Welcome to the second part of the Bullet Journaling Mega Guide.
In Part 1, we learned what bullet journaling is, the benefits of staying productive, and finished up with everything you need to know about supplies. 📚
In this second, and final part, we are going to take it to the next level.
Here’s what you are going to learn:
- The traditional bullet journaling system.
- How I set up my journal: the simple way.
- The basics of lettering, doodles, and decorations.
- How to take your journal on-the-go in our digital age.
You’ll also get access to tons of free printables and videos.
Without further ado, let’s get started. 😁
Table of Contents
- Ch 5. Bullet Journal Setup: Old School
- Ch 6. How I Bullet Journal: The Simple Way
- Ch 7. Fun Stuff: Lettering, Decorations & Doodles
- Ch 8. Digital Productivity: Take Your Journal Online
- Ch 9. Extra Hacks & Journaling Courses
Bullet Journal Setup: Old School
Ready for a crash course on how the system works?
In this chapter, we’re going to learn the traditional way of setting up your journal.
We’re going to define the 6 modules of bullet journaling, how to make each one, and how to use them going forward.
(If you want to skip ahead to my streamlined setup, jump to Chapter 6)
Ready to get started?
Let’s do this…
Getting Started with the 6-Pack
The BuJo is built upon six main modules.
(Technically there are 4, but I’m going to show you the 6 you need to know about.)
Each module has a specific role and will help you tremendously in your journaling efforts.
The first one you’ll want to start with, is the Key…
1. Craft a Key
Let’s recap what our definition of a key is from earlier:
A bullet journal key is a cheat sheet that you create at the beginning of your journal, that unlocks the meaning of the symbols, icons, and colors that you use to represent your journal items.
Ryder Carroll calls his system’s symbols and icons: Bullets.
You’ll then put these bullets next to your items to quickly identify what type of item they are.
The original 3 bullet types in Ryder’s key are:
A dot (●) to represent a task or to-do.
A circle (○) to represent an event or appointment.
A dash (–) to represent a note.
Each item has 5 different states (or stages of progress):
● Task incomplete or not started.
X Task completed.
> task migrated forward to a new collection.
< task migrated back to the future log.
≠ crossed out deleted tasks.
For example, if you finish a task, turn that dot into an X.
And if it no longer matters, just cross it out.
I also want you to take a closer look at one thing:
Do you see that word “migrated” in that list?
This is where we are introduced to the concept of Migration —the process of moving journal items from your daily log, back to the future log or forward to your next daily or monthly log.
You migrate by simply rewriting the items in their new location and modifying the existing bullet next to it.
So, you’d change your dot to a right arrow if you moved (rewrote) it to a new collection.
For example, if I postponed an appointment to the next day, I’d flip to the next daily log, rewrite my appointment there with a circle next to it, then flip back to the current daily log and turn the original circle into a right arrow.
Make sense? It’s all pretty simple actually.
(Don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to migrate items in the upcoming Daily Log section.)
But wait! Your bullets need friends:
These friends are called Signifiers, and you place them to the left of your bullet symbols to give extra meaning to your entries.
These are SUPER simple. The two most common are:
An asterisk (＊) represents an important task. Use it to prioritize an item, just like you would star or underline a task on a normal to-do list.
An exclamation point (!) represents inspiration. Use it to mark your great ideas, personal mantras, and genius insights.
FOCUS: Signifiers are optional — they are part of the original Bujo system, but feel free to leave them out.
You should create your own bullet system for work, school or for whatever hobbies you enjoy.
Don’t just limit yourself to these bullets and signifiers.
For example, here’s what my journal key looks like.
You’ll quickly realize the best part of a key is being able to create your own personal language.
So have fun with it and give it your own unique twist. There are no rules.
Now let’s make one together…
How to Make It
There are a lot of ways to make a key.
The first thing you need to decide is which bullets to use.
You want to choose bullets that YOU can easily remember and understand.
So let’s keep it simple for now and use the original 3 bullet types from above.
Here’s how to make a very simple key:
- Open up to a new blank page at the beginning of your journal, and write the word “Key” at the top of the page.
- Draw a small dot and write the word “task” or “to-do” next to it.
- In a new row, draw a small dot and write “event” or “appointment” next to it.
- In a new row, draw a horizontal dash and write the word “note” next to it.
- Now add any rows for all your migration states. For example, Not started, Started, Migrated forward, Migrated backward, Cancelled, etc.
- Then add any signifiers, each to their own row. For example, draw an exclamation point and write “important” or “priority” next to it.
Way to go!
Here are some extra design ideas for your key…
- Separate your key into sections:
- A “main” section for your core item symbols (like the bullets above).
- A “things” section with all symbols for all the important themes going on in your life.
- A “tracker” section with all the topics you want to monitor (e;g. mood) and their different stages (eg. happy or sad).
- A “color” section to assign different colors to certain subjects in your life:
- Work, school, personal.
- Family and friends (this works especially well for tracking different kids’ schedules).
- Projects or goals.
- Color coding: Take your color game to the next level by also assigning colors to the different items in your things and tracker sections.
DIY: Make a flip-out key, so you don’t have to keep flipping back to your key pages:
- Grab an index card or piece of card stock (~3 x 6 inches).
- Write your key on it.
- Open up the inside cover of your journal.
- Flip your key card over (so the blank back side is facing up) and lay it on the left of the inside cover, about 1 inch from the edge.
- Now grab some washi (or masking tape) and tape just the left edge of the card to the cover, so it can flip open.
Now you have an easily accessible key, no matter what page you’re working on.
Justyna made a cool video.
Q. Are signifiers the same as bullets?
No. Signifiers give extra meaning, like an exclamation point (!) for inspiration. People confuse these all the time, but they’re not the same.
How to Use
Here’s the fun part:
When you start making time spreads and adding your favorite items, you’ll get to put your new language to work.
Simply write your task or event, then just add the bullet symbol to the left of it.
For example, if an important birthday is coming up, just write:
“o Whitney’s Birthday”
That’s all there is to it.
But it gets better:
You can now use your key as a reference whenever you need it!
As you fill in your journal, just jump back to your key to remind yourself of your symbols.
Q. Can I put my key at the back of my journal?
2. Launch an Index
Which means, it’s a list of the names of all your spreads with page numbers next to them, to mark their location in your journal.
You should make one because it’s super handy when you revisit your journal and want to find something quickly.
How to Make It
Here’s how to make your own index:
- Open up the first pair of open-facing pages (a spread), and write the word “Index” at the top of both pages.
- To start, use four pages for your index. Either in the front or back of your journal.
As far as design goes, there are a ton of complex ideas out there, but I recommend you keep it super simple, yet awesomely you. 😃
Try this simple idea to get started:
Write time layouts (weeklies and monthlies) on one side of a spread.
On the other side, write the names of your theme layouts.
Both in chronological order.
Here are some extra index design ideas:
- Color coding — use colors to categorize your different pages. Either use a colored pen or highlight a spread name with a specific color.
For example, I like to use green zebra mildliners for my time layouts and pink for my themed layouts. Colors will make it MUCH easier to find pages you’re looking for… plus they’re an easy way to add some flair.
- Shapes and icons — use your own symbols (aka bullets) to categorize your page names and index entries. For example, I like to use circles for time layouts and squares for theme layouts.
- Format your spread titles — a really simple alternative is to just emphasize your most important, most used, and favorite pages. You can do this by making entries bolder, highlighting them with color or even adding a bit of washi tape.
Now you might be wondering:
“Wait a minute, all these colors and shapes sound an awful lot like a key.”
Well, you’re kinda right. A key is used for item types (tasks, events, notes), item statuses (incomplete, completed), and actions (migrated, scheduled).
While color coding in an index is usually just used to categorize your spread types (work, school, personal).
Make sense? Keep reading.
How to Use It
Every time you add a theme spread, a collection, tracker, homework assignment or whatever in your journal, just mark the page numbers from that spread in your index.
Use this “Smart Index Formula” to add items to your index:
Spread name: page start # – page end #
If your themed spread, like “favorite recipes” or “shows to watch” covers more than one consecutive page, hyphenate the page numbers like this:
“Favorite Recipes: 14-17”
If you make the same themed spread more than once, on non-consecutive pages, then just add an extra pair of page numbers like this:
“Favorite Recipes: 14-17, 41-42”
(Just use a comma “,” to separate your page pairs.)
Here’s a real-life example:
I just made a spread for all my brother’s upcoming golf tournaments.
So I just looked at the page numbers at the bottom of that spread (30 and 31), then I flipped back to my index and wrote:
“Rocky’s Golf Tournaments: 30-31“
But what if he has more tournaments coming up and I ran out of space on my original spread?
Now it’s months later and I’ve already filled up most of my pages. What do I do then?
All I need to do is make a new tournament spread on the page where I’m currently at in my journal (page 90).
And I’ll add it to the index like this:
“Rocky’s Golf Tournaments: 30-31, 90-91”
So next time I need to remember one of his matches, I just check my index to remind me where I can find ALL of his golf matches.
That’s all there is to it!
Keep your index simple and number your pages.
And don’t forget one big thing:
The beauty of the bullet journal is nothing has to be done consecutively, so don’t feel like you have to add index entries in chronological order.
