setting up the 2021 bullet journal

I’ve been hard at work getting the new bullet journal ready for 2021, and since a friend (Hi, Heidi!) asked for details about how I’m currently using this customized system, I figured a blog post was in order.

Warning: Planning nerdiness ahead.

I’ve written previously about the bullet journal — my bullet journal adventure so far — and my own use has continued to morph and evolve. One of the things I like best about the bujo is its immediate flexibility: If I find that a particular page set-up or approach isn’t working for me, I can change it and try something new straightaway without having to wait for a new journal in the new year, or even for the next month or week to roll around.

But even with that immediacy, I start planning the next year’s journal in earnest in November, and I keep a page in the current bujo to capture notes and ideas about what I’d like to include for the new year. And then I spend a couple of days in late December physically glueing things into the new journal. Yes, it always takes more time than I anticipate, and it’s become an unintentional tradition that I do this while watching football games. I do hand-number the pages in the journal, usually about 30 pages at a time throughout the year.

So, welcome to this early tour of my 2021 bullet journal . . .
(Note: some of these photos are from previous bullet journals. See the Medium piece for additional photos.)

Index Page
Two pages, front to back. I learned a few years ago to leave a blank line between most entries in the index, to accommodate important collections and lists as they occur.

2021/2022 Outlook
One page. This page is still going strong, and the only reason it’s coming right after the Index page this time is simply because of how the odd- and even-paged sections worked out in the front of the book for 2021. It’s entirely personal preference. This page is helpful for things that I know are coming up later in the year or in the following year but which don’t have a specific date attached to them or which I’ve not committed to yet, like a sign-up period for a writing conference or a prompt to think about gardening supplies.

Moon Phases
Two pages, side by side. The pandemic has brought me back to stargazing, and while I’ve added Full and New Moons to my calendar pages, I wanted a quick reference at the front of the bujo. Something else that’s new this year are mini Moon phase stickers, which I’ll add to the daily logs for no other purpose than to make me smile. The Lunar Abundance calendar comes from Ezzie Spencer, and the listing with lunation numbers came from a weather forecast website.

Calendar Pages
Eleven pages. When I need a distraction (and some productive procrastination) during National Novel Writing Month in November, I spend some time developing next year’s calendar. I used to simply download and print something from, but when I went to a by-week calendar instead of by-month, I started making my own calendars in Pages.

(If you’d like a digital copy of my 2021 by-week calendar, please get in touch. If you’re not using a Mac, let me know and I’ll convert the file to MS Word or PDF before sending it to you.)

Weekly Planning Pages
Twenty-six pages. This is something that evolved over time, and each week currently has a half-page of space. I stopped using the monthly log in Ryder Carroll’s original system for various reasons, and I started reserving one page each month for breaking out my plans and tasks by week. But in 2019, I moved this section up nearer the front of the journal to make it easier to plan, and to see what I had accomplished and what I had yet to do in one place. This is more aligned with a traditional planner and may not sit right with bullet journal purists, but it’s what works for me currently.

To Acquire / Bullet Journal Ideas & Elements
One page. These don’t always appear on the same page. It just worked out that way for 2021. “To Acquire” is just a list of things that might be a good idea to pick up, like a filtering straw, a new backup drive, or blackout curtains for the bedroom. “Bullet Journal Ideas & Elements” offers space to list things I’d like to try in the bujo — like the Moon Phase calendar — either in the current journal or the next year.

Tip: I use the empty pages at the very back of my current journal to test out new page layouts. I typically have 10-30 pages left over at the end of every year (in a 240-page journal), so I’m rarely in danger of running out of room.

The Keep
Two pages, side by side. This is where I keep the big things — e.g., brainstorms for the story I’m working on, questions I need to answer, elements I’d like to work into my production plan. That’s the idea, anyway, but to be honest I don’t use this section (or its Quotidian cousin) as much as I used to.

Two pages, side by side. These are the pages reserved for quick things I want to look up, books I’d like to check-out from the library, leads on new headache treatments, and the like.

Scratch Pad
Two pages, side by side. I use these pages a lot. When I’m on the phone and need to jot down an address, driving directions, or contact information? When I need to do more complicated math on paper? When I’m bored and am itching to doodle? Scratch pad. If I need more space, I can designate the next two blank pages in the journal as the new scratch pad, and add this to the Index.

Habit Trackers
Six pages. Habit tracking isn’t new to my bullet journal pages, but this approach is. In 2020, I kept a monthly page that tracked multiple activities; this grew out of the monthly new/scary/challenge/goal activity page, where I logged what I’d done on a daily basis in any of those categories. Inspired by this reddit post, I’m trying individual pages in 2021 that each track one or two habits across the entire year. I’ll fill in the empty blocks with colored squares or letter codes to indicate what got done. It’s an experiment — as everything is — in viewing my progress at a glance rather than rifling through monthly sections to chart and make comparisons.

Monthly Sections
While I’ve switched to by-week calendars and planning, I’m still dividing the bulk of my bullet journal into monthly sections; this is something that might change moving forward. Each month begins with my (pasted in) health trackers for chronic health/pain symptoms, sleep/wake times, vitamins, etc. My monthly productivity tracker has remained unchanged for years, as have my monthly reading log and fitness tracker.

Daily Planning/Logs
This element is mostly unchanged from what I’ve been doing from the very start. The daily spiraldex that appeared for a couple of years is gone again, because tracking my headaches this way was no longer revealing any new information. I’ve simplified the daily log a little, by removing the fitness information from these sections and letting the monthly fitness tracker do the heavy lifting. While there are many things that I’m doing (and endeavor to do) on a daily basis, I use this space to list the day’s Big Three (or Four, Five, etc., but I try not to be ridiculous about it). I have multiple recurring tasks and prompts in Todoist for things like daily meditation and backing up my writing projects, and I’m trying not to let that get out of hand.

So there you have it! I think that’s everything of note. If I’ve missed anything, or if you have questions, please comment below.

Posted in thoughts from the spiral, writing & publishing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you're not a robot! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.