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!

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!