How to set up a bullet journal if you’re not arty

Bullet journals don’t need to be beautiful

This post contains affiliates links, they will be marked with a *.

Spend some time on Instagram however, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they do.

I don’t consider myself super creative, and I’m definitely not great at drawing. I love bullet journaling though and recently got the itch to get back to it. While I love planning in my Cousin or Weeks, I felt lacking somewhere to capture things during the day. Notes or things that need capturing in longer term planning. I therefore decided to do a quick bullet journal set up in my A5 LT1917 to hopefully help with that.

yellow leuchtturm 1917 and pens

As my bullet journal is very much on the side of functional, rather than pretty, I thought it would be helpful to share it on the blog. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to not worry so much about making your bullet journal look like a work of art and concentrate on making it work for you.

The set up

Although the notebook I am using comes with an index, I set up a new one. I’ve used this notebook for many different things over the years and so I liked having a new index for this portion of the book.

bullet journal index

I’m not great at lettering at all, so for titles I tend to use stamps and stickers. These stamps were from a very old alphabet stamp set. I used StazOn ink because it’s all I had in, and it’s not great on these pages. The Leuchhturm paper holds up against a lot, but solvent ink is too much for it. If you’re looking for a good ink for stamping in bullet journals, I highly recommend this.*

Future log

I then go straight into my future log. Being able to see the rest of the year at a glance is such a great benefit to bullet journalling. I don’t get this in my Hobonichi at all. I use this space for important events that I need to consider when booking in other plans, not necessarily everything. So when I go into my monthly log next, you’ll see a lot more written in there.

If something comes up in month, I won’t go back and add it into my future log.

bullet journal future log

As I was setting this up I was experimenting with pens to use. I used to use nothing but gel pens, but now I use Hobonichi planners almost exclusively I only really use fountain pens now, and the Hobonichi pen.

As I don’t use them much anymore, I haven’t been replacing them as they’ve been running out or drying up. This meant I didn’t quite have my favourite ever gel pen* to use (well, not in black) so I had to make do with using the coloured version for the months and then a lesser liked version for the actual events on the page.

Cover page

So I don’t do arty stuff in my bullet journal, but I do like to add a bit of colour every so often. One way of doing this is a simple cover page.

bullet journal cover page

You can’t beat a simple bit of washi and a monthly sticker elevate your bujo from feeling 100% functional.

Obviously you don’t need to do this, but if you do want to add a bit of a flourish to your notebook, this is an easy way. I also like to edge my monthly page with the same washi so I can easily flick to it.

Monthly view

I absolutely love this layout. I call it my monthly dashboard, as it basically has everything I need in one easy spread.

bullet journal monthly layout

On the right hand side I have my plans. I use // to break up the different events if there’s more than one a day.

On the left hand side, I have day specific tasks. This is something I was missing in my Hobonichi Weeks set up. I had space for general tasks for the month, but no where for date specific things that I could see at a glance.

Then, to the left of that, I have my daily habit tracker for the month. I’m currently using the habit tracker notepad* I created, but I liked the concept of setting this up in a way where I saw everything at a glance too. Underneath that I then have my weekly tasks that are basically chores and Lethbridge Paper regular tasks.

Finally, at the bottom of my right hand page, I have the non date specific tasks for the month. These are usually things that occur once a month or gift purchases that need to be done for upcoming events.

I don’t like to do a lot of drawing out of tables in my bujo. As you’ll see here and in the future log, I’ll draw out a line using a Micron* where I feel I need to clearly separate elements, so they don’t get confused. That is generally the most I’ll do.

Weekly view

This is another spread I really like and very much feels like a dashboard too. On the left I carve out a column and the days of the week. This is purely for events. I like to see them in my weekly rather than flipping back to my monthly each day.

bullet journal weekly spread

Then, using the Alistair Method I list out my tasks for the week and start plotting out days they need to be done. If they don’t need to be done on a certain day I’ll either elect a day based on how busy I’m looking across the week, or leave it blank and just have it as something to get to during the week. A key part of planning for me is to sit down on a Sunday and do a bit of a brain dump of everything I need to get done that week. This method allows me to do that.

On the next page I then start my dailies. I use a date stamp* just to mix it up and allow the new day to be easily recognisable. To start my date I write in any pre-planned events and any tasks from my to do list that have been marked up for that day.

bullet journal weekly spread

From this point, I generally go back to the OG bullet journal method. Just rapid logging my day. Things that need to go into my inbox at some point, notes, and interesting things I might want to remember all go in here. This just gets left out on my desk and updated throughout the day.

On these pages I’ve been using a Clena gel pen*, as it’s got a finer point that I prefer for the dailies.

I really like this set up

I’ve been bullet journaling on and off for years now. While this doesn’t stay 100% true to the original method (as I like to do a lot more pre planning) it works for me and keeps me productive and organised.

Hopefully this helped show that you don’t have to have a super pretty bullet journal. It can be simple and scruffy like mine, but as long as it keeps you organised, it really doesn’t matter how it looks.