inspiration and motivation for your planner

Inspiration and Motivation for your Planner

When you think about your planner, what inspires you in your designs and decorations? How do you find your inspiration? What motivates you to keep it accurate and up-to-date? Whether you use a pre-printed planner, a plain dot-grid journal, or a collection of printables — we all add our own mark to our planner system!

Where do you look for your planner inspiration?

When you sit down, how do you decide on the month’s theme or layout?  Do you base your designs and decorations on the season?  On the holiday of month?  On a personal event happening in that month?  If you’re like me, it’s all over the map depending on what I have planned for the month.

  • A lot of the time mine is based on the time of year – floral for spring, beautiful leaves for autumn.  But if I have a particularly big event in a month, I might switch it up.  In April of this year, I have a family wedding to attend so the design might include doves or wedding bells.
  • While electronic organization has it’s advantages, I almost always circle back to organizing in paper.  If for no other reason than I love my stickers and washi tapes!
  • I’ve even mixed up the mood trackers based on the overall design on the month.  If you aren’t integrating a mood tracker, you should give it a try!

How do you stay motivated to use your planner?

When life gets busy, productivity and habits can start to fall by the wayside.  How do you stay on track with using your planner?

  • When I started my first bullet journal, I actually put “bujo” as one of the habits in my habit tracker!  It helped me build the habit that is now instilled in me (for the most part).
  • Having all your journaling habits and supplies in place makes it so much easier to accomplish your planner goals.
  • For a little help or inspiration, check out these planner habit suggestions to cement it as part of your daily life.

A collection of ideas and designs – check them out!

Here are just a few products to give you some ideas and inspiration for your journaling.  Some of them are brand-new products and some of them are just my favorite products!

Erin Condren Ettavee Ultimate Planny Pack

Erin Condren Layers Planner Folio

Coco and Opal Design Sticker Club

The bullet journal

It’s the start of the year, and your resolution is to be more mindful and more organized. There’s nothing like old-fashioned pen and paper to help make this happen.

Or maybe you’re a veteran journaler looking to transform your practice. Regardless of your experience journaling, the Bullet Journal can boost your practice.

Bullet journaling involves a great deal of customization. Have you spent time looking through journal formats and found that there wasn’t one that fit your needs exactly?

Enter the Bullet Journal.

The basis of the journal is simplicity in the form of bullet points. The founder says that the more effort is expended to create a list or entry, the less likely we are to continue to do it. Instead of complicated recording methods, the basic structure of this journal is the bullet.

From there, journals can be customized to whatever need you have. If you have a million to do lists, this is a way to track them all. If you want to set reasonable goals and habits and track your progress, this allows you to do that in a way that is intuitive for you. It includes an index that you update as you go, and you can track future events and tasks or last month’s tasks that didn’t get done.

It makes use of something called “rapid logging” which is just a fancy way of saying jotting down notes. The idea is to get things out of your head quickly so that you can use symbols to organize and track them.

It’s a journal and a to-do list all in one. Once you figure out your system, it makes a lot of sense to keep track of both things to do in the future and the daily events happening now. This method gives you a complete picture of what your life is like so you can reflect, make changes, or simply create gratitude for day to day occurrences and circumstances.

Bullet Journals are easily customizable and are intended to reflect a natural system of organization already in your head. You don’t have to worry about organizing your thoughts as you get them on paper. Instead, you mark them with a logical series of symbols after they are down on paper to track.

1. Benefits of Bullet Journaling

The first thing to know about bullet journals is that they are extremely beneficial. Here is a list of some of the top benefits of using this type of journal.

They Are Versatile

One of the most significant benefits of switching to this system is that you can use any notebook.

No, really.

Although many of the demonstration models use the simple dot grid to help keep things straight, you can start today with whatever notebook is lying around.

Journals are like purses or closets. They’re never perfect, and there’s always something else you wish you had. Instead of using what someone else thinks are organized, the system follows how you think.

This kind of customization removes the fear around buying the wrong type of journal or finding out later that there’s a better system. As you grow bored of a system, you can switch it up to reveal fresh ideas and see your to-do list in a new way. No boredom means you’re more likely to stick with the system.

They Work with Any Budget

Another benefit is that you don’t need to invest a ton of money. You want something that is rugged enough to go with you everywhere, but there are a lot of cheap notebooks out there that can accomplish this task. Some planners can run you upwards of $50 or more. This is an expensive experiment to try and then abandon.

It Has Multiple Uses

The Bullet Journal also functions as several different recording notebooks at once. You don’t need to buy a journal to record day to day activities, a habit tracker for all those New Year’s resolutions, and a planner to keep organized. You can do everything in one space. Simplification means you’re more likely to stick with this system and see real change.

