This time of the year is a favourite for most people and that’s mainly because of the holidays. It’s my favourite time for a whole other reason– I get to create my bullet journal for the coming year.
For those of you unfamiliar with bullet journaling, it involves a system of organising your life on a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily basis. Traditionally, you are meant to draw out your bullet journal one month or one week at a time. However, from my last two years of bullet journaling, I have found that I prefer making my entire year’s journal at once. This is mainly because I get too lazy or don’t have enough time make new pages at the end of every month. Moreover, by making my bullet journal for the entire year, I can ensure that the design is consistent.
You can build your BuJo in any way you see fit. At The Ink Inquisition, some of us also like to make our bullet journals for 3 to 6 months at a time. Whichever way you plan to do it, I’m sharing my method of creating a new BuJo in the hopes that it will either give you some inspiration to start a BuJo of your own (if you haven’t already) or just help you develop your own ideas.
Step 1: GATHERING MATERIALS
My last two journals were ruled, so this year I chose to go with a plain, unruled book. Journals like Moleskin and Leuchtturm are either unavailable in India, or are too pricey, so I opted for a cheaper option: the Amazon Basics Classic Notebook, Plain. This notebook has 240 pages, which, with my small handwriting, makes it just about enough to last a year. The upside about this notebook is that it is small and light. For 2018, I had used a MatrikaS spiral bound book which became too bulky to carry around.
For my day-to-day journaling, I chose a black ball point pen– the 0.5 Cello Gripper. I am not particular about what pen I use– it just needs to work smoothly and have a thin nib. I do prefer ball point pens though, because it tends to not smudge as much as gel pens do. They also do not ghost as much. Since the Cello Gripper is cheap, I also don’t have to worry about losing or misplacing it.
For drawing the pages of my new Bujo, I decided to use my Brustro pens. With thickness varying from 0.05 to 0.8, I found them to be perfect for all the detailing I’d be adding to my pages. I also chose to use these instead of the ball point pen because of how dark they turn out on the plain pages of my new journal. It makes the pages look like they are printed rather than drawn. The only downside of this is that the ink tends to be visible on the other side of the page (but only a little).
Given my compulsion with making sure all my lines and drawings are straight, I used a square grid paper to place behind each page as a reference. If you are using a dot grid, ruled or square grid notebook, you can, of course, skip this step.
To make my job easier, I also used a set of 12 stencils to draw banners and icons. This will save you a lot of time, but you can also skip this step if you are making a very minimalist journal. If you do have the time but don’t want to spend the money, you can either make your own stencils or just draw the banners and icons you want on a paper that you can then trace over.
If you are a seasoned bullet journaler (I know, that isn’t a word), I would also suggest bringing out all your old journals. They will come handy in step 2.
Apart from all of the above materials, also gather the basics that you might need such as a ruler, pencils, erasers, markers, colour pencils or paint. Bring out a notebook to write down ideas and draw a framework (more in step 4). Also keep your calendar for the coming year handy. If you plan on using other materials like stickers and post-its in your journal, bring those out as well.
Step 2: RESEARCH
This is one of my favourite parts of Bullet Journaling since it involves looking through Pinterest, which I do a lot anyways.
If you aren’t too particular about your design, look for minimalist bullet journaling layouts on Pinterest. If you have the time, you can look for more intricate designs. Make sure you look for ideas for daily spreads and trackers as these will probably be the pages you use the most.
If you have old bullet journals, I strongly suggest that you look through them. Look back at what were the layouts that worked for you, if at all. For example, in my 2017 journal, I had spread my week’s worth of daily pages across two double spreads. I found that this was a waste of a lot of space, so in 2018, I consolidated that into one double spread instead. Similarly, in my 2018 journal, I had kept my project lists on separate pages but I decided to incorporate them in my daily pages for 2019.
It is important, while looking through BuJo designs online, to not get carried away with what you want for your own journal. A lot of the designs online are beautiful and pristine which, in reality, are difficult to maintain. Your bullet journal is supposed to be functional above anything else. If you have to be very precious with how you use it in order for it to always look pretty, it defeats the purpose of the journal entirely.
Using your bullet journal on busy days is bound to make some of it a little messy, which is something you should be okay with. Which is why I recommend looking for designs that are simple and beautiful but don’t get in the way of your journal’s functionality.
Looking for ideas? Take a look at our Bullet Journal Ideas Pinterest Board!
Step 3: DEVELOP YOUR OWN SYSTEM
Once you have completed your research, make a list of the pages you will need. Make sure you include the pages that will truly be useful and will actually be used. The main mistake I made with my first journal was including pages that I didn’t really require and they remained blank for the entire year.
Ask yourself: will this page or tracker be useful for the entire year? Or will I require it for only the first half of the year, if at all?
If you think you need an exercise or meal tracker, include that. If you need to include a water tracker add that as well. But take into consideration, when and how often you will be tracking these things. For example, you’ll be tracking your water intake every day, so it will be more useful to add that tracker in your daily spread. You might not be exercising everyday though, so you can probably have that on a separate page. Decide what habits or projects will be taking priority on a daily basis, and build your layouts around that.
If you find a layout that you like online, you can replace parts of it with your own ideas. You can also combine two or more layout ideas to build your own.
I cannot stress enough how useful it is to make sure that your journal is functional above all else. Having an Instagram-ready journal is pretty great but it should serve it’s purpose as well. Spending so much time on making your own journal should be worth it in the end.
If you are unsure about what system works for you, maybe just make a journal for the first 3 months of the year to test out your layouts and trackers. If you are unhappy with it, you can make the changes in the next couple of months after that.
Step 4: MAPPING IT OUT
By the end of Step 3, you should have a list of what pages you will be including in your journal. These are some of the pages I chose to include in mine:
- 2019 calendar and roadmap
- Things to start doing
- Year in pixels
- Period tracker
- Habit tracker
- Sleep tracker
- Finance pages
- Movies, books and music lists
- Things to buy
- Good moments
- Tavel page
- Master grocery list
- Nutrition chart
- Meal planning pages
- Blog schedule
- Monthly logs
- Daily pages
With this list, I took out a calendar and a notebook and began to map out my entire journal. This is a step that might not be necessary for all of you but is something I chose to do because my notebook is only 240 pages long. I wanted to see how much space I could dedicate to each layout.
The advantage of mapping out your bullet journal is that it ensures you avoid making any mistakes. By marking down the dates that will be on each daily spread, I was sure to avoid accidentally skipping any days in between. There would be nothing more frustrating than getting through half your journal only to find out you accidentally skipped out on an entire week in July, or that you got the dates wrong.
You can skip this step by directly pencilling pages down in your journal but you’ll probably have to keep going back to erase certain labels or move things around which might be a hassle.
The next step in building your bullet journal is to start on it’s design, but that is meant for another post, which we will get to later this week.
Have you developed your own technique and layouts for making your bullet journal? Share your ideas in the comments below!
It’s really great to see bullet journal pages that are not decorated to death. This was one thing I struggled so much with and it just didn’t work for me. I switched it to a basic doodle of just the heading and writing everything with my handwriting instead of trying cursive and Volla! my life became easier. I too use lined pages because they aren’t as costly.