I’ve never been much of a journaler. I’m an avid reader, and I love to write, but journaling always intimidated me and frankly, I’m terrible at remembering something like a journal entry at the end of my day. Last summer came around, and I realized I needed something to remember basic facts and information. I had just returned home from England, where I spent much of my time recovering from anxiety and depression, and I was trying to find new coping mechanisms to adapt to living at home again. I discovered bullet journaling – a quick, do-it-yourself style of journaling and it became my saving grace for managing mental health and daily activities.
Here’s the difference between mine and others – I don’t use my bullet journal to express anything artistic. My layouts aren’t pretty, my writing isn’t calligraphic at all, and I often fail to use a ruler because I’m too lazy. The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can do whatever you want. Due to the nature of why I bullet journal, I couldn’t share actual layouts as they’re far too personal – so I’ve copied my layouts without the personal information. I did my best to make these layouts as rough as my own. You don’t have to be artistic and have beautiful pages to bullet journal!
Like many others, my journal of choice is the Leuchtturm 1917 – it’s the most durable little book, comes in lovely colours, and has a nice dot grid style which is perfect for personalization. I also use Sharpie pens which are my favourite pens in life – they don’t bleed through the pages.
Layouts that I Use
When I started designing my bullet journal, I had a few things I needed to track:
- Day to Day Activities (I have a terrible memory due to my anxiety, so I often forget important dates or appointments)
- Health/Behaviour (I try to track my moods and what I’m doing so that if I have an off month, I can see the contributing factors)
- Weekly Schedule (again, the memory thing)
You’ll see that all of my layouts incorporate mental health and maintaining a healthy mind. My bullet journal is many things, but first and foremost, it helps me pay close attention to my moods and behaviours and what might change or improve them.
I also scoured Pinterest for layout ideas – I’ll link to any blogs whose layouts I used.
This is the layout I use for my monthly outlook. I track hours that I’ve worked using short forms in orange, birthdays in red, activities in black. I try to fill out as much as I can at the beginning of the month, but I add things each week too. I found this layout here and have adapted it a little.
At the beginning of 2017 I started this Goals page – I had a few in mind that I wanted to achieve. Each month, I revisit my goals and update as needed. I’ll check them off if I’ve achieved them or change them a bit if need be. I found this lovely layout here and have adapted/changed it to suit my needs. This is pretty much as artistic I get.
Monthly Habit Tracker/Explanations (for Mental Health)
This is my most useful layout. This is my mental health page and where I track patterns of my own personal behaviours. My own version of this is much more detailed and personal. I track physical and emotional habits, like my energy levels and headaches as well as moods. I also track contributing factors to these habits, like drinking coffee or exercising. This isn’t all negative – it’s just so I can see what helps my mental health and what hinders it. Through this layout, I’ve learned that I cannot drink coffee or it does funny things to my mood. I include a page of explanations too, for major changes or long periods of mood swings where I need to remind myself why certain things happened. I found this layout on Buzzfeed.
This is similar to my journal but a bit more detailed. I write times of events, a more specific work schedule, and appointments. I also keep track of my sleeping hours, more specific daily activities that I need to complete for a healthy mind, the amount of money I have spent/saved, what I need to buy, and a little space for notes. This layout works because for me because I can see it all clearly and I have plenty of space to write. I adapted this layout from this young lady’s Instagram.
Weekly Wellness Tracker
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to stay healthy and this layout as been important for keeping track of what I’m doing. I’ve also found, due to its style, that it allows me to be easier on myself when I have a day or two of eating improperly or not working out. Where I would once beat myself up, I now understand that it might be because I was busy, at a party, or with family or friends. And because I track my goals, it’s more of an improvement tracker – on days where I’ve done well, I’ll write what I achieved. On days where I slipped, I’ll write what I could work on. I track what I eat (meals and snacks), what my activity was for the day, how my mental health was, and any notes or goals.
As I said before, my layouts are best used when their main focus is either on my schedule or my personal mental health. Your journal should be targeted to what you need most. Your journal is for your eyes only unless you choose to share. Don’t worry about being messy or perfect or too personal – it’s for you so none of that matters unless it’s important to you.
Things I Don’t Use
A key. I saw almost every example of a bullet journal use a key for their activities so I did create one when I first started. I’ve referenced it once since then. It’s not important to me.
A page tracker. I used to update this, but I don’t anymore. It doesn’t bother me to flip through and I’m not the type to go back and reflect on anything.
I’m not artistic – my layouts won’t look good. I am not artistically inclined either. As much as I would love to be, I am not talented in that way. None of my layouts look as beautiful as pictures you see in blogs. If you’re artistic and part of your therapy in enjoying bullet journaling is the artistic side of creating calligraphy and designs for your layouts, that’s wonderful. My layouts are messy, my writing is messy, and it’s because I utilize my bullet journal for different things. At first, it bothered me that my stuff wasn’t neat and beautiful – I got over that quickly.
It takes too long to set up. The first few months, setting up your journal will take a while. The research I put into finding the perfect layout took days. When I finally found those layouts, they weren’t perfect and I changed them until I found layouts that stuck. Now that I have my layouts down, it takes about 30 minutes total to set up my bullet journal for the week ahead. I don’t use a ruler and I don’t do any fancy things.
I’ll get bored of updating it just like I do any other journal. You probably will. I do too. There are times where I don’t update my journal for five days straight. But, my layouts aren’t dependent on “in the moment” memories. If you know that it’s hard for you to commit, find a layout that won’t take too much effort – which you can quickly keep up to date even if you’ve forgotten a few days.
And that’s that! I love my bullet journal so much. It has helped my mental health tremendously.
Do you bullet journal? What layouts are your favourite?