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:

  • ghosting (ink showing through the page)—consider the weight of the paper in “lb” or “gsm”;
  • bleeding (how easily ink smudges)—look at reviews online;
  • page style (dot grid, lined grid, blank, ruled); and
  • binding (perfect, spiral, whether it lies flat or not).
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!

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

I know what you’re thinking. “Coryl, another bullet journal blog post?” Yes. This time I’m sharing my monthly bullet journal spreads for May. I shared the weekly spreads in my post about ugly layouts, so this will be a short post! Also, look! Pretty pictures!

My planner is one of the core elements of my life. It helps me manage my work, writing, mental health, and physical wellbeing. I love sharing it and talking about how it affects each area of my life. My monthly bullet journal spreads for May ended up being prettier than my weekly ones. I found myself using the month layouts more than my failed weekly layouts.

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

I tried to bring in more artistic and drawn elements, like what I did in April. But something was off. I didn’t doodle and colour as much as I thought I would. Even the splash page gemstone border stayed bland and uncoloured. I was trying so hard with the weekly layouts that I didn’t have the energy to put in effort for the monthly spreads.

My two-page mental health tracker is still the focal point of all my monthly planning. Since I have a chronic illness (hey bipolar!), seeing patterns in my health is more important than tracking habits. My overall wellbeing is more important than whether I washed my hair that day, or did my whole routine. Some aspects of my routine are affected by my mental illness and its symptoms. But I’d rather record my symptoms than the symptoms of the symptoms. Neglecting my hygiene is a symptom of my mental illness, for example, but it’s a sign of low energy and motivation. I’d rather track the broad symptoms that affect my life than the way my life is affected.

I tried to bring in mini-trackers for good habits and self-care, though! My calendar spreads are always a great place for me to experiment. So these monthly bullet journal spreads are a whole new thing for me. I tracked the weather, since I was aiming to be outside more. I didn’t have as large a section for my calendar and agenda as I did in April. That ended up being a bad decision. I was losing track of time-and-date-sensitive plans each week from the poorly planned weekly spreads! I’m glad I was able to review and be mindful of what wasn’t working, so I can plan better for June.

I didn’t showcase my goal spread for this month. That’s something I wanted to keep completely private. I’ll blur out information I don’t want to share, if it’s a few lines; but my goals for May aren’t something I want to share at all. I would have ended up posting a blurry notebook page!

These monthly bullet journal spreads aren’t the best. But that’s okay. June will be better, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be posting about my June spreads at the end of the month, so stay tuned for those pictures and reflection! I think they’ll be an improvement.


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My Ugly Bullet Journal Spreads

Sometimes the ugly things around us are a reflection of ugly things inside us. Next week, in my regular month review, I’ll talk more about how May has been a rough month for me. But I’m focusing on the bullet journal this time around because it’s one of those ~*~aesthetic~*~ things in life, and I wanted to share how the non-aesthetic results are just as important as the beautiful accomplishments. I also wanted to mention that, even though I don’t like the ugly spreads, I still appreciate them.

For my weekly layouts in May, I had anticipated on using a similar format to the ones I had used in March 2018 and April 2018. But for a few reasons, they turned out terrible.

Sometimes, my bullet journal gets neglected. If you want to compare, April’s layouts were beautiful. I put effort in them and really enjoyed planning my month. But for May, my weekly spreads didn’t jive with me. There was something off.

I know I like to show the best sides of my life, especially online. Why shouldn’t I? After all, if I’m proud of something, I should share it. If something is beautiful, I want to show it to others. There’s nothing wrong with putting the highlights on social media or my website. I don’t deny the ugly sides of my life, after all. (Like when my mental health gets bad and destructive; or how I experienced therapy in 2016; or reflecting on changes, conflicts, and regrets each month.)

So here’s some of my trashy bullet journal spreads! They’re incomplete, they’re filled with scribbles, and they’re failed attempts at keeping my life on track.

