How to Start a Dot Journal

Want to learn how to dot journal? The concept behind a bullet journal is simple: it's your go-to place for your planner needs, to do list, and journal. But does it work? This author shares her method and so far, I've been loving the ideas I've learned!

Please note this post may include affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure policy here.

I received a complimentary copy of the book, Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide to review. All comments and opinions are my own.

Are you a planner girl? A list writer? A journalista? I am all the above but when I saw the dot journal movement start up a few years ago, I kind of rolled my eyes. I felt like I wasn’t the type to start a dot journal. I mean, I LOVE to create and make things so you would think that creating layouts for my planner would be super fun.

But when I scrolled through the bullet journaling (also called dot journaling) images on Instagram and Pinterest, all I could conjure up was feelings of overwhelm. I have to use a ruler? These pages are PERFECT and GORGEOUS and wow, I don’t have time for that.

So I put it off.

Buying A Billion Planners When I Only Needed ONE

I kept on buying fancy planners a couple of times a year plus a regular journal. I also continued my bad habit of writing really important things on teeny tiny scraps of paper. When was my dentist appointment again? I know I wrote it on the corner of a pink piece of paper, so if I could find that . . .

But something happened last year. I was using a ginormous planner at the time that came with cute stickers and tabs but for some reason, was NOT working for me. I loved that planner, but it didn’t love me back. I needed a place to jot down information from a parent-teacher meeting. And a place to write my grocery list. And I didn’t want all of those budget sheets because I do that in Excel. Argh.

Here's a simple monthly days spread from Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide

I mentioned above that I would buy planners a couple of times a year because what usually would happen is I would get really excited about one brand and then halfway through the year, I would hit this frustrated place. And around that time, I would be at Target and a new planner would call out to me. I will solve all your problems! Look! I have lots of empty spaces for you to write in!

Starting a Dot Journal for the First Time

Anyway, there came a day when I decided to just go for it and try a dot journal. I had a blank composition book handy, and I figured if I absolutely hated it, I could just go back to my big planner. (Oh, the other problem about my aforementioned awesome planner was it was huge! Didn’t fit in any purse or bag. :()

I started bullet journaling and shared my experience here. It evolved back into a planner at the beginning of this year. That still wasn’t flexible enough for me so I was incredibly grateful when the publishers of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide reached out to me. Talk about perfect timing!

When I first glanced through the book, I felt that feeling of perfectionism and overwhelm hit me again. Not gonna lie. Her layouts are so neat and wonderful. My dot journal was ashamed to sit next to this book. At first.

I love this book list idea from Dot Journaling: a Practical Guide

Then I began reading and was grateful as the author assured us that dot journaling is whatever you want it to be, that her layouts are guidelines and ideas. She even admitted that everything looked perfect in this book because it’s her job to make it look nice. Which makes sense.

I’ve been slowly incorporating her methods into my current bullet journal and have been really pleased. I like how she shares SO MANY different ideas of what you can do in a dot journal. And I appreciate how she has spreads that are very minimalist all the way to more detailed versions. If anything, looking through this book got me dreaming of what I want to do in my dot journal.

Um, yes. I need this debt tracker in my bullet journal. (Courtesy of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide)

My hands-down favorite thing about dot journaling is how it is completely mine. I love that I have quotes on one page, notes from a webinar on the next, and my to-do list on the next page. It is a better representation of what is really going on in my life, that’s for sure. I also love that I can easily see how I’m progressing on different goals and how I’m incorporating my values into my life and business. All of these things are housed under the same cover (whereas they used to all be in separate places, usually never to be seen again! :/)

I still haven’t broken my habit of writing on tiny slips of paper, but now I washi tape them straight into my dot journal (if I still need them.) It adds some color and I can find the note again.

I appreciate how the author carefully explains all the ins and outs of dot journaling so you can literally get a blank book and start immediately. That’s my kind of book.

You can pick up your copy of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide on Amazon or in any bookstore.

121 thoughts on “How to Start a Dot Journal

  1. Jennie, I feel the same way! I have tried so many different planners, always trying to make it fit into my life, and always without success. I end up writing my dates, plans, lists and recipes all over the place and I’m still not organized! The dot journaling method sounds like it would work. If it works for you, I am willing to give it a go!

  2. I just got into bullet journaling — so far, I love it! I bought a bunch of books on how to draw cute things, like kawaii. I used to draw as a kid, but got out of the habit so now I stink at it haha. But, I’m getting much better! Thanks for a nice review. 🙂 I’m going to check the book out of the library if they have it.

  3. I always wanted to try bullet journaling too, but I put it off because I have this weird fear with notebooks that if I screw up a page, I can’t just rip it out without runing the notebook! So lately I’ve been trying a bullet journal method of sorts, but in a small planner binder with lined pages – now I can rip pages out or move like pages together. We’ll see how it goes! 🙂

  4. How very lovely and generous of you! I can’t wait to get started Dot Journaling. I think it fits my lifestyle better than traditional planners.

