my number one with a bullet (journal)

(yes, that’s a Fall Out Boy reference, let me live~)

three notebooks on top of a black wooden desk.
bujo planning setup: current bujo, last year’s bujo, bujo-planning notebook, layout pens.

if you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ve probably seen me mention my bullet journal. I started the project last year with some really gorgeous and intricate hand-drawn spreads (like this stunning pride one that I labored over for literal hours)—and I ended up quitting after having several months where I just could not keep up with the standard I had set for myself (even after trying to restart in the face of skipped months).

so, for this year, I decided to keep it simple and do the bullet journal MY WAY so that I would actually keep up with it!

read on to find out how I did it—as well as to see some of my recommendations for printables and supplies to set up the perfect, customized bullet journal layout for yourself in just a few, easy steps!

(note: some links may be affiliate links—but no part of this post has been sponsored by any of these companies or products. I just love to share the things I love!)

step one: figure out what bullet journaling looks like for you.

pencil case with pens spilling out onto a closed notebook, on which an open notebook rests.
layout pens, bujo, bujo-planning notebook… ready for action!

I knew I’m much more of an electronic planning girl, what with my Google Calendar and Trello workflow—so I knew I wanted to focus more on habit tracking and mindfulness in my bullet journal. I also knew that I wanted to stop freaking about creating the gorgeous, Instagram/Pinterest-worthy spreadsheets that intimidated me so much and focus more on the content that I wanted to create… so I spent some time in January making a list of my essential collections for the year as well as essential layouts/spreads for the month since I don’t do weekly spreads. (links to some really cool ideas from fabulously talented people since I’m specifically not creating such pretty layouts for myself, lol).

here’s what I landed on:

essential collections (in the order they are in my bujo): my one word (soar), 2020 at a glance (printable—see resources!), Jewish year at a glance, big picture goals, year in pixels, bill tracker (see resources!) book tracker, and 30 for my 30s tracker.

monthly layouts/spreads: monthly header (mancala printable—see resources!) with Hebrew months, calendar with birthdays and Torah portions and quotes, mood tracker (printable—see resources!), wins page (aka a place to celebrate!), habit line graph, and habit tracker chart.

the best part about choosing your essential stuff ahead of time is that it still leaves room for other stuff—like adding two pages of Camp NaNoWriMo stuff to my April layout!

step two: gather your supplies!

a variety of bullet journal supplies including stickers, a paper cutter, a ruler, washi tape, brush pens, and a notebook.
…would you believe this is just a sampling of my bullet journaling supplies?

now, this can be super dangerous—especially if you love school supplies like I do! however, simplifying my bullet journal journey didn’t mean that I had to let go of all the things that I love about decorating a bullet journal; it just meant that I had to streamline my process and choose my nonnegotiables. here are some of my favorite products:

  • notebook – as some of you might know, I love all things erin condren! (you can find my referral link here if you would like to get us both a discount!) I chose to use an erin condren dot grid coiled notebook this year so I could switch the covers (so far I have these two others). if you still like her aesthetic but want a more Moleskine-like notebook, she does have a softbound option. or there’s always a Leuchtturm 1917, the Cadillac of bullet journals. (I had this stunning one from Chronicle Books last year, which has a tiny grid, and loved it very much.)
  • writing utensils – we could go on forever in this category, but I keep reaching for my Tombow brush pens in brights and primary, these stunning pens for updating all my trackers, Sakura jelly pens in white for detailing, sparkly for special lettering, and for (the rare occasion where I find myself) drawing layouts, I love my Sakura Pigma pens. to write on the dashboard and on the covers, I use ultra fine Sharpies.
  • stickers – over my years-long love affair with Erin Condren’s brand, I have accumulated what we can safely call an ungodly amount of her stickers. the essentials are the monthly book (which guides my color scheme for the month), the monthly tabs (also available in black and gold), a classic sticker book, and a planner sticker book. most stickers that didn’t come from EC I made myself by either printing onto sticker paper or by printing onto regular paper and sticking it on with some roll-on double-sided tape.
  • printables – since I have a 7″ x 9″ notebook and the paper size is a little smaller, I’ve been printing out most things at A5 size—but I’ve definitely had to do some experimenting with my printer. here are the printables I am currently using; most of them are free!
    • calendar sticker (I downloaded the flowers but the wreaths one is great if you don’t have a color printer)
    • mandala monthly header
    • habit tracker (I cut off the gorgeous part at the top because I get too lazy to color it in, whoops)
    • mood tracker – the ones from this bundle supplemented by this, this, and this (since I didn’t want any Christian-themed ones and wanted some freedom to switch some of them around so I could get themes I liked for specific months)
  • accessories – I love this stencil and use it a fair amount both for the shapes and the ruler. I would be lost without this paper cutter and this X-Acto knife for detail work. EC has a ton of cool tape (I own this duo) and I also have bought several washi sets from Amazon. I have the EC monthly bill dashboard, bookmarks, and the teacher dashboard—and I use her triangle overlay planny pack as a pencil case.

step three: stay focused on what matters so you can persist.

photograph of an open notebook. on the left page, a mandala header that says "April." on the right page, the April calendar, framed with washi tape and decorated decorated with quotes and stickers.
this month’s finished header and calendar layout.

here’s the thing—at the end of the day, your bullet journal is for you. not Instagram, not your friends, not me, you. so you have to make sure that you are making it work for you and that you are taking the opportunity to recalibrate every month to make sure that it’s still working. it’s also a chance to stay creative and explore other layouts and approaches… I’m going with a very stripped-down version of bullet-journaling because I know that I struggled with being more extra last year, but you can feel free to browse Pinterest and get inspired!

if it’s not perfect? use some Wite Out. paste over it. color over it. call it a marvelous mistake. start over. skip the page and move on. glue the two pages together. try again later—whatever it takes! but if you are finding that bullet journaling is helping you with your mental health or with staying organized or simply with feeling creative? keep at it!

want to learn more about why it’s helpful to my mental health to bullet journal? go see my video about it!

until next time!

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