A spread created after half the week had gone by, with unfinished art…

 

A week with missed days of planning…

 

A layout with a time codex that just didn’t work at all in the small module size…

My favourite thing about the bullet journal is the customisation capabilities. It’s nice to have the creative outlet as well, but it’s times like now—when I’m looking back on May and preparing for June—where I’m grateful for this planning system’s lack of commitment. If I had a printed planner designed by a company, no matter how beautiful it is or how well it previously worked, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to change it up on a whim.

I’ll be noting all of these struggles in my monthly review, which is one of my favourite bullet journal hacks, next week! My planning for June will change for sure, since my issues with using my journal this month were present throughout the month. Sometimes I’ll miss a few days in a week, or a week doesn’t get designed as well as the rest. But those are non-issues compared to ugly bullet journal spreads week after week. They’re a sign that I’m using the wrong tactics, and I need to readjust what I’m doing. They’re also evident that my mental health isn’t condoning good planning.

Layouts like this remind me of times over the last 3 years when the same thing happened. But now, I’ve started to notice that it’s a sign that my mental health isn’t at its best. I use my planner to keep on track of my life. My mental illness affects all aspects of my life. The two go hand-in-hand, so I’ve become aware of when my planner reflects my health. My journal is another tool to stay mindful of my life. The ugly layouts and ugly moments are part of that.

5 Bullet Journal Hacks

5 Bullet Journal Hacks

Honestly, I don’t like using the word “hack” for this type of post, but I couldn’t think of another word to use! I have some bullet journal hacks for you to “get more” out of your bullet journal. These are also some easy ways to change up your planning style in your journal, as well as try some new ways to plan your life. These are especially useful for me as a homebound person. I work from home and am my own boss, so I need to keep track of myself. Currently, I use all of these bullet journal hacks except for one! Maybe in June I’ll end up using the fifth hack, since I miss using it.

Without further rambling, here are 5 bullet journal hacks to mix up your planning and get more out of your bujo system.

Dutch Door Layout

A Dutch door layout may seem intimidating at first, since you have to cut your pages to make it. But once you have it planned out, you’ll have more space for daily layouts and still be able to see information from previous pages! I used the Dutch door layout in October of 2016, and it really helped me keep track of my personal projects and my final university semester. I’ll be doing a tutorial next month on how to make a Dutch door layout yourself!

Monthly Review Module

This is one of my favourite bullet journal hacks. At the end of the month, usually after a weekly layout, I include a space for me to review the previous month and pre-plan the next month. I assess what goals I want to work on for the next month, and what I need to change up for the goals I didn’t complete in the previous month. This space also gives me the chance to plan out the spreads and designs I want to use for the next month. Use this space to mindfully plan and review how your bullet journal and life are working together!

Monthly Goal Layout

I recently started adding a spread to list out my goals for the month, including all the individual tasks for completing the goal. While I’m still new to it, I’ve really enjoyed having the space to expand on goals without pinning them to a certain week or day. But the monthly goal layout that I use also has a space for me to assign goals and tasks to certain weeks! I have a bad habit of setting too many goals for the month. A layout each month to outline my goals is an easy way to see if I’m putting too much on my plate.

Daily Time Trackers

Working from home means I need to keep track of my time unlike people who have jobs they travel to and clock into. A daily time tracker (or time codex, to use some fancy jargon) keeps me mindful of how I spend my hours. My mental health also benefits from doing this! I lose track of time very quickly and easily—I don’t have much of an internal clock—so I like having reminders of time passing. A daily time tracker lets me check in throughout the day as I complete my to do list.

Non-BuJo Planning Options

I saved the best for last. My all-time favourite bullet journal hacks are the ways that I don’t use my bullet journal. Variety is so important in my life. There are also some planner features that do better when they’re displayed prominently, or take up more space than is available in my Leuchtturm. Currently, I have a daily habit and routine tracker on my mirror that I check off and track with a dry erase marker. I also have a tracker for my eating disorder that I keep on my bulletin board, since I benefit from the constant exposer. It also doesn’t fit in my bullet journal—tracking my binges is a longterm habit and act of mindfulness that I need to see displayed over the months and years. If there’s something you’re trying to include in your bullet journal, and it’s just not working, but you want to include it in your planning? Try using it on its own or in a different medium! Phone reminders, boards on your walls, or a whole other book may be the right direction.


