Setting Up My Fourth Bullet Journal

After trying out a traveler’s notebook for a year, I found that flipping back and forth between monthly and weekly/daily and collections journals wasn’t working for me; I also missed the catchall nature of having everything together in a single system.

So when I finally filled up the notebooks at the end of July, it was time for me to return to the bullet journal

Getting Started

The Notebook

I’ve just never bought into (literally) the Leuchtturm1917 hype, considering all the perfectly good (cheaper) alternatives out there. Also, the paper weight and quality is supposed to be comparable to the same-size Moleskine — which I have tried, and I found the paper thinner than I would like.

Seo @ tbhstudying has used, like, five of the same notebook in a row for her BuJo, so I wanted to try out the Peter Pauper Press Essentials A5 grid-lined notebook (x). 

Thus far, I’m pretty pleased with the quality:

  • The binding is sturdy and the notebook will stay lying open.
  • The cream-colored pages stand up to my Muji gel pens with minimal ghosting, no feathering.
  • The grid is a bit darker than I would prefer, but tolerable; I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
  • The pages don’t quite lie flat, though that may change with use? 

Other Stationery

For standard, minimalist bullet journaling, I could get by with just the Muji 0.5mm gel pen in black — a BuJo/study classic that lives up to its reputation and looks nice in photos too.

I have, however, collected and tested a lot of stationery over the years. For slightly more variation in my layouts, I usually reach for

  • Sakura Pigma Micron pens (x)
  • Zebra Mildliner highlighters (x)
  • Tombow TwinTone markers (x)
  • knockoff-Muji gel pens (x)


Themes & Colors

Since my last bujo I’d been considering having a consistent theme to use for the year / semester, finally settling on things in glass containers. I know it might sound a bit weird or vague, but it’s a versatile aesthetic and I’m excited to see how I can remix it each month.

I also considered doing a neutral/earth tones palette throughout the whole journal, but honestly I just really like color. So as I’ve done with my previous journals, I’m picking an accent color per month to create layouts that are visually simple but still bright. 

Decorative & Overview Spreads

Like many BuJo-ers, I glue down the first page (which is attached to the flyleaf so it never aligns with the rest of the notebook).

On the new first page, I lettered this motivational quote from Ryder Carroll, inventor of the BuJo system: “Begin by giving yourself permission to believe you’re worth the risk.” It serves as a reminder to myself, and was an easy-yet-creative layout to get over the fear of messing up a pristine new journal.

My word of the year is “explore,” represented by this sketch of Alice in the “Drink Me” bottle (source), which I printed, colored in, and glued to a sheet of white paper to look like a Polaroid. It stands alone since I like maintaining negative space in my layouts.

On the facing page is my 20 in 2020 Goals — my original list from December / January still needs to be modified in view of [gestures broadly, as John Green put it] and what’s actually realistic to accomplish by the end of this year.

No planning setup of mine is ever complete without the semester overview. Since I set up one month at a time, it’s important for me to have a space to jot down important dates — exams, club events, application deadlines, birthdays, etc. — as they’re given out.

This is also where I get to start color coding: blue for personal, purple for blogging, green for extracurricular, orange/brown for work, red for school. (I also color code my classes, but here they’re all just under school.)

August Spreads

The August variation on things in glass containers comes from the Chinese children’s book 媽媽,我要一顆星星 [Mommy, I Want a Star], in which the main character wants to keep stars in fishbowls.

Yellow is the dominating color in the cover illustration but not a great match for these cream-colored pages, so I decided to go with a blue color palette since blue is the other main color on the book cover and also my favorite, so a solid choice for my first monthly setup.

I also tried out a Dutch door cover inspired by Shayda Campbell‘s spreads. The spacing is a bit off since for some reason I decided to do the second page first, but I think the concept is still pretty cool.

I live by “what gets measured gets managed” — though I also try to forgive myself for skipping a day now and again. (By the way, I’ve found it gets easier and easier to keep up with trackers as you build them into your routine. Still, I know they don’t work for everyone, which is totally okay!)

The gratitude log is a little burst of positivity and mindfulness; I haven’t done so well with maintaining it in the past, but I’m doing a lot better this time around.

The reading log is something I’m trying out in addition to my books/blogging spreadsheet — with everything being made virtual / digital, I like to go analog where possible and relatively practical.

The sleep tracker is pretty self-explanatory. I round to the nearest half-hour.

The habit tracker follows the Martin system (named and explained by Thomas Frank), which runs in roughly two-week cycles that create a mid-month opportunity to analyze and reevaluate how you’re doing.


Last but not least — in a lot of ways this is the heart of the BuJo system, and definitely the section that gets the most use.

This is a straightforward layout that I often return to, which is serving me well enough at the moment. It takes just a few minutes to set up the sidebar, and by setting up one day (heading) at a time I never have to worry about running out of space.

But honestly, I don’t know what my weekly spreads will look like after my all-online classes start in September; it doesn’t help that this is the Collection I change up the most frequently … whether I’m trying to optimize or adapt to new schedules, or I just got bored. 

This post is backdated.

  • Do you use a bullet journal/planner/some other kind of daily organizer?
  • Which pieces from your stationery collection could you absolutely not get by without?
  • If you color code your calendar, which colors do you associate with which categories?

3 thoughts on “Setting Up My Fourth Bullet Journal

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