  5. I had the same problem with normal planners. I would only use parts of them. When I would think about it. 80% would go unused. I have been trying bullet journaling for the past couple of years and parts of that are working but not all of it.

  6. Wow! This is inspiring! I’ve been wondering how this all worked and the book looks like an incredible resource.

  7. Wow I would love a copy of this book! I’m very intimidated by dot/bullet journaling!!! I see spreads on Pinterest & am like oh I could never do something so perfect!!!

  8. I’m such a planner addict wannabe. I love everything pen, paper, writing, journaling, but can’t seem to find a real system that works well for me. I’d love the chance to give this a try!

  9. I tend to be a perfectionist, so I bought a spiral bound graph paper so that my squares would be easier to draw out. Just makes it easier for me.

  10. This sounds like a style of planner/journal I could actually do! I have been intrigued by the idea of bullet journaling for a while now but I was also intimidated by the perfectionism and creativity. I will have to give this a try and see if I can stick with it. Thanks for the chance to win!

  11. Oh my goodness it’s like I could have wrote this. I totally relate to everything you’re saying. I bullet journal and I was crazy about it but after about three months I quit and now I have five notebooks (and 7 planners) I use that I bought on sale thinking I would use them. I totally need this book.

  12. Oh, my goodness, your planner journey sounds so much like mine! Time to try dot journaling…

  13. Dot Journaling could very well save my sanity this homeschool year for all the reasons you described and more! I hope I win the book!

  14. I just checked out this book on Amazon and it looks like one that would help me get it together! Also ordered your Retreat book, love it!! ?

  15. Eek! As a fellow lover of all things bujo, I’m super excited to learn about this book! Thanks for the chance to enter to win, Jennie and Rachel.

  16. When I was younger, I used to journal, but haven’t done that in a very long time. I have notes everywhere too so having one notebook to use sounds exactly what I need.

  17. I have been so interested in dot journaling but was also daunted by the beautiful layouts. I love making things I write in beautiful and as a result have NO planning going on, despite having 2 planners and 4 journals!

  18. I’m fascinated by the concept of dot journaling, but I haven’t tried it. I seem to be stuck about the idea of combining everything in one place, although I can see where that would be very convenient. Would love to check out the book!

  19. Love your website! I do a form of this in my phone/Mac in Notes. I have been trying to transfer to Evernote so I could do more but have yet to do that. I love having everything at my fingertips on my across all my platforms and devices.

  20. I really need to get back to my journal. I was doing great for four months and now it’s been four months since I wrote in it. Would love to get reinspired.

  21. I just bought my journal to bullet journal but I’m having a hard time setting it up. Would love to win this book.

  22. Yes, I’m that “pieces of scrap paper” type of journalsta and I’ll bet a place to put them would be helpful! Now I just stick them in a “pocket” of some kind and hope I retrieve them as needed! Help!

  23. I have wanted to try a dot journal but I’m so afraid of it not looking good enough. You have inspired me to give it a try!

  24. I have been trying to use my bullet journal and I feel more organized just by having all my ideas in one place. I also jot on pieces of random paper, I copy the info into my notebook.

  25. I related to so many things you wrote in this post! I have a journal and multiple planners as I am constantly in search of the “perfect” one, yet also have a separate daily “to do” list tossed on our kitchen counter as well as scraps of paper with tons of little notes or appointments that somehow occasionally get lost. Dot journaling seems like it just might be the answer for me, yet I have been overwhelmed by the ones I saw on Pinterest. Perhaps this book will help me finally find a system that I will stick with and will then work for me….no more notes on scraps of paper…..hooray! Thanks for offering this contest for all of us perfectionista planner and journal writer wannabes.

  26. Dot Journaling!! I sure would like to try it. It would be wonderful to have everything in one place. Thank you for the opportunity to win this book 🙂 Good luck to everyone!

  27. I’ve been kind of doing this for a year but had no idea it actually had a name. I started with a binder but downgraded to a simple spiral-bound notebook. It’s not at all cute or fancy, so maybe I’ll work on getting creative with it. This would be a good place to start! 🙂

  28. Wow, sounds interesting, you’ve got my attention! I have not tried a planner, too expensive for me and can’t get past the perfectionism. I have tried a bullet journal, but again allowed perfection to get the best of me and dropped it. All I use now is a calendar by the home phone, but don’t take it with me to places, so I tend to forget my plans. I like the idea of having something portable, besides my smartphone ? which I hardly use for planning. Being a creative person having something personal and tangible is the way to go. Thank you for sharing your thoughts ?