These bullet journal hacks are very different from the original purpose of a bullet journal. They’re unique ways for you to personalise your bullet journal, while also varying your planning style. They’re methods I can swear by—they’ve been effective for me throughout my bullet journal experience over the last 2 years. Do you have any “hacks” that you use for your bullet journal or planner?

Launching A Patreon

After some deliberating, I’ve decided to launch a Patreon for my blog, writing, and art!

Why Patreon?

I played with the idea of placing advertisements on my blog, but I wanted to keep this website as clear and focused as possible on my content. I can’t describe how frustrated I get when I’m visiting a blog, trying to read a post or look at pictures, and I have to scroll through advertisements in order to find the content. Not just scroll past ads to get to the content, but to dig for it amongst the clutter.

I didn’t want that experience for my blog. It felt inaccessible and off-brand for me. So to monetise my work (because a blog is work, writing is work, and art is work), I settled on Patreon.

It’s free to set up. It’s also a platform I’m familiar with. But most importantly, it’s something I need to stick to in order to gain the rewards from it. I hope to get some support for my creative endeavours, notably my artwork. I haven’t had much motivation to create and share my art. Recently, I realised why: I didn’t have an audience for it, and I didn’t value my efforts.

With Patreon, I feel so much more motivated to deliver content, regardless of patrons and how many I have. It’s an external form of accountability.

It’s also a space that I want to grow and focus on. As such, I’ll be announcing blog posts, writing updates, and artwork there before I post to any other social media. While I will continue tweeting, instagramming, pinning, and facebooking, Patreon will come first.

You can follow me for free to get those first updates. I will love you and be eternally grateful if you pledge, too! Exclusive content is available at tier one, the Cait Siths, for $1 a month, so you don’t need to pledge much to get behind-the-scenes.

Click below to reach my Patreon page. I hope to see you there!

Patreon Become A Patron Button

April Bullet Journal Spreads

April Bullet Journal Spreads Weekly Monthly BuJo

In an attempt to bring spring into my life, I went hardcore with my April monthly bullet journal doodles. I haven’t gotten this artistic and drawn this much in my bullet journal before. The pops of colour in the flowers really brightened up my month for my spreads. The snow hasn’t completely melted where I live. I’m pretty desperate for florals and greenery!

Monthly bullet journal spreads

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Month Monthly Layout 01 Filled

As is my style, I have my bubble layout tracker, which I didn’t feel like photographing for this month. If you’ve seen any of my other posts with monthly bullet journal spreads, you’ve seen my tracker layout. It changes ever so slightly from month-to-month, but between my March monthly bullet journal spreads and April, they were basically identical.

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Month Monthly Layout 02 Fitness Calendar Tracker

I really wanted to focus on the flower drawings. Bullet journal doodles are outside of my normal journalling, after all. For some of the flowers, I used Planning Mindfully’s flower drawing tutorial to get started. I also used references from image searches and from a drawing book I own. Also against my normal journalling, I used pencil crayons (“colored pencils” to Americans, I think?) to colour the doodles. I typically use markers for my monthly bullet journal designs, trackers, and calendars. The pencil crayons made the monthly layout a bit softer, since I could blend colours more easily.

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Month Monthly Layout 03 Calendar Agenda

Overall, I’m very, very happy with these monthly bullet journal spreads.

Weekly bullet journal spreads

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 01 Filled

The weekly layouts for April are a bit similar to March, but because I had more small projects to work on this month, I adapted slightly. The daily modules for April are a tiny bit larger than they were in March—a very good thing. After I filled up most of the days, I barely had room to decorate.

I used the same layout each week this month, and prettied them up afterward with washi tape. I don’t like decking out my bullet journal spreads with designs before I fill them in. It’s impossible for me to know which days will be busier and fill the module.

