July 2017 Bullet Journal Spreads

Since I liked June’s layout so much, I did something very similar for July!

I started medication for my mental health just before the month started, so my biggest change is adding a symptom tracker for that.

I messed up on the calendar and did full boxes for the 7 x 6 dimensions, since I didn’t feel like using pencil and then erasing all the lines. I managed to save it with some artistic lettering and pretty new washi tape! It’s a good thing I had a short perseverance quote that I could smack into the bottom.

This month, instead of putting my goals and projects right into the journal, I’m using sticky notes so I can pull them out. They’re smaller and don’t get in the way like my notebook can, if I’m working at my desktop or my laptop. It’s been okay so far (I say, on the 3rd day into the month)—the stickiness is definitely lessening.

I have my mood tracking in the calendar, where the multiple colours are, and the legend on an index card in the front of my notebook near the key. Since the medication I’m on is specifically for moods (well, and other stuff), tracking my moods is going to be a more important part of my life. I’m glad I started doing it before the medication: it’s helped me reference highs and lows, my behaviour, and all that fun stuff to relay back to my doctor.

One other thing I did differently for July is set up all the weekly layouts in advance! That will save me time and decisions on the weekends now. I’ve enjoyed being able to use weekly layouts, instead of daily ones; it feels like I’m doing less during my day and thus everything is more important.

(Sharing on Pinterest helps out my blog!)

My Bullet Journal Index

In my first bullet journal, I set it up with the standard “index” that’s part of the Ryder Carroll system. I hated it.

First, it’s not an index. It’s a table of contents. Second, I used my bullet journal chronologically and didn’t have much need to flip around in the book—especially when my usage of “collections” fell to the wayside. And thirdly, it was an extra step that I didn’t feel the need to use, especially when I could find pages easily through muscle memory and spatial cues.

But now?

I started using a new brand of notebook—the Luddite Every Day Carry line, which I reviewed when I first got it in September, and then a few months later when I had finished it. There are four pages in the front for the index (*cough* table of contents) and tags. I started using it for colour swatching my pens and markers. I’ve also started including information about different types of spreads.

This is more of a “tags” and “keywords” type index to me, than a table of contents. Colour-coding really helped me visually set apart all the different information. If I want to know where the March habit tracker is, I look for the March colour in the “Habits” section!

Small calendars for the months of January to June, with colours in the headings of the months.

I use my bullet journal more and more to track my moods and health, and I thought it would be important to have those more quickly accessible to me. I have some health concerns right now, so the history I’ve been tracking since January will be vital when I see my doctor to discuss my symptoms and treatment. My mental health is something else I track, too, that gets included indirectly when I look back at habits, where I fell out of using the journal, and notes I leave when I’ve had a bad day.

A colour coded index for various pages in a bullet journal, such as monthly spreads and collections.

I think this also gives me a little more sense of freedom. I can insert a page without really messing up anything. When I first started bullet journalling, I didn’t do it for record-keeping or archiving my life. I did it so I could get my shit together on one day or through one week, and not fall behind with school.

However, since I finished classes in December, the purpose of my bullet journal has changed.

The index isn’t going to be something I use heavily or even reference all the time. But I figured it was worthwhile to show another change in my planning system, since I have never used the index, or tags, or a table of contents.

Personally, I’d rather have it at the back, like every other index, since a table of contents deals with headers and chapters and sections. An index deals with tags and finding small information. But I digress—I know words are malleable, but for goodness’ sake, can we still try and use words that mean what they refer to?

Do you use an index in your bullet journal? How do you feel about it?

June 2017 Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

Unlike April and May, my June layouts are full-force spreads that I’ve created! I’m only a few days into using them, but I’ve been enjoying them so far.

I also thought I’d include what my desk looks like when I’m brainstorming/pre-planning a monthly layout.

A desk with a mess of notebooks, pens, markers, sticky notes, and sketchbooks.

The monthly layouts always take a lot of energy out of me. I’ve spent hours figuring out how I want my spreads to look. There’s so much more that goes into them than just using the same ones as the previous month. Sometimes, I can’t do that—like April, when I moved and needed to focus my priorities on other things—and other times, it doesn’t fit what I want to achieve.

