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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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?

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!