If you forget to add an entry to your index, who cares? Just add it later with the corresponding page number.
And don’t block off any blank pages for some future use (trust me, you won’t end up using it as planned), like an upcoming event or class.
Just add the event whenever it happens or fill out any type of spread when inspiration strikes for anything!
All you need to do is flip to the next blank page and have at it.
Then add that page number to your index.
Q. How many pages should be in my index?
Q. What’s a Dedicated index?
If you work on multiple complex or long-term projects, you can create a dedicated index for each specific project. Dedicated indexes can also be a great way to help organize notes for different classes.
Now let’s fast forward to the future…
3. Start a Future Log
Next up is the Future Log — a spread where you jot down all your long-term reminders, to-do’s, tasks and events, usually in monthly sections, over a 6 or 12-month period.
It’s your year at a glance and goes at the beginning of your journal.
I think the coolest part of the future log is you can design it however you want.
When you buy normal planners at the store, they come with generic calendar templates that dictate how you plan.
But with a bullet journal, you create it as you go. That’s what makes the whole system so awesome — it can be as flexible as you want it to be.
How to Make It
- Open up the next blank spread after your index, and title both pages “Future Log”.
- Note their page numbers, then flip back to the index, and add the future log to it.
For example, if my future log is on pages 5 and 6. I’ll flip back to my Index and write on a new line: “Future Log: 5-6”.
- Now flip forward to your future log spread and decide how many months you want to schedule. Let’s plan for 6 months (most common).
- For 6 months, we’re going to want three equal-sized rows on each page. So grab a ruler or Door Hanger, and draw two horizontal lines, evenly spaced, on each page (left and right). You should now have 3 equal sections on each page.
- Label these sections with the next 6 months, and write out mini-calendars on the left side of each section. In the extra space, list your appointments, anniversaries, trips, and any other important dates within the next 6 months.
As far as design goes, there are a ton of complex ideas out there, but I recommend you keep it super simple, yet awesomely you. 😃
Here are some future log ideas to give you inspiration:
- Mini Months — draw mini monthly calendars.
That way you can see your whole year in one spread.
A full year “overview” if you will.
- Horizontal — this is a super simple way of separating your spread into equal rows and month blocks (that we did above).
- Vertical — this is when you create vertical columns for each month.
- Circular designs — get fancy with circles and other unique shapes.
If you don’t feel like drawing calendars, try these 5-star calendar stickers.
How (and Why) to Use It?
Think of it as a giant word bank, with those words being tasks, events, and other important planning items — you just pull a word from the “bank” and plug it into your future time spreads.
But first you have to fill up your word bank, so pick a month in your future log and jot down all notable items that happen during that month.
Good future log item examples:
- Dinner parties
- Sporting events
- School events
- Financials (insurance, taxes…)
- Or any other calendar events that are important to you.
Cheat Sheet: Future Log
- Fill it with high-level items: tasks, events, and goals that happen once or twice a year.
- If you have recurring items that happen more often, save those instead for your monthly or daily logs.
- If you’re a student, use a future log to track exam dates, holiday breaks, sporting events, fundraisers, and extracurricular stuff.
- If you’re in business, use it to track corporate events, product launches, sales targets, revenue goals, project deadlines, taxes, etc.
I know what you’re thinking:
This seems like a lot of work, why can’t I just buy a yearly planner?
You could. But that defeats the purpose.
Starting from a blank spread gives you much more freedom — by not restricting your creative process.
You’ll be less overwhelmed, now that you’re allowed to be imperfect and schedule “outside the lines”.
Think big picture items here that you’ll want to reference later when filling in your more precise weekly and monthly spreads.
Don’t fill it with granular, routine stuff (like laundry, groceries, shaving your legs, etc.).
You’ll want to put all that goodness in the Monthly Log… and that’s coming up next.
Q. Can I start a future log in the middle of the year?
4. Create a Monthly Log
A monthly log is time spread that does exactly what it sounds like — it tracks your month’s tasks and events. All in a single glance.
Monthly logs usually include things like calendars, to-do lists, and goal trackers for the next 30 days.
(Many even have their own key, but more on that later.)
If you use your journal for work, you can categorize and separate work and personal items.
There are a TON of ways you can design your monthly log.
In fact, I’ve made dozens of monthlies you can download from my Free Spread Shop.
But for now, let’s keep it simple and walk through how to make a traditional bullet journal monthly spread… from start to finish.
How to Make It
- List of scheduled events (a monthly log) on the left page.
- To-do list of unscheduled tasks on the right page.
Scheduled Events (left page)
This section is a list of events, appointments, recurring tasks (e.g. bills) or reminders.
The important thing to remember here is:
You KNOW when these events are happening.
These days you’ll see some super fancy calendars — with box grids and all the typical designs you think of when you hear “calendar”.
But the original bullet journal keeps it simple with just a vertical list of events with their corresponding dates.
Here are the steps to make a monthly log:
- Grab a quality fine tip pen, like a Staedler Triplus Fineliner (Black) or a Sharpie Pen.
- Open up your journal to a new spread and title each page with the name of the month.
- Now open your calendar app, go to Google Images, and search for: month + year + “calendar”.
For example, if it’s May 2019, I’ll search for: “May 2019 calendar”. Now you know how many days are in each month.
- On the left page, write the numbered days in order in one column down the vertical length of the page.
- Then to the right of each number, write the corresponding first letter of the actual day of the week.
So, if the 4th is on a Monday, write “4 M” on one line.
- Now create a second column to the right and write down all your scheduled items — events, appointments, recurring tasks, birthdays, etc.— next to their respective dates.
- Go back to your Index and add your monthly log to it — just write the name of the month and the page numbers.
Unscheduled Tasks (right page)
This page is your to-do list, full of all the things you want to get done during the month.
But remember, we’re calling them unscheduled tasks, because you don’t know (or don’t care) what date they need to happen on — they just need to get done over the next 30 days.
For example, I know I need to get my brakes fixed. It doesn’t really matter what day I need to get them fixed, but I know I should probably get it done this month, before I get my car inspected.
Tasks like these are perfect for the to-do list section of a monthly log.
How to Use It
Think of your monthly log as your monthly master plan.
You want to make one right before each month.
Every time you think of something you want to get done during the month, just ask yourself this question:
Does it need to happen on a specific date or is it a goal for the month?
If your item falls on a date, then add it in the corresponding date spot on the left page.
If it’s a to-do list item or goal, add it to the list on the right page.
Cheat Sheet: Monthly Log
- If you’re just starting out, don’t spend too much time designing a fancy calendar format. Instead, use the list format, where all the numbered days are listed vertically with corresponding scheduled tasks.
- If you can’t resist starting with a calendar format, then head over my VIP Vault for a bunch of free templates.
- Break your task lists into two columns (on both pages) so you can separate work/school from personal items.
- The monthly log is also a great place to add goals you want to accomplish in the next 30 days.
- It’s also a perfect place for highlights or milestones: “firsts”, birthdays, anniversaries, “lessons learned”, things that changed your life, etc.
Those tips will put you WAY ahead of everyone else.
(There are even more sections, like “lessons learned” and “waiting on” in the next chapter).
Ok, so now you know that a monthly log really isn’t hard at all.
Just design it in a style that’s you’ll understand — it doesn’t matter if it’s minimalistic or super aesthetic — but make it something you can glance at without consuming too many mental calories.
Now let’s get our hands dirty.
Scheduling our days is up next…
Q. How many pages go in each monthly log?
Q. Can I use a monthly log for business?
Q. Do I have to put the scheduled items on the left page and to-do list on the right?
No. Create your own style. I’ll show you how I do mine in a bit.
5. Drill Down on a Daily Log
A Daily Log is your personal assistant — you tell it all the things you want to get done for the day.
While your goal is to get all these tasks done, if you’re like me, you’ll probably have some leftover tasks floating around.
So what do you do with them?
You migrate those tasks to new pages (more on that in a second).
But first, let’s set up a daily log in your journal…
How to Make It
With rapid logging, you add concise items, accompanied by a corresponding bullet symbol from your key.
Here’s how to make a daily log:
- Open up the next blank spread after your monthly log, and title both pages the current day, like “Friday”.
- Date the page at the top left, like “September 2nd”.
- Starting on the left page, start writing down all your journal items — to-do’s, events, notes — in one column (the order doesn’t matter).
- Then add the corresponding bullet symbols from your key to the left of each item.
For example, if I had to wash my dog (stinky Koda), that’s a task. So I’d put a dot to the left of my item “Wash Koda” to represent a task. Or… if a had a doctor’s appointment, I would write “Dr. Michaels” with a circle symbol to the left of it to represent an event.
Not too hard right?
See how the rising star, Hannah, beautifies her dailies.
How to Use It
Ok. It’s time to learn what all this migration talk is all about.
Remember, migration is when you move items from your daily log, back to the future log or forward to your next daily or monthly log (or any time spread).
You do this by simply modifying your original bullet symbol and writing the same entry on its new page.
You’ll end up 99% of the time doing this with just tasks, but you can also do this with events or notes.
It’s all about brainstorming what you think you need to get done, then prioritizing what needs to get done.
