As I grow older, I find myself not remembering as many things that have happened in my life as I used to. So, I decided to start memorializing and documenting my day-to-day life.
Last year, I used an app called Leapsecond which allowed me to make a video that was representative of my whole year. Each day, I would take a one second video of whatever I was doing that day, like seeing my friends or making a cake. At the end of the year, I had a montage of one second out of every day from 2020.
It was a pretty great keepsake. However, this year I wanted to do something different to keep track of my life, so I started to bullet journal.
Essentially, bullet journaling is a form of journaling where you make your own planner that can be personalized with whatever you need, like calendars, habit trackers, reminders and more. The point of a bullet journal is to make a journal that is personalized towards what is productive for you. Everyone’s bullet journal can be different, and if you like to draw or decorate, it can be a fun creative outlet as well.
People who use bullet journals use some special terminology when talking about the activity or posting online about it. BuJo is the abbreviated way to say bullet journal. A spread is any two-page section in your journal. Spreads can really consist of anything, but there are some typical spreads usually done by bullet journalers.
A “year at a glance” spread has all the months of the year and any important events during those months. A “habit tracker” spread allows individuals to mark each day that they did a habit, like drinking eight glasses of water or exercising. A “mood tracker” spread allows individuals to reflect and track their mood every day. Other common spreads include to-do lists, brain dumps, movie and tv shows to watchlists and wishlists.
Since bullet journals are completely personal and customizable, lots of individuals like to use their journals to be creative. Typically, a bullet journal is split into one section of yearly spreads at the beginning and then 12 sections of monthly spreads for the rest of the year. Some will often choose a singular theme for the journal or choose different themes for each section of monthly spreads. The theme can be absolutely anything — My themes are usually centered around colors, but you can always be more complex than that.
The hobby has flourished considerably online — Many people have YouTube channels dedicated to posting their spreads and journaling tips. Notably, AmandaRachLee on YouTube is very popular for her bullet journal videos and is someone I watched when I started to bullet journal. Videos like Lee’s are useful for gathering inspiration and ideas about how you want to bullet journal — She has videos that include her past bullet journal set ups, setting up her monthly spreads and her tips for making an organized and successful bullet journal.
Whether you choose to make them public or not, it remains true that everyone has different reasons for using a bullet journal.
“Growing up, I was always the kid who had these very distinctive memories of things… Eventually, I’ve had three different concussions,” Julia Gray, a senior exercise science major, says. “And so I was like, ‘You know what I can’t be that anymore, because my memory is getting much worse than it used to be.’ I was like ‘You know I should just start writing these things down.’ And so that’s what got me into regularly journaling.”
Gray likes to use two different journals — a regular notebook for reflecting at the end of the day and a Legend Planner which is similar to a bullet journal, except the spreads are premade. This way, she can keep her thoughts and her to-do’s separate. Macy Morozin, a freshman Spanish education major, has a similar system.
“I write poetry. I like to doodle. I write down the events that have happened throughout the day and doing that at night allows me to make a summary and a recap of my day,” Morozin says. “I just jot down a few good things that have happened and that allows me to like celebrate the small victories and find special moments each day.”
For me, I wanted a bullet journal to keep track of my day-to-day life. Not necessarily too much reflection or writing, because I find it tedious to sit down and write a whole page about my day, but just a place to write down what I have been up to. I also wanted to bullet journal because I loved the idea of decorating my own planner and being creative.
But I made a promise to myself when I first started bullet journaling — I was not going to put pressure on myself to make it perfect because this pressure is what makes many begin to dislike bullet journaling.
“My least favorite [part of journaling] is when I get into the mentality that it needs to be done for an audience because then I think it puts this pressure on me to like make my bullet journal look pretty,” Ellie Smith, a freshman environmental science major, says.
With all of this information in mind, I started to decorate my bullet journal. I decided to use many different mediums while decorating my journal, including markers, pens, highlighters, stickers, washi tape, post-its, colored paper, lipstick and wax seals.
The first spread I made was a title page that just stated the year.
After that spread, I began to make my yearly spreads, which I would come back to throughout the whole year. I included a year at a glance, which helped me keep track of holidays and all of my friends’ birthdays. I did print mini calendars for this section, because sometimes writing all of those tiny numbers is too much work.
Next, I included a spread for my new year’s resolutions and positive affirmations. I made this spread to hold me accountable and to make sure I am staying on track for the year while also motivating myself with kind words. The next couple of spreads I included were “things to check out,” which were movies, TV shows, songs and books I wanted to watch, listen to or read this year.
Finally, before my monthly spreads started, I included a “words from friends” spread, which included words of encouragement or little jokes that my friends sent me. This section is also something I can look back on throughout the year to make me smile.
To start my monthly spreads, I made a title page for the month of January. On this page, I also included a quote from a favorite musical theatre show of mine. This month, I chose a quote from the finale song in “Waitress.” My theme of the month was centered around the color pink.
After that, I included a calendar for that month. I ended up not using that calendar for much except crossing off the days, but I still enjoyed keeping track of the month with it.
Then, I included a habit tracker. As I mentioned earlier, habit trackers are a staple of bullet journals, and mine was no exception. I really enjoyed using the habit tracker; it helped me to be more organized and aware of my habits. It also ended up being a very pretty spread.
Following my habit tracker were my “week of” spreads, which were small planning sections for every week of the month. In the month of January, I didn’t have much intention for these spreads; I more so included them as obligatory spreads. However, that caused me to not enjoy them as much. For the month of February, I decided to put more intent behind my design, so I included an events and to do’s section and a daily reflection section for each day of each week.
The last spreads for the month of January included a brain dump spread and a mental health log. The brain dump was for any not-so-serious thoughts I wanted to write down, and the mental health log was for keeping track of any important feelings that I wanted to get out.
Starting a bullet journal this year has been a really enjoyable experience. I appreciated having a creative outlet that I could use to document my life and my thoughts. Everyone’s experience journaling is different and learning what works for you is the most gratifying part about it. If you have been thinking about starting a bullet journal, remember this advice:
“If you’re gonna start journaling, do it for yourself and don’t pressure yourself into making it pretty… it something that other people would want to see,” Smith says. “Don’t hold yourself to an idea of what a bullet journal is.”