  29. The older the brain the more WRITING it down matters. Would love this book

  30. I moved from a bulky planner to a slimmer, simpler one mid -year: so much better! I wonder where dot journaling could take me!

  31. I do a very messy version of dot/bullet journaling. I even have a hard time calling it that! Maybe this would help me clean up my act!

  32. As a notebook addict, I’ve thought about dot journaling many times but haven’t yet taken the leap because they seem so time consuming. Perhaps this book can inspire me!

  33. I’ve had the same experience as you! Lots of planners, tried the bullet journal, and nothing really works for me. This books sounds like it would be very inspiring!

  34. I have always been intrigued by this method of journaling. I’d love to win the book and implement it!!!

  35. Dot or bullet Journaling is everything is cracked up to be. Started in a composition book and now use a graph notebook. My son has now started using bullet journaling to keep his job and college requirements on track. This book would be a great help.

  36. Oh, how I need this book! I’m at a loss with what to do with all that blank space in my bullet journal!

  37. I have just started a bullet journal and am very interested in learning more about using a dot journal. I am tired of having random notebooks filled with lists and important information that I can never find when I need them.

  38. Thanks for the review. I’ve been interested in the idea of bullet journaling for awhile but it just seemed like too much work. I’m definitely going to check out the book, sounds really interesting and of course I would love to win it 🙂

  39. I too have tried many types of planners. I am currently trying to get used to a Travelers journal, would love to try the dot system.

  40. Thank you for sharing with us! I’m intrigued even though it seems too perfect. I love using washi, paints and tip ins when I plan/journal but maybe this is something that one can still do in dot journal?!? Very interested in reading all about it 🙂

  41. I have been putting off trying bullet journaling. Didn’t want to fail at something else! I would love to try this, thanks.

  42. Since I have a tendency to make lists and write things on random papers, then spend time searching for those random papers, maybe this is exactly what I need.

  43. I have been sort of dot journaling for a couple of years using a comp book too. Sometimes I feel like it’s missing something. Your website and this book just might help! Thanks!

  44. You are so right, don’t want to use the ruler, not artistic, those on Pinterest are overwhelming. Sign me up!!! Pick me!!! I need all the help I can get.

  45. AHH! This is incredible. I’ve been wanting to start bullet/ dot journaling and I could really use this! I have tried other normal planners but they don’t seem personal to me. Bullet journaling does. Thank you so much for this inspiring post!!

  46. I have been wanting to start a bullet journal, but struggle with being paralyzed with not knowing where to start….maybe this book would be the kick-start that I need!

  47. I have put off using the bullet journal because it didn’t seem to meet my needs. This book sounds like it would help me do that!

  48. Last year I started a bullet journal – didn’t work because I tried to be perfect. Now I’m back with a planner but I can’t carry it everywhere – it’s too big! I know many of us have that problem. Dot journaling sounds wonderful – would love to win 🙂

  49. This may be the answer to my bullet journaling, private journaling and planner…. all the things!

  50. • buy a notebook
    • buy colored pens
    • enter contest for dot journaling book
    • wait to win the “book”
    • cruise over to BuzzFeed

  51. I’d love to win this – I have materials to start journaling but worry to much about messing it up!

  52. I started my first bullet journal a month ago. There were so many pretty bujo spreads that was overwhelmed. This book would be a great learning tool for me. I would love to win a copy and put it to good use.

  53. I love this, I have Lyme disease and have taken to list making to help with the “brain fog” but this is terrific. Everything all together in one pretty volume. I would love to win and learn more about dot journaling!!!

  54. Jennie, I’d love to win this book! But, even if I don’t, you gave me the brillaint idea to washi tape any of my random scrap papers into my bullet journal! Thank you!

  55. I’ve so wanted to try but it seemed a little overwhelming. I think the book would totally help. Thanks for the chance.

  56. I have yet to try this type of journaling but it looks and sounds awesome. I think I could really benefit from it!

  57. This sounds perfect for me and my 2 teen daughters to do for our crazy lives. We will definitely be trying to use this method this year. I love your blog and all the helpful organizational tips you share.

  58. I am new to bullet (dot) journaling and I actually love it. I have to manage my time better to use it to my advantage. Growing up, I did al lot of journaling. I like how the bullet journal combines all aspects of my life into one book. I would love to win this resource to become better at doing this.

  59. I love dot/bullet journaling but I also love my Happy Planner Mini. I keep going between the two but I’d love to get away from buying planner stuff and get better with dot/bullet journaling. This book looks awesome!

  60. I can relate to so many things that you said in this post and I’ve been looking for a book like this! It seems so helpful and nice to keep handy. 🙂 Thanks for hosting the contest! <3

  61. A very timely post! With school around the corner I’ve been searching for a method that will work better for me than my traditional planner. I’d love to win the book to help me hone it further! Thanks for the informative review!

