"What is a collection?" is one of the most commonly asked questions from people who are just getting started with the bullet journal system. To be fair, it's also a common question from people who have been doing it for a while, and, upon hearing the answer, is typically shortly followed by "what are some collection ideas?" Today, we're going to find some answers!
Hi team! Jess or JashiiCorrin from YouTube / Instagram here talking about all things collections. Collections are one of my favourite elements of the bullet journal system, so much that I actually made myself a completely separate journal for some of them! In this blog post I'll be taking you through the 'what', 'why' and 'how' of collections, as well as having a look at some collection ideas that you can incorporate into your journal.
For my bullet journal collection making, I used the equipment below which you may also find helpful. Remember you can use my code JASHIICORRIN10 for 10% off your orders at Archer and Olive!
- A5 Archer and Olive notebook (I currently keep a separate journal for my long-term collections, but short-term collections go in my everyday bullet journal)
- Pens of choice
- Markers of choice
Rather watch, then read? For a quick overview of the 'what', 'why' and 'how' of bullet journal collections, check out the video below!
But...what is it?
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, it's probably best to cover what a collection is. While the dictionary defines a collection as "a group of things or people", it is highly recommended that you don't try to collect people in your journal...
A bullet journal collection is typically a page or several pages which contain related tasks or items. Effectively, you can think of a collection as a themed list or log. Each of the elements of the original bullet journal system can be thought of as collections:
- The key - items related by what they signify in your journal
- The index - items related by listing where they are found in your journal
- The future log, monthly log, daily log - items related by when they are happening or happened
Outside of these though, there is a huge range of the types of collections you can set up and use in your journal. From grocery lists, to project plans, to meal logs...the list is pretty much endless.
Taking the grocery list for example. This is a collection; a place where you write down all the things you need to get next time you go to the shops. Now imagine how not helpful it would be if those items were all mixed in throughout your daily or weekly logs from the last however-long. Rather than flipping through page after page, looking for all the relevant entries (and likely missing some in the process...) instead you can come to one place in your journal that has them all easily referenceable. The beauty of collections is simplification; you know where to find what you need to find.
As another example, Term 4 at school is super busy with a lot of things that need to get done in a short amount of time. Rather than having all the tasks that needed to get done sprinkled throughout my weeklies (which may well have led to me forgetting or neglecting something) I instead summarised them all in one simple list-style collection. Although not necessarily a 'fun' collection, it sure has been a helpful one!
But...how does one even?
Setting up a new collection can be as straightforward as turning to a new page in your journal, giving the page a heading, and writing down your collection tasks or items. The design of a collection can be as simple or complex as you want, though some common styles include:
- Lists of tasks or items
- Tabulated tasks or items
- Graphed data or items
It's good to note that a collection doesn't have to fit these styles, or contain a lot of words. For example, a grid-spacing guide in your journal is also a collection, the information there is related by different ways to divide your pages, but the information is more pictorial in nature.
A lot of the appeal for certain collections comes from making them decorative. For instance, rather than having a simple list of books you want to read, some people prefer to have a drawing of a bookshelf where they can write the book titles along the spine of the book doodles. Both styles contain the same information, but there's a lot of flexibility in how they're presented.
Next-level collection strategies
Where to put collections
Although the general premise for a bullet journal is to put anything new on the next available page, sometimes it can be useful having certain pages in specific places. Depending on the type or purpose of the collection, you may instead want to organise your journal so that it is in the very front or back for easier referencing. Another way to make your collections easier to reference is by attaching tabs, or lining the edge of the page with washi tape.
Some collections can be pretty big, whether that be due to their complexity or the amount of time they cover. What happens if you run out of space in the place you've designated for a collection?
One solution is to plan ahead; leave yourself several pages for a collection that you know is going to take up a lot of room. The issue here is that a lot of the time, making estimates on the amount of space needed can be difficult.
Say you've instead decided to turn to the next available page in your journal to continue your collection. While you can always refer to your index for all the pages a collection runs across, threading can help you save time.
To "thread" the pages of a collection, at the bottom of each page your collection spreads across, you write the page number for the previous and/or next page dedicated to that collection. This way, when you're working on that collection, you don't have to return to the index to figure the previous or next page for the collection.
The long-term collections journal
When I first started bullet journaling, one of my favourite collections to make were pen swatch pages. I loved having a handy reference of all the colours for my various pens and markers so I could see what they actually looked like in my journal. The issue was they took ages to set up. While I still wanted to have an easy place to refer to for my pen colours, I didn't want to go to the hassle of re-setting the swatches up every 6 months when my journal got full and I started a new one. That and, with the increasing number of reference pages I wanted to have, a decent chunk of each journal was being allocated to these collections.
