about God’s purpose for our lives. I also have a page about a few of my favorite things.


Lastly, I’ve started a new subsection this year for various challenges. As journaling becomes more popular, there are more ideas and prompts about journaling. Pinterest is full of challenges and prompts, so I’ve decided to dedicate a small piece of my journal to a challenge I found.


I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s something in bullet journaling for everyone. You don’t have to be creative or have perfect handwriting to enjoy putting your thoughts, ideas, and heart on paper. Hopefully this how-to overview has inspired you and given you some insight on getting started. With the New Year just underway, this is the perfect time to give it a try.

Lauren N
Lauren is one of our managing editors here at Future Female Leaders. When she is not editing FFL articles, you can find her color coding her whole life in her Lilly Pulitzer agenda. She's a southern girl who loves Hokie football and isn't afraid to be politically incorrect, so consider this your trigger warning.

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