When it comes to planning and journaling, I’ve always had two problems: 1) finding a planner I love, and 2) maintaining a daily habit. I recently discovered a thriving community of DIY writers, planners, and scrapbookers united by their love of creative planning. After spending a few weeks admiring these colorful journals on Pinterest and Instagram, I decided to give it a shot myself.
I’m not usually very picky about my notebooks, but as I’ve streamlined my work and writing processes I have developed certain preferences for certain purposes. That being said, I have never seen so much debate about notebooks as I have in the bullet journal community, particularly surrounding Moleskine vs. Leuchtturm. I won’t get into the specifics, as others have outlined the pros and cons far better than I could. But as I read more about the notebooks favored by various journalers, I developed a checklist of my own preferences:
- square grid pages: for layouts and to keep my atrocious handwriting literally in line
- spiral bound: I like to be able to lay my notebooks completely flat, even if it isn’t as pretty
- heavy enough paper to prevent bleeding
I didn’t have a particular size or shape in mind, but when I began shopping around Amazon I fell in love with this simple, square Rhodia.
It’s simple, symmetrical, and checks all my boxes. The pages are perforated, which is perfect in case of any major mess ups. It’s 80 sheets and measures 8.25″ x 8.25″, which is still small enough to be convenient for travel, but leaves plenty of room for me to fit 2 days per page.
Finding pens I liked was pretty simple. I didn’t want to shell out a bunch of money on fancy pens and inks (yet), so I stuck with familiar utensils.
I’ve used Staedtlers and Stabilos before, and knew that I liked how they wrote and that they weren’t too expensive. I picked up a couple extra Sharpies for good measure, as well as my writing tool of choice: a trusty mechanical pencil.
Those are really all you need for any journal, but I wanted to try something a bit different. Given my lousy track record with planner maintenance, I’m always on the lookout for ways to trick me into keeping track of things. In a recent edition of the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds newsletter, Kelly Sue DeConnick wrote something that stuck:
No, you do not need stickers to keep a planner, but they make the planner more fun for me, which makes me more willing to engage. “Make it fun” is its own kind of hack.
This makes so much sense to me. It’s a trick I’m sure most parents already know: turn a chore into a game, and it’ll get done. That said, I might have gone a bit overboard.
Some of these are from places like Amazon and Target, but if you’re looking for unique, often customizable stickers made specifically for planners and calendars, Etsy is the place to go. A few favorites I have discovered include Paper Cut Design Co., Planner Press, Organized Stickers, and Oh Hello Stationery Co.
The basic bullet journal format includes several pages that you don’t find in your typical journal or planner. This includes an index, a key, collections, and various calendar layouts. The customizability is what drew me to this method in the first place, so I set out in search of inspiration.
This is the first page of my journal. I liked the idea of including a key and index that could grow as my needs changed. As you can see, I’ve already made a few adjustments and mistakes.
I also found several calendar layouts that I wanted to incorporate: a yearly view for general reference, and a monthly view for planning and goal setting purposes. Since I also use a large desk calendar for long-term planning, I wasn’t very concerned with incorporating one into my journal.
Finally, my weekly spreads. These make up the bulk of my journal, and detail all the things I need to get done on any given day. Because I’ll be spending the most time with these pages, I went all out with colors and decorative flourishes.
And here is my first week! I typically wouldn’t outline all my to-dos for the week at once, but I wanted to get an idea for how this layout would look. I’m pretty pleased with it, and so far really enjoy using it.
I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to include any collections, the themed lists that make bullet journals different from other planner systems. I’m considering a submission/writing tracker, or a list of books to read.
I love working on my journal. It’s a relaxing and fun creative outlet that also helps me organize my thoughts. Each Sunday, I number, date, and decorate the pages for the upcoming week, which is a good way to brace myself for Monday without stressing myself out. Each night, I look over the tasks from that day, and determine which incomplete tasks to work on the next day and mark out any that are no longer relevant. After consulting my long-term calendar and adding in any events or appointments, I close it up for the night, ready to jump in the next morning.
I’m really enjoying my bullet journal so far, but the core concept of course is that the journal changes with your needs. With that in mind, I’ll follow up at the end of the month to determine what works and what needs to go!
For more bullet journal resources and inspiration, check out some of these awesome people:
- Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Instagram
- Kara over at Boho Berry
- The official Bullet Journal by Ryder Carroll
- My Pinterest board of journaling inspiration