Lately, my life has been so disorganized: post-it notes on every flat surface, scribbles all over my calendar, late homework and missed appointments. I’ve been brainstorming how to get more organized and how to keep all of my reminders, notes, appointments, and due dates in one place. It suddenly hit me last week: A bullet journal!
I used to have a basic bullet journal following the original, no-frills guide made by the creator of bullet journals (if you haven’t heard of one, find the original instructions here). I stopped using it over summer break last year and forgot about it. Now, though, I’m going to make a new one with some added features, and I’m going to do it right here!
The first thing I did after I decided to make a bullet journal is pick what kind of notebook I wanted. If you want to keep it cheap, you can always use a plain ruled notebook or journal from Walmart. I did quite a bit of searching and it seems that the general consensus is that the Leuchtturm1917 brand is best for any artistic journaling because the pages don’t bleed. They come in several different sizes, colors, and the pages can be lined, dotted, cubed, or blank. These are a bit pricey, though, so I chose another common favorite: the Moleskin! These also come in several varieties. I chose the medium black dotted moleskin. It also has a handy pocked on the inside of the back cover, which I love.
It also has a handy pocked on the inside of the back cover, which I love. I have already noticed, though, that a regular inkpen does tend to bleed through a bit if you press too hard, as do cheap gel pens. I’ve found several bullet journalers that use fountain pens with minimal bleed-through, but I’m bullet journaling on a budget so for right now I’m sticking to my cheap pen and colored pencils instead of gel pens.
Once you pick your journal and pens, the first thing you want to do is set up an index. I saved the first four pages for this, which may be overkill but I’d hate to run out of index room. While you’re making the index you can go ahead and number the pages in your journal (Leuchtturm notebooks already have this!).
So far, my index page isn’t anything special. I’ll probably go back and make it prettier later; right now I’m too excited to set up the rest of my journal!
Next, you need to choose what kind of monthly layout you want to use. You can create your very own, or you can gain inspiration from a plethora of examples online. This is the original bullet journal monthly layout, with dates down one page and general monthly tasks on the other:
Photo credit to Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine
That layout is as simple as they come. There are all kinds of layouts out there, though! For example, this one:
Photo credit to Megan at Page Flutter
I chose another layout by Megan at Page Flutter, with a few slight variations:
So that’s my monthly layout for September, completely unadorned (we’ll talk about prettifying it later!) I outlined everything lightly in pencil first, then went over it in pen; I highly recommend you do the same. After going over it in pen, I erased all of the pencil marks. It looked kind of neat and ‘rough’ with the pencil outlines, but I wanted a clean-cut look (aside from my shaky lines, anyway).
Now that you have your monthly layout, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Just like monthly layouts, there are all kinds of cool examples of weekly layouts online. Some are much more complicated than others, like this one:
Photo credit to Kimberly at Sublime Reflection
If you want something a bit simpler but still have several things you want to track, try something like this:
Photo credit to Rebecca at Hip Homeschooling
I used elements from several different designs and created my own weekly layout. The left page is for each day of the week, with the days labeled in the center column. On the right page is a cleaning tracker (specific tasks for each day) and a meal planner.
Some bullet journalers prefer using a daily layout rather than a weekly one, and some use both. I personally don’t think my schedule necessitates a weekly and daily journal, so I only used a weekly schedule. If you want to use a daily page, there are a lot of great resources online. Check out Hip Homeschooling, Boho Berry, and of course, the greatest of all craft/DIY resources, Pinterest!
What else are you having troubling remembering or organizing in your life? Do you need to monitor your water intake? Eat healthier? Keep track of shopping lists or work or school due-dates? The reason I love bullet journals so much is because they are 100% customizable. Whatever you need to track can be added; you aren’t stuck with a predetermined, one-size-fits-some layout.
Personally, I need help keeping track of certain chores. I have no problem remembering to do the dishes (mainly because they’re kind of hard to miss seeing), but I almost always forget to vacuum and clean the bathtub. I also tend to procrastinate picking up my husband’s dirty clothes that he casually tosses into the corner, and I think having that written down to check off will help motivate me to actually get it done (because who wants an empty checkbox staring at you?!) I also often get overwhelmed when trying to create a shopping list or deciding what to have for dinner (I am definitely not a born cook), so I wanted a meal planner.
So far, though, I’ve only had time to make one list, which I’ll use to brainstorm blog post ideas:
There are also tons of fun lists you can do that aren’t completely necessary but are fun to do. One that I plan on doing is a ‘Things I’m Grateful For’ list. I think I’ll also do a ‘Books I Want to Read’ list. There are countless lists online for bullet journal list ideas. If you’re interested, check out Christina’s 150 list ideas or Megan’s list ideas.
This is my absolute favorite step of making a bullet journal! It’s time to break out the gel pens, markers, colored pencils, washi tape, stickers, and whatever else you can think of to use! This is where you draw in the borders, dividers, quotes, pictures, or whatever else you want to use to make your bullet journal into your creative outlet.
So far, the only things I’ve used in my bullet journal are colored pencils, washi tape, and hand-drawn borders, dividers, and quotes. I think it’ still pretty cute, though:
On my completed September page, I added a strip of washi tape, a Bible verse (Jeremiah 33:3, if you’re curious), and spaces for general reminders and monthly goals. Some people like to have a ‘future dates’ page before they even start the monthly page, but I don’t really schedule appointments more than a month in advance; instead, I’ll put those under the Reminders section.
On the left page of my weekly spread, I have two categories: ‘homework’ and ‘everything else’. On the right page, I have a quote (“The lion doesn’t turn around when the small dog barks”), a chore chart with highlighted boxes to show what needs done each day, and a meal planner. I also color-coded the days of the week. I originally did that simply because I thought it would be prettier, but it’s actually helping me keep track of when specific things need done much easier.
I don’t have very much in my bullet journal yet, but I have big plans! I’m going to put my Bible study in my bullet journal too, rather than have a million notebooks floating around my house (the fewer notebooks there are for my son to get ahold of, the better!) I’ll be posting updates of my bullet journal, so keep checking back.
What is your experience with setting up a bullet journal? What are your favorite tricks, tips, and supplies? Share them in the comments!