Bullet Journal Basics

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About a month ago I was hanging out with a young friend of mine (okay a 14-year old I used to babysit, but that makes me feel old) and she was telling me about her bullet journal. I played it cool at first because it seemed like something I should know about. After a while, though I embarrassingly asked, “wait what is a bullet journal again?” After a thorough Generation Z schooling, I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about this trend and see if there was a way for Tolmee to get in on the action. To learn more I reached out to a good friend of mine, and avid bullet journaler, Keely Agan.

Here is what she had to say:

What the heck is bullet journaling?

If you’re like me, you won’t remember to do anything unless it’s been written down. Your life is run by brightly colored sticky notes and never-ending phone memos. You probably gain a lot of satisfaction from crossing things off a to-do list. You are constantly using different colored pens, pencils, highlighters, markers to try to make sense of your busy life. If you are like me you find planners to be expensive, and can never find one that is exactly set up how you want it. In my quest to solve this problem I stumbled upon bullet journaling.

Bullet journaling (or BuJo) is a method of planning/habit tracking/journaling that was first defined by Ryder Carroll. If you ever want to escape down a YouTube rabbit hole then look up BuJo with Carroll and you will find yourself mesmerized by all of the amazing and creative ways that others have made the BuJo their own. Think Bob Ross but for doodlers.

The bullet journal is essentially a notebook. The kind of notebook used is flexible and you can use any paper you like, be it lined, graphed, or dotted. The most popular journals used for bullet journaling are Moleskins and, my favorite, the Leuchtturm1917.

Truly you can use any journal you like but there are a few things that make some journals superior (in my opinion). To start off, journals that have pages that can take the brunt of highlighters and other strong inks lend themselves better for bullet journaling than regular white paper. Graphed or dotted sheets can also make bullet journaling easier. Why does it make it easier? It can help you with keeping your letters straight, spacing, and sizing. They just provide some reference as you design your pages.

Getting Started

While there are no real “rules” to making bullet journals, there are some guidelines that can help you get started.

For example, the key that was outlined by Ryder Carroll:

I do stick to this key because it is so simple and straightforward. No bullet journals look the same but this can help you start to wrap your brain around the creative world of bullet journaling and to help you start to organize your daily diary.

To give you some more ideas here are the components my bullet Journal consists of:


Monthly Pages

Important Dates

Habit Tracker

Gratitude Tracker

Mood Tracker


Monthly Goals

Weekly Spreads

Days of the week

Weekly Goals

Weather for the Week

Recipes and Shopping Lists

Seasonal Bucket Lists

New Year goals

And the list is never ending! I am constantly finding new things to keep track of in my BuJo, as well as things that I’ve tried that don’t work for me ( like a book tracker, for example). To help you get started I outline a few of my spreads in more detail:


My Bullet Journal Components

Monthly Spread:

This is my monthly spread for December of 2018 (I’m always a few months ahead so that I can make plans in advance!). As you can see I just did a doodle, but you can either make it even more simplistic or cut out the art of your choice. I even added my monthly goals to this spread. I also usually create a page that has the days of the month listed to the left so that I can write out monthly events ahead of time!

Weekly Spread:

On the left side of the page, I usually doodle something or write out a quote that inspires me. Then on the right, I simply make out the days of the week. I also always include a place to write down what the weather will be for the week and sometimes I make a space for weekly goals in case I have a busy week. This format is always changing for me, and it took me a while to find a style that I enjoyed and that was productive for me. Play around and find a spread that works for you!


Habit Tracker:

I use a habit tracker to inspire me to stick to habits that I believe will make my life easier and more fulfilling. As you can see, I list the habit that I want to do on the left and the days of the month up top. If I do the habit on any day, I get to fill a box in to show that I did it. At the end of the month, I can see what habits I was able to form and what habits I need to work on. Just seeing habits written down can inspire you to make them a part of your day!


Mood Tracker:

Again, there are so SO many different templates you can make for your trackers. This one is nice and simple, and it allows me to become more aware of my mood throughout the month. This is important to me so that I can match feelings up with days. What made me feel happy? Sad? Angry?



Seasonal Bucket List:

Setting fun goals for yourself is an awesome way to make sure you get the most out of every season, which ensures you have a super fun and productive year! It is also super satisfying to check things off of any list!

Just doodle!

I am by no means a good artist. In fact, looking back on my first bullet journal it’s obvious how much of an anti-artist I was. However, just spending more time with a pen or pencil in your hand will get you to at least be more comfortable with a doodle here and there. Challenge yourself to a doodle page! These doodles were so cathartic to finish, and I love looking back at them!


All That and a Cookbook Too?

Use your BuJo as a personal cookbook with your favorite recipes! Since you theoretically always have your BuJo on you as a daily diary, it makes grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier since the best recipes are already chosen and at your fingertips (PS- try this pumpkin marinara because it is soooo delicious!).

Tools to use:

You can use just about anything you want as utensils in your Bullet Journal. These are two examples of my favorite utensils when I want to keep it simple. Micron pens are phenomenal for sharp writing and small doodles and they don’t bleed through the pages of my journal. The Stabilo highlighters are great quality and they last forever. You can also find affordable leather travel journals right here at Tolmee. It comes with free inserts! Blank, calendar and Dot layouts all come with your purchase.  If you're looking for pouches for you pens, search no futher then our durable pouches from Thela and T-greeks. Find what suits you and your journal and be as creative or minimalistic as you want to be!


Overall, the BuJo is meant to be an easy and creative way to keep a daily diary. Bullet journaling allows you to set up your planner exactly as you would like and to keep track of the things in life that are most important and most productive for you. Are you looking for some more ideas?  Youtube, Instagram, and Pinterest all have wonderful resources. You can check out Tolmee’s Bullet Journal Pinterest Board here.

Happy Journaling!


Kyla’s Take Away

After talking with Keely we decided to make dotted paper templates for our leather-bound travel journals from When in Greece. You can download them on our website and print them out. We recommend using a mid-weight paper so your markers don’t bleed through.

Find the paper here!

Thanks for reading!  

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