How I Use My Bullet Journal to Plan My Year

I’m a certifiable planner addict. I always get crazy excited every January, when a clean notebook reflects the fresh start that comes with a new year. I’ve spent the past few days setting up my planner for 2020, and wanted to share my bullet journal with you!

Why a Bullet Journal?

There are so many options for planners and notebooks. Some are made for convenience, with premade layouts and calendars. These are fine, but I prefer to have blank pages to make whatever pages I need. Being able to design individual page layouts allows me to plan a yearly calendar, individual months and weeks, goal setting, to-do lists, travel plans and more all in the same place. I also use it to document books I want to read, movies and TV shows I want to watch, places I want to go, things I want to learn more about… that’s the beauty of a bullet journal. You can truly make the space your own, for whatever purpose you need.

The ability to design your pages goes beyond functionality – each page is a canvas for creative design. Check out #bulletjournal on Instagram, or r/bulletjournal on Reddit to see the insane creativity of the bullet journal community!

Using a bullet journal is also a lovely way to document your year to look back on in the future. What you did, where you went, the media you consumed, the aesthetics you liked are all documented in paper and ink. In an era where what most of what we do is digitally documented, it’s interesting to have something tactile with which we can reflect on past years.

My Tools

This is nowhere near all of my planner tools… I’m like a dragon that hoards planner supplies
  • Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dotted Notebook – I always choose a dot-grid notebook for my bullet journal. It allows for the best custom layout designs, as you can work vertically and horizontally, and there is less visual obstruction than with graphing paper. Leuchtturm1917 notebooks have a beautiful texture to the paper and come in a variety of colours.
  • Micron Fineliner Pens, Black, 0.1/0.5mm – These are my absolute favourite when it comes to felt-tip pens. They have beautiful fluid ink that doesn’t bleed through pages.
  • Staedler Triplus Fineliners 10 Pack, 0.3mm – A collection of coloured felt-tip pens that don’t bleed through pages. Note: don’t lend these to people because they will press too hard and ruin the nibs of the pens.
  • Clear acrylic stamping block: Meant for use with ink-stamping, I use this instead of a ruler for most line-drawing and spacing. I prefer using this since it creates perfect right angles, and I can see through the piece onto the page below to ensure I’m marking where I mean to.
  • The Happy Planner stickers, multiple packs – A remnant of my time working at Michaels (a big box craft store), these sticker packs are gorgeous. Meant to be used in conjecture with the Happy Planner book, I use these to add colour and cuteness to my bullet journal. It’s a shame that I left two of my favourite sticker books behind in Canada! It’s a bigger shame that they don’t sell Happy Planner products in England! Ugh.
  • Washi Tape, various – This thin paper tape creates an easy and beautiful way to brighten up pages with borders, divisions, and a pop of colour.

Formatting My Bullet Journal

I divide my planner into two sections: the first is pages that will be used throughout the year (called “collections”), and the second is monthly sections and day-to-day planning.

Collections

  • A yearly cover page
  • Goals for the year
No, you don’t get aaaaaall my personal hopes and dreams!
  • Year in review / Annual calendar
Always try to leave room to add important dates as they come up!
  • Mood tracker
As someone living with a mood disorder, it’s a way to keep track of how I’m doing. I find it helpful to have a spread to make me actively reflect on how my days have been so I can take care of myself properly.
  • Social Media planner
    I don’t have a photo of this one yet because I’m still setting it up. I have a brief outline of what my “brand” is, an Instagram follower tracker, my daily and weekly check-in lists, and will have more added soon!
  • On my bookshelf / Books to read
Finishing the Outlander series (or as much of it as is currently published!) is my reading goal for 2020.
  • Movie tracker
This spread is one of my favourite collections this year. It took ages, but was so worth it!

Sub-Collections

These pages aren’t full layouts, but rather collections of lists and notes to help keep track of useful things. I don’t have too much on these pages yet, but I always try to leave a bit of extra room just in case I need to add more to this section!

  • Meal ideas
  • Budget
  • Monthly chores
  • Mailing addresses for people back home

I don’t have any photos of these pages because they are practical pages – a header and jotted notes.

Monthlies

After designing my collection pages, and leaving some extra pages clear for future additions, I’ve closed the first section of my planner. The rest of the book is subdivided by month, and each month has its own theme.

  • Cover page – acts as a division between sections, and sets up the theme for the month
  • Month in review – A calendar and list of important dates, my monthly focus and goals, and a space to document all the memorable things from the month.
  • Monthly focus and goal setting – Details and plans for achieving monthly goals, some inspiring quotes.
  • Weeklies – Each week gets its own spread (resulting in 4-5 weeklies/month), documenting each week in greater detail.
  • Miscellaneous – Along with weekly spreads, months can have special spreads related to what’s going on. For example, January will have a “London” spread to help plan my trip later this month!

