Bullet Journaling For the Rest of Us

It’s the beginning of the year, and you know what that means.  It’s time for everyone, especially bloggers, to tout the merits of bullet journaling and show off their amazing and gorgeous journals.  The rest of us sit back and think ‘I could never do that’ for a variety of reasons.  No artistic abilities, terrible handwriting, no beautiful notebooks on hand — anything can be a deterrent from starting a bullet journal.  

I felt this way for a really long time my handwriting looks like it was done by an oxen trying to hold a pen between its hooves while on a roller coaster, and I can barely draw stick figures.  There was NO WAY I was going to start a bullet journal.

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As I become more and more involved in the blogging community, my needs for a proper diary dramatically increased.  I needed a place to write down the books I’ve read, what I’ve received in the post, what I planned to read in a given month, what my blog tour dates were, etc.  I kept looking and looking for a diary that would suit my blogging needs, and  every time I came up short.  I was so annoyed that I was pushed to a place I never thought I’d go — I started a bullet journal.

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Surely not!

And you know what?  All those people who have beautiful journals are actually annoyingly correct — you don’t need to have a journal that’s filled with gorgeous colour or artwork.  I now have a bullet journal that satisfies all my list-making needs.  Honestly, I’d be dead without it.  My life would be over.

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In the interest of showing you that real people can actually bullet journal, I’m going to show you some of my spreads.  This is a safe space — don’t judge my terrible handwriting.

This is not the place to go if you want to see pretty pictures.  If you want that, both Bionic Book Worm and A Little But a Lot have lovely posts about their journals.

How to Start

Starting is honestly the most daunting thing.  I wanted a journal that was pre-made to my exact specifications — why can’t that be possible?  Like writing a book, a blank page in a fresh journal is terrifying.  But the best thing you can do is start.

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Hello, friend.

What you’ll need:

  • A pen
  • A notebook
  • Some spare time

 

I pulled this Moleskine notebook out of my stationery box (yes, I have a stationery box).  It was blank, therefore it would do the trick.  Any notebook will do, but I’d say the more pages the better.  However, I can tell you right now that this thing is going to expand into a second journal.

 

Monthly spreads

If you want to follow my model, start with whatever month you’re currently in or the following month.  The fact that I decided to start this up in the first few days of January was really helpful.  I decided to stick with one month to start with and fill in the rest later on.  This gave me some time to figure out what spreads are helpful for me and which ones were not.

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Pages 1-2.  Mistakes were clearly made.

I decided to start with the month’s calendar.  Those tiny, cute 30-day-in-a-block calendars you see in bullet journals all the time do nothing for me.  I need space to write out my posts and commitments each day, but not an entire page a day.  I divide each page into 3 days, and that works just fine for me!

You can also see some washi tape on the side there.  The tape marks the calendar pages so it will be separated from the month’s later spreads.  When I close the notebook, I can easily see what pages have my diary listed.   I got this tip from Bionic Book Worm!

 

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Post-It Note game is strong

I use Post-It Notes everywhere.   Everywhere!  These are blog ideas, book lists, lists of reviews I need to write, casual reminders, etc.  10/10 would recommend.

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Left side: turned out to be the most useless spread ever.

You’re going to make mistakes.  That’s the first thing to realise when you’re starting out.  Take, for example, my monthly library books spread.  This was a page that was utterly useless because I’m constantly taking books out, returning them, and generally running in circles around my local library. It turns out that the best way to track my library books is on the library website — who thought!

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Initially forgot to put in a monthly book purchases page — d’oh!

One thing I’d recommend is making a list of the spreads you want to include every month.  I didn’t do this and I kept forgetting to include them!  My months aren’t consistent and it’s really annoying.  Good thing I’m not a perfectionist.

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More mistakes.  Yikes.

The biggest bit of advice I can give is to not be afraid to mess up.  There’s this idea that bullet journals must be beautiful.  That’s SO not true (see: every single picture here).  You’ll screw up, but just move on.

 

These are the spreads I have for each month:

  • Calendar pages (3 days per page)
  • ‘Good Shit That Happened This Month’ – fills in the inevitable blank space on the last calendar page.  Listing the good things that happened in the month for later review!
  • Monthly TBR — expectations (what goes into my monthly TBR posts)
  • Monthly TBR — reality (what goes into my monthly round-up posts)
  • Monthly NetGalley approvals and book post
  • Monthly blog tours and dates
  • New releases for the month
  • Blog post ideas
  • YouTube ideas
  • Admin and notes

Yearly Spreads

In the very back of my journal, I started some yearly spreads.  These are for things like books to buy, best books of the year, everything I’ve read through the year, resolutions, etc.

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Can you be your own enabler?