Here are some before, during, and after shots of my weekly layouts!

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 02 Midweek

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 03 Filled

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 04 Filled Closeup

My bare-bones layout for weekly spreads is incredibly bland. My last week in April started off with pops of washi tape only because I messed up with marker in an area and wanted to cover it up!

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 05 Empty

April Bullet Journal BuJo Spread Week Weekly Layout 06 Midweek

Since I’ve gotten into the habit of doing my monthly bullet journal spreads and weekly layouts at the start of the month, I use my journal more consistently. It takes some time to get set up before I can use it (about 4 hours total, actually—more if I’m experimenting). But then I don’t have to set aside time each week to draw a layout. It’s much easier to commit to a weekly layout and use the same design for the month.

I’m excited to start designing and planning for May’s monthly bullet journal spreads!

3 Ways My BuJo Improves My Mental Health

3 Ways To Use A Bullet Journal For Mental Health and Improve Mental Illness

Bullet journals are half planner and half journal (at least the way I treat them). When I started using my bullet journal in 2016, I tracked my university assignments, events, and exams. I also used it to stay on top of bills for the house I moved into. It gradually transformed to include details about my therapy and mental health treatment when I started therapy. Now, I love using my bullet journal for mental health! I still use it as a planner, too.

I’ve written a post already about mental health tracking, as well as a post that discusses using a bullet journal for mental health and chronic illnesses.

In this post, I explain 3 ways that my bullet journal helps with my mental health, illness, and wellbeing. Keeping track helps me so much!

Trackers let me see patterns in my mental health symptoms

Tracking symptoms of my mental health and my daily life means I have a record that I can compare long-term. For instance, my bullet journal was instrumental in showing me patterns in my symptoms that were associated/correlated with my menstrual cycle. A mood tracker lets me see how my emotions fluctuate over time. I track side effects for medication. I keep a record of my symptoms. When I visit my doctor for check-ups, I have a solid reference with my bullet journal.

The bullet journal provides written accountability for my to do lists, self-care, and responsibilities

If I don’t write something down, it doesn’t exist to me. I don’t have a good memory. Writing out notes, lists, and plans is the best way for me to remember them. Self-care and other aspects of my life, such as hygiene and chores, are greatly affected by my mental illness. So having them written down? I’m more likely to take care of myself. A list that includes “take a shower” means I’m aware of my self-care. My monthly tracker includes a space for me to note my medication so I remain consistent with my treatment.

I have a type of diary and scrapbooking to maintain perspective on the good and bad times

There are numerous benefits to keeping a journal. But it’s not always feasible if you don’t have the energy to keep up with it. I’ve tried to journal daily or weekly in that “write out your feelings” and diary format. I always lose interest and stop using it! I use the bullet journal for multiple parts of my life. It’s a natural record of what I’ve been up to over the months and years.


When I use and keep up with my bullet journal for mental health, I feel so much better! It’s one of the tools I use in treating my mental illness and maintaining my wellbeing. It’s great for planning! But it’s slowly transformed into a vital aspect of my daily life outside of planning, too.

March Bullet Journal Spreads

March in my bullet journal looked like most of my months. I had fun with an illustrative splash page with some hanging plants! I drew out all of my weekly layouts in advance, and then customised them with washi tape and colours when I got to those weeks.

I’m still obsessed with my bubbles for tracking! Maybe it’s because I grew up having to take so many Scantron tests… Or maybe it still reminds me of equipping Materia like in Final Fantasy 7.

My monthly calendars got a little more artsy than they normally do. I didn’t end up looking at them pages as much as I thought I would, including doing the exercise I thought I would, but that’s okay. For April, I’ll be changing up how I do these spreads!

For my weekly spreads, I start off very blank and add in the washi and other decor once I’m about halfway through the week. Some days have longer to do lists than others, and I can’t really guess which days those are for where I can add a strip of tape.

