Updated: Jul 20, 2020
What started as a need for a more efficient way of keeping track of my college schedule and work load, turned into a passion, creative outlet, and self-expression technique that I never knew I would come to lean on.
When I say that my whole life is in my bullet journal, I am not exaggerating…okay maybe just a little…but there’s whole lotta of me woven in those pages. I have spent a lot of time scrolling through bullet journal pages, and tutorials looking for inspiration. I’ve seen pages for tracking, pages for calendars and pages for budgeting. But the best part about creating your own bullet journal is that you can make it work for you. Whatever you need to be in there, can be in there and there is probably someone who has already created pages similar to your needs.
When I first started bullet journaling I needed a place to keep track of my school work. I had previously used planners which work just fine, but I wanted something more personalized, a format tailored to my needs. I found that pre-existing planners were too small to keep all of my class assignments separate as well as keep track of my daily schedule of class locations, meetings, and rehearsals. On top of that, I really just needed a place to brain dump and stay creative that wasn’t what I was doing for classes—writing or acting. I needed an additional outlet that required less brain power and that helped me feel in control of my ever-complicating schedule. Bullet journaling was the perfect solution.
My History with Bullet Journals
I don’t remember where I first saw or who first told me about bullet journaling. I have vague recollections of happening upon some images on my Pinterest feed, and of friends mentioning it to me as a possible solution when I complained about not having enough space to write down everything that was necessary. Though I wanted a change, I was hesitant to jump into a completely different form of organization. I knew bullet journaling would be a lot of work and I was worried about getting behind on making my monthly spreads and then not having any kind of organized place to keep my schedule. But after a lot of consideration and a little nudge, a journal given to me by my parents as a Christmas present, I started my first bullet journal over my school’s holiday break, shortly after the new year.
I quickly fell in love with the art of bullet journaling. There is something so completely relaxing and mesmerizing about creating the pages for my journal. As a perfectionist, I struggled a bit creating my first pages. I was so concerned with not messing up the journal and making sure that my pages and their order were perfect, that my forward progress was slowed a lot at the beginning. I had found inspiration for a table of contents and made some mistakes with deciding how much room to leave myself for the ToC and with how detailed I wanted it to be. About halfway through my very first journal I gave up on the ToC and on numbering the pages. This really ended up bothering me, and since, I have not put ToCs in my journals. The lesson I learned from this though, was a need to be okay with the journal not being exactly perfect. Just because I have an idea of what I want my journal to look like, I have to be okay with interrupting my monthly spreads—that’s the kind of flexibility I needed from a bullet journal that I wasn’t getting with a traditional planner or calendar. Since then, I have completed two more bullet journals and feel as though I have pretty much mastered the formats I like to use.
Now, I plan to share that information with you or anyone who might be interested in learning more about or even starting their own journal. My 2020 journal is the one I am most proud of and as the year is still plaguing us, I thought I would share this journal in its entirety. In this post I will show how I start a bullet journal from the very first pages, through my January weekly spread. Then every Monday until we are all caught up, I will share another month’s spread. It will end up looking like this:
Monday July 20th: February Spread Released
Monday July 27th: March Spread Released
Monday August 3rd: April Spread Released
Monday August 10th: May Spread Released
Monday August 17th: June Spread Released
Monday August 24th: July Spread Released
Monday August 31st: August Spread Released
That way, by the time we get to September I will be back on track and will release that month’s spread and all subsequent months on the first Monday of every month. That will look something like this:
Monday September 7th: September Spread Released
Monday October 5th: October Spread Released
Monday November 2nd: November Spread Released
Monday December 7th: December Spread Released
This will go on and on as long as I am bullet journaling. It is my hope that I can provide some inspiration for other’s and possibly assuage any worries, doubts or questions first-time bullet journalers may have. If nothing else, it will be a fun way to share with you my passion for making the everyday more creative.
Starting a Bullet Journal
I generally start my journals in December so that it can be ready for use in the New Year. My journal, though it can still become less organized, tends to be broken up like this:
First, an overview of the year, then all of the trackers, lists and fun stuff, followed by the monthly and weekly spreads and then any space left in the back of the journal after December can be used as a notes section, or for any other ‘fun stuff’ that I forgot to add in the beginning.
So, as I said, the first real page of my journal is dedicated to an overview of the year ahead. I start with just a calendar of each month of the year so that I can reference that as needed for the creation of the monthly and weekly spreads later on in the journal. After that, I make a page detailing major events of that year . Each month gets a section of the page with a mini calendar and a list of dates and events; holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, major trips or vacations and so on. I find it important that I begin my journal like this—I have quick access to what the whole year may look like.