  62. I have tried several times to start this process. I get a few days, or even weeks, in and then abandon it. Only to pick it back up and try to update and consolidate all my little scraps of paper. Maybe this book will help me succeed!

  63. This book sounds like it could help me. I’m constantly writing things on any scrap paper (especially the back of envelopes) and losing it ugh!

  64. This looks like such a fun book! I just started learning about dot/bullet journaling and would like to learn more.

  65. I have so many planners, journals, scraps,of paper, calendars… The list is humongous!!! You’d think, at my age (59 3/4!) I would have figured it out!! I was always certain I needed different books for each thing/adventure/list…. well I’m sure you get it.

    I would LOVE a copy of this book to help me organize my ideas. And life in general!

    1. Puleeeze. I’m in the same boat, and 64. I really do believe it’s better late than never.

      ::) Sarah

    2. This is perfect I need to get back to tracking things and keeping notes as I get older it is so much more useful to keep track of everything!

  66. This is so cool! I’d love to change my planner out for this approach. Thanks for sharing!

  67. Fun! Thanks for the review, I’ve been curious about this book. I’ve been making a Traveller’s Notebook and started using it as a braindump and bullet journal and have wondered about other ways to use it. Like so many others – I get overwhelmed with all the fancy dancy layouts that I know I would never keep up on. Love that this has tons of examples and options.

  68. Your initial feelings about dot/bullet journaling summed mine up completely. The perfectionist in me is panicked to start. BUT I LOVE LIST-MAKING!! Perhaps this book will help me start!

  69. I’d love to have a go and try it with a book! It seems a nice way to have a quick overview of everything, and I do prefer one concise book then to have to wander all over the web for the same info!

  70. Ha! I recognize myself in this post. I just bought another planner. In some ways I’m already doing this in the blank pages of my planner. I like planners with lots of blank space for this reason

  71. This is EXACTLY what I need. I’ve wanted to try bullet journaling forever but I’m so overwhelmed that I quit before I begin. I have the journals, the notebooks, the composition books and more but no matter how much the books call out to me to give it a try, I just can’t make myself follow through.

  72. What timing! I’m starting to look into a new planner style because the ones I’ve bought for the past 6-8 years is now changing the layout! WAH! AND I’ve been hearing a LOT about bullet journaling and how helpful it is, so your blog posts have been very helpful and inspiring! ( I read the older posts you linked to, as well!) I’m happy to throw my hat in the ring to win this book to learn more and try this style of journaling if it means I can customize it in ways that I live that will also work in my favor to help me stay on track of my life/business! Here is my email: Thanks for this opportunity to win the book because I need all the help I can get these days! 😉

  73. I have a powder blue Leuchturm journal that has been blank for nearly a year because I don’t know how to get started with it. I would love to have this book!

  74. Bullet journaling seems WAY too hard for me to try it…however, I do love the concept. I’m just afraid to try it. I too, have tried many different planners. This year, I made a ‘traveler’s journal’ and so far- it is working fairly well. Would love to have a copy of her book to see if I could actually do a ‘dot journal’! Thanks for the opportunity to win one !

  75. I don’t know how many partially used planners I have laying around. This sounds like it may be my “salvation” in the planner realm. Fingers crossed!

  76. I have wanted to start journaling and this looks easy enough for me to tackle – thanks for the great ideas

  77. I have the Happy Planner now and while I love it, it isn’t quite perfect for me. I’ve struggled myself with finding the perfect planner. Now I’m thinkinking about incorporating some “dot” journal techniques into my happy planner. That is my favorite part about the Happy planner, it is able to be personalized if you have the punch. I like the idea of dot journal’s but I actually like everything in order so the moveable feature of the Happy Planner combined with the dot journal ways, may be my final planner.

  78. I would love to try this because I have tried so many different planners and systems. Thank you for the opportunity.

  79. Exactly what I need! I have started a few pages but low and behold it gets put to the side. Would love to start a dot journal and keep up with it ?

  80. I was just looking at a beautiful planner on line and thinking maybe this will work for me when I read this post. I have been wanting to try a bullet journal/dot planner but have been intimidated by the perfect ones I see on Pinterest. This is the push I need.

  81. Love dot journaling so far. Trying to still get a feel for it. Praying that one day it just flows. Thank you.

  82. I would really like to start this method. Just like you, the fancy planners always call my name, once I try them, they do not work for me.
    Thank you for the offer


  83. Wow. This article pretty much sums up my feelings about planners. I have a Pinterest board full of pretty pages for inspiration but I have yet to actually implement any of the ideas. Maybe this book will be the kick in the pants I need.

  84. I have the same problem with planners. I love so many, but they don’t love me. I’ve tried store-bought planners, dozens from Pinterest, and have even tried creating my own, but am still in search of the perfect planner for me. It’s as bad as dating or trying to find a therapist! This book sounds veeerrry promising…

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