I’ve enjoyed these layouts for my week view, but I’m changing them for April since my needs have changed.

April looks beautiful, by the way. If you want a sneak peek, there’s a post on my Instagram!

My First Leuchtturm1917 Notebook

For Christmas, my sister gifted me a green Leuchtturm1917 that I’ve been using for my 2018 planning. I’ve also been using a second journal for long-term planning, rather than monthly and weekly spreads. I wrote about why and how I’m using two bullet journals here.

I’ve read and heard a lot about these notebooks for bullet journalling. To be honest, I was never interested in them. They run for $30.00 on Amazon for the A5 size I have. I’ve read reviews every time I was in the market for a new journal, but picked a different product because I’ve found something cheaper.

January, February, and March all have spreads in the Leuchtturm and I’m glad I finally got to try it! I love starting the year in a fresh book, and even though I had space in my Scribbles That Matter, I’m using the Leuchtturm for 2018.

I’ll be using this journal for 2018 until either the year ends or the pages run out. It’s let me loosen up a little bit, on account of all the accidental smears and the less-than-polished quality my spreads end up being. I’m not saying I’m messier in this journal than I am in other ones, but I feel better messing up in the Leuchtturm compared to my Scribbles That Matter.

Pros:

  • Lots of pages
  • Dot layout is well structured
  • Numbered pages are not intrusive to the layout
  • Hardcover
  • 2 ribbon bookmarks for easier navigation
  • Elastic band

Cons:

  • Gel ink smears and takes longer to dry
  • Ghosting through the pages
  • Hardcover finish gets dirty quickly (it was dirty after the first day I opened it, oops!)
  • Page quality is average

As a journal, it’s well-rounded and serves its purpose. It’s a great notebook for bullet journalling!

However… I think the Leuchtturm is overpriced when there are options for lower costs (Scribbles That Matter is less than $25.00) However, if you can get a Leuchtturm in a craft or art store for less than $30.00, it’s definitely a great notebook for bullet journalling.

Bullet Journal Mental Health Tracking

The largest feature of my monthly spreads for September is my mental health tracking! I have two pages devoted to tracking my mental health, and with me, that’s a lot of space to devote to a single topic in my notebook.

Being on medication or going to therapy aren’t the only ways that we can take charge of our mental health and work on managing mental illness. They can help, but they aren’t the only resources. Self-awareness through my trackers has given me an edge to being on top of my management that I never had before I started doing it.

This month, I have three separate spreads: unhealthy habits and triggers; healthy habits and self-care; and symptoms and side effects. I also track my moods within these, and how they fluctuate over the day. My friends and family have commented that my moods can change very quickly in a day, so that’s something I’ve looked at and attempted to balance out. This month, I haven’t tracked my sleeping, but my sleeping has been fairly regular due to the sedative portion of my medication.

I like recording some of my “unhealthy” behaviours. They’re unhealthy in the sense that I have a suspicion they can interfere with my wellbeing that day—hence why I have caffeine and nightmares in the same section. Yesterday I had an awful dream and the rest of my day felt off because it kept intruding my thoughts, so I checked off “nightmare” for that day.

My self-care and unhealthy habits are side-by-side so I can see if I’m balancing out the two, or doing one more than the other, and how that affects my mood. I contemplated putting everything into one table, but I wanted to be able to compare my “good” and “bad” activities at a quick glance.

I started doing the “bubble” list last month to track some symptoms, and I’ve tweaked it to get more information tracked. I started doing the bubbles because they reminded me of material equipping in Final Fantasy VII. That’s really it. I wanted to have a “scale” of sorts to gage how I was feeling.

I’m not sure how much this has helped this month. My medication doubled a few days ago (thankfully), so I’m still adjusting to that. But these layouts are definitely the most eye-pleasing I’ve done. They’re both pragmatic and nice to look at.

Since I’ve only posted the blank spreads here, it’s hard to see how they look nice. However, I will have some pictures on my Instagram by the end of the month!

These spreads are some I’ll definitely repeat in the future.