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Again, you can see that I’ve marked these pages with washi tape.  I chose two different colours to differentiate between my lists.  I can also tell what are blank pages for my monthly spreads and what are yearly spreads.

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*Breaks out in a cold sweat thinking about how many ARC’s she has*

This is probably my most valuable monthly spread.  It is a list of every single ARC, proof, or finished copy provided by a publisher.  I have little markers that indicate if I’ve read the book and if I’ve reviewed it.  The goal is to fill in as many of those as possible!

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Really wish I had picked a different word than ‘dump’

I have some space for blog and YouTube ideas.  This kind of mixes up with the monthly list, but it’s nice to have a place to just jot things down in one place.

You can also see the beginnings of my ‘Best Books of 2018’ post!

 

These are the spreads I have at the back of my journal:

  • Books to buy
  • YouTube ideas
  • Blog ideas
  • Best books of 2018
  • ARC list
  • Read in 2018
  • Resolutions for 2019

So that’s it for my bullet journal!  I hope this has proved to you that bullet journals 1) are actually helpful and 2) don’t need to be beautiful.  They can be an absolute shitstorm of scribbles, Post-It Notes, and multicoloured pens.

 

So, do you have a bullet journal?  Have you been intimidated by it in the past?  What spreads are the most helpful for you?  Let me know!

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21 thoughts on “Bullet Journaling For the Rest of Us

  1. Is this where I say I told you so?! I think it is! 😂 you don’t need to be artistic to start a journal. The whole point of it is to stay organized and keep your shit together! A place for all your lists and important info. I would be lost without it now. Especially all the pages with ARC publishing dates, books I’ve read and blogging ideas. If you have a pen and a notebook you can start a journal. Stickers and washi tape help too!
    By the way I saw your video where you did the stationary unboxing…… gah!!! It’s amazing! Maybe I’ll get myself a birthday present this spring 🙂 love your journal!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ughhhh I suppose so :p Seriously though your bullet journal posts have been so so helpful. If you got 5,000 hits on that post in early January, that was me trying to set mine up and using yours as reference!

      I LOVE that box so much! (the cats do too, apparently). The stuff is so cute and I feel like you get a lot for your money ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw the conversion rate when I did the coffee thing earlier. That’s…quite a rate. If you can’t get the same one, then I’m sure there’s one in North America that will work!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m constantly staring at Shanah’s bullet journal posts with jealousy. I swear, she could create one and then send it to a printer and make a boatload of money. The problem was, I know I can’t do what she does and that made me feel like bullet journals weren’t for me. (I soooo admire Shanah’s craftiness!)

    Reading this post, I think I’m going to try it! And I may use the basis of your spread too. I like your layout ideas. (especially ARC and New Release dates!) I think I’ll bounce back and forth between the two of you for all the ideas on my ‘nonpretty’ bullet journal. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I refused to do a bullet journal for such a long time! I’m less than a month in and it seriously contains my entire life. It’s so useful to be able to make your own, custom diary. Now I just need to work on my art skills. I hope you do try it!

      Like

      1. I’m gonna give it a try. I keep looking for one to purchase, but you’re right. Bullet journals are so personal specific. I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes. Just need to go get a notebook.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Literally me and my bullet journal. Mine is basically lists and me trying to make it pretty but failing and adding washi tape to make it look pretty lol. I also use a Happy Planner as a calendar so I don’t have to create one of those in my bullet journals. Love your post, btw! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel the “I don’t have bad handwriting, I have my own font” meme is basically the story of my life… Still on the fence about starting a bullet journal though- feels like it requires being far too organized (on the other hand I do love my stationery…)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was awesome! This was so helpful for someone like me who loves lists but isn’t a crazy good artist. Can I tell you how much I love that your have a stationary box! #livingthedream

    Awesome job!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I see absolutely no problem with that 😁 I used to have a stationary draw that was quite deep but since I’ve moved in the last month I haven’t found that box yet and I’m having total withdrawal 😜
        What are some of your fav items in ur kit?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. – The description of your handwriting is hilarious but inaccurate, I have seen much worse. Not mine, I love my handwriting. Ken’s however?? You’ve got shit all on Ken’s.

    – I absolutely love this! I’ve been feeling the need to have somewhere to write things down but couldn’t be arsed to do a bullet journal (because I have not got the time to do that much faffing and swirling).

    – So instead, I’m trying to adapt my filofax. I’ve got different coloured notepaper inserts which I’m going to put at the front of each month for different “spreads”. I haven’t tried it out yet, currently I’m worried the pages may not be big enough.

    – That’s a fantastic tip about the tape and really pretty!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I started a bullet journal too! But I got stencils. Because I can’t draw straight lines. I need more book related spreads. I’m trying to do my weeklies out until the end of the semester (from now until May) so I can track when my packets are due.

    Liked by 1 person

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