How To Setup a New Bullet Journal

Today, I wanted to talk about how to setup a new bullet journal. I will be starting a new journal soon so I thought I would share my process with you. The first time I setup a new bullet journal was only a couple years ago, beginning 2020 I believe, and I’ve been consistently setting it up since. Some layouts have been new, some I have dropped, just depends on what’s working for me and what isn’t. Today, I am sharing my process with you. I have a video that you can check out too, that you can find here.

How To Setup a Bullet Journal

Previous Bullet Journal Setups

Going back and looking at previous setups and blog posts has become a little, well, cringey! Especially this first one. It was so long ago and so hopeful. But that was my first time setting up a bullet journal in that way. It was simple with just 6 pages, and 4 different layouts. I got a lot fancier with my next one – which was 3 months later! 18 pages, 12 layouts – and I barely used half of them. Now, granted, the world came to an actual stand still, but it took a lot of time to set those up.

I kept my 2020 mid-year migration fairly simple as I intended to use my previous journal setups that I had created (spoiler warning: I didn’t 🙈). For the mid-year bullet journal migration setup, I had a cover page, a layout to capture my 2020 themes, another Kanban Board, Playlist layout, Television series, and 2 pages for gift ideas. My favourite layout from this collection was definitely my 2020 themes layout.

2021 Bullet Journal Setups

Had my 2021 Bullet Journal all set up and ready to go when, two months in, I decided to switch journals. I just wasn’t feeling happy in the one I started with. I was lucky enough to be able to switch into a new one that did make me happy! This, however, meant two full setups almost in a row. I kept my layouts more or less the same since I barely used the first setup. This was also the first time I started cutting tabs into my journal and it was a game changer for me! I love it!

I am sharing galleries of both setups for you here to check out. This was also my last time in an A5 sized journal.

How to Setup a New Bullet Journal

For 2022, I made some changes to my setup, incorporating more productivity layouts, namely my workflow layouts. As I’m preparing to setup a new bullet journal, I am looking back and reassessing what I want to include, drop, and/or add to my layouts. These are the steps I’ll be following:

Look at your older setups

If you have set up journal before, take a look back at the layouts.

  • What layouts did you use the most?
  • What layouts went untouched?
  • Are there layouts you want to make changes or adjustments to?

Take these questions and jot down some answers and ideas in the back of your current journal (if you have the space). Or use a scrap piece of paper. I like to use the back of a journal to have the ideas to look back on for inspiration.

Reflect on what you need

Take some time to jot down ideas for what you hope to accomplish in the next journal time frame. It’s so freeing to start fresh in a new journal. Take this opportunity to let go of what wasn’t working for you in your old journal, and embrace something new going forward.

Write down some ideas and keywords for what you want. For beginning 2022, productivity was something I really wanted to work on so I made some layouts to try and capture that. I have also consistently setup up video and blog Kanban boards to maintain focus on what I need to do. These have really become more of a checklist than a Kanban board – and this progression happened over time as I adjusted to what I needed.

Research layout ideas

Check out Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration for layouts. If you see something you like, be honest with yourself if it is something that will work for you. The reason why I am encouraging reflection and research is to try and offset any time constraints or concerns you might have. Time is such a valuable commodity and can be so difficult to come by when setting up a new journal. As such, I am hoping to help you make the most of your journaling time.

Even if you set it up and it goes unused, that’s more than okay! The intention was there but it wasn’t something that was important to you. You move on and reassess when you start your next journal.

Sketch out your new layout ideas

Opening that new journal can be so intimidating. The fear of “messing up” can be so paralyzing. Therefore, I suggest starting with pencil sketches. Put pencil to paper and start marking out your layout ideas. Nothing fancy, rather just getting your mind around starting the journal and if you like seeing the layout.

Sometimes I will scrap layouts at this point if I decide I don’t like the style, or don’t see the value in the layout. This is especially important for visual people. Seeing the layout in your notebook, in your hand writing, can help too.

Decide on some fun elements

This is my favourite part! Sometimes I’ve done this part without even knowing what layouts to use, but holding off on this step until now will give you an idea of space. This is the step where you decide on colour palette and theme. Are you just going to add colour? Or are you going to incorporate a theme? I normally gravitate to something more “neutral” like florals or abstract shapes. Something simple to keep you engaged and coming back to them, but maintaining focus on the layouts.

Start getting pen on paper

Once all these decisions are made, it’s time to turn off your mind, turn on music/movie/show/audio book, and get lost in the meditative nature of creating. You don’t have to create all at once, but if you can, schedule some time to make sure you do finish it. You will feel so good and ready for the next season in your new journal.

For your easy reference, I have created a printable for you to check out and even keep in the back of your journal as a reminder. My intention is to help take away some of the overwhelm that you can feel when setting up a new journal.

My Next Bullet Journal Setup

I have some ideas for my new journal already but am still on the fence about a couple of things. Turns out, I NEVER fill out the social tracker, and barely use the lists. I need to reassess how I want to incorporate the lists in my notebook. The intention is there but I tend to forget. I may bring the socials tracker back in 2023, but I think I’l be dropping it this time.

The other layouts I’ll be dropping are my productivity trackers. I have chosen to move these into apps instead. I have a few apps that I have found super helpful to use. If you would like to see a video on those, let me know down in the comments below.

I feel like there are very few layouts left after that, lol! In 2020, I made a Reading Nook in one of my journals and I think I may create something similar as I have “accidentally” read a ton of books already this year. (By accidentally, I didn’t intend on reading so many books, it’s more a case of “they followed me home” so I read them 😆.)

Reading Tracker Setup

I really liked the Project Management Layouts I created so may incorporate those – as they tie into my goals for the rest of the year. There is definitely an opportunity to get reflecting and researching on what I want for the rest of the year.

How to Setup a New Bullet Journal

I hope you found this blog post helpful. If you have any other ideas or tips, let me know in the comments below so that I, or some else who reads this, can try them out!

Thank you so much for your time today! And don’t forget to grab your printable!

Talk soon!

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