You do this by simply reviewing your daily log each day, then determining whether you should keep each task (and migrate it to a new spread) or forget it (cross it out).
Here’s how it works:
Earlier in the key section, we talked about the right arrow (>) and left arrow (<) bullet symbols.
You want to use the right arrow (>) to move incomplete tasks (that you want to keep) to your next daily or monthly log.
All you do is write over your task dot and change it to a right arrow, then write the same task on its destination page.
For example, if I forgot to wash my dog on Monday, I’d change “● Wash Koda” on Monday daily to “> Wash Koda”.
… and then on Tuesday’s daily, make it a new task by writing: “● Wash Koda”.
Make sense? All we’re doing is moving a task to your next daily or monthly schedule.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Keep it stress-free.
If you don’t care about the task anymore, just cross it out.
If you kicked butt and finished your task, turn that dot into an X to represent completed.
Remember migration goes both ways:
What if you had no idea WHEN you were going to get to a task?
Then what do you do?
Draw a left arrow (<) over the dot, think of a month you think it may get done, and rewrite the task back in your future log.
For example, if it was January and I didn’t feel like washing Koda for a few months, I’d flip back to my future log and write “● Wash Koda” in the March box.
(Remember, the future log is usually split into monthly sections.)
And don’t forget to check that future log often:
Review your future log to see if you have any long term items that would be a perfect fit for your next daily or monthly log.
Then all you would do in the future log is change the bullet symbols to forward arrows (>).
The point is to just have a reminder in your future log for things that eventually should get done.
PRO TIP: When you migrate out of your future log, it’s probably a good idea to add the page numbers after the “>” symbols, so you know the destination of your migrated task.
This all might seem like a lot, but It’s actually quite simple if you think about it — again, all we are doing is moving items to their proper places in their journal home. 😀
When is the best time to add to your daily log?
The night before.
Create a log for the next day so you can migrate any unfinished tasks from your current daily log.
This way you can plan ahead and won’t be stressed in the morning coming up with that day’s to-dos.
(After all, who wants to be rapid-logging tasks when you’re trying to get the kids ready for school? 😉).
But here’s the most important thing:
Be consistent… and stick to a routine.
You want to get in the habit of journaling at the same time each day.
You’ll discover your mind will start to train itself to think creatively at that time, which will lead to many more insightful thoughts and more productive actions.
(You can add habit trackers in your dailies, but I’ll show you a better place later).
Water Break 💦
So let’s take a breath for a moment and recap shall we?
Here’s what we’ve got so far:
- You make a Key and put your symbols (bullets) in it to represent your tasks, events, and notes.
- And then we start an Index so we have a quick resource to help us find a specific page.
- Then we make a Monthly Log right before each real month starts, that has all our plans and goals laid out for the next 30 days.
- Then comes Daily Logs, which track our day-to-day tasks… and if we need to migrate those tasks, we move the task by rewriting it on a new page and changing the bullet symbol next to it.
- And finally, if we have space in our journal, we fill those empty pages with Collections, which are just themed spreads that record all the cool stuff you have going on in your life right now: like our favorite songs, the food we eat, your workout schedule, you name it…
This chapter is almost under wraps… we have just one more module to tackle.
6. Get Specific with Collections
Collections are my favorite.
They are pages with lists or groups of related items (here’s 279 examples).
Collections are basically any page in your journal that is NOT a calendar log or any of the five modules above.
You’ll read on the internet that a collection is defined, in bullet journaling parlance, as any page in your journal.
But that’s not how journalers use that term — actually, it just refers to a page type that is used to collect items about a certain topic.
For example, “recipes to try”, “packing lists”, “favorite Netflix shows”… you get the idea.
That’s why I call them theme spreads.
Just remember this to avoid any confusion…
In bullet journaling, you have two page types:
- Time spreads that log your items, usually in calendar format. Think your typical planner.
- Theme spreads which are collections of things you care about at the moment, usually NOT in calendar format. Think running lists or “favorite things”.
(I’ll go over all my themes in the next chapter.)
How to Make Them
You should make collections organically — just add them to your journal whenever and wherever you feel like it.
You can even add them between daily logs (don’t worry about having your daily logs in consecutive order).
If you’re new to journaling, I recommend you get comfortable with the modules above BEFORE you jump into collections.
You just want to get a solid grasp of logging, indexing, and the overall method of bullet journaling to see which parts fit your style best.
Then you can branch out and join the wonderful world of collections.
Let’s continue to keep it simple in this chapter and walk through a basic setup:
- Open up a blank page and title it the name of your collection. For example, if you’re creating a list of your kids’ sports schedules, name it “Sports Schedules” (you may also want to make a quick color key to represent each of your kids). 😉
- Number your pages (if they’re not already numbered).
- Then flip back to your index and add the name of your collection and the page numbers, so you can have a quick reference when you need it.
PRO TIP: Make each of your collection titles something very recognizable. You might convince yourself you’ll never forget it, but that gets tricky when you compile a bunch of collections.
How to Use It
Once you’ve got your collection started, it’s simple to maintain it.
Every time you think of new addition to your collection — the most amazing idea or an ingenious recipe — all you need to do is add it to your list.
But what if I run out of page space? Good question.
That’s where threading comes in…
What is Threading?
Threading is a page numbering trick to help you find similar spreads in other parts of your journal.
Since many of your spreads will be on non-consecutive pages (not back-to-back), it may be helpful to append extra page numbers on the bottom of the page for quick reference to a similar spread.
Those extra page numbers refer to a continuation page, which is the page where you pick your collection back up.
For example, say you started a “Recipes to Try” spread on page 40, but then ran out of space.
Life goes on and you stumble upon a new recipe a few weeks later, but now your on page 80 of your journal.
So you start a new collection of recipes on page 80, and then you’re going to do two things:
- On page 80, reference the original spread on page 40, by writing 40 before the page number separated by a left arrow: “40 < 80”.
- Then on page 40, reference the continuation page (page 80), by writing 80 after the page number separated by a right arrow: “40 > 80”.
Besides theme spreads, you’ll also find it helpful to thread non-consecutive weekly spreads, so you know where the weekly sequence picks back up.
For example, if I had my “Mar 25 – Mar 31” weekly spread on page 99, but I didn’t get around to my “April 1-7” weekly until page 135, I would thread it on page 99 by writing: “99 > 135”.
And on page 135, I would also thread back to page 99 to remind myself of where the previous weekly is located (see pic).
FOCUS: Some people use vertical lines ( | ) to separate the page numbers, but I think the arrows are more intuitive: representing forwards and backwards.
Want to know something else super cool?
You can also thread to different journals. You don’t have to limit yourself to just pages.
So say you made a “Recipes to Try” spread on page 100 at the end of journal #1… but then you ran out of pages in your journal.
… and you want to continue your recipes in journal #2 on page 15 and 16.
Here’s how you do it:
- First, make sure to number each of your journals, by writing its number either in the inside cover or on the side of the pages.I just number my journals based on the order I finished them: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
For example, if my current journal is my first-ever journal I would name it number “1”.
- In journal #1, flip to your “Recipes to Try” spread.
- To the right of the page number, append the continuation pages of your new spread, by adding the right arrow (>) + journal number + a period (.) + the continuation pages.
In our example, the continuation pages in journal #2, are 15 and 16.So on page 100 of journal #1, we’d add a right arrow “>” then “2. 15-16”: “100 > 2. 15-16”. This means, “I have more recipes to try on page 15 and 16 of journal #2.”. Make sense?
- Optional: In journal #2, you can go to the index and write: “Recipes to Try: < 1. 100, 15-16”. This means, “I have recipes in this journal on page 15 and 16, but I also have more on page 100 of journal #1.
Here’s the deal:
I wouldn’t worry too much about threading.
Because if we’re being honest, when you start a new journal you’re rarely going to look back in an old journal and reconcile all the pages. You won’t have the time.
I just want you to know all the available options you have (since you’ll probably read a bunch of fluff on the internet).
Just remember, threading is about quick references to similar pages via appended page numbers.
But there is one more threading concept you may read about:
Collection of Collections — this is when you create a list of spreads from your old journal, that you want to continue in your new journal.
All you do is create a spread in your new journal and use the same index syntax as before:
“Recipes to Try: < 1. 100”
Where “Recipes to Try” is a spread from journal #1 on page 100, that you want to keep in your new journal.
So all you’re doing is making a list of spreads you don’t want to forget about, for easy reference.
You won’t see this that often, but in case you do, now you know what it means — it might come in handy when you migrate journals.
Ok, I think that’s enough about collections for now!
Cheat Sheet: Collections
- Practice with the core modules first, before you dive into collections (just so you get a feel for the original system).
- Your collections don’t need to be in any order — if you come up with an idea for a new collection, add it to your next blank spread right then.
Remember, a bullet journal is all about personalization, so add your collections wherever you want. So don’t be afraid to break up consecutive daily logs or any time spreads. Your collections are free to go anywhere.
- If you’re having trouble finding your collections among your timed spreads, here are 3 ideas (in order of recommendation).
- Wrap a bit of washi tape around the outside of your most popular spread pages.
- Use a separate journal for just collections… and another one just for time spreads (dailies, weeklies, monthlies).