My monthly layouts set the tone for how I want to approach the next four or five weeks. I think, “Where do I want to focus my time? My energy? What commitments have I made? Where are my deadlines? How will my goals and projects be affected by my activities this month?” and so on, and so forth.

I’m also always trying new things. My bullet journal is a place for me to play. Every spread is a puzzle that I have to make and then solve, looking for the problems and answers mostly within myself (and the confines of my dot grid space, of course).

I’ve tried calendar layouts like this before, and have found I either neglect them, or I overuse them and get frustrated when my plans don’t line up nicely.

A notebook page in landscape orientation showing a 30-day box calendar for June, with a small table on the left side to input work, goals, and rewards. A quote in the top corner reads, "Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance."

I’m being more lax this month with habit tracking. I’m not sure why, but it felt right, you know? There’s a lot of flux in my environment right now—both my living situation and my family are undergoing positive changes—and I wanted to “go with the flow” more this month, compared to May’s focus on spontaneity. Going with the flow just comes off a bit more mindful, y’know?

A notebook in landscape orientation showing a small calendar, divided into sections on each day on half the page, with a list of goals and associated to-do lists on the other half.

I’m very happy with my mood tracker for this month. I went all Pride 2017 with it, evoking the rainbow. I’ve also changed up how I track my moods: instead of picking a mood for the entire day, I have 3 spaces for each day: morning, afternoon, and evening. That way, I can see how I progress through the day, rather than try to remember a feeling for the entire day. We change so much on micro and macro levels, throughout the day and from day-to-day. This month of tracking my moods through the day will be helpful when I see my doctor at some point over the summer to check my blood sugar levels, too.

I’d post my weekly spreads right now, but they’re still very simple to-do lists! I’m enjoying them and I make them as I go along through the days. They’ve got the time codex bar like I was using in September; very simple and not colour-coded.

If you wanna see more of my bullet journal posts, I’m probably going to get back to posting them on my Instagram. Sharing photos there is much faster than blogging about them, after all! (Also lots of food pictures and the occasionally selfie spam, of course.)

Bullet Journal Routines

My approach to bullet journalling doesn’t put a heavy focus on routines and habitual usage. I use it a lot and also have patterns for when I use it.

There are two important times for me to use my bullet journal: morning and night.

At night, I’m less likely to remember the bullet journal, even though it’s better to use then. At night, I like to check in with my trackers and calendars, like my monthly spreads. I need a push to remember to check in with the trackers to do the point where I put a reminder somewhere on my daily or weekly log. I also like to plan out the next day.

In the morning, I check the plan for the day; or, if I’ve forgotten to write it up the night before, I make it. I’ll double check to see if there are any other things to add.

Throughout the day, I refer back to my bullet journal. This is what the bulk of my planning is for: keeping me on track throughout the day.

I don’t have a set time where I sit and make spreads or plan the day. However, when I am getting set up to work on my bullet journal, I like to put on some ambient music and minimise my distractions.

The time I take to finish a spread will depend on the complexity of the design, how distracted I am, if I’m illustrating stuff… All that jazz.

  • Setting up a monthly layout can take me about 1 – 2 hours.
  • Setting up a weekly layout can take about 1/2 – 1 hour.
  • Setting up a daily layout can take about 15 – 30 minutes.

I try to get the monthly layout done before the start of the month, and same with the weekly. However, there are times where I don’t get the month done until the 1st, or the weekly done until the Monday (because I start my week on a Monday, not a Sunday).

I strive for a planning routine, but really, I don’t have much of one. I want to develop a routine, but I’d have to have more of a schedule for the rest of my life as well and fit in bullet journalling into that. I’ll forget to use monthly trackers for a few days—sometimes a week or more—but I’ve learned to, frankly, not give a damn. 😉

Bullet Journal Breaks: Starting and Ending Them

At the end of October, I took a break from my bullet journal (and most parts of life, let’s be honest). Recently, I took an unintended break at the end of March that last through most of April.

