My Favorite Weekly Bullet Journal Layout

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I've been bullet journaling for about two years now. I primarily use it for work, but at home, I use a bullet journal to do my daily journals. I find it's a lot less intimidating to simply write notes in a little box, as opposed to looking at an entire blank page. I use the space to also write my focus for the week (like reducing my anxiety or forgiving myself for making mistakes), as well as goals and track my work outs. 

Above, you can see my absolute favorite weekly layout. I don't like a ton of decoration, but I do use my embarrassingly large washi tape collection to make things a little pretty. It's neat and orderly and I have just enough space in each box to write important tasks and appointments, as well as to write my evening notes. On Sundays, I write a longer journal entry where I reflect on my week, what went wrong, what went right, and what I can do different next week. Then I make my next weeks layout with a specific focus on an eye on the past week. 

I wanted to share what my weekly layout looks like in my bullet journal for a few reasons: 

  1. Bullet journaling can seem really intimidating when you see the amazing art pieces some people do in theirs! But realistically, I don't think you have to go crazy in a bullet journal. 
  2. It's nice to see how someone realistically uses a bullet journal. I'm never going to get track of all my habits, my savings, my budget in a notebook. That's just not how my brain works! But I do try to keep a journal so that I can remember when things happen and my son can have a record of what life was like with him as a toddler. 

I keep my Pinterest journals board updated with interesting bujo layouts. You can check it out here. I'm always making little tweaks to my weekly layout--like changing up fonts, color schemes, and more--but I think picking one you like and sticking with it is the best way to figure out what works, so you can better use your bullet journal. 

How to Start a Gratitude Journal

I've been keeping journals since I was about 14 or 15, consistently. I write down just about every aspect of my life, which will leave the future a very boring record of one girl who really liked staying at home. However, I journal mostly for my benefit--not really anyone else's! This is really the perfect way to approach journaling, because it removes the stress of creating some kind of "record" for anyone other than yourself. 

Gratitude journaling is something that has emerged, quite recently, as a way to journal through anxiety and depression. Basically, in a gratitude journal, you write the things you're thankful for. It's a pretty easy concept on paper. But getting started (especially if you're struggling with anxiety or depression) can be overwhelming. 

Here are some tips and resources for getting started.

1. Pick a journal you like. 

I have tons of notebooks lying around my house. Some I use whenever I need a sheet of paper--to make a grocery list or write down a reminder. Some I am saving for a very specific purpose. (I have a London journal that I've been hoarding since 2011. Someday!) What I'm saying is: don't just use any notebook you have lying around. Pick a notebook you really want to use. Something pretty. Or something utilitarian (if that's your style). A journal with your favorite kind of paper. And remember, use your favorite pens (or whatever pen, again, if that's your style). If you're persnickety about these things, don't work against them. 

2. Find some prompts. 

When I first started gratitude journaling, I would end my usual journal entries with 5 things I was thankful for or 5 things I enjoyed that day (even if it was a crappy day). Overtime, it got more and more difficult because I found myself listing the same few things every day. Recently, I copied my friend Charlotte's gratitude journal format (that she borrowed from someone else and posted on her Instagram!) to help me get restarted. Alternatively, you can find tons of gratitude journal prompts on Pinterest. You can follow my Pinterest board on journaling here, complete with tons of prompts and inspiration. 

3. Make it part of your routine. 

Journaling works best, for me, when I do it every evening. Some people prefer journaling in the morning--it just really depends on your style! There is something alluring about waking up in the morning and drinking your morning coffee while you journal. However, life with a toddler means that does not happen in my world, but if it's possible in yours, go for it. Make filling in your gratitude journal part of your routine. 

4. Write as little or as much as you want. 

If you work best writing lists, go for it. If you want to write pages and pages... that's fine too! Lots of gratitude journal lists suggest one thing or the other--I suspect in the belief that you might run out of steam or only do superficial journaling if you go either way. However, for me, it's entirely personal; sometimes, I want to write a lot. Sometimes, I'm just going to write a list. 