- Start your collection pages at the back and work your way forward towards your time spreads (trust me on option #1, you’ll hear about the other two, but they’re usually too much hassle).
- Update your collections as many times as you like — you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the week or month to get started.
- You can use the threading technique to append extra page numbers to your spreads, so you know where similar content is located.
Q. How many pages can I thread to?
Q. What’s the difference between threading and migration?
Migration is about prioritizing your tasks on time spreads (like monthly logs), by moving them to appropriate pages and changing bullet symbols.
Q. What’s the best way to organize collections in my journal?
There is no set rule for this one. Some people recommend you start time spreads from the front and theme spreads from the back, but that’s too structured for my taste.
Instead, you should mix theme spreads between time spreads. I’ve never had any issues doing it this way.
And again, you can wrap a bit of washi tape around the outside of each page (see #3 above).
You’ve done it!
You learned the fundamentals of the traditional system. Awesome, awesome work.
Now you have an important decision to make:
You can go on your way, using what you’ve learned, and start bullet journaling right now.
You can learn how to journal faster, smarter, and cleaner in a more modernized, timesaving way.
All you need to do is keep reading…
How I Bullet Journal: The Simple Way
I witnessed its astronomical growth and seen it change the lives of thousands of people, including my own.
But things change:
As with all great innovations, people have adapted the original system and improved upon it to fit the realities of their unique lifestyles.
So in this chapter, I’m going to show you my streamlined journaling process and the elements you should prioritize, so you can journal realistically in 2019.
Grab a coffee and enjoy…
4 Things Your Bullet Journal Doesn’t Need
Before we dive into how I journal, let’s make things easier on ourselves upfront by removing some pieces off the chessboard.
Here are the traditional bullet journaling elements that we WON’T be using:
- Daily Log
- Future Log
- “Key” pages (included with newer journals).
You read that right — I don’t use any of those when I journal.
We want to keep things super simple, to not only make our journaling more efficient but to also have it accommodate our busy lives.
Let’s briefly touch on why we won’t be using these elements, which will really help us understand their replacements in the upcoming “building blocks” section.
I don’t use an index and I don’t recommend you do either.
Why? For 3 reasons:
- You’ll end up using your journal’s ribbon bookmarks to mark your current spots (you won’t need to refer back to your index).
- It’s impractical. It’s too much work to go back and forth documenting each page.
- If you need to constantly reference pages throughout your book, try marking them with washi or a post-it.
If you do decide to skip one traditional Bujo element — make it the index.
Then consider skipping my second least favorite…
2. Daily Log
Your daily log is where you rapid log all your to-do’s and open tasks… all in a concise way with bullet and signifier symbols.
But let me ask you this:
Are you really going to log everything daily?
Earlier, I recommended you daily log the night before (and if you do decide to use a daily log, you should do it then).
But honestly, coming from me (a super planner and timeblocker), I still couldn’t find the time or the mental calories to process what I was doing the next day.
It’s WAY too much effort.
So the question we really should be asking is: how do we manage our daily to-do’s with our busy schedules?
You scale it up.
And you do that by increasing your time frame, to weekly or monthly spreads.
3. Future Log
The future log should be next on your chopping block.
Remember what the future log is?
It’s a spread where you jot down all your long-term reminders, to-do’s, tasks and events… split up into monthly sections, usually over a 6 or 12-month period.
And you can also migrate a task from a daily log back to your future log, so you can remind yourself of things that still need to get done.
So why don’t you need it now?
Because of technology — all of my scheduled important appointments and events are in my Google Calendar.
A future log is nice to have if you have the time to make one, but I ALWAYS have my phone on me, and I can easily look up my appointments with the click of a button (or by asking Siri).
4. “Key” Pages
I don’t use the “Key” pages included at the beginning of journals.
Now don’t get me wrong:
I use keys all the time in my time and theme spreads to symbolize items — but not on the reserved “Key” pages you usually find upfront in the newer journals.
Here’s the thing to remember:
When you start out journaling, don’t feel like you need to devise some master key that has symbols for every possible task or scenario (that’s never going to happen).
Just start journaling, and eventually, you’ll find your own language and get comfortable with your own style of icons and colors.
Then once you memorize them naturally, go back to your “key” pages and add your language.
Just don’t feel rushed or obligated to use it.
Q. How should I use the key pages that come with the journal I bought?
Fill them in after you get comfortable with your own system of icons and colors, that you’ll use while working with your journal over time.
Q. How do you design your keys?
I use a small key to symbolize different types of tasks. I use mostly symbols and little icons for different things I do throughout the day.
For example, I use circles for appointments, squares for tasks & to-do’s, triangles for events, and dashes for notes.
Then for certain things I did, I’ll use tiny icons: like a weight for working out that day and a TV icon for the show I just watched.
That’s how I use my key. I keep it really simple.
My Building Blocks
Now we’ve reached the heart of this guide: the core building blocks of my journaling process.
The real 6-pack (plus 1 extra 😉).
Each building block will help you plan smarter and faster; giving you the freedom to enjoy yourself along the way.
In this section, I’ll show you how and why to make each building block AND how to use them to improve your productivity.
Here are my 7 building blocks you should be focusing on:
- “Every Single Thing” spreads
- Monthly spreads
- Weekly spreads
- Time spread add-ons
- Theme spreads
- “Currently” spreads
Let’s get started…
1. “Every Single Thing”
Every Single Thing (EST) is a journal spread with everything that’s going on in your life.
It’s similar to a mindmap, where you visually brainstorm everything that’s been on your mind.
For example, think of:
- things you need to get done at work.
- appointments you need to schedule.
- yard work and home improvements.
- emails you need to send.
- phone calls you need to make.
- bills you need to pay.
- and everything else that you’re responsible for.
You may have heard the term “brain dump” when researching productivity, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Dumping everything out of our head and writing it down.
Later, we’ll decide what to do with it…
How to Make It
Here’s how you make it:
- Open up a new spread.
- Title one of the pages “Every Single Thing”.
- Now we need to get our brains flowing.
Here are 14 ideas:
- What is on my to-do list for this week?
- What is on my calendar for the month?
- What needs attention in my house?
- What do I want to attend or where do I want to travel?
- Do I need to buy gifts for any upcoming events or send any cards?
- Do I need to plan or prep for a holiday?
- What does my family have going on this month?
- Are there any upcoming appointments I need to schedule?
- What meals will we have this week?
- Do I have any unfinished projects at work?
- What am I waiting on (phone call, email, packages)?
- Do I have any bills to pay?
- What is currently stressing me out?
- What project would I like to start or finish?
- Write all the answers down and anything else that’s on your mind — in a mindmap or list format — with the words all over the page.
No need to be fancy — write whatever is on your mind at the time.
That’s all there is to it. Well done.
Q. Do I need to date or mark my answers in any way?
How to Use It
You should ideally create an Every Single Thing spread EVERY Sunday — before your week begins — so you can clear your head.
I have been known to skip weeks, but I make sure I do this before each month begins.
The most important part of planning is going through you thoughts and deciding on what’s important.
Here are my simple steps to using it:
- After you finish writing everything you can think of down, start at the top and read each item with the intent of “putting it somewhere” in your journal or calendar.
- Decide what to do with each one of the items.
You have 4 action options here:
- Do the items immediately.
- Put it in a journal weekly spread.
- Put it in a digital calendar (via your smartphone).
- Do nothing.
- Do the item immediately or copy (rewrite) the item in your weekly spread or digital calendar.
- Put a small checkmark next to the items you completed or copied.
It’s as simple as that!
So we are first deciding what we want (or reasonably expect) to accomplish in the upcoming week or month.
Then we decide where to copy it.
And mark it completed or moved with a simple checkmark.
I like to think of my Every Single Thing as a guide — it’s nice to have in your back pocket, as a source of ideas.
A source you’ll use to fill in your spreads for the month…
PRO TIP: Keep a doc or a note on your phone titled “Every Single Thing” and document ANY thought you think you may need to remember.
I use a Google Doc for all of my random thoughts and ideas, and I reference it anytime I start my brainstorm.
For example, use a book symbol for a weekly spread and a smartphone icon for your digital calendar.
You can either draw each symbol or use a stamp or sticker.
Q. How often do I need to make one?
Q. How many total should I have in my journal?
Q. Can I put one in a weekly spread?
Cheat Sheet: Every Single Thing
- Make them before each month.
- Use a full spread.
- Write down anything that comes to mind, and answer all the prompts above.
- After completing, read and decide what to do with each item on your spread.
- Keep a document on your phone so you have access all the time.
Q. How fast do you go through a bullet journal?
2. Monthly Spreads
Your monthly will be your master guide for your entire month’s tasks, events, appointments… you name it.
Monthly spreads are the first of two time spreads (the other is weekly).
A few things to know off the top about monthlies:
- You want to make them a month in advance before you make any weekly spreads.
- You want to draw out a calendar that covers at least one page of the spread.
- Your monthly should have a “goals” section to act as a mini vision board.
- You also want to block off spreads for each week of the month (at least 8 pages).
Got all that? Fantastic.
Now let’s make one of these bad boys…
How to Make It
- Open your calendar app or go to Google Images and search for: current month name + current year + “calendar”. Then click on a calendar image and keep it open on your computer.
