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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.