Does a bullet journal has to be pretty?

11:36 AM


It's easy to feel scared when you look at bullet journal ideas on Pinterest, especially if you are a newbie, and really suck at drawing. 
Many ask if a BuJo really has to be an elaborate work of art with complex and visually appealing trackers and weekly spreads. After all, it seems like it would be time consuming to make it look pretty when the whole concept is marketed as something flexible that save you time in your daily life. 

The truth is that a bullet journal really doesn't have to be fancy, or elaborate, or take you hours of drawing skills you may or many not have. 

When Ryder Carroll came up with the bullet journal method, it was supposed to be an easy, minimalistic way of organising your life. Now familiar with the original method? Ryder explains it here : 

It's quite simple right? 

So what exactly happened for it to become an art form in itself? Probably because the BuJo has become the method of choice for creatives to sort out their mind and planning. 
Most creatives have a HIGHLY visual mind and memory, I'm one of those people! The minimalist Ryder Carroll approach would not benefit me at all because without color codes and stickers I am LOST.

My mind sorts idea per colors, also as many of you might know already, I have a synesthetic mind and months have colors. My bullet journal's monthly spread are ALWAYS in the color my mind associate with the month in question and it allows me to find something quickly.
I also don't differentiate appointments and tasks, for me they are the exact same thing and I always draw a little square before the task/appointment and once completed I either fill the square with a pen in the color of the month, or a mini sticker. 
Public holidays are always pink in my BuJo, that's how I spot them quickly in my "future log" or in the weekly spreads for that matter. 
Gratitude log is always written in gold on each day of the weekly spread, and this year, a washi tape separator comes right after it for me to either log my sales of the day or put a cute sticker to make the spread pretty. 

I use stickers and washi tape a lot! 

I did try to draw my spreads, and if I have enough time in advance, I do it still, but frankly I prefer to keep my weekly spreads fairly minimalist, with just a few doodles and a color theme and then go nuts with washi tape and stickers as I fill the pages. 
I draw for a living, so I don't want to just devote a lot of time to design my planning tool. Usually, I start setting up the next year's Bullet Journal in October and by the time January rolls around I have the months dashboard and weekly spread for January, February and March all set up, sometimes even further and I keep setting up the rest of the year bit by bit, so that by the time I hit a month, I already have at least the next month all ready to go. 
I do so knowing that certain months will be quite busy with little time left to spare toward making weekly spreads in advance, having a headstart at right at the beginning of the year helps a ton. 

I love stocking up on washi tape to match my monthly colors, and there is no shortage of these on Amazon, earlier this year I bought a super cute set of tape (affiliate link) in my June colors and I still use it in my life journal. Some sets come with matching stickers sheets as well so you cold get a lot of bang for your money, and an easy way to create your BuJo spreads without spending hours on it. 

Don't break the bank on pens and brush pens

Seriously! DON'T 

I know all the BuJo influencers out there are singing the praise of Tombow brush pens, Gelly Rolls and Sakura micron pens, but you really don't need these to have a nice BuJo. They aren't the only quality pens out there, and even a dark colored Tombow WILL ghost and bleed on the best quality thin paper (Leuchtturm notebook!) so spending on something you are not sure you will really use is not necessary. 
Last year I wrote the ultimate "Scribble bible" for your bullet journal, and I urge you to go read it if you haven't already.
Your regular gel pens will work, so will lesser known brush pens and marker brands. I have cheap Chinese glitter pens that work as well as Gelly rolls if that says anything, so don't feel you have to give in to the big brands of writing tools out there. 

Keep it simple

Without going in the super minimalist BuJo method, you really don't have to make super complex spreads either. Over the years I found the layout that works the best for me, and that is the one I am using in this year's journal and will continue to use in the 2022 planner as well, what does it look like? 

It looks like this : 

This was last weeks spread, I blurred some of the things I don't want to be public and it was a quiet week so there wasn't a lot of tasks, but I use the same layout every months now. 
In October I went a bit nut with metallic watercolor on the borders of each spread, in other months I just went with a simpler border. 

I print my own stickers, and most of the one I use are available in my Etsy shop, or are part of the rewards I give all my newsletter subscribers every months (you even get a welcome gift when you sign up). Plus as of this month, if you pledge as a tier 1 on Patreon, you'll also get a free printable sticker set each month. 

Setting up a month worth of weekly spread take me about 1-2 hours at the most, most of what makes it look pretty is what I fill in as I go, the base of the layout is pretty bare before the month starts : here is what November looks like right now : 

It'll start looking visually appealing and fancy only once I will start filling the page, and this is my secret to set up my BuJo quickly without compromising on what my mind needs to remember and organise things : colors and visual cues. 

If you are brand new to bullet journalling, my advice is to stick to an easy to pull spread, and see if it works for you, you can still tweak it over the weeks and months and the more you use your BuJo the more you'll know what works and what doesn't work for you. We all have different lives, goals and tracking needs, and we also all have different minds that all work very differently. The beauty of the bullet journal system is that it's tailored made FOR you, BY you.

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