Weeklies

Weekly spreads are probably my favourite, since they can change so much depending on what you want to do with them. I always have a list of what to put on a weekly spread, and then use the rest of the space for notes, quotes, washi tape, stickers, drawings, or anything else to make my pages beautiful!

The first week of January 2020

Each week I include:

  • Date range for the week (eg. 6-12 January)
  • Space for each day
  • Mini monthly calendar
  • Habit tracker
  • Weekly goals

Everything else on the page is up to what I want to include, what fits with the monthly aesthetic, what inspires me, and whatever I feel just looks good on that layout!

It’s a lot of experimentation, and I’m not always happy with how every page turns out. That’s part of the beauty of the bullet journal though, the opportunity to experiment with what works best for you, and to try creative new things. For example, many people prefer to use a more minimalist aesthetic because that’s what works best for them. The maximalist, design-heavy planner is what works best for me, because I enjoy it that way! There’s no right or wrong way to use a bullet journal, and there are so many creators out there who are sure to inspire you, no matter your aesthetic tastes!

How do you prepare for the new year? Do you use a bullet journal or planner?

My To-Do List for Moving Abroad

So it’s come to my attention that in just over three months, I’m moving out of the country for two years. Oh my god. I’ve had my visa approved for a few months, but haven’t really made a lot of progress in preparing for the move. So what is there to do?

I’m the kind of person who has to write everything out and make a million lists. Below is my non-comprehensive list of everything to get done before boarding your flight for a move abroad. I have my list separated into four categories: Travel, “Things and Stuff” (physical possessions), Medical, and Accounts.

Travel

  • Buy plane tickets. The earlier you buy your tickets, the cheaper it will be.
  • Plan arrival pickup. I have a host picking me up from the airport. If you are meeting someone there, make sure they know when your flight gets in, the airport you’re arriving at, and that they schedule time off to meet you. If you’re traveling or moving on your own, plan for where you will be staying the night of your arrival.
  • Make packing list. I’ve put this off so far because I need to do a bit more research, but will make a post to share my packing list with you.
  • Pack. Check in advance to know your chosen airline’s policies for baggage. Often, they will charge for each non-carryon item, with an increased price per bag. I’m aiming to get everything into one full-size travel case, and one small one. Plus a carryon.
  • Exchange money to have cash for arrival. It’s always a good idea to have foreign currency ready before you arrive, just in case.

Things & Stuff

  • Go through clothes. This is basically the best opportunity you could ever have to revamp your wardrobe. I’m super excited to purge my wardrobe completely and use the move as an opportunity to update my personal style.
  • Go through “things”. Sort your things into 4 categories: things to bring, things to get rid of, things to sell and, things to store. Storage can either be in personal storage, or with family members.
    • Organize a yard sale. Maybe not applicable if you don’t have a yard, but I think this is a good step to add before moving to donating or selling online.
    • Sell things online. Look for local community sale groups on Facebook. Post on Craigslist or Kijiji (my go-to). Try out some selling apps.
    • Donate what’s left!
  • Distribute plants to friends. If you’re as much of a plant person as I am, you’ll need someone to take care of your plants. I’ve got plants for some of my friends as a gift, and the rest I’m leaving with my mum. She has an amazing green thumb, so I know they’ll be in safe hands!
  • Give cosplay gear to my friend. Surprise, I’m a cosplayer! Though I’m planning on continuing to be a big ol’ nerd in England, I have a lot of gear that I’m giving to @coffeesandcosplay to make use of in my absence (eg. my sewing machine, EVA foam, dremel)
  • Shop for travel gear (and make shopping list). There are some odds and ends that I need to pick up before I go, like power cords for North American plugs, Tim Hortons hot chocolate mix, and a new backpack for weekend travel trips.

Medical

  • Doctor appointment. Though I will have health coverage in England, I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of finding a GP. One last checkup and the opportunity to place and fill prescriptions and get a copy of my medical record so I can bring everything with me.
  • Dentist appointment. Getting my teeth checked and any potential fillings needed before I go! I also need to find my retainer. Or get it replaced if I can’t find it!
  • Optometrist appointment. I want to make sure that my prescription is up to date, and that I can order contact lenses to last for 2 years, as well as tune up my glasses.

Accounts

  • Cancel phone plan. It’ll be cheaper to get a new phone and plan in England than deal with international fees.
  • Cancel Presto pass since I won’t need my Ottawa transit pass!
  • Cancel Crave subscription since it’s a Canadian service.
  • Renew credit card. Mine expires a few months before my travel visa ends, and I’ll need my credit card while I’m traveling.

That’s my list! Every month in my bullet journal I’m breaking it down into a few things to do each month. So far, I’ve bought my plane ticket and planned my arrival, and gone through my wardrobe! There’s still lots more to do, but having it written out and organized makes me feel so much better. Hopefully this list will help out if you are also planning on departing for long-term travel!