Time to toss out those generic store-bought planners and make room for something better!
If you love being organized (or the idea of it), odds are you’re probably using some sort of planner you bought online or at an office supply store. The problem with regular ol’ planners is that they are just too generic and non-personalized. It’s the same design and system for everybody that buys them. Do they help? Of course they do. I’ve used them plenty in my life with great success. But how many times do you find that a lot of those generic pages aren’t even being used? Hardly getting your money’s worth with blank generic pages. Maybe you even have several different planners for different things. Sounds a bit counterproductive having to use different kinds of planners for the ultimate end goal of better organization with optimal productivity. So what’s the solution to that problem? A Bullet Journal!
When I first came across Bullet Journals, I fell in love with the thought of getting back to the old fashioned freehand writing and doodling.
Over the years, before Bullet Journaling was even a thing, I had several blank notebooks I was occasionally using for various things.
I had one to write down all my memories about my firstborn, who’s now a teenager. The idea is to give it to her as a present the day she herself becomes a mother in the very very distant future. Another book I have is being used to write down all of my favorite quotes, song lyrics and sayings I have come across. Again, another present to give to my daughter one day. (I got that idea from the movie “A Walk to Remember”). Then, of course, there’s another book being used for the good ol’ venting process to keep me sane while I deal with a hormonal teenage girl and two toddler boys!
It started becoming a little crazy going from book to book to book. Eventually, they all started collecting dust on the bookshelf. Then the Bullet Journal craze fell onto my lap and my mind started racing with so many ideas; including combining all those things I have in my various books into one big Journal. Genius!
I pulled out a new blank journal I had and just stared at it.
What on earth should I do first? How do I get this thing organized and beautiful just like all the other ones flooding Pinterest? After a few days of hunting online for inspiration and guidance, I realized that I’m over obsessing. My problem is that I’m an overly creative person with an internal roller-coaster in my head being fueled by constant new ideas and plans. That’s how I came up with The Tinker Bug! Constantly tinkering away with new ideas every day. One inspiring idea always leads me to something new and I end up sidetracking to other amazing things. Kind of what I’m doing now! Moving on…
The point is, if you don’t get started as soon as you get inspired by it, you’ll overthink things and end up with too many ideas that you want to get done all at once. So let’s do this one step at a time together.
#1. Must Have Supplies
Let’s state the obvious here. You can’t start a bullet journal without a journal! If you don’t have any blank books laying around, it’s time to go get one. The most popular style I’m seeing right now is the main Bullet Journal style where all the pages have little dots all over them. Those dots are meant to be a nice little guide to help you keep everything straight and pretty. My problem with this is, I don’t want a bunch of dots all over my page. Although they are faint dots, it’s still too distracting for me. I’ll end up playing a game of dots and boxes with myself. Another sidetracking issue! I personally prefer a completely blank page. But if you don’t mind the distraction and think it’s going to help you, by all means, use it. You can also use graph styled or even lined pages if you can’t find a good bullet style or blank book.
If you need some help picking out the perfect book, check out some of these that may just fit your needs. If you already have a journal and you’re ready to get to the fun part, move on to the next step.
Popular Dotted Bullet Journals:
Blank (Non-Dotted) Journals:
- AmazonBasics Classic
- Victoria’s Journals – Basic Blue Hard Cover
- Victoria’s Journals – Black Hard Cover w/ Elastic Band – This is the one that my daughter currently uses. She has absolutely no complaints about this one.
- Refillable Leather Journal – What I love about this one is that once you run out of pages, you can easily refill it with a brand new blank AF notebook of your choice and start all over again. Any A5 notebook works with this. Lined, Dotted, Grid or Blank! This is my preferred option if you want my opinion.
- Xiduobao Leather – Let me tell you, I absolutely LOVE these journals! I own several of these and don’t have a single complaint about them. The many color choices and designs make it so nice to continue each book in your life as a new series or novel. Write the Year/Title of your Journal on the outer spine and put them on a bookshelf to make it look so elegant! Great for collecting over the years!
- Eccolo World Traveler – Again, another brand with many different colors and design options!
- Ricco Bello
- Flowers Soft Cover Composition Book
Pens and Markers
Now that you’ve found your perfect journal, let’s get you set up with the perfect pens and markers. You know, other than the Crayola ones you have laying around all over the house that belongs to your kids! It’s okay to get your own set of tools that don’t need to share with the kiddos!
Maped Graph’ Peps – I found these awesome pens at my local supermarket (HEB) actually. But if you don’t have the chance to go to the store or you just can’t find them, check them out online. These fine tip pens are perfect for outlining the smallest details. Before you ask, yes, they do bleed through the pages, but we’ll touch on that topic a bit later. *Spoiler: bleeding through is pretty much inevitable.
