Hey hey, it’s Whitney from @lifebywhitney & lifebywhitney.com, and I am SO ready to help you get started on the bullet journal you’ve always wanted! I’ve been bullet journaling since 2016, and its drastically changed my life for the better. Now, it’s your turn!
Are you ready to finally start your bullet journal?
You’ve got the notebook - Archer and Olive, I hope. I know you have pens. They may not be top-notch, but any pen will work in the beginning! Now the only thing you need is inspiration or maybe some motivation to get started..
Or are you just waiting for the “right time” to begin?
Well, let me first get this out there: there is NEVER a right time to start your bullet journal. You don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year, the beginning of the month or even the beginning of the week. You don’t have to wait until you get the best supplies, have hundreds of inspirational images saved on Pinterest & Instagram, or until your handwriting is perfect…
My best advice to you is to JUST START!
The bullet journaling process was originally created as a productivity tool. The concept instantly drew me in because I felt like this was something I absolutely needed in my life.
At the time I was 29, I had a full-time job, I was raising my teenage brother, I was getting serious about blogging, and I had 4 dogs and a house to keep up with. I was feeling overwhelmed and didn’t know how to stay organized or actually adult.
I immediately ordered my supplies, and received them a few days later. I was so afraid to make that first mark in my book. I didn’t want to mess it up or put something in the wrong place, but that’s something I just had to get over. I had to make the decision to jump in and just start. After all, this was MY book. I was the only person who was going to use it and really the only person who will ever even see it (before I opened my IG account). 😂
Now, I didn’t just dive in with a pen and start drawing. I thought of want I wanted, measured out how much space I needed, and used a pencil to lay out my design. If you’re wanting to decrease the amount of errors in your journal, I can’t stress this enough: draft with a pencil! I share all of my weekly & monthly layouts on Instagram, and 95% of them I’ve drawn first with a pencil.
I recently got a brand new Archer & Olive journal with 192 dotted pages, and I fell immediately in love. I’d been slacking on my planning routine at the time, and this was a much-needed tool to get me inspired and motivated again. I got it at possibly the strangest time of the year: mid-October, but I couldn’t wait to start, so I just opened it up and drafted some ideas. If you’ve been putting it off, I seriously think it’s time to reconsider. I’ll help you along the way!
How to Draw a Monthly Spread Calendar
When you’re ready to jump in, I suggest starting with the current month or next month’s monthly spread. I’ll walk you through the steps for creating 2 types of monthly calendar pages…
Begin by answering the following questions:
What is my grid size?
This is done by simply counting the squares across & down one page of your book. The A&O A5 dotted journal is 26 across & 38 squares down.
How many full week-rows do we need to make room for?
Make sure the calendar you reference starts on the same day, and count the amount of rows in the calendar. This number will be 5 or 6 98% of the time. (Look at a calendar or use this tool from Journal You that A&O readers can access free - you must be signed into your Google account to access).
Do you want to draw a horizontal or vertical calendar?
A horizontal layout where the days go across the top of the page? Or a vertical layout where we turn the journal sideways (but the actual calendar is bigger)? I’ll show you how to make both!
- What day does the month start & end, and how many days are in the month?
This isn't important until the end when we're filling it in.
How to Draw a Horizontal Monthly Calendar:
In this example, we'll use the month of October 2019 for reference