August Cover Page, Goals and Intentions, Project Planning Pages, and Weekly Spreads
I began bullet journaling nearly 5 years ago after becoming overwhelmed with all of my to-do lists and calendars scattered everywhere and unable to find a planner option that allowed me to keep everything in one place. I craved somewhere where my grocery list, monthly goals, and school projects could coexist and my monthly, weekly, and daily to-do's felt connected.
That is when I discovered the world of bullet journalling: I was so intrigued by the opportunity to develop my own planning system that not only reflected my priorities but allowed me to get creative again and simplify my organization system. I always loved all things creative, but my time to create art slowly disappeared while I attended University. Bullet journaling felt like a way for me to "justify" creating art because it felt productive: I was planning, after all!
Now, almost five years later, I am still going strong with my bullet journal! I love how much flexibility it offers, simplifies my organization system by keeping everything in one place, and can be customized around my priorities, projects, and needs. Putting pen to paper has helped me declutter my mind while practising mindfulness, exercising my creativity, and reflecting on what my goals and intentions are — and most importantly, the reason behind them.
What is bullet journaling?
The concept of bullet journaling was introduced by designer Ryder Carroll. A bullet journal is characterized by its dotted pages as opposed to lined or blank pages like a typical notebook would have! There are so many beautiful, elaborate bullet journal designs out there, but your bullet journal can be whatever you need it to be: filled with detailed illustrations or super minimal with just the basics. It is all about expressing your personal style in a way that feels right for you and your lifestyle.
Although there are now digital bullet journals, it is at its roots an analogue method that encourages you to exercise the hand-brain connection, which increases mindfulness, exercises creativity, and decreases stress.
Carroll introduced an entire indexing system and guide to setting up your bullet journal which you can read here and even released his own bullet journal line. While I like to keep my bullet journal simple and don't incorporate many of these guides myself because I've found a method that works best for me, there are amazing points in here that are worth trying — especially if you're a beginner!
For me, bullet journaling is about creating a seamless flow from my yearly goals to my monthly goals, weekly goals, and all the way down to my daily to-do’s. This blog post will cover the monthly and weekly setups I use!
Materials you’ll need
Finding a Bullet Journal
There are so many wonderful bullet journals out there and the one you choose should depend on your intended use and mediums! Here are a few of my suggestions:
If you’re new to bullet journaling and would like a more guided experience with tools to optimize your journal, Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal line is a great place to start. Plus, it comes in many different colours to choose from.
The bullet journal that I use is Leuchtturm1917’s classic hardcover notebook in the A5 size with dotted pages. I find that the pages are too thin for scrapbooking, coloured illustrations, and painting, but I love the colours it comes in and how durable it is so it can travel with you anywhere.
I’ve seen great reviews of Hemlock and Oak’s dotted notebook with a luxurious woven cloth cover. It comes in an A5 size, lays flat which is great for drawing and writing, is FSC certified, and its ribbons are made from 100% post-consumer waste recycled plastic. I’m eyeing this one for myself!
Many artists use Archer and Olive’s dotted notebooks and love them. I’ve even seen people paint in these because its 160gsm paper is ultra thick and prevents ghosting and bleeding. They have lots of different options to express your style and are handcrafted!
Pencils: I love sketching out all of my designs ahead of time in pencil and even fill a few of my spreads in pencil (like my calendar) to make changes easier. Although you don’t have to invest in artist pencils or anything fancy, if you do choose to, I love the Faber-Castell graphite pencil art tin set. Not only are these the best quality I have used, but I really appreciate that the company is a leader in environmentally-friendly production.
Pens: Faber-Castell’s black artist pen fine liners are a must, specifically in the sizes xs (0.1mm) and small (o.3mm) for writing and creating detailed illustration work: These are waterproof so if you’d like to paint overtop of them in watercolour, they won’t bleed!
Coloured pencils: If you’re hoping to add some colour to your bullet journal, pencil crayons are a great option that won’t bleed through the pages in the same way that paint might. This artists’ colour pencil set by Faber-Castell (can you tell they're my favourite?!) comes in amazing quality, colour range, and water/smudge-proof pigments. If you don’t want to invest in the full set, they also have individual pencil crayons available so you can just pick up a few of your favourite colours to start!
Markers: a lot of bullet journalists love using copic markers to create coloured illustrations. They are super beginner-friendly, have a smooth application, and have fast-drying ink which makes them ideal for bullet journaling. They come in so many different colours, which you can buy all together or in smaller sets.
The Cover Page
One of the main intentions behind my artwork is to reconnect with nature, so for my cover page, I like to draw a different botanical illustration. This year, it is my goal to learn more about native pollinating plants where I live, so I have been choosing a different one to draw (and subsequently research) each month of the year!
For August, I chose the black-eyed susan. Blooming mid-season in prairie meadows, their expansive, sunshine-y petals create the perfect landing pad for camouflaged looper moths, tiger swallowtail butterflies, long-horned bees, and mining bees according to Credit Valley Conservation.
I start drawing flowers with this round shape by sketching out ovals in different sizes, focusing mostly on the top half of my page. I make sure there is lots of variety in their sizes and try to add in some that are facing different directions, which can be achieved by drawing an oval that appears more narrow. From there, I will connect the flowers toward a central point at the bottom of the page by sketching their stems.