36 piece Twin Tip Brush Marker set – I found these at my local Hobby Lobby store and just had to get them. The brush tip on these is exactly what I needed to fill in the color on all of my designs without the fine tip lines all over the filling.
Twin Tip Fineline Markers – If you don’t feel like getting such a big set like the 36 pieces one, maybe you’ll prefer a 12 piece set like these.
Ultra Fine Markers – If you prefer to go with a pretty well-known brand (Sharpie), they’ve got those too! Here’s a 12 piece set that will do very well to start you off.
Let’s say you’ve used fine tip pens for outlining your designs but you really don’t want to color them in with markers in order to avoid the overlapping color marks. How about good ol’ fashioned watercolor paint? There are so many beautiful designs created with basic watercolor paint, it’s truly amazing! If you want to try it out, then this Watercolor Paint Palette would be a great starter set for you.
There are lots of other bullet journal supplies you can get that will make your designs even greater. What I covered here so far is the basic must-haves to get you started. If you’re looking for a few extra goodies to really take things up a notch, check out these awesome goodies:
Stencils – If you think you aren’t creative enough to be able to freehand a lot of those gorgeous designs everybody’s showing, fear not! No need to get discouraged. Get yourself a handy dandy stencil!
Washi Tape – If you don’t feel like drawing out fancy borders or designs, get yourself a few rolls of this! Decorative tape that you can put pretty much anywhere you want. It also serves as a good coverup for pesky mistakes you’ve made that can’t be erased. Cut a piece of tape and simply cover your mistake with it.
Stamps – Another great way to get perfect lines and curves every time!
Protractor – If you’re one of the ones that can’t draw a perfect circle, even if your life depended on it, then you must check this one out. A 360-degree angle and circle maker!
Now that you’re completely set up and ready to start getting creatively organized, let’s jump into the heart and soul of this project!
You and only you can determine how you want to organize your journal. The first thing you need to ask yourself is, what am I trying to organize? A business? School? Kids’ school and extracurricular activities? All of the above? Think about everything you need to remember and keep track of. Once you know the basic things that you want to keep track of, it’ll be a little easier determining what kind of layout you want.
Table of Contents / Index
Like most books, you’ll need some sort of table of contents or index. Now you may be thinking, how am I supposed to create an index page if I don’t even have any pages yet? No worries, just design the index page and add the content later. Just make sure you save that page in the beginning so you can get back to it later. You can be simple and minimalistic here or you can go crazy adding a color coding system or full out spreadsheet! There is no wrong way of doing anything with your journal. You don’t even have to put an index page in if you don’t want to! That’s the beauty of having a personalized bullet journal.
If you know you’re going to have an in-depth bullet journal with a lot of appointments, assignments, tasks, or whatever else you need to keep track of, a Key System is absolutely vital! A Key System is a page where you create icons, codes, or colors that you’ll be using repeatedly throughout your journal. You can be minimalistic here or go flat out crazy with an intricate design. Here are a few layouts to give you some inspiration.
Designing a bullet journal can get a little time-consuming. You’re not going to be able to draw out every single month in one shot unless you sit for hours at a time working on it. Most of us just don’t have that time between work, kids, school, housework, cooking, etc. That doesn’t mean you can’t get pre-organized. This is where you get to create a Plan Ahead page, aka Future Log where you can look at all your important notes and dates at a glance. This gives you time to work on the other pages without missing any important monthly info.
Here are a few examples of some Future Logs I have found on Instagram to help inspire you.
Monthly, Daily, and Weekly Pages
For this next section, you can choose any or even all of these pages. A monthly page is a great way to help you keep track of monthly tasks like bills, appointments, chores, etc.
A weekly page gives you a more in-depth look at things you would like to look at such as weekly meals, appointments, school assignments, work deadlines, etc. This page is especially beneficial for students allowing them to keep track of all homework.
Years ago, when my daughter was still in elementary school, I created a weekly chalkboard out of a picture frame collage using chalkboard spray paint. This helped her keep track of all her assignments in a fun and organized way. The same concept here can be used for a weekly planner in your journal. What I like to do is create a monthly cover page, then design the weekly pages right after that. Here’s my personal cover page for the month of February and my weekly menu page as an example. I like to plan my dinner meals for the week so I don’t have to go crazy trying to figure out what I’m going to cook for the night every day.
Some other great examples of weekly bullet journal pages are:
Daily pages can be so much fun to do. There are endless options with this one. Here you can keep track of a daily schedule, fitness, food, water intake, weather, and so much more! I’ve seen so many creative designs and page ideas with dailies, it’s hard to choose which ones I want to do myself! Check it out:
Not looking to keep track of a daily schedule? Well, how about using it as a daily journal. An old school journal/diary page to write down your thoughts, dreams, problems, or just to flat out vent!
