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When I first heard of bullet journaling, I was intrigued. A system where I could virtually make my own planner, where I could stash notes from books, ideas for blog posts, and my packing list for an upcoming trip?! That flexibility had always been a problem for me in traditional planners. (That and they’re getting to be so expensive—eek!) Now don’t get me wrong. For the last year, I’ve happily used an Erin Condren planner. And it was great for a planner. But the idea of making my own planner the way I wanted it to be, hmmm . . . now that got me thinking.
I started researching bullet journaling here and there and learned that the basic system is extremely simple. What ironically stopped me in my tracks were all the elaborate layouts people were making with their journals. The thought of having to draw out a beautiful weekly spread for what amounts to my weekly to-do list overwhelmed me. I suppose I’m not a planner girl after all . . . sigh. But seriously, all of the cute hand-drawn headers and arrows and call-out boxes kept me from going forward with bullet journaling.
Until one day. At that point, I had two notebooks where I started blog posts, wrote down book quotes, took notes from webinars, and really just stashed ideas. They were good in theory but terrible in practice since I never could find anything. “I’m writing a podcast about perfectionism, and I know I have a ton of quotes on that . . . but where are they?” (For those who are shouting, “Evernote!” at this moment, um, well, I’m a paper girl in a digital world. Something about typing something into my phone makes it go away forever. But I digress.)
That particular night I decided I’d grab a .50 composition book and try out bullet journaling. I figured the worst that could happen would be filling up some paper in a blank composition book. I decided to make it as simple as possible so I could easily whip out layouts each week and not be bogged down with that task. I also told myself I would not make it perfect. I would let it be messy, and maybe even a little ugly (to some) but it would be functional and perfect for my needs.
I dove in and LOVE it. No, my bullet journal is not going to win design awards anytime soon but it is so doable, I had to share with you. AND it is totally budget friendly. At this point, for mine, I’ve only used paint, some stickers and papers from last year’s Flow Magazine Book, a composition book, and pens/pencils we have around the house. The Flow Magazine book papers are totally not necessary but since I happened to have it on hand (and a year later, am still trying to use up all the papers and stickers), I figured, “Why not?”
For the cover, I painted the entire thing in gesso so I could start with a blank canvas. You could also paint a couple layers of a thick titanium white paint to cover up the traditional composition book cover. When that was dry, I mixed gel medium with turquoise and gold (separately), and quickly painted on a loose representation of a shoreline. I was going to go in and add more layers and detail, but when the first layer dried, I liked it as it was, so I stopped at that point.
You could also use white glue (or Mod Podge) to affix papers you like to the cover. Once those dry, you can add detail with Sharpies. I love how glue dries matte and clear and offers a bit of protection to your work.
For the interior covers, I printed off the end sheets from my digital copy of The Creative Retreat, cut them to size, and glued them in place. I love how those end sheets turned out and seriously want to play with a lot of different painted patterns this year to make more papers. Anyway, back to the bullet journal. :)
Probably the most important part of a bullet journal is the index. This is your home base. I wrote in pencil just in case I need to go back and amend things. Originally I wrote in pen and pencil but it just started looking chaotic, so I used a piece of decorative paper and taped it in. Nothing fancy here, I just used masking tape and then drew on it with a Sharpie. (You could definitely use washi, if you’d like.) My three index pages all look the same with a lightly lined sheet of paper glued in, a sticker on top, and penciled in page numbers.
The genius behind the bullet journal idea is you seriously can have a weekly layout for one spread and then jump directly into a grocery list for the next page. It’s up to you. Just number the pages, and record them in your index. Done. My monthly calendar is literally a table I created in Word that is 7 boxes across and 6 down. I cut it out and glued it onto the pages where I needed a monthly spread.
Here’s my weekly layout for now. After seeing all the cute and inspirational layouts out there, I was kind of overwhelmed as to where I should even start, so I started very simple. And then I ended up really liking it. On the top of the page, there is room for a quote of the week and to jot down what I’m reading at the moment. In the case above, I also added a bit of decorative paper just for fun. On the left side at the top, are my major priorities. I have three columns: my home, my daughter, and my business. In each of those spaces, I write down 3-5 goals or reminders of things I need to do sometime during the week.
The blog column goes down through the entire week because I tend to work on it at the same time most every day (during nap time.) I also like to keep the work to-dos separate from my home life list because it gets jumbled in my brain for some reason. On the left for each day, I write the day/date and then I write my to-do list for the day. I don’t write every last thing I need to do, though if that’s your style, you could make a layout to reflect that. You honestly could have one page per day if you wanted.
Throughout my bullet journal I have pages where I’ve written ideas for blog posts, a food journal, and as I mentioned above, a packing list. I’ve also added in the half sheet version of my goal and habit tracker for each month. I glue it to the opposite page of the monthly calendar. It’s so nice to have everything in one place—relief!
And as I keep on saying, I LOVE that I can make this journal whatever I want it to be. If the ruled lines are bugging me one week, I can glue in plain copy paper. If I want to doodle with my daughter, I can go ahead and do that. (We had a collaborative drawing on page 22, haha.) I also love that though this planner does serve me well and is needed for me to keep organized, it isn’t so precious that if I spill some tea on it, I’ll faint because I spent $100 on it, you know? Actually, the more likely scenario is my munchkin getting a hold of it and “decorating” it with her drawings, which she very profusely did to my Erin Condren planner. Um, yeah.
I also like that I could use this same system for other journals where I need to keep tabs of what is in the notebook. So I have one for book quotes now that is way more organized. And as of this week, I migrated my blog notebook into the journal as well to see how that works. (Update: Here’s my blog layout post, if you’re curious.) So far, I love having everything in one place. Now I only need to break my habit of writing notes on Post-its and scraps of paper! :)
Have you ever dabbled in bullet journaling? Tell me about it!