Starting a Bullet Journal

If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen that this year I have started my own bullet journal.

So I thought I’d take the time to explain what it is, how it works and why I decided to try it out.

What is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is a way of organising your life.

It makes the statement that journals, diaries and planners are too restrictive in allowing you plan and manage your life in the best way for you. Bullet journals throw all the rules and structure out of the window and ask you to design an organisational tool for yourself.

It has become a huge craze on Instagram because, besides being flexible in organisation, it allows for great artistic freedom too. Designing new spread layouts and monthly themes has become big business and there are now some YouTubers and Bloggers who base a lot of their content around their monthly bullet journal set ups (just explore the instagram hashtag #bulletjournal, I dare you).

Why I started a Bullet Journal

Last year, I started the year with a Happiness Planner. At the beginning of 2017, I wasn’t in a particularly happy place. I wasn’t happy at work and I was generally feeling stuck in a rut. For a while the Happiness Planner really helped me re-focus and get me thinking about how I could spend more of my time doing what made me happy.

However, soon the initial buzz started to fade. The focus on completing everything on a daily to do list made me feel worse on the days when I didn’t complete my set tasks. The insistence on daily gratitude made me feel like a horrible person if I couldn’t get my brain into a very grateful space.

It is a structured approach to happiness which didn’t evolve and change as I did. It was not personal to me. Soon I found myself using it less and less until I’d given up entirely by about April.

I didn’t replace it with anything and that, for me, was a mistake.

I find great value in writing things down myself outside of a screen. I like having something tangible that I can scribble in, to plan in and to document in. So it’s surprising really that I didn’t discover bullet journalling earlier.

After coming across it on instagram, I did some millennial style research and watched a number of YouTube videos and became a *tad* obsessed. Not just by the artistic prowess of some of the Bullet Journalling gurus out there (although – oh my days, some people are talented) but also with the range of ways people have developed to keep on top of their lives.

The flexibility was really what sold it to me and where the Happiness Planner had fallen down. If I changed my mind about what I wanted or how I wanted to use it… then BAM I could change it.

Once upon a time I was also pretty arty. I have an A Level in Graphic Design and I used to bloomin’ love drawing. Somewhere along the line the extent of my art work became intricately colour coded revision time tables at Uni. Combining a life organisation tool with a chance to let my creativity back out of its cage was a double whammy of a winner.

So I bought one.

How it Works

You start with a dotted notebook, then you build from there.

I bought the Paperchase Agenzio notebook for £14 to use for my bullet journal but there are some other popular options including the Leuchtturm1917

Then you create a series of “spreads” which you can use to organise your life on a annual, monthly, weekly or daily basis.

  • Weekly spreads – to use like a traditional diary
  • Trackers – which allow you to help you document your success rate of sticking to your good habits
  • Logs – similar to logs but are usually to document thoughts or feelings e.g. memory log or gratitude log
  • to do lists – books to read, films to watch, places to go, things to make
  • Brain Dump – space to jot random thoughts or take notes

Through the whole journal you use a shortcut key for how to designate different notes, events etc. There is an official key are designed by however as with everything else in your journal it’s totally customisable to suit your own needs. The idea is that its a quick short hand to make your notes more succinct and flexible.

How I use it

I’m only two months into my bullet journal and I’m very aware that I’m going to go through a period of trial and error with the spreads that I choose to use. If I think a particular spread is great idea but then I don’t actually use it, no matter how pretty it is, it’s going to be biffed next month.

I’ve already made some big changes and I feel like I’m starting to hit my stride with it as we head into March.

My Year Set Up

My yearly set up was far more about copying spreads I’d seen online that I though I would make good use of or I thought looked cool. The one’s that I’ve been using consistently from the beginning of the year are:

2018 Goals

Wish List

Recipes to Try

Blog Post Ideas


I came across the idea of monthly themes from Amanda Lee, whose bullet journal belongs in a gallery. She picks a motif every month and uses that to decorate all of that month’s spreads.

Amanda Rach Lee Bullet Journal

Many of her followers copy her chosen them and re-interpret it for themselves. However, I wanted to come up with my own theme series.

After I had my tarot cards read for 2018, in which I had a spirit animal to represent each month of the year, I decided that would be a good way to theme my bullet journal. I would add cover page on which I’d sketch the animal and pick a highlighting colour for that month to decorate the rest of the pages.

I had this revelation in February when I’d already gone down a swirly theme for January, so my plan is to go back and add a butterfly cover page for that month.

My animal spirit for the month of February was the Starfish, so I got to doodling and picked orange as a highlight colour for the month.

I wanted to keep the number of trackers and monthly overview pages minimal because after the Happiness Planner episode, I didn’t want my journal to become a chore to fill in. So I figured – keep it simple.

Habit Trackers

Monthly Goals

Brain Dump

Weekly Spreads

I used January as a trial and error exercise. I used four different weekly spread layouts to see which ones I would prefer and find most useful.

This experiment definitely worked. I hardly touched the pages I’d set up vertically, finding them really restrictive. There was not enough space to write the information I wanted.

Also I found as a general rule, I didn’t actually like having a different layout every week. Therefore in February I have copied the same layout for each week. Hopefully this will give me some continuity and mean I can really start using the journal to its full potential.

I also used the additional space my chosen layout afforded me, to add a section to plan my meals and exercise. I’ve found building it into my daily planner super useful and helped me plan for a healthier lifestyle as an integral part of my organisation rather than as separate to the rest of my life.

So that’s as far as I’ve got with my Bullet Journal. I’m really enjoying figuring out what works for me and having the freedom to let my creative side loose.

How do you organise your life?

If you’re a fellow bullet journaller, what are your favourite spreads to use?


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