These two recent incidents aren’t the first hiatuses I’ve taken from my bullet journal. In fact, it’d be rare for me to commit to bullet journalling with the same motivation and dedication for more than 6 months.

Sometimes I feel guilty for setting aside my bullet journal. I should use it daily and rely on it. But there was a time before a planner and it wasn’t as bad as it might be in retrospect.

When you use a planner, it isn’t as if your skillset stays with the tactile book or software you use. A planner, whether it’s a bullet journal or printed agenda or an app, will strengthen your time management skills even when you’re not using it. That’s what a habit does, after all. So taking a break from your bullet journal won’t always be because of chaos or cause chaos.

My tips for taking a break from a bullet journal—whether it’s intentional or not—are similar to the ones in my post on how to take breaks from writing.

You might need to take an intentional/planned break from your bullet journal if you’re experiencing any of these:

  • getting distracted from your journal
  • feeling bored by using it
  • forgetting to use it at all
  • overwhelming pressure to create something (a nice layout, collections, spreads) despite not wanting to
  • “burnout” of any kind

Tips To Take A Break From Bullet Journalling

Be kind to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with putting aside things. A bullet journal isn’t a primary necessity in your life, like hygiene, food, or sleep. You can account for its disappearance in your daily routine if you need to take a break.

Pick a time to break from the bullet journal.

My last break, at the end of March, was just then: at the end of March. I noticed the above signs (all of them) on top of my priorities and mental health changing. I started a break from my bullet journal in the beginning of April.

A good guideline for starting and ending your break? Make them the same amount. If you’re start your break at the beginning of a month, have the break last a month. A week, a day, whatever suits your flow. If you notice you’re naturally stepping away from your bullet journal, take a look and see if you can extend the break mindfully.

Aim for a length of time to take the break—but make it flexible.

My month-long bujo break wasn’t exactly a hard-and-fast, cold-turkey disconnect from my bullet journal. I was barely using it for the first 3 weeks of April. During the last week, I needed to use it again, though not to the capacity I had previously been using it. My plan was to break for a month, but when necessity kicked in, I had to adapt.

Returning To The Bujo

My last point in taking a break mentioned necessity. When necessity kicks in, I use my bullet journal.

Signs it’s time to start planning again:

  • feeling disconnected from your activities
  • taking on more projects
  • increasing workload (personal work, professional work, housework, etc.)
  • making to do lists on scraps of paper, in your phone, anywhere

Tips To Start Bullet Journalling Again

Be inspired to create again.

You can look at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, and your own spreads to get jived to make something in your bullet journal again. My favourite way to get inspired to make a new spread is to look at new ones. Most often, my breaks happen because I’m bored of doing the same layouts.

Assess what needs to go into your bullet journal.

At one point, you may have had a habit tracker for every habit—a dozen or more—or you had an elaborate monthly calendar with quotes and routines all over it. Do you need that now, at this moment, to get planning again? You don’t have to set it aside forever, but is it what you need now? Think about what you need to write down, rather than what you want to look at later.

My recent return features a calendar, a sleep tracker, and 3 habit trackers. I thought that’d be good enough, but then I started making to do lists and… well, I’m bullet journalling again. But I’m doing it in such a way that leads me to my final tip for restarting.

Start simple.

Keep the pressure off yourself by making a simple spread first. This is always a good chance to go back to the roots of bullet journalling and look to Ryder Carroll’s system. The central concept for a bujo is adaptable and simple. It’s meant to be a quick and effortless way to plan, track, and remember your time. You may love doing calligraphic flourishes, or pretty headers, but ease back into them.

Incorporate the bullet journal into your routine again.

I like to look at my bullet journal once before bed, and after I’ve woken up and eaten breakfast.

At night, I review how the day went and see what needs to be done still. For an incomplete task, I add an arrow and write out the task again for the next day, or I look at a list of important, but not time sensitive, tasks that I’ve put in my spread. I also flip back to previous spreads to fill in habits and other places I need to touch base (bookmarks are handy for this).

