Coryl Reef

writer, artist, and freelance editor // blogging about words, life, and all the rest


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What I Learned From 2 Years of Bullet Journalling

I started my first bullet journal in the leap year of 2016 on February 29. I can’t remember why I started, but I had seen a few spreads online. In the beginning of 2016, I was still in university. The bullet journal looked like a great way for me to help organise my schooling and personal life. So over the last 2 years (and a bit!), I’ve learned a lot. I’d like to share this wisdom to anyone interested in starting a bullet journal!

Bullet journal changed constantly.

My bullet journal evolved from week to week and month to month. Not every layout I used for the week was useful for the next week. Though I’ve gotten into a bit of a pattern with my monthly spreads, there are still lots of differences each week and each month.

Notebook was key.

I started out my bullet journalling in a spiral-bound ruled notebook. The brand was one I loved using for taking notes in classes, as well as notes for my writing, so I had lots of them available to me! But I quickly found that the notebook limited the way I wanted to plan. The dotted notebooks were more appealing to me, both because of how much space was available and the range of designing I could do on the page.

Planning “style” relied on lifestyle.

The beginning of 2016 was one period of my life. I was in school and had a very busy schedule due to my semester. Fast forward to the fall of 2016, and my life changed again. 2017 was another entirely different year! The summers also had different planning styles compared to when I was in school, and the past year when I left school. I couldn’t use the same planning and layouts that I did for every point in my life.

Separate bullet journals.

For 2018, I moved my daily and time-sensitive planning into a Leuchtturm and kept my collections in my 2017 bullet journal. Unlike the original system by Ryder, I much prefer having an agenda separate from my project planner.


Tips for people starting a bullet journal

I’ve been planning using a bullet journal system for over 2 years now, without much break. I think the longest time I took away from my planner was maybe a month? A few weeks? My planner is vital to my lifestyle, especially my mental health. So I have some tips for beginners, whether they’ve been planning for a few months, or who are just starting a bullet journal!

Be picky about the notebook you use.

This will be a bit of trial and error, but also check out reviews for notebooks! I’ve tried 3 types of dotted notebooks: two from Productive Luddite’s Everyday Carry line (first impressions review and a follow-up review on the quality), a Scribbles That Matter notebook, and a Leuchtturm1917. My favourite so far is Scribbles That Matter, though I’m currently in a Leuchtturm. There are a few things I would advise you look into when picking a notebook:

Be picky about what you design.

The layouts, spreads, collections, and designs you make are up to you. Rather than adding or copying everything suggested online, think about what you need. This will also be a bit of trial and error, since it’s hard to know what you use regularly until you start using it. But starting a bullet journal should be simple, rather than overflowing. Your bullet journal doesn’t need all the suggestions in order to be a bujo! So be picky about where you invest your time and ink.

Don’t force a layout that you aren’t using or enjoying.

Once you start trying designs, you’ll find ones that flow well and ones that don’t. Rather than forcing the layouts that don’t flow, review what isn’t working. For example… Is there not enough space to include all your tasks? Do you find yourself overloading your modules and putting too much on your plate? The layout size may not be right. losing sight of your goals and habits? A dutch door design may help by keeping a visual from day to day.

Try new things!

I know I said to not be picky and to also not force things, but the only way you’ll grow is to try different things. You can look up inspiration online, or doodle some plans for yourself. I like to do both. I have a Pinterest board for bullet journal inspiration! But I also doodle my own layout ideas. Additionally, you should try different supplies. I’ve used a variety of pens through my bujo time, as well as loads of washi tape and markers. You don’t need fancy or expensive pens, and you only need a few embellishments. They go a long way.


For the next year, I will use the bullet journal system. It’s served me incredibly well. And since there’s a 90% chance I’ll be returning to school this fall, it’ll be great to stay on top of my studies. If you’ve hesitated starting a bullet journal, I highly encourage you try!

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2 Comments

  1. Georgie says:

    !!!! Coryl I just started my bullet journal on my birthday this year and had to tell you 😄

    I have to admit that I got really picky with my notebook so I agree with that point. It was really important to me. After using a loose form in a simple lined notebook, I found it hard to move away from that, but I did want the flexibility of a grid or a dot grid. I scrounged for a looooong time on an Australian stationery site and eventually stuck with a brand called CIAK which had a dot grid notebook of 128 pages and a soft leather cover. I can’t stand anything thicker than 50 pages or with any kind of thick spine but this was the *closest thing*. And I dislike hardcover so much, so the fact that this was softcover was perfect.

    So it’s been about a month of using it – when I started it I knew I would dislike the monthly spread so I gave that a miss. I knew the weekly spread would work best for me and that’s what I’ve stuck with! I alter the layout a little bit but it’s still one week to a spread. I also found that I probably didn’t need the “future log” but I’ve yet to find what truly works for me with future planning because I personally work more with weekly goals. I find that being picky at first means I get more out of my bullet journal even if I take the time to work things out beforehand. 👍

    At first I was like “oh god I’ll probably not want to change anything once I’ve set it up” but I’m OK with changing things weekly and on an as-I-need basis 😄

    • Coryl Reef says:

      Ahh, sounds like you’re off to an amazing start, Georgie!! I love hearing about different preferences, like the softcover and smaller page count for you! I’m so glad that you’re finding what works for you, and that you’re exploring a bit each week. 🙂