My solution to this is my long-term collections journal. This is for collections and reference pages that I need for longer than the typical 6-month lifetime of one of my everyday journals. Rather than setting up these collections in every new journal that I start, what I instead like to do is store all of those pages in a separate notebook that I can refer to when needed. Examples of what I include in that journal are, of course, swatch pages for my pens, the list of bullet journal themes I want to try, and my collection for tasks I can do in different amounts of time.
As previously mentioned, I love making collections, especially in my long-term collections journal. Having a space I can turn to for things like the TV shows I want to watch, or a master packing list, or even just my work-related task list, is something I really appreciate. However, when I'm in the mood to set up a new collection, I often come up short when trying to think of things I want to make collections for. To combat this, one of the first pages I have in my long-term collections journal is a list of collections I want to make. This acts as a handy reference for me to glance over when I'm in the mood for setting up a new collection; a page I very much recommend having! Any time I get an idea for a collection that I think would be useful for me, I'll drop it onto the list so I can set it up later.
My favourite collections
Like we said before, there is a huge range of different collections you can populate your journal with, whether they be long-term or otherwise. Rather than listing every idea under the sun here, I instead wanted to highlight some of my favourite collections:
This monthly collection is a fun way to make sure I'm doing things that "fill my cup". It involves setting up a grid (mine is 5 boxes across and down) and then populating the "bingo board" with self-care tasks that I can do throughout the month. I feel that completing the tasks on here to be a reward in themselves, but some people like to organise rewards for when they get bingo!
Social media scheduler
Funnily enough, making YouTube and other social media content often has a fair few related tasks! I call the collection I use to summarise all those tasks my social media scheduler, or content planner. Each of the icons on this represents a different aspect of making the content I do, which I can tick off as I complete it for any given project that I'm working on each month.
Before X to do list
The "before X" type collections I do in my journal are often some of my most helpful pages. I typically make one each holiday period for the upcoming term (e.g. "to do before Term 4") so that I have a clear picture of the relevant tasks that need to get done prior to that deadline. I normally set these up as regular to do lists, but sometimes I'll group the tasks into different sections to give myself a clearer picture of what needs to happen.
A teaching-related collection, this one is a total savior for giving me a clear picture of what is happening in all my classes for the upcoming weeks. The general way this is designed is that each large column is a week, and each individual row is a class period. I have a full explanation of how it works over on my YouTube channel though if you're curious!
Self care ideas
This one is a more recent addition to my long-term collections journal, but this self-care ideas list has already proved to be so helpful! In this collection, I've sectioned out my different self-care ideas based on how I might be feeling (or what's going wrong) at any point in time. This gives me a handy reference to come back to when I'm feeling off, and is another collection that I have a separate video for which is worth checking out!
My favourite part about this collection is probably the name! This one is a very similar idea to a "bucket list", but rather than being tasks to do before you "kick the bucket", they're things to do before the apocalypse. I found the idea for this one from Mistral Spirit, who originally came across it in the TV show No Tomorrow. I certainly need to get on to adding more items to my list!
Myers-Briggs personality type information
This one is totally a "just for fun" collection, but I was so chuffed with how it turned out that it became one of my favourite spreads! The information held in this collection is all related to what my Myers-Briggs personality type was at the time.
Tombow swatch page
This collection is the main reason that I started a long-term collections journal in the first place! Rather than reswatching my Tombow markers in every new journal I setup, I instead have this handy reference collection in the very back of my collections journal. This helps me easily see how the markers will look on the pages of my Archer & Olive journals which is super helpful for when it comes to organising colour palettes for my monthly setups.
101 things list
A new addition to my journal this year, my 101 things collection is now very much a favourite of mine. This list is 101 things, or mini goals, to do in one year. The majority of the tasks are small one-off things that I've wanted to do for a while, but just hadn't gotten around to. I even have a video about how to set up your own 101 things list if you're looking to!
Theme ideas list
I love using themes in my monthly bullet journal setups, but all too often when it comes to setting up for the new month, I get totally stumped on what theme to do! My theme ideas collection has been a helpful way of combating this. Essentially it's a space where I can write down any theme idea that I come across which sparks my interest, so that I can refer back to the handy list when it comes time to set up a new month.
While the 10 bullet journal collection ideas listed above are some of my favourites, it's always helpful to have more inspiration. Make sure to check out the printable freebie below; a reference list with over 550 different collections you could set up in your journal, sorted into different categories!
Ready for collection?
This is in no way an exhaustive list, but hopefully you’ve found the ideas in this blog post helpful; I hope you're excited to set up some collections in your journal, or maybe even make a long-term collections journal of your own! Don’t forget to grab your printable checklist and tag me, @jashiicorrin, and @archerandolive in your collection-related posts over on Instagram. We can’t wait to see what you make!