- Grab your journal and open up to a new blank spread.
- Give your monthly spread a title with the month name (use a brush pen here).
- Use a pencil to draw a rough sketch of the calendar on one page (using the googled image as a guide).
- On the other page, you have 2 choices:
- LIST the numbered dates down the left side of the page and write out your important appointments, deadlines, and events besides their respective dates.
- Create a “goals” section (or box) with enough room to write out your big goals for the month. You will have extra space to work with here, so ask yourself what you want to track this month, and create boxes for each.
- Once you’re happy with your pencil sketch, go over your pencil outlines with a dark fine tip pen.
- Use an eraser and remove all your pencil markings.
Your calendar design can spill over to the second page if you want spaces big enough to write inside.
You’ll have plenty of extra room around your calendar to decide what else to track that month.
DIY: If you’re not confident in your drawing skills, you can always print out a calendar image (that fits the dimensions of your notebook) and tape it onto a page with washi.
Create a calendar sketch with a pencil that covers at least one full page of your spread.
Leave room for a title (month name), a “goals” section, and anything else you need or want to track.
Go over the pencil with a pen.
And there you have it. Let’s now talk about to use your monthly…
How to Use It
Once you’ve got your month drawn out, it’s time to put it to work.
First, think of all the important events and appointments you have coming up.
Write the item in its day box and draw (or stamp) a little symbol next to it that represents that type of item.
For example, I might use a circle for an appointment, square for a task or a triangle for an event.
(You can get these symbols from your “key” pages or just memorize it).
What about that “goals” section? Good question.
Before the month begins, ask yourself:
“What would I like to finish by the end of this month?”
The answers will help define your goals. Enter them here.
Need help? Try these 20+ free monthly printables in the VIP Vault. 😉
Cheat Sheet: Monthly Spreads
- Dedicate a full spread (2 pages) to each monthly.
- Create them a month in advance, before any weekly spreads.
- A calendar design is most helpful in planning your month (use a pencil first).
- Make a “goals” section and fill it with your big to-do’s — think of it as a vision board.
- While you’re making a monthly, go ahead and block off the pages you’ll need for your upcoming weeklies.
Make monthlies your own style and keep them simple.
If the idea of drawing your own calendar is a little overwhelming (I completely understand), then just list the numbered dates with their corresponding items next to them AND highlight the weekends, so you can quickly glance at the date and tell what day it is!
Or you can also try the “Month by Days” technique, where you add tasks you do the same day every week in day boxes.
Now that you’re a monthly spread expert, let’s talk about the greatest spread type of all-time…
3. Weekly Spreads
Because they are the creative hub of your journal, where you’ll spend most of your time, tracking and enjoying life.
Your weekly spread is really like a weekly planner, with some extras.
It has two main parts:
- To-do’s (within day boxes or sections).
- Trackers or Add-ons (which are optional).
In the meantime, let’s learn how to make your own…
How to Make It
The focus of your weekly should be your to-do’s. In this basic example, we’ll put our 7 different day boxes on one page of the spread.
(Save the other page for trackers and add-ons. More on that in the next section.)
An easy way to do this is to draw sections for each of the 7 days of the week in a 2×4 grid (2 columns wide by 4 rows tall).
Here’s how you make a weekly spread:
- Grab a pencil and a Journal Companion, Door Hanger or ruler.
- Draw one line down the middle of the page lengthwise to create two columns.
- Draw one line across the middle of the page crosswise to create two rows.
- Split each of these two rows in half again, to make four equal rows & 8 equal-sized boxes.
- Use 7 of these boxes for each day of the week — label them with a date number or day letter (M, T, W…).
- Use the extra 8th box for whatever you want: your week heading, another goals section, a “later in the month”, etc.
- Don’t forget to take a picture of your spread and share on social media with these hashtags.
How to Use It
Remember earlier in the monthly spreads section, when we talked about reserving pages for weeklies?
Well the reason I mentioned it in the monthly section, is that when your filling in your monthly, you should add items to your weekly spread as well.
Here’s the two-step process:
- Add your item (task, event, appointment) to your monthly spread.
- Flip to the corresponding weekly spread and add the same items, with the same title and key symbols.
But how do you use your weekly during the week?
Here’s how I do it:
- I check the digital calendar on my phone (to make sure I’m not missing anything), then add any items to my weekly spread.
- As new items arise during the week, I add them to their respective day boxes, with key symbols (or little icons):
- Circle (●) for appointments.
- Square (￭) for a task or to-do.
- Triangle (▴) for an event.
- Dash (‒) for notes.
- Exclamation point (!) for important.
- At the end of the day, I reflect back on what I accomplished and add those items to their day boxes with fun activity icons too.
For example, I’ll add a tiny weight if I exercised, a TV icon for a show I watched, or a plate for a meal I cooked. Be as creative as you want!
Q. How do you come up with all your weekly spread ideas?
I pick random grid size from the Journal Companion and draw that on my spread using a pencil.
Then I try to come up with a new design based on that grid, plugging and playing with different elements and the 7-day boxes.
That’s all there is to it.
Ultimately, you want a design that’s easy for YOU to understand, manage, and enjoy reflecting back upon.
Cheat Sheet: Weekly Spreads
- Keep your weekly spreads in chronological order. They don’t have to be in consecutive order (back to back).
- Use one page of your spread for to-do’s and the other for trackers and add-ons.
- For your to-do’s, make a simple 2×4 grid design on one page if you’re just getting started.
- Try the free Journal Companion or Door Hanger Pro for precise line measurements.
- Add small key symbols and icons for things you’ve done throughout the day.
- Color code your day numbers for different months (if the days spill over into a new month).
- If you have extra blank space on your pages, add doodles, patterns, washi tape or just leave it blank!
Our weekly spread isn’t done yet.
We still have one page to fill out… and that’s where add-ons and trackers join the party.
4. Time Spread Add-Ons
Do you want to give your journal a personality boost?
As Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
You gotta get out there and share your style.
These spread add-ons will give you a ton of ideas to help you fill up those blank spaces on your time spreads.
(You can learn even more about spread elements in my post here.)
Let’s start with those 7-day boxes that you’ll see everywhere on time spreads.
I call these “7-day boxes” because you’ll have something to add to them every day, and you can create individual sections in your spreads to add these 7-day boxes.
For example, if you want to keep up with daily weather, you’ll need 7 small square boxes where you can write in the temperature or a weather doodle.
If you want to meal plan for the week, you’ll need 7 spots dedicated to writing down your meal ideas.
Need some other ideas for 7-day boxes?
Try these 20 7-Day Box ideas:
Doodle a Day
Headline of the Day
One Line About Today
Outfit of the Day
Positive Word or Quote
This Day in History
Trying Something New
Word of the Day
Zendoodle a Day
Single Box Ideas
Let’s go back to that 2×4 grid we designed earlier.
After we filled in our 7 days, we still had that eighth box remember?
This is where “single boxes” come into play.
These single boxes fill up your spread, and you can add anything you want to them!
(You’ll often find tons of extra space in your spread after you draw out your 7-day boxes).
You can decorate this extra space with doodles, washi or stickers, or you can make it functional with any of these single box ideas (and these boxes can be any shape).
Here are 20 Single Box ideas for you:
Key Area (if needed)
Next Week To-Do
Song of the Week
This Week To-Do
If you use a lot of grids to design spreads (like I do), you’ll have a lot of these “extra” boxes to fill.
After you create them, you can fill them in throughout the week or at the end of the week (depending on the box).
I recommend you start with:
- Next week (or “Later”) — things on your radar.
- Goals — big items you want to get done this week.
- Don’t forget — things you would definitely set reminders for.
Q. When should I add single boxes to my spreads?
It depends on the box type! You’ll fill in the “memories” box at the end of the week. And maybe a “currently” or “ideas” box during the week. Or you can wait and fill them all in at the end or fill them all in as the week goes on.
Ok. So now you’re no longer a beginner!
You know how time spreads work and you know why you should use them.
But now it’s time we take it up a notch.
We’re about to tackle another favorite: trackers.
Trackers help you see how you live your life, and more importantly, the patterns you’ve developed.
That way, you can determine what habits you want to quit and which ones you should continue to pursue.
(This is where we enter diary territory.)
We can group bullet journal trackers into two types: Habit Trackers and Pattern Trackers.
Habit Trackers monitor your big-picture routines — usually for habits longer than a week — for more serious things you definitely want to keep track of.
For example, exercise, paying bills, bible study, etc.
(These guys are the most popular trackers.)
Pattern trackers, on the other hand, are more general and usually encompass casual or serendipitous items.
Like: mood, sleep, cleaning, Netflix, etc.
So just remember:
Habit Trackers = serious, real-life stuff. Long-term.
Pattern Trackers = everything else, nice to track. Short-term.
Let’s drill down into each type…
Or if you prefer a video, watch me go through all my journal trackers live:
Let’s say you developed a habit that lasts longer than a week.
So maybe you decided to finally try to eat healthier at work… or you want a smarter way to track your school work… or you keep forgetting to water your garden.
Well, that’s where habit trackers come in handy.
They help you create and stick to a routine, so you’ll never forget (or want to forget) the things that matter.
