How I Got Started
Last summer, I purchased a $7 bullet journal on a whim at a Flying Tiger store while on vacation. I figured if I went ahead and bought it, I’d have enough motivation to start a bullet journal. For those of you who aren’t familiar with bullet journaling, it is a planning/creative journaling methodology originally created by Designer Ryder Carroll. The idea is that you can track the past, remember the present, and plan your future all in one place – intriguing right?! In August of last year, I went to the Bible of creative sourcing, Pinterest, and settled on a basic layout to get me through the fall. Little did I know over a year later, I’d be obsessed with this rather niche hobby and want to create my own setup guide for you all.
Last year’s journal was definitely an experiment and I had minimal intentions of making it the entire year. As an incoming freshman in college, however, I found it not only looked pretty and kept me motivated but was also extremely practical for managing tasks, clubs, and events as I adjusted to a new life at school.
While I am immensely proud of how much my lettering and style improved over the course of my first book, I decided that this year I would stick with a more minimal and muted journal that incorporated some more traditional journaling elements. One of the most important things to remember is that no matter how pretty or “perfect” your journal seems, it needs to ultimately be functional. I found myself scared to make mistakes and will admit to keeping a second journal with some rough draft versions! To try and change that this year, I plan on creating premade spaces for unexpected notes to maintain a clean feel throughout while still incorporating useful elements.
When starting a new journal, the first thing you want to do is number the pages so that you can create an index at the front with all of your months and special page notations. I prefer the bottom outside corner but it is totally up to you. My favorite thing about bullet journaling is that everything is customizable, if you don’t like it change it!
I like to start with a hello page that creatively welcomes you to the journal. After that, I build an index page and future log for dates/events I haven’t made yet but know far in advance. Since I typically make my spreads one month at a time, it is nice to have a place to jot down dates if you aren’t quite to that month yet. The next few pages are totally personal preference but definitely a way to build functionality: birthdays, books to read, places to travel. Don’t forget that this is your journal. If you want to create a special page for something, just do it!
- Welcome page (also smart to include contact/lost information just in case)
- Future Log
- Special pages (birthdays, books to read, places to travel)
Now to the fun part! After creating the initial few pages, its time to start making a monthly spread. Because I am a college student, I work on an August – July year but a calendar year starting in January works just as well. I typically break each month into 4 parts.
- Monthly cover pages
- Traditional journal space for notes, writing prompts, etc
- Monthly grid 30-day calendar space
- 4-5 weekly spreads with 7 spaces for day-to-day planning
This setup ensures I can see my month at a glance while still having weekly pages to write day-to-day tasks, events, meetings, etc.
The monthly cover pages are where you can truly be artistic and embrace new color schemes, lettering techniques, and layouts. I find the most inspiration for these on Pinterest and various accounts on Instagram.
The journal pages are kind of new for me. These pages are to ensure that I still feel intimate with my bullet journal and can freely write down notes, reasons to be grateful, and various prompts throughout the year.
The monthly grid pages are meant to be like your traditional calendar. On this page, I draw a basic 30-day layout and number the days so I can see my entire month over one spread.
Finally we have our weekly spreads. These 4-5 pages have spots for seven days and are where I keep all of my tasks, assignments, and events. It may take a few months to decide on a layout that works for you but many include habit trackers, space to write goals, and other additional elements.
Another element that I am adding this year is a mood tracker and a habit tracker. I tried this for a month last year and it didn’t work because I could never be consistent in filling it in, but I am going to try again and see if I like it more this time around. These pages are fun because there are so many ways to customize and tailor them to your own needs!
At the end of the day, bullet journaling is supposed to be fun and functional. It may seem like a waste of time to some and that is totally fine but for me, it is a creative space where I can take some time to myself and reflect on my day. I found that in my first year of college, it was easy to get overwhelmed with so many classes and activities happening at once. My bullet journal kept me sane and helped me pick up loose ends that I otherwise would’ve forgotten or slacked on. If you’re feeling it in this new school year, go for it. It can seem intimidating to make it look perfect but as long as it works for you, you are doing it right! If you have any questions about where to start or want to talk about inspiration, tricks, or tips please reach out to me. If you couldn’t already tell, I am a geek when it comes to this stuff and would love to hear from you!