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  • Writer's pictureEirinn Norrie

Setting Up a Bullet Journal for 2021

A black and white bullet journal daily to-do list with Micron pens

Happy new year! With everything we went through in 2020, I know we’re all looking forward to the 2021 and the hope that it brings. One thing that has helped me to get through 2020 is thinking about all of the things I want to do in the future once the pandemic is under control… traveling to Scotland, going to play mini-golf, board game nights with friends and family…

One fun and creative way to keep track of everything you have to do in 2021 is to make a bullet journal! I have a bullet journal because it not only helps keep me organized— it is an amazing creative outlet and a great way to get away from screen time!

What is a bullet journal?

A bullet journal is a journal filled with pages of gridded dots rather than lines or blank pages. You can create anything you want in your bullet journal, and can fully customize your journal for your needs and preferences. You can add different colors, artistic techniques, and use any art supplies you would like! You can plan out your pages in advance, or, you can build your journal "as you go". A lot of people use their bullet journals for a combination of the following:

  • Monthly calendars

  • Monthly cover pages (these don't really serve a purpose... they're just a page with the name of the month on them before the rest of your pages for that specific month - giving you a chance to get creative and do some doodling / artwork!)

  • Daily and weekly "to-do list" pages

  • Mood trackers

  • Habit trackers (water intake, homework/studying, exercise, taking vitamins, etc)

  • Inspirational quotes and motivation

  • Doodle pages for stress relief

  • Bucket lists (travel, reading, etc)

  • Budget and spending information/tracking

  • Passwords

  • Brain "dumps" (pages where you can rant, get out what's on your mind, etc)

A red bullet journal has two Micron pens on top of it.
My red bullet journal - the color makes it easy to find in a bag!

*Note: This post contains affiliate links to products for bullet journaling that I love. If you purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

What do you need to get started with your bullet journal?

While you can get as fancy with your bullet journal as you would like, all you truly need to get started is the journal itself!

My favorite bullet journal is the Leuchtturm1917 Medium A5 journal (comes in many colors!). While I typically go for black, I’m currently using this bright red one. I like the red because it’s easy to spot (anyone else always losing things around their house?!), and if you’re bringing your journal with you in your bag to work/school (or anywhere else) each day, it makes it easy to spot among all the stuff you have to chug along with you.

You can choose a journal that works best for you— in terms of size, binding, and paper type/quality. I like the Leuchtturm journals because I find the paper to be of good quality and the covers hold up really well (my bag gets thrown around a lot!).

Once you have your journal, you can use any craft supplies that you have at home to start your journal (pens, papers, paints, etc). But if you’d like to get some specific items to treat yourself as 2021 begins (hey— I think we all deserve it!), I’d recommend that you have a packet of brush pens (these are the ones I use) and thin black fineliner pens (these ones are fabulous!).

An empty bullet journal page
The dots on the bullet journal pages enable you to create whatever you'd like for your planner!

If you're someone who likes colorful pages, I'd recommend having a plethora of colors to choose from for your journal. I use these fineliner pens for almost all of my bullet journal pages (I'm sure I don't need to explain why... just LOOK at how fabulous these are!):

Planning out your bullet journal (A crucial step!)

Trust me, you’ll be soooo tempted to jump right in as soon as you get your bullet journal! (Guilty: I did with my first bullet journal!). But then you often regret the ordering of your pages, or realize you would have preferred to have a full year calendar at the very beginning of your journal rather than in the middle, or yada yada!

It’s best to spend a little bit of time (even if it's only 15 minutes!) thinking about what content you want in your journal and how you might want your pages to look. Even if you end up doing something totally different than originally planned, it will be time well spent!

What content do you want to organize?

Spend a few moments to make a list of what content you want organized in your life. Do you want to keep on track of your spending habits? Do you want to have space for a daily brain dump, where you write and get out all of your emotions? Do you want list after list after list of goals you want to achieve and things you want to do? This will help you to determine what you will want in your bullet journal.

I tend to have a cover page for each month, followed by weekly to-do lists, followed by a "brain dump" page and a page for goals, notes, and habits. This simple format works well for me!

What do you want your journal to look like?

Once you have your list of content for your journal, next it's time to think about how you want your journal to look. While you don't have to have it all figured out (and you can change your mind), it's good to have a rough idea so that you don't end up tearing out a bunch of pages after you start! Some things to consider:

  • Do you want your journal to be all over the place or highly organized and consistent?

  • Do you want lots of colors or do you want a particular color scheme? (see below for a color scheme I'm using for one month in the new year!)

  • Will you use the same art supplies throughout or will you add in different techniques and textures as you go?

  • Would you like to use washi tape? Printed images? Construction paper?

  • Do you want to doodle? Pencils or pens?

What page ordering makes sense for you?

Spend a few minutes planning out the structure of your bullet journal. If you want to track habits, do you want the habit trackers on your weekly to-do lists, or do you want them on a separate page? Do you want a monthly cover page followed by weekly to-do lists, or do you want to skip the cover page entirely?

The nice thing about a bullet journal is that you can change it up based on what is working and what isn't. Hate the way you set up your monthly spread for January 2021? Not a problem - you can do something completely different for February! Don't like the way a page looks? Cover it up with a collage of pictures!

Now... It's time to get started! Pick up that bullet journal and make your first mark!

Using the content you determined that you'd like to include and the ideas you have on how you'd like your journal to look, you're now ready to jump in and start setting up your journal.

You can draw the "templates" for each month in advance - or you can build them as you go. It's up to you!

Some people choose to create a "theme" for each month:

Using the same colors and feel, you can create a "look" for each month, if you would like. Some people like to coordinate this with the time of year. For example, February may be snowy, so you might want to do cool blues and purples. But you may want to do a sunny and warm theme for August. Here's my cover page for February:

A monthly cover page for a bullet journal with black cursive text and snowflakes

Followed by weekly spreads for "to-do" lists in the same colors/design:

A weekly bullet journal spread with blue and purple snowflakes

And after each weekly spread, I have a page for notes, goals, and tracking habits:

A page in a bullet journal for notes, goals, and habit tracking. The page is drawn in blues and purples.

But you don't have to coordinate your pages!

Although it can make a bullet journal look really nice, it's most important that you love your bullet journal, enjoy creating your pages, and actually use your journal. If that means having your journal be completely wacky and all over the place - then embrace your wacky journal!

You don't have to spend a lot of time on your journal.

You can, of course - but it's not necessary (and seriously, who has time to spend hours each week journaling?! I certainly don't!). Set aside 10-15 minutes, and do what you can. Here's a monthly cover page that took me about 10 minutes to create:

And it's okay to make mistakes!

My lines aren't all straight, I have spelling errors, things end up off-center... it's okay. There are so many amazing bullet journals on Pinterest, so don't get caught up comparing yourself to others. But certainly check out Pinterest for some inspiration!

Questions about bullet journaling? Comment below or email!

Happy New Year!


And now you're ready! I hope you enjoy bullet journaling in the New Year. If you bullet journal, don't forget to share your pages on our Crafters' Corner or on social media using #TangledThreadsAndThings.

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