First, you need an idea of what to track.
I got you covered. Here’s 80+ Habit Tracker Ideas:
Cooking at Home
Acts of Kindness
No Junk Food
Practicing a Skill
Plan Before Bed
Tried Something New
Now the question is:
How do you make them?
That’s a loaded question — you can make them a TON of different ways.
Here’s a video of me setting up a habit tracker for my social media.
A few tips for habit trackers:
- They go best in monthly spreads — not weekly spreads since we are tracking longer habits here.
- Don’t try to start more than one or two new habits at a time (you’ll get overwhelmed).
- Try to fill them in at the same time each day (I fill mine out around 9 pm).
- Use simple color-coded keys to represent different states or items (you can use symbols too).
For example, when I track my mood, I use: dark green = super happy, light green = happy, orange = content, pink = blah, and red = bad mood.
Use habit trackers in your monthly spreads to manage your behavior and to shed light on your good & bad habits.
(Learn more in my habit tracker post.)
The rest of your trackers fall into the Pattern Tracker bucket.
These are basically any other type of tracker, that monitors your short-term, casual habits.
Here are 16 pattern tracker ideas to get you started:
Diet / Meals
Income / Money Made
Steps (Working out)
School / Studying
I know what you’re thinking:
“A lot of these ideas could be considered habit trackers too.”
That’s true. There is some overlap.
But here’s what makes pattern trackers different:
- They go best in weekly spreads.
- Use graphs (like bar graphs & line graphs) to see a more visual representation of your patterns.
- They are great for tracking symptoms and pain scale/body locations.
- They also make for great space-fillers in your empty journal spreads.
See how I make a mood and energy tracker:
There’s one last thing before we close the circle on trackers. 😂
They get their name from their circular design.
These guys can be used as a tracker or a planner.
Most often, you’ll see circular monthly habit trackers, with 4 or 5 habits to track.
You can also use it like a planner for a 24-hour day, 7-day week, 30 or 31-day month, or 12-month year.
Just split the circle into equal sections and label them with dates. Draw a line to the particular date and label what’s planned for that time.
Circle trackers are fun to use once you get them all measured out, but I don’t use them on a regular basis because of the setup time.
How do you make a circle tracker?
- Grab a protractor or a stencil. 🤓
- Find the center of your journal page.
- Draw one large circle around the page center point.
- Then draw a smaller circle within the larger one.
- Use a straight-edge or door hanger to make perpendicular time interval sections (hours, days or months) in the space between the circles.
For example, if you’re making a daily circle tracker, you’ll want to make 24 sections for each hour. Use this free printable to measure hourly sections.
- Label the sections.
- If you need it, make a quick key and color-code each section (for mood, work, school, etc.).
Here’s a 24-hour tracker how-to:
When you’re making any spread, always try to include trackers. They are super helpful, fill up extra space, and keep you on top of your game.
What if you just want to JOURNAL?
Like, you just want to write down what’s on your mind and not worry about tracking or scheduling your time?
Well, my friend, I’m about to blow your mind. 🤯
Meet Theme spreads…
Q. How do I get 20 circle tracker printables?
Q. How do you decide on what trackers to use?
6. Theme Spreads
Remember earlier in the weekly spread section, when we talked about those weeklies not having to be in consecutive order?
(Meaning, the pages don’t have to follow each other in immediate order.)
So what do you do with those pages in between?
You fill them with theme spreads — the fun pages centered around a topic. A topic that matters to you right now.
For example, I love me some Netflix, so I may make a spread with all my favorite shows and the ones I want to watch.
Theme spreads are your break from the formalized “planning” part of any journaling process.
It’s where you get to express yourself, reflect, and be you.
How to Make Them
There are no rules; no specific place or order to put them in your journal.
It’s just you and your creativity.
Here’s how to get started:
- Choose your topic. I recommend a list of your “favorites”. Try these first:
- TV Shows
- Recipes to try
- Ice cream flavors
- Dream vacation spots
- Bucket list items
- Open your journal to any blank spread. And grab a fine tip pen.
- Add a title to the top of the left page.
For example, “Netflix Shows”.
- Your initial design should be simple — just start with a basic list underneath your title, writing down all the items related to your chosen topic.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”
Give each one their own line.
- Optional: Index your spread by noting the page numbers, then flipping back to your index, and adding the spread title and page numbers.
You want to keep your spreads simple (especially if you’re a beginner), so don’t worry about any colors or fancy designs at this point.
Or better yet, take home the free printable. 😁
Because there is nothing more satisfying than looking back on your life and reflecting on what mattered at that moment.
That’s the underlying beauty of theme spreads.
Q. How many pages should a theme spread be?
Two. A full spread.
Q. Where do I put my theme spreads?
Q. How do you find your theme spreads if you don’t index them?
7. “Currently” Section
My last building block is the “Currently” section.
It’s a place to check in on yourself during the week or during the month.
But want to know the best part?
It’s like a little time capsule — an easy way to store the memories of all your favorite things and interests.
(Then I like to revisit them on a rainy day when I need some positive vibes.)
Currently sections make your journal that much more special, so don’t skip them.
How to Make It
Remember earlier in the add-ons section, when we talked about single day boxes?
The currently section was listed as an option.
So you can add them within your weekly or monthly spreads, but I recommend you dedicate a full spread to one big currently section — it’s just more fun that way.
Let’s get your wheels churning with these 12 “currently” ideas:
Looking Forward To
“What are you doing RIGHT NOW?”
Then just write down all the answers.
Watch this video to see how to make one:
Use this free emoji guide sheet, to come up with some extra decoration inspiration.
Currently spreads are super fun to look back on, especially when you have multiple years of memories
Put them in your journal — somewhere close to your monthly spreads — to cherish those special memories.
Q. How often should I make a Currently section?
Do it every few months (at least), just to check in with yourself to see what’s going on.
My Building Blocks: A Recap of How I Journal
- “Every Single Thing” — a giant brainstorm of everything on your mind.
- Monthly Spreads — the first time spread (planner) with an overview of your monthly items. Typically in calendar format with a “goals” section.
- Weekly Spreads — the second of the time spreads, and the most popular spread in your journal.
- Time Spread Add-Ons — tons of different 7-day box and single box ideas to fill up extra spread space.
- Trackers — to monitor your habits and routines. Circle trackers offer a unique design.
- Theme Spreads — collections of similar items centered around a specific topic. The fun spread of the group.
- “Currently” Section — everything you love right now. A time capsule for your memories.
There are 4 things your journal doesn’t need:
- Index — too much effort and you’ll rarely use it.
- Daily Log — use weekly spreads instead.
- Future Log — use your digital calendar instead.
- “Key” Pages — just memorize your personal key system and include them in your time spreads.
- Migration — we do a weekly review once the week is over and add tasks that still need our attention to our new time spreads.
- Your time spreads don’t have to be in consecutive order (back-to-back), but they should be chronological.
- Keep your journal simple and make sure to have fun with it. There are no rules!
Fun Stuff: Lettering, Decorations & Doodles
In this chapter, we’ll dip our toe into the world of hand lettering and decoration, to give your journal some extra flair.
Let’s do this:
As you get more and more familiar with your journal, you’ll naturally start to improve your handwriting skills.
You’ll see a lot out there about hand lettering, fonts, and fancy calligraphy in bullet journals.
But most lettering in bullet journals takes place in your headers and page titles — so you’ll want to start there.
Even if you’re not artistic, you can make super simple headers for your spreads with your favorite black pen.
To get started, watch me draw 21 header styles that you can mix and match for all your monthly, weekly, and daily headers.
Here’s a few lettering tips to keep in mind:
- Lightly sketch your headers first with a pencil, that way you can ensure your work fits on the page.
- Use soft tip brush pens for thicker, colorful characters (learn more about pens).
- Use a hard tip brush pen for more detailed characters or designs (like in the video above).
- Don’t hold your pen too tight and don’t rush through your writing — that’s what causes the messiness!
- Start practicing your lettering with the alphabet or quotes.
- Then try Pangrams — sentences that use every letter of the alphabet.
- Trace styles you love from a printed page or use an iPad (make sure to keep “Guided Access” ON in settings).
I like to practice all my lettering styles on random pages in my journal or try this free practice sheet: 😁
Play around with different font styles, colors, and pen types and you’ll get SO much better before you know it.
In fact, that’s one of the coolest parts about practicing lettering in your bullet journal spreads:
You get to go back and see your progress throughout the year.
Pretty cool right?
Q. How can I find online fonts to try?
- Search websites like dafont.com under the “Script” font.
- Select a font you like, then under Custom Preview, type in the phrase you want to write.
Q. How can I learn hand lettering?
Q. What is bounce lettering?
Bounce lettering is when the letters move vertically up and down their baseline — the line that most characters sit on, to keep your writing straight.
Changing the baseline and looping gives individual characters a whimsical effect.
Here are 12 popular ways to decorate your bullet journal:
Doodles are probably the most popular.
Check out this full inspiration gallery for a TON of great ideas:
Dividers & Patterns
Use dividers and patterns to fill up those extra page spaces.
A few tips on dividers:
- To make them, just draw a straight line with a pencil, then start repeating simple circles, squares, shapes, dots, lines, etc. — just make sure they’re consistent!