Thinking Outside the Box
Ok, let’s get into the endless options of non-traditional planner pages. After all, that’s why we are working on a personalized bullet journal. When I started my journal, I read so many different articles that listed many options for pages. A lot of those pages I thought were pointless and a waste of time. Then I actually tried them and boy o boy am I glad I did! What I truly love about bullet journals is that it has given me the opportunity to figure out so many new things and how to take better care of myself. I’ve been starting to keep track of so many things which at the end of the day has improved my overall emotional and physical wellbeing. Start thinking outside the box and get started on the non-traditional planning pages!
This is the page that I thought I would never have in my own personal bullet journal. My initial thought on this page was that it was a waste of time. What habits am I supposed to be keeping track of? Bad habits? The last thing I want to think of is my bad habits. Let me tell you how wrong I was about this one. You definitely don’t need to be keeping track of bad habits. Unless that’s something you want to do to help you stop a certain bad habit (like smoking).
A habit tracker is a way for you to nudge yourself on a daily basis to do more of the good habits versus the bad ones. Here’s my Habit Tracker for January. Ignore all the empty squares! I started it late in January and didn’t have much to put in.
If you’re like me, thinking this page is a waste of time, I urge you to reconsider! Knowing that I need to fill in these squares as much as possible has pushed me to work more at getting these good habits into my daily routine without even flinching. Need some help figuring out what kind of habits you want to keep track of? Here are a few examples to get the ball rolling.
- Wake up early or on time
- Go to bed early
- Sleep at least 8 hours
- Take a shower
- No junk food
- Artist Date
- Read a book
- Spiffy House
- Call your mom/family
- Paid bills
- Went to church
- Tell significant other I Love You
- Quality time with your kid(s)
- Me time
- Made the bed
- Water Plants
The list goes on and on! Take a moment to stop and ask yourself, what little things to do keep telling myself I should really do this more often. Go with it and see what you can come up with. Here’s some inspiration on some layout designs you may like.
I hate having to get to that time of the evening where the family starts wondering what’s for dinner and you just don’t have a clue. A Lot of times, you just throw something together last minute or just repeat the same meal you made a few days ago. Meal planners are a great way to plan your week and surprise the family with new and exciting meals.
What I love about this next Meal Planner is the reusable system using sticky notes! Genius! Create one page that you can just reuse over and over again!
I’m a big fan of this page! If you remember, I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I used to have a book for various things like keeping track of various memories of my daughter. Now I can create a page here in my journal and bring those memories back to life! A great way to incorporate this page into your journal is to put it as a monthly page. That way you can keep track of all the good (and bad) memories you’ve had that month. Years down the road, you can look back at all the good and bad times you’ve had! There are so many ways to get creative here. You can paste pictures, polaroids, draw, or simply write them out.
Fitness & Health Trackers
Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to become healthier, lose some weight, or just flat out take better care of yourself? Do you make that same resolution every year only to forget about it or give up within 1-2 months? By keeping a Fitness or Health Tracker page, you’ll push yourself a little harder to really follow through with that resolution!
Maybe you want to keep track of your daily water intake. 8 cups a day is the average, but I like to shoot for 10.
I know I know, this one is a planner most would dread just because they know at the end of the day, all our money is disappearing very quickly. The last thing we need is a reminder of that! You don’t have to dread it anymore with a bullet journal! You can make it so much fun and end up saving more money. Stop losing track of where your money is being spent and stop forgetting to pay those bills on time.
Are you already budgeting your money and paying your bills on time? Already organized enough and think you don’t really need a financial tracker? Well, how about a visual guide to help you save up for that special something you’ve been wanting? Or maybe that dream vacation you’ve been needed desperately? There’s a bullet journal page that’s got you covered! Check out some of these layouts to see if any of them fit the bill for you!
More to Consider
I can sit here and go on and on and on about the many creative pages that you can create in your bullet journal. If you’re looking for more page ideas, aside from the ones already mentioned here, check out these page ideas that may end up in your book someday soon.
- Goals & Rewards
- Password Keeper
- Life Milestones
- Children’s Life Milestones
- Kids’ Growth Chart
- Brain Dump
- Favorite Quotes and Sayings
- Cleaning Schedule
- Mood Tracker
- Bucket List
- Wish List
- Want vs Need List
- Movies and/or TV Shows to Watch
- Books to Read or Books already Read
- Blogging Schedule
- Social Media Organizer
- Class Schedule
- Doodle Page
- Sleep Log
- Grocery List
- Places to Visit
- Trip Itinerary
- Restaurants to Try
- Food to Try
- Grades Tracker
- Gift Ideas
- Photo Album
- Important Contacts
- Advice Given or Advice Received
- Gardening Schedule
- Photography Challenges
- Meditation Log
- Dream Log
- Things That Make Me Happy
- Self Care Log
- Song Playlist
- Sports Tracker
- Family Activities
- Things to Sell
- Period Tracker
- What’s the Tea (Idea from my teenage daughter where you write about the latest gossip and drama going on)
Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to Keep in Mind
Based on my experience with bullet journals, I’ve come across a few things that will help you avoid a few headaches when creating your own.