Once I have the base of the flower done, I’ll add in leaves wherever there is a little bit more blank space in the drawing. The black-eyed susan has long, thin leaves that gradually get smaller as they make their way toward the flower, so I sketch their basic shape in.
Once I have the composition of my illustration down, I will start filling in the details of the flower petals and leaves with my fine liner pen. I start by drawing out each flower's central cone because the petals will form around it. To make your composition more complex, don’t always draw this directly in the centre of the flower. Instead, put them closer to the top of the oval to make them appear as though they are tilting upward and away from you (as black-eyed susans often do) and closer to the bottom of the oval to make them appear as though they are tilting downward. Then, draw your petals around that central point, making sure to point their tip and make some overlapping and different sizes to mimic their natural pattern. The best part about flowers is that they don’t have to be perfect!
Next, I’ll just add in the veining on the leaves — one central vein from root to tip and veins expanding outward from that central vein toward the outer edges. This step is optional, but I like to add some line shading for more detail. To do this, I draw in thin, whispy lines with my fine liner where there would naturally be some darker areas on the flower: the base of the leaves, where petals and leaves overlap, and toward the base of each petal. I keep these fairly loose and imperfect but I think it adds that extra “something” to the illustration!
Monthly Goals and Intentions
Right next to the cover page, I write out my goals and intentions for the month ahead. This is probably my favourite spread because I get the chance to reflect on my priorities and the mindset I want to cultivate.
For my goals, I’ll write out the broad-level projects I’m working on and want to focus on that month. For my intentions, I normally choose a word that is resonating with me that month or that I want to call in. Then, I’ll write a little paragraph reflecting on what that word is meaning to me during that season and how I want it to manifest throughout the month. I love this practice because it gives me the chance to slow down and reflect on what I want to nurture that month, which usually has something to do with the nature inspiring these pages! Plus, I love looking back and reading my past entries to see how they still resonate and how I’ve grown.
I decorate this page with another illustration of my chosen flower of the month to give the spread a sense of balance. This part can be tricky, but I trace around the flower illustration with my scissors and cut around the edges to give it a little “peekaboo” cutout.
I like to keep my monthly calendar pretty simple. When you turn the page, I like to see all of my important dates laid out. I draw this simple grid and fill in the days of the month. To add something creative to this spread, I carry that same botanical illustration to fill in the back side of where I did my cutout.
I love seeing all of my dates and appointments as an overview of my month, but the one thing that always stressed me out about analogue calendars was writing down a deadline or date and having it change. Crossing it out always looked so messy! As a solution, I write out all of my dates and deadlines in pencil. That way, I can still keep track of everything while welcoming change and flexibility.
Project Planning Page
Sometimes when I see all of my projects laid out on my monthly goals spread, I think “how am I going to complete all of that?!” To make these tasks more manageable, I set up this minimal spread to break down all of my monthly projects into smaller, more achievable steps.
Because my spreads so far have been pretty complex with the botanical illustrations, I keep my project planning page very minimal. Here, I list out each project and the subtasks below it which I can check off as I go! It makes me feel so rewarded and motivated as I work through the small steps that go into bringing a bigger project to life.
Meal Planning Page
When things get busy, the first thing I struggle with is making meals for myself. I hate grocery shopping and am not always the biggest fan of cooking after a long day, so a meal planning page was essential for me.
I start by creating this meal planning chart where I can outline my meals for every day of the week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I fill this in with a pencil at the beginning of each week so when I’m done with it, I can erase it and start again!
Underneath, I have a section to write out my grocery list based on my meal plan. This simple spread helps me know exactly what I need so I can reduce my food waste, plus I can add to it throughout the week so I don't forget it! I have my grocery list separated into four sections — produce, dried/canned, refrigerated, and other — to make grocery shopping quicker and easier. I also fill this out with a pencil so I can reuse the spread again for the next week!
When it comes to planning out each week of the month, I like to keep it super minimal. I find that it helps me stay focused on my to-do’s without getting distracted and it’s more calming and clear. to look at.
I leave a section for my weekly to-do’s at the top and these are usually the bigger goals I want to accomplish that week. I usually pull them from my project planning page so I can work toward some of the smaller tasks under each of my projects. But of course, things pop up, so I’ll add them there too!
Underneath, I write my days of the week with a section underneath to write out my daily to-do list. I divide my daily to-do list into two sections — work and personal — as a visual reminder to have that balance. My personal tasks usually include some sort of chore, but also include catching up with friends and more! On the work side, I’ll usually aim for 3-5 “need-to-do’s” and add in a few “want-to-do’s” if I find myself with more time and energy.
When I finish a task, I have the satisfaction of filling in the little circle next to it — and when I’m not able to complete it, I can put a quick, clean “x” through it and simply move it to the next day. I used to stress so much about not finishing my to-do list, but having a quick and clean way of marking it incomplete really helps me be compassionate with myself and more flexible when not everything goes to plan. You can only do your best, and I am a firm believer that your planning system should lift you up, not make you feel like you’re falling short and not living up!
I love spending time at the end of each day to write out my to-do list for the next day. It helps me unwind so much better at night and quiets my mind. I am so much more relaxed at the end of the day knowing that I can get to anything else I need to do the next day — and I won’t forget because it’s written down!
watch the full setup
If you’re already a bullet journalist, let me know if this post gave you any new ideas and if this post inspired you to start a bullet journal of your own, please leave a comment!