Anything you can do to simplify your process and make it more personalized to your needs keeps you from dropping the system. Though Bullet Journaling can seem overwhelming at first, once you figure out your system, it needs little maintenance to carry you through each day. No more feeling guilty that you couldn’t stay consistent.

2. What to Write About

And now the real beauty of the Bullet Journal – you can write about anything that you want.

Getting started is easy. You need a blank notebook and a pen. That’s it.

Rapid Logging

Most people start with the rapid logging pages. This is your list of to-dos, notes, and observations. Once you jot them down, begin to mark them based on a system of symbols that you’ve created. If you aren’t sure what the symbols should be, you can look at examples of what others are doing and modify accordingly.

It’s important to keep your notes short, but you can always expand notes on the next page if there’s something you need to write more in-depth. First, quick. Then expand.


The next part is the index. At the beginning of your journal is a running index with page numbers marked and a list of your symbols so you can keep track. This will help guide you as you get deeper into your notebook and need to look back or find other information previously recorded.

Give yourself two pages for the index just to be safe, but you don’t have to record everything. Make judgment calls about what information will need to be retrieved quickly later as you are making your entries.

Future Logs

After the index is your future log. This is the calendar portion of your journal and can help you get a handle on what’s coming up, so your planning today is more efficient. Set up the pages for it first and then add to it as you get into the day to day stuff.

After this, many journalers have a big picture view of each month. As you enter the month, make an entry at the beginning of that section to see a bird’s eye view of what’s coming up and any thoughts or preparations that need to be made.

You can track lists that need to be completed by month’s end, record birthdays and any preparations, household tasks, and any other monthly related things.

Big Projects

From here, create pages dedicated to any projects or habits you are making. You can keep track of the books you’ve read, for example. You can also make a log of any improvements in your health, or watch your debt fall as other examples.

These projects get their own dedicated pages and index entries to help you see your progress over time. You can create them wherever you are in your journal and find them quickly through the index. This also gives you an idea of when you started for further tracking.

3. Tips for Bullet Journaling

This can all seem overwhelming the first time you set it up, but the most important thing to remember is that perfection isn’t necessary. The journal evolves as you do. The longer you adopt this system, the more likely your journal is to reflect what you need, but don’t get mired in perfection the first time.

If you don’t know where to start, there are blog posts and YouTube videos dedicated to different types of layouts and ideas for things to track. You can find a few that match what you need and copy those or use them as a starting point to create your own.

Take Your Time Learning

Start slowly in the beginning. Don’t try to adopt every fancy layout that you find. Begin with the basics: the future log, the rapid journaling, and the index.

Once you get the hang of your marking system, you can begin to add layouts to track more complicated things. Also, it’s not essential that you be artistic either. In fact, many Bullet Journalers don’t have any art training and use straightforward layouts.

Make it Look Amazing

That said, if art is your thing, then decorate your layouts. This is the perfect opportunity to decorate what you’re doing in your journal. Many of the more complicated spreads rely on art and can be a great way to get in your creative edge.

Work Out What You Want First

If you still have trouble getting started, take a few sheets of scrap paper and experiment with some layouts before you start recording them in your notebook. This will let you see firsthand what a few things will look like if you still aren’t sure what layouts you want to follow. Transfer the ones you like to your official journal or staple them in.

4. Prompts to Help Get You Started

The journaling prompts for a bullet journal are a little different than other types of journals. Here are some tips to help get you started:

the first six pages of your notebook to leave room for the index and the future log, and make sure your very first rapid log has a page number attached to it.

Now that you have the first rapid log page, go back and make your first index entry. You can title it however you want, but it’s likely that this very first rapid log attempt will be important later.

For the future log, make three spaces on each page to log months. You don’t need a lot of space for each month, just enough to record significant events that will likely affect how you plan during that month and any of the other parts of the year. These can correspond to birthdays, major holidays and vacations, and other necessary parts of the year.

Be sure to record your organizing symbols for rapid logging somewhere in the front as well. This will help you to remember as you get used to your system. Again, if you aren’t sure what you want to do, following the official Bullet Journal format is a good bet for those until you decide if you want to create your own.

It can also help you to identify one or two big goals or projects and make those dedicated pages here as well. If your resolution involves drinking more water or reading more books, now is a good time to write down where you are and track where you’re going. Log this page in your index, of course.

Final Thoughts

Bullet Journaling can seem overwhelming if you’re used to journals and planners where everything is already mapped out, but spending a little time researching examples and setting up your own system can pay off in the long run.

You’ll have more freedom to record the things you need without wasting space. You can make use of your creativity to decorate your journal. Eventually, you’ll be able to look back at past years and get a clear picture of what your day to day life was like. From here, it’s easier to set up future goals and feel grateful for how far you’ve come.