5. Don't force it. 

Sometimes, I just can't think of anything I'm grateful for besides the fact that I woke up and I get to go to sleep! That's kind of a bummer, right? Unfortunately, it's the truth. However, I find it easier if I don't force it. Some days, I just cannot think of anything I want to write down and that's fine. Maybe the next day, I'll think, "Gosh, I'm in a better mood now and I can see I should have written this." If I force myself, I'm lulling myself into a false sense of "This is fine. It's all fine." If you can't think of anything to write, it's really, totally ok to not write anything. Or to write, "I'm drawing a blank. I hope I feel better tomorrow." 

Do you gratitude journal? Share with me on Twitter! I want to see what your process looks like for an upcoming newsletter

How to Keep a Bullet Journal

I love my bullet journal. I've been bullet journaling for work purposes for over 2 years now. It helps me stay organized at work, monitor my priorities and work, and keep track of the various notes I take every day. 

I recently started keeping a personal bullet journal. I want to talk about keeping a bullet journal and how I started mine. To start though, I should clarify what I use my personal bullet journal for. Primarily, I use it as a way to relieve stress in the evenings (who doesn't love doodling and writing?) and to keep track of all the lists I want to make. 

I use a cheap, $1 journal from the Target $1 Spot. I primarily try to use only black pen, so that I don't have to do anything fancy. Sometimes, bullet journals can seem like these tomes where everything has to be perfect and I'd really like to let people know that it doesn't have to be perfect. You can make it as pretty or not pretty as you want. It can be a gratitude journal, a daily journal, a planner, whatever. Bullet journals are what you make of them; it stresses me out trying to make them as "cute" as some bullet journal uses on Instagram, but realistically, it's just for me. It's doesn't need to be perfect!  

Here's how I keep my bullet journal. 

  1. I keep a list of "page ideas" in the front (just after the index, it's page 2) and am slowly working through it. You can view all my bullet journal pins--complete with page ideas--on Pinterest. 
  2. Every night, I have the goal to complete one page and fill it in with writing. 
  3. I don't do "habit tracking" or things like that because, undoubtedly, it ends up boring me. I prefer journaling lists, making running lists, or just daily journaling. 
  4. I practice my hand lettering on specific pages. On my Pinterest board, you can see some of my inspiration for banners and dates. 


5 Reasons to Start Keeping a Journal Today

I started keeping journals not long after I started reading the Amelia series of books by Marissa Moss. (If you love 1990s style websites, do yourself a favor and definitely click that link!) I can basically judge a person's character depending on if they read the Amelia book popularized by American Girl Magazine in the late 90s and early 00s. If you haven't read them, I take pity on you, but you need to get on Amazon and start ordering. Trust me on that one. 

I have storage containers full of journals. Journals upon journals upon journals. At least 100 of them. At least. I was not very good at keeping things in order and I flitted between notebooks and diaries based on which one was prettiest or newest. Some are half empty. As I got older, they became more ornate; in  high school, I all about filling my notebooks with intricate pencil drawings, printed photos from the internet, and collages. In college, I was a straight writer: no frills, no fuss. By my senior year, I was drawing intricate dates, writing long entries, including random lists (ala Colonel Gentleman from the Venture Bros, embarrassingly enough), pictures, ticket stubs, and more. Part-scrapbook, part journal, I hit the journal sweet spot. 

I've continued my journal habit for about 16 years, if I guess that I started legitimately writing journals at 10 or 11. That's pretty impressive. I'm not an "everyday" kind of journal writer. I often forget or write about things that happened weeks ago. In general, my journal entries have always been more about my feelings than about what I strictly did that day or recounting conversations. I collect things: lists of books, sticky notes, general lists, disorder, whatever. I like my journals to feel as messy and disorganized as my life. 