In the morning, I assess how I’m feeling and how much time I have for the day. That way, I can accommodate any leftover tasks that I didn’t complete. Throughout the day, I occasionally check my bullet journal for what I need to do, especially if I find myself losing track of time.

But to start out with, I check in to my bullet journal at the end and beginning of the day, when it fits into my routine. I’m more likely to remember my bullet journal at the start and end of a day, so I make an effort to sit with it, undistracted, and adjust to changes in my time management. It’s okay to have unfinished tasks!

(An upcoming layout spotlight will feature the weekly + daily log combination I’ve loved using since the beginning of my bujo return.)

My Biggest Piece of Advice?

For both taking a break and returning from a break, I have one, single, be-all-end-all tip:

Don’t force anything.

Planning for something isn’t the same as forcing something. When you plan, you’re making space to accommodate the change. When you force, you’re trying to apply it when the time or circumstances won’t allow. Don’t force a cold-turkey break, or aim for an aesthetic if they’re things you can’t accommodate.

Happy bullet journalling, folks!

May 2017 Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

May 7 2017 Update: I’ve embedded the Youtube video of my timelapse doodle of the geode! Scroll down to the bottom to see it.

My bullet journal spreads in April (well, my singular spread) was almost like a break for me. I needed a bit of a reset from my bullet journal and from planning. I think it’s really important to take breaks from your bullet journal, particularly if you take a creative or artistic approach like I do. This month, I’m excited to get back into the bujo! I’m still unsure if I’ll do weekly or daily spreads, but for now, here are my monthly layouts.

This month, since it’ll be my first one where I’m living post-grad in my hometown, I have more time on my hands to work on my personal projects as well as my clients’ projects. My personal projects include doing more art, on top of the writing. I’ve always felt a little guilty for having to choose between the two, but in the words of Tulio and Miguel…

Both? Both is good.

So I created my spreads this month to both inspire my artistic inclinations, as well as remember two important philosophies for art:

  1. Practise your art, both what you know and what you’re learning.
  2. Ignore perfectionism.

I’m glad I could get my perseverance quote in this month, too. I didn’t include one for April’s spread—it didn’t feel right—and this month’s is perfect. I’ll be doing the Couch To 5K interval training for walking and jogging. I may post a blog about my motives for starting, and possibly check in weekly with how it’s going. (But then again, I might not.) I also have my preferred calendar, and as you can see, I haven’t filled in anything yet. I like to post my blank spreads, after all.

A 2-page notebook spread with a list on the left page and a calendar table on the right page.

I loved doodling the crystals and geodes. Doing so required some studying and reference photos, which is important in illustrative work. I recorded my doodle of the second geode (the one I didn’t mess up, haha), as well as the crystal cluster at the bottom. I’m thinking of editing the clips and posting them to YouTube or somewhere, so let me know if you’re interested in seeing those!

I used pictures from Pinterest as reference and study! Here is a split geode, and here is a doodled illustration of crystals. I’m excited to see the finished, coloured products of the crystals!

A 2-page notebook spread with a sleeping chart on the left page and illustrations of geodes and crystals on the right page.

But drawing the geodes really reminded me that planning can’t take precedence over organic function and creation. There was no way I could’ve planned the geodes. I started with an outline and had to go from there. I want to take that philosophy and apply it more to my life.

My bullet journal has been very planned out during in February and March, so I’m trying to go with the flow a little more this month. I’m not sure if I’ll use weekly or daily spreads, but we’ll see how it goes!

Timelapse Video:

BuJo Comparison: April 2016 and April 2017

April 2016 was the second full month of using my bullet journal. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been doing this BuJo thing for a year, but my differences in spreads definitely show how I’ve improved, to put it simply.

The beginning of 2016 was a time of rocky change for me. I needed to prioritise the smallest tasks for my self-care and well-being. Hence, my spreads for my bullet journal reflected that, and I used a ton of daily layouts. I’ll be honest, I hate the majority of my March – August 2016 bullet journal. The notebook was lined while I gravitating toward dot grids layouts, and they’re all messy.

April 2016

A notebook open to a page with a daily to-do list and a list of tasks and deadlines.

An open notebook with a food list on the left page and two daily to-do lists on the right page.

  • Working in a lined notebook from Staples.
  • Using only one side of the pages because the ghosting of the ink from the previous side was too intense to write over top.
  • Less decoration.
  • Initial discovery of lettering techniques and washi tape.
  • Prioritising small tasks, reminders, schoolwork, and self-care.
April 2017

An open notebook that has "Focus on your gains, not your losses" on the left page, and a month plan on the right page with a calendar and list of to-do items.

  • Working in a dot grid notebook from Productive Luddite.
  • Using both sides of the pages however I like, because ink ghosting is barely present!
  • More decoration.
  • Comfortably using lettering techniques and washi tape.
  • Prioritising goals and projects.

A lot has changed, but that’s also because my April 2017 spread is very different to my previous spreads. You can look through my bullet journal category or my Instagram to find more of my commonly used spreads, and even those are different. The structure and dot grid are the biggest changes I can see.

But we can all notice that my BuJo started out really rough and messy. It’s gotten rough and messy again. My February and March layouts were incredibly beautiful (I think) and structured. I guess this is what people call balance?

Since I only have the monthly look for April, I have a smaller notepad I’ve been using this past week for my self-care items. It really, really helps me to unwind. Every time I need a bullet journal break, I go to this “daily scoop” notepad that I made. Would anyone be interested in my posting that? It’s a Word doc and can print 2 of the undated sheets on an 8.5 x 11 inch page, and I absolutely love it.

April 2017 Bullet Journal Spread Check-in

This is a quick post as a follow-up to my April spread!

I changed my regular layout, so I figured it would be beneficial to see how it’s going for me.

I haven’t added much to my layout. For the first week, I sort of neglected it. But now I’m referring back to my checklists and preparing to add more information. I haven’t gotten around to closing utility accounts, so I can’t forget to deal with those near the end of the month.

Halfway through the month, I don’t think I’ll do this set-up again. I prefer having more detail and to-do lists. I think I’ll change up the next spread I do in May, rather than sticking to the ones I’ve been doing before. I’m not checking in to my bullet journal as much as I used to. In a way, this month-only view has been a bit of a break from my planner.

I won’t say that this spread didn’t “work” and that I’ll never do it again. It’s ended up being something I’m not focused on, but not neglecting.

April 2017 Monthly Bullet Journal Spread

Literally too lazy to fix the orientation of this photo.

Here’s my spread for the upcoming month.

It’s a simple to-do list. I’ve got room for more, in case I need more. I found myself neglecting a lot of spreads in my bullet journal, as well as spreading myself thin between too many projects every single day. So, I’ve gone for a simple month-long look at goals, projects, and tasks.

Beside the calendar is my small to-do list for different tasks and goals. I have my list for the blog posts, since I need to get them scheduled so I can use my time for packing and moving. I’ll likely add more as the month goes on!

March Weekly BuJo Spreads

I changed up my spreads a little bit this past month, especially for this upcoming, final week of March! In February, I found a bit of a layout that I liked. But March hit and I just lost a bunch of my motivation… I wonder if it’s correlated with finishing my novel draft? My activities have been scattered across multiple projects without a real focus on them. It’s hard for me to prioritise.

March 6 – 12

This layout was essentially how I went through February! It’s less boxy, and the filled in spread is very messy.

March 13 – 19

That habit tracker was a disaster, not gonna lie.

March 20 – 26

I really, really like this spread and might use it again in April. I have the days of the week across the top, followed by my sleep tracker and all my additional modules. Unfortunately, I stopped using it on Tuesday and realised I wanted to return to something simple.

March 27 – April 2

Here is this week! I have my to-do lists and I’ll be colour coding them by the day of the week. I’m aiming for a running to-do list for the entire week, basically, to avoid feeling guilty for not getting things done the day that I plan them, and in order to not continually re-write the lists.

I feel like I need to get April layouts done now despite the fact that there are 4 more days left in March. I’m excited to post my monthly layout next week, though! I’m trying something new in it as well. a kind of return to simplicity, since I’m moving next month.