- You can also turn these dividers into borders and outlines for boxes.
- Search Pinterest or Google for “hand drawn dividers” and find all kinds of inspiration.
- Practice making dividers on any blank page of your notebook.
Do you love patterns as much as I do?
Then learn how to draw patterns — circles, squares, swirls, line designs — in this video:
Stickers will save you a ton of time and take the stress out of drawing.
Things to remember about decorative stickers:
- Find packages of cheap stickers at Target or dollar stores.
- Don’t place them over wet ink (or else they may not stick properly).
- Use calendar stickers in place of time spread elements or on cover pages.
- Look for smaller stickers so they don’t take up too much space in your journal spreads.
- Use icons stickers to mark your tracker items and for in-spread keys.
- Stickers are particularly good for covering up mistakes or filling in blank spaces.
You should definitely give stickers a try if you’re looking for quick decoration (especially if you can’t draw).
We talked earlier in the supplies chapter of Part 1 about the best stencils to buy, but here are a few decorative tips:
- Fine tip pens, like fineliners, work best with stencils. You don’t want high-bleed or brush pens — they’re more likely to smudge and mark the stencil. You can always use a pencil too.
- If you don’t have stencils, search for things around the house to trace around: drinking glasses, coins and pastry cutters for circles.
- If you have a Silhouette or Cricut – you can learn to make your own professional stencils!
When it comes to decoration, think of washi as your personal MacGyver.
(Learn all about washi in Part 1, Chapter 4.)
Use washi to:
- Cover up mistakes.
- Divide pages into sections.
- Add colored decoration to your pages.
- Color code your index.
- Bookmark pages.
- Make a full washi spread in your journal.
- Seal envelopes.
- Wrap gifts.
- Make a “washi collage” page with extra washi scraps.
Want more creative washi ideas? Here’s 100.
Just like stickers, stamps will make quick work of empty spaces and save you the hassle of drawing.
But unlike their sticker counterpart, stamps will help you keep the “ink” look on your journal pages.
A few things to remember when decorating with stamps:
- If it takes you a ton of time to draw the same patterns (or doodles) over and over, use a stamp to repeat the design.
- Miniature stamps make great key icons.
- If you buy the clear stamps (like at lifebywhitney.com), make sure to get a CLEAR stamp block of some sort, so you can see straight through the block onto your page. Some even have faint guidelines.
You can learn a TON more about stamps in the Supplies chapter.
Q. Where can I buy clear, self-sticking stamps?
Watercolor is when you combine paint and water to create unique colors and subtle shading designs in your journal.
But before you start dreaming about watercolor, there’s one big thing you should learn more about: paper.
The watercoloring world has its own paper. So all the “advice” you hear may not work best on journal dotted paper.
But since this is a bullet journaling guide, all my recommendations will work well in your typical A5 journal.
- Begin using watercolors in your journal in one of these 5 easy ways.
- Make sure your brush is not too wet (or mix your chosen paint with less water).
- If you’re afraid of using too much water, paint small illustrations to decorate empty corners and borders of your pages.
- Start with simple swashes as backgrounds to test your supplies.
Speaking of supplies…
These are expert recommended:
If the idea of picking up a brush pen intimidates you — don’t worry.
Go at your own pace and simply start to mess around with the easy tips above.
Now it’s time to finish this chapter of fun. I saved the best for last…
Q. Where do I buy watercolor supplies?
Q. How do I store my watercolor supplies?
And obviously, keep you paint tubes airtight and at room temperature (they should last at least 5 years that way).
Q. What is all the "wet on wet", "wet on dry" and "lifting" talk?
Watercolor artists have many techniques, the most common of which are: wet on wet and wet on dry. The former being applying paint over a water-brushed area. The latter, just directly on paper.
Lifting is removing paint from the page by scrubbing or diluting a new brush stroke with more water.
Q. What’s the difference between artist grade and student grade paint?
The main difference is that student grade paint has lower pigment levels, so it’s cheaper with fewer colors to choose from. It’s great for beginners.
But if you’re only watercoloring small illustrations (recommended), you should get the artist grade for its vibrant colors.
Welcome to the wonderful world of doodles (and I’m not talking about my dogs 🐶 😂)!
I’m talking about the artwork kind:
Doodles are simple illustrations you make to add context, design, and aesthetic beauty to your bullet journal.
Once again, there are no rules. No expectations. It’s all about adding your personality to the paper.
Draw your doodles all over your journal. If they serve a purpose — like a key symbol — then great. If not, it doesn’t matter.
The point is:
You’re making your journal your own, by adding your unique style.
You can find TONS of doodle inspiration and learn much about them in my full blog post.
Now you might be thinking:
“I don’t doodle every day and I’m worried about messing up my precious journal pages.”
You have a point, but that’s why we have practice sheets.
How to Doodle
There are a million how-to doodle accounts out there on Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
I suggest you start by searching for “doodle accounts” on your favorite platform, to get some general inspiration.
Before we begin, you’re going to need two supplies:
- A pencil.
- A pen — the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner or the Tombow Mono Drawing Pen (or any pen as a last resort).
Ok, let the doodling begin…
Here’s my process to find something specific and easy to draw:
Step 1: Find Inspiration
- On your mobile phone, go to Google Images.
- Now search for: what you want to draw + “doodle”.
For example, “Flower doodle”
Step 2: Choose Your Favorite Doodle Image
- Tap on an image that you can reasonably expect to draw (or trace) yourself.
- Bookmark the image by tapping the bookmark banner icon — this way you can refer to it later under your Google collections).
Step 3: Cheat a Bit and Trace
- Enlarge that image with your fingers.
- Now place your phone under a journal page.
- Grab your pencil.
- Roughly outline the image (or you can just look at it and draw it freehand).
Step 4: Finish Your Design
- Now grab your pen.
- Trace your pencil outlines with the pen.
- Give it any extra touch-ups, then you’re done!
Doodling will help you fill blank spaces, showcase your inner artistic genius, and even help you relieve stress.
Q. What are doodle challenges?
Digital Productivity: Take Your Journal Online
You can’t be productive in 2019 without adapting your journaling habits to modern technology.
A notebook alone is not enough…
If you’ve made it this far, you know the main theme of this guide is simplicity.
So in this chapter, we’re going to get a head start on everyone else and learn how to take your journal off-page and online, so you can maximize your productivity and achieve your real-world goals.
Mastering Digital Productivity
“Why are we talking about digital productivity when we’re wrapping up a how-to journaling guide?”
Because if you rely solely on your journal to plan, track and schedule your life, what happens if…
- You’re on the go and away from your journal?
- You lose your journal?
- It gets stolen, spilled on or otherwise ruined?
- You run out of pages and to need reference older pages or resources?
You can keep everything there that you need, and access it anytime, as long as you have the technology.
Learn to Love The Cloud
You store your items usually via your smartphone when you’re on the go, away from your tangible journal.
Let me explain:
Say you run into an old friend at the grocery store. You catch up for a bit, promise to stay in touch, then you get back to food shopping.
Before you forget, you want to write down when you saw your friend, the time you agreed to contact one another again, and a few important dates she mentioned: her kid’s bar-mitzvah, your high school reunion coming up…
But where do you write all that down? Your journal is napping at home.
And what about that mouth-watering mac & cheese recipe you thought of strolling down the pasta aisle?
You need to write them down on apps on your phone, that store it all — you guessed it — in the fluffy cloud.
More benefits of the cloud:
- You don’t have to worry about computer or phone storage running out.
- Your documents are secure and safely backed up.
- It’s free for most with very affordable options for power users.
- You can access ANY files quickly & easily on any device.
Google Drive is their file storage and synchronization app that safely stores your files and lets you synchronize those files to all your devices.
It’s free. All you need is a Gmail email address.
(Which means you need to create an account.)
Google offers this as a “service” (Saas) to you, which means all the resources needed to run these programs are all done on their servers.
All you need to access these services is a browser and an internet connection.
To make things even more fun, within Drive, you get “programs”: docs, sheets, and slides.
These programs now replace those old Microsoft programs you’re used to thinking of — word, excel, powerpoint, etc. — and they’re smarter because all the work you create in these programs (files) is saved in one place.
(that you got for free earlier when you created a Gmail account).
Make sense? It’s all pretty cool.
How to Access Drive
Here are the steps in order to get started with Drive:
- Open up the browser — Google Chrome — and sign up for a Google Account.
Now you’ll have an email address (Gmail) and free access to all Google’s suite of web-apps (Drive, Gmail, Calendar, etc.) and all the programs within Drive.
- Click the dot grid icon in the top right, top open the dropdown of available apps.
- Select Drive from the list (the colored triangle app) to open up the Drive dashboard.
- Click the + New button up top to open up the dropdown of Drive programs.
Drive is the ultimate storage spot for documents and photos.
(It’s where I keep ALL of my working digital documents for my business.)
As long as you have a good organizational & naming system for your projects and folders, you’ll be able to find documents quickly & easily.
- One-time sign in — create a gmail email account and you have access to the full suite of google apps.
- Sharing & Popularity — share documents and full folders with other Google users. You can both edit shared files.