Following what I like to call the ‘business’ part of the journal’s beginning, I like to then have some fun with the next few pages. This is the part of the journal where I like to try and put anything that isn’t the month/week spreads. Just a few ideas of what you could put in this section are:
1. A Book Tracker- If you’re a bibliophile then you should consider adding a book tracker to your bullet journal. I like to look back on the books I’ve read but I don’t necessarily need to remember when I read them or rate them like I do with movies, so I just create a cute little bookshelf to showcase what I’ve been reading.
2. Movie Tracker- Want to know when you watched a movie last or just want a list of all the movies you watched in one year, then make a movie tracker! I love this page because I can look back on when I watched a movie as well as what I rated it and it helps me when I need to recommend a movie to a friend.
3. TV Series Tracker- Keep a tab on your watch lists and where you are in your shows. This is especially helpful when you might share a streaming service with other people or if you’re like me and watch multiple shows on multiple platforms at once and you just need to keep it all straight. My journal also has an Oscars Ballot because I was having too much fun with movie and TV trackers...
4. A Year in Pixels- Create a chart where one box of the bullet journal stands for one day of the year. Then make a color coded key with boxes standing for “Great Day” “Good Day” “Alight Day” and “Rough Day”. At the End of each day fill in the square and by the end of the year you’ll have a colorful chart with a way to track how you were feeling the whole year. (Alternatively you could do a monthly mood tracker if this seems a little overwhelming or if you want a more detailed account of how you’re feeling and that can be added to your monthly spread).
5. This Year Bucket List- Write down all the things you want to do this year that you’ve never done before!
You'll have to excuse this picture...I have never been good about staying up to date on my Year in Pixels pages but I still wanted to include it for inspirational purposes.
6. A Job Search Tracker- If you’re applying to jobs and it’s difficult to keep track of the different company and or contact names then make a job search tracker! I like to use this as a way to keep track of jobs I’ve already applied for as well as ones I am interested in applying for. I keep track of the date I submitted my application, the company name, the location, the salary or benefits, the position title and description, whether it’s a year round position or seasonal, the contact info (who I talk to, who I submit to and other important names) the requirements for the application, and whether or not I received an offer and whether or not I accepted it.
7. A Weekly Schedule- As a student with a schedule that changed by day of the week, a weekly schedule was really helpful for me to have on hand. Putting it in the beginning of the journal makes it easily accessible when I needed to schedule meetings or additional rehearsals around classes and club meetings.
8. A Class Location Chart- I also had classes in a lot of different locations when I was in undergrad so having a place where the schedule and the location was easily accessible was also very helpful.
9. A School Semester Overview- As a theater major and in charge of a couple different events in the theatre department, it was necessary for me to compile my own calendar of events including audition dates, show dates and other major department events. While this is pretty specific to my scheduling needs, it could easily be used for anyone who needs to keep track of company events or events of a few months at a time.
10. Back to School Check List & Textbook Tracker- Again being a student really influenced my bullet journal design. When I was heading back to school after winter break I made a list of things I would need to pack, things I had run out of, and things I needed to bring for the spring semester. Then I also included a textbook tracker. As a new semester was starting, I had a different schedule and different book needs. I found it helpful to keep track of what books I needed, where I got the books and whether I bought them or rented them.
After I’ve had my fun with trackers and the like, I start on the monthly and weekly part of the journal. I like to start this section of the journal by welcoming the New Year and writing down some goals I have for the year.
After that, it’s time to start January’s monthly spread. I like to do a page welcoming the month and giving a more specific overview of the month. This is where I would note specifics: major assignment due dates, tests, and other events happening in this specific month. In this journal though, I opted for look over function (not much was going on in my life in January of 2020, I was on break and not heading back to school till later in the month). Another thing I love about having my own journal where I can design my layouts is that I can pick a different design for every month. I like to pick a theme and run with that, incorporating it into the design for every month’s spread. For instance in January I went with fireworks celebrating the New Year.
Along with the welcome page and the calendar for the month, I also like to include a sleep tracker. Sometimes I will combine the welcome and the sleep tacker but in January's case I made them separate pages so that I could also include this fun quote art! I think it is important for me to keep track of my sleep because I often get headaches which can in some cases be from a lack of sleep and if I have been tracking my sleep I can trace headaches back to that lack of sleep and make up for it by scheduling a nap or making it a point to try and get to bed earlier.
The firework design did not really make its way into the weekly layout, but often, and as you’ll see when I release later moths’ spreads, I do try and carry over the theme from the month’s introduction into the weekly design. January’s was relatively simple with a little washi tape accent on the corners to add a pop of color.
So there you have it! The beginnings of a bullet journal! Moving forward I will release February-August’s spreads and then once we reach September I will start releasing the spreads at the beginning of each month. The first Monday of every month will bring a blog post with pictures of that month’s pages. Once the photos are released on the blog, they will be added to the Bullet Journal page in the 2020 journal photo gallery on my website! Thanks for reading and I hope this post gives you the inspiration you need to start your own bullet journal. If you have any questions for me, I will be more than happy to answer them for you.
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