As much as I love journaling, I've always resented those "journal your way to happiness!!" blog posts. Journaling can definitely help get rid of negative or harmful emotions, but it's not a cure all. That's for sure. If journaling really allowed you to realize your greatest dreams with simply writing about it, I would be a world famous author who was 6'1" and looked like Kendall Jenner by now. 

There are lots of valid reasons to keep a journal. Here are five: 

1. People who write down things they are thankful for are happier. 

Ok, this is a proven fact: if you write down a few things that were good about your day, or that you are thankful for from your day, you'll become a happier person. Basically, researchers did a study where they split a group in half; one half wrote down five positive things from their day and the other half wrote down five negative things from their day. It was a journal experiment and the results were that the group who wrote down positive things were happier people at the end of the study. Not too shabby, huh? If you're looking to find little ways to improve your life, writing down a list of things you are thankful for or positive events from your day (even on a rotten, horrible, no-good day) can be a good first step. 

2. It's fun to look back on your past self and laugh (or cry). 

Some of my best, funniest writing happened when I was 16. Why? Because my journals from my sophomore and junior years of high school are hilariously melodramatic. They're so boring, but looking back makes me appreciate how I somehow managed to be intelligent and really stupid at the same time. I'm sure this will continue to be a theme as I get older. Someday, when I'm 50, I'll look back my blog posts and journals and think, "What is wrong with you?" 

3. It's relaxing. 

I don't buy into the "journaling will make you so happy" mumbo-jumbo, but man... decorating a journal page and writing even just a paragraph can be a hugely relaxing activity after a long day of work. Sometimes, I find myself feeling on edge and cranky, and I slowly realize that what I really, really need is 45 minutes to myself to doodle, decorate, and journal. 

4. It can improve your memory. 

Everyday, I write a few of the same lists: things I need to do; things I've done; and things I've learned. As I write those daily lists, I find that I am better able to remember everything I have to do and everything I've already done. And I retain information better. Research has shown that list-makers (those list obsessed amongst us) have better memories, probably because physically writing information down (not typing it!) aids in memory retention. 

5. You create a record for your family and children. 

Ok, it doesn't matter if you have kids right now or not. But by keeping journals, you keep somewhat of a record of your life for your children, grandchildren, and distant relatives. How cool is that? Have you ever gotten a chance to read a great-great-grandfather's journals or ledgers before? Isn't it fun? I hope to leave something more than a Facebook page behind for future generations, which is part of why I keep journals. 

I'm Excited for: #30Lists in March

Are you a list maker? Do you have a problem buying those magnetic list notepads from the Target $1 section? Do you have to have a list of ideas, or things you need to do, in order to remember what on earth you're supposed to be doing with the 24 hours of your day? Does your journal read like an itemized list? 

Ok, here are my answers to those questions: yes; yes, I have a drawer full of them; yes, definitely; and yes, if a stranger read my list, they'd probably think I'm crazy. 

I know I'm not alone, thanks in part to the Internet and to #30lists. 

What is #30Lists? It is a "creative journaling challenge for people who live lists." You can check out their website here

I participated in #30Lists last March -- it was a great activity for everyday. I wasn't working; I spent a lot of my time at home; and I needed something to occupy my time. As a journaling challenge, it doesn't take up a ton of time -- but if you scrapbook each page, it's something that can add a little simply creativity to your day without being a total time suck. 

This year, I pre-made my scrapbook. However, I included the daily prompts -- which means I can't post any pictures yet. (Spoilers, yo!) I used a small, 5x7-inch 3-ring binder (slightly smaller than one of these Project Life mini binders, but very similar). I chose this because I'd made a small binder journal for my Disneyland trip in December and had leftover paper; plus, I just liked the size. It's travel compatible and compact. As well, the small the page, the less you need to scrapbook. 

I'm excited for March to start so I can get started on my lists! Only 8 more days.