Don’t overthink it.
The more you think about how you want to create it, the more you’re going to stress it rather than enjoying it. Planning is perfectly fine, but over planning is just too much. There’s no point in keeping a bullet journal if all you’re going to do is think about it. Just open up that book and start creating.
Tracing is not frowned upon!
You don’t have to be a master artist to have a nice bullet journal. Tracing and stencils are your friends! Use them! In the beginning, I listed various supplies that are great to have in your supply bag. Stencils are one of them. What my daughter and I do when we want to use a certain font or have a certain design is simply print them out, put them beneath the page we are going to use, then place our phone flashlight underneath the image. Viola! The image we placed under the page is then illuminated and easier to trace!
You can’t avoid marker/pen bleeding.
Most times, you’ll find that after you’ve created a beautiful spread, you’ll turn the page and see that the back is just flooded with all the marker and pen marks. I’ve seen a lot of people continue designing right on the back of the page, even with all the colors from the previous page bleeding through. I personally hate that and think it’s extremely messy. If you don’t mind it, then don’t worry about it then. After all, it’s your personal journal so there are no right or wrong ways of doing anything with it. As long as you’re happy with it and it’s helping you with your ultimate goal, then there’s no need to stress it.
However, if you’re anything like me and hate seeing those pesky marks, I have a simple solution to the problem. After you’ve completed your page, take the following blank page and glue it together with your designed page. This gives you a brand new blank page to work with behind your freshly designed page without having to see all those bled through colors and writing. Yes, you’ll lose a page, but depending on what kind of book you have, I’m sure you’ll have more than enough pages to create more designs. Additionally, if you’re using a lot of colors try to place a thicker piece of paper underneath your page before you start drawing on it so that you avoid stains on the next page. I use the cover of a Spiderman sticker book that my son had. It has saved many pages of mine from color stains!
Pencils and erasable pens are your friends!
If you aren’t like those people that have posted video tutorials using only a pen to draw perfectly on their journals, then pencils and/or erasable pencils are your friends. Not everybody can draw perfectly the first time. Sketch out your designs first with a pencil then trace over it with your pens and markers. Erasable pens are good too, but pencils are a lot better, in my opinion. Erasable pens don’t tend to be 100% erasable. Sometimes the marks are still a little visible.
The beauty of being unique individuals is exactly that. Being unique! It’s perfectly fine to look at other works of art for inspiration, but don’t compare yours to theirs and wish yours looked more like it. Your bullet journal designs should be a reflection of yourself, not others. Make it your own. Take the ideas of others and create something that you can call your own.
Use a Tabbing System.
Even though an index page was suggested earlier, a tabbing system is an added bonus to help you get to the desired page faster. There are several ways you can do this. #1, add a small piece a washi tape to the edge of the page. Color coding is a great option here. Simply create a color coding system that you can add to the Key System at the beginning of your journal.
#2, get these adorable sticker tabs that you can write on and stick onto the pages you want to track. These are the ones I am currently using and absolutely love! They can easily be removed and reused without ripping or tearing off any pieces of your journal. They are absolutely perfect! You can also write on them so you can create a page name. They are completely smudge-free.
Plain and simple, have fun with your journal. Not only will creating this book be a great way to organize whatever you need organizing, but it’s also a very therapeutic and enjoyable process.
What Have You Learned?
By now you probably have a thousand ideas racing in your mind and your itching to get started on your Bullet Journal. Before you run off and create something amazing, let’s do a quick checklist rundown of everything so that you don’t lose track of everything we’ve talked about today.
Prepare all of your supplies.
Prepare a key system that you can refer to throughout your journal.
Design the index page if you want one and remember, you can go back to this and fill it out later.
Gather all your appointments, reminders, dates and other tasks for the year that you already know of and jot them down in your Plan Ahead section.
Write down a list of pages you want to create such as your monthlies, weeklies, and dailies then move on to the extra non-traditional pages. Try keeping this list in order so you know what you want to create first.
Refer back to the Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to avoid running into headaches throughout your Bullet Journal adventures.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this In-depth Look into the World of Bullet Journals! I would love to see what you’ve created! Who knows, I may just use your design as a reference in one of my next articles!
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