Tips for setting up each bullet journaling month

Do you love making lists, setting goals, and organizing your life? If so, bullet journaling might be the perfect productivity system for you. Using a bullet journal is simple, but it can take some time to find a monthly layout you love. Keep reading for some tips on setting up each monthly spread in a way that works for you.

Make the Layouts Simple or Complex

If you do a Google search for bullet journaling information, you’ll find tons of results with images of other people’s picture-perfect, heavily decorated journals. If you’re new to bullet journaling, you might wonder, “Does my journal have to look like that too?” The answer: nope. A minimalistic monthly layout is just as useful as a layout with tons of doodles and decorative tape. Of course, if you enjoy decorating your journal, go for it! But it’s okay to focus on function over form, too. And if you find yourself especially busy one month, don’t feel bad about using a simpler layout than usual.

Know How You Can Stay Organized

The right monthly layout for you will depend on your preferred organization style. Do you like jotting down your events on a calendar, or does a list format work better for you? Do you stay motivated best if you can see your monthly goals at a glance? If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to experiment a little – you’ll quickly learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

Do Some Planning Ahead

Before you start creating your layout, think about which pages you want to include. For example, you might want to have a monthly calendar, a list of to-dos and goals, a habit tracker, or a money tracker. Decide how you want to order these pages. To help prevent mistakes, you can lightly sketch your layout in pencil before going over it with a pen, or you can make a mock-up on a separate piece of paper.

Give Yourself Plenty of Space

It’s frustrating to run out of space, so give yourself a little more room than you think you need. Don’t try to cram an elaborate layout onto a single page. Your bullet journal is meant to be functional, so utilize all the space you need.

Review Your Last Month

If you’ve been bullet journaling for a while, you can get some good ideas by checking out the previous month’s layout. What features did you like? Which ones did you not really use? Is there anything you want to add?

Use Trackers Only When Needed

Lots of people enjoy using trackers, like habit trackers, mood trackers, or exercise trackers, in their bullet journals. Trackers are a great feature – they give you a big-picture overview of how you’re progressing towards your goals. But if you try to track everything in your life, you’ll get bogged down. Instead, focus on a few key metrics that are important to you. If you find that you want more, add them gradually.

Don’t Worry About Mistakes

No matter how careful you are, your bullet journal won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. Don’t let a stray pen line or a messed-up page get you down. Turn the page and try again, or just doodle over the mistake. A few cross-outs won’t make your journal any less useful.

Make it Individual

It’s fine to get inspiration from other people’s journals, but feel free to get creative, too! Tweak your favorite layouts and add your own creative spin. Over time, you’ll come up with a monthly layout that’s all your own.

Setting up monthly pages in your bullet journal can be fun, so don’t be intimidated by the task. Whether you prefer a complex layout or a clean, simple one, you’re sure to find a monthly format that works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What 5 things should be on a good daily planner?

  1. A daily task list, preferably prioritized but that’s not absolutely necessary
  2. A calendar of some kind
  3. Your goal(s) for the day
  4. A place to take notes
  5. I like to keep a gratitude list too, so that even on the rough days, I can remember what I have to be grateful for

What should a weekly planner include?

  • Some kind of goal(s)
  • Some kind of to-do list
  • Some kind of calendar

How do beginners use planners?

The easiest pieces to include in your first planner are a to-do list and a calendar system of some kind. Almost everything builds from there! And truthfully, it doesn’t have to be pretty at first while you’re getting used to the habit of keeping and using a planner. Once you have established your habit, you can start “jazzing” it up as you want!

You may also be interested in…

Journaling - Tracking

Journaling in June Part #2: Tracking

In addition to being a terrific way to schedule your time, a bullet journal is a great place to utilize all of those amazing trackers.  So very many things can be tracked, it’s hard to know where to start!  From your calendar, to celebrations, entertainment, faith, financial, food, health, hobbies, household maintenance, kids, pets, self-care, to-do lists, and even work.

When I was working on giving up my Dr Pepper habit, I used a water tracker.  It helped me focus on increasing my water intake instead of decreasing my soda drinking.  It was a mindset that really worked!

If you are working on debt reduction, tracking your extra payments to the different vendors can help keep you on track.  You can also keep a list of what bills are due on what days so nothing incurs a late fee.

What about weight loss?  It’s sort of a reversed tracker but it is still a great motivator to see your progress.  If you use it in combination with a mood tracker, you might even be able to pinpoint “high risk” moods or times that could jeopardize your weight loss.

Sign up below for access to the library – you can find a great list of over 100 things to track as well as several printable mood trackers.

Over 100 things to track in your journal
Mood tracker
Beautiful printable mood tracker