- Zero cost — it’s free for most users (based on their storage amount). I pay only $1.99 per month for 100 GB extra storage).
- Team Collaboration — you can easily share any files with your family, friends and work colleagues.
For example, my boyfriend and I share a Google Doc when we go to Publix (he goes right and I go left), we literally cross-out the grocery items we get live, as we go through the store. Kinda cool.
- Anywhere access — if you have an internet connection, you can access any shared files and run any project, business or family operation. Priceless.
Those are the benefits of Google Drive — it will change not only the way you work but also how you communicate with every person in your life.
And how do I use these in conjunction with my bullet journal to be even more productive?
Let’s see what we can discover next…
Q. How I do learn to do all of this in detail?
Q. Do you recommend Google Drive or Dropbox?
Both Drive and Dropbox are compatible with nearly every device; Both sync seamlessly with your computer as long as you download the computer app.
Using Google Docs with Your Bullet Journal
Docs is a word processor (think Microsoft Word but better), where you can jot down all your ideas, appointments, and to-do’s when you’re on the go.
Remember way back, when we talked about all the different types of journaling items?
- To-do’s — that go in your weekly spreads.
- Ideas — that go in your theme spreads.
- Events & Appointments — that go in your monthly spreads.
You’ll want to use Docs for all your to-dos’ and ideas.
(We’ll talk about events & appointments a little later.)
So when you think of things you need to get or any brilliant ideas pop into your mind, jot them down in Docs when you’re away from your journal.
How to Access Google Docs
- Access your Drive dashboard and then hit the + New button to open up the dropdown of Drive programs.
- Click on Google Docs (the one with the blue icon).
- Now Docs will open with a blank page.
- Click on the doc title in the top left, and name it whatever makes sense to you (I call mine “Every Single Thing”).
You can create a new doc, sheet or slide super quickly, by typing “new.” doc, sheet or slides directly in your chrome address bar.
For example, type “doc.new” in the address bar and a new doc will automatically open and save in your Drive.
Just make sure you’re already logged into your Google account (you should be when you open up Chrome).
How to Use Google Docs
- When you think of a to-do item or an idea, just open up Docs — on your smartphone or computer — and type it out.
- Then grab your journal. Open it up to a new blank spread and get it primed for a new weekly or themed spread.
- Design your spread.
- Open up your Google Doc for reference and pick out the to-do’s or ideas you want to add your weekly or theme spread respectively.
- Write them into your spreads.
- Then erase your those transferred items from the Google Doc.
All we are doing is using Docs as a place of reference for all the items to help fill our journal spreads.
The key here is to reference this doc at least once a week, so you know you’re not missing any items that should be transferred to your journal.
But what about those appointments and events?
Using the Calendar with Your Bullet Journal
Google Calendar is a popular web-based app that allows you to create a customized calendar (with all their cool scheduling features) and sync them to all your devices.
… so you’ll never miss a thing.
How to Access Google Calendar
Here’s how to get started with Calendar on a desktop:
- Open up your browser — Google Chrome — and login to your Google account.
- Click the dot grid icon in the top right, top open the dropdown of available apps.
- Select Calendar from list (with the blue box icon).
- Now your calendar is open! Play around and explore all the options.
How to Use Calendar with Your Bullet Journal
- When you make a new appointment or commit to an event, add it to your Calendar.
- Then open your journal to a new monthly spread.
- Add a title (e.g. “February”) to your spread and get it ready for your events.
- Open up your Google Calendar for reference and choose the events that fall into your current month.
- Write them into your spread.
That’s all there is to it.
Cheat Sheet: Productivity
- Use apps like Google Drive and Calendar, and programs like Docs, to stay organized when you’re without your journal.
- Use Google Drive to store all your files, from documents to images (great for small businesses too).
- Use Google Docs for to-do’s items that you’ll add to your weekly spreads. Also use Docs for any ideas you have that you’ll add to your theme spreads.
- Use Google Calendar for all your events and appointments, that you can add to your monthly spreads.
- Set reminders on your phone, so you don’t have to rely just on your journal (this is what Siri is best at).
- Use your phone settings, to control the amount and frequency of app notifications.
As long as you have a simple system that you understand, you can finally get digitally organized!
Q. Do you not put to-dos in monthly spreads?
Q. Do you use a Calendar app instead of the Future Log?
All my long-term stuff and the things I need to today, I keep digital.
Extra Hacks & Journaling Courses
Congratulations on sticking with this guide and staying focused on your journey.
Let’s take a quick break and recap:
So far, you’ve learned,
… the benefits of journaling.
… all the supplies you’ll ever need.
… how the traditional bullet journaling system works.
… my adapted building blocks and my process to be more productive in today’s modern age.
In this final chapter, we’re going to keep it light and send you on your way with a few more tips and DIY hacks.
Then for the final hoorah:
I’ll introduce you to both free and paid journaling courses, so you can keep learning and take your planning skills to new heights.
Extra Journaling Hacks
(You can view this gallery for images of all these hacks and more.)
- You don’t have to worry about computer or phone storage running out.
- Your documents are secure and safely backed up.
- It’s free for most with very affordable options for power users.
- You can access ANY files quickly & easily on any device.
- Don’t feel like you have to use your colors every day — you can always come back and add color later.
- When working with trackers, just use a pen to mark the percentage of your daily mood & energy levels. Then worry about the colors later.
For example, if your mood was so-so one day, say 50%, make a pen mark in the center of your horizontal (or vertical) mood bar.
You don’t need to color it in right then.
- Use colors that resonate with you:
For example, If you think of red when you think of tasks. Use red in your spreads.
If the color blue pops in your mind when you think of events. Use blue.
All this will help you remember your personal key system, so you don’t have to ever use the “key” pages in your journal.
- Use sticky divider tabs or washi tape to color code your pages. Add a small piece to the corner of the pages you visit most often. You can even color code pages by category: weeklies, monthlies, etc.
- Many journals come with bookmarks, so keep one on your current weekly (or daily) spread.
- If you use an index, group similar spreads together — I would group weekly and monthly spreads together so I wouldn’t run out of room listing every page.
- If you don’t want to draw them, print them out on sticker paper or cut/paste them into your journal.
- In your printer settings, adjust the percentage size of the page to make your circles fit better. It is trial and error here.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself with a ton of habits on your first few habit trackers. You will start to dread filling this thing out! Start with 3-4 and see how it goes.
- Use an index card or cardstock to create a removable or flip-out key when you’re starting out. You can see the key no matter which page you’re on.
- Make keys easy to remember. Take them to the next level by adding symbols or mini-doodles.
- Once you memorize the keys you use most often, you don’t need to use the “key” pages in your journal. I don’t.
- I sometimes make them per-week (on weekly spreads), but otherwise, I’ll reference the last key I used.
Fixing Mistakes or Bleed
Try these options:
- White out tape or white gel pen
- Print something out and paste it over!
- Cover with stickers.
- Flip the page and fuhgetaboutit! 😉
More DIY Tips
- If you’re traveling with a notebook, tape a small envelope inside for emergency funds. 💵
- Also use taped-in envelopes to hold things like stickers, carbon paper or scrap paper.
- Incorporate sticky notes into your spreads to add removable items: grocery lists, gift lists, meal planning, etc.
Make It a Habit
- Keep your journal open with a clip beside your bed, on your desk or somewhere you will see it daily.
- Keep it by a habit you already have to continue to come back to it each day.
For example, keep it by your contact case or toothbrush to not forget about it!
- Try and journal at the same time each evening or morning.
- Try not to break your streak — set a reminder on your phone if you need to.
Keep Learning with Journaling Courses
After reading this guide, you are more prepared than 99.9% of other beginner journalers.
(Heck, you are smarter than most “advanced” journalers.)
So crack open that notebook, start practicing, and discover your style.
And when the time comes, and you’re ready to take it to the next level…I have something special for you.
Introducing: The Journal You Course
So, let’s be real:
Applying the fundamentals of bullet journaling, like tracking your to-do’s and putting pen to paper, are positive first steps towards meeting your goals.
But that’s ALL they are — first steps.
It will be very difficult to transition your goals out of your journal and into real life.
So, what do you do?
You do the ONE thing that the most successful people have understood for centuries:
You follow a SYSTEM.
And guess what?
I’ve already done the hard work for you and created a productivity system that will save you countless hours of time.
(No more searching the internet trying to piece together random, often wrong, bits of advice from blog posts.)
Instead, I’ve you got it all right here in the online Journal You Course:
- A pre-packaged, 4-week productivity system that any beginner can master.
- 35 private video lessons — each with step-by-step instructions.
- Over 100 PDF printables, so you can follow along at your own pace, anywhere.
- You have lifetime access — which means, you’ll never pay another cent for course updates.
- Worry-Free 30-day Money Back Guarantee — which means you don’t need an excuse to get a refund.
(And there are even more bonuses).
Don’t take my word for it. Just ask one of the 300 graduates who put the course to the test and gave it their stamp of approval.
Now it’s up to you:
Pat yourself on the back!
Now you have everything you need to get started and succeed.
If you want more free printables and ideas, you can join my VIP Vault — it has ALL my free journal spreads (3 years worth).
Best of luck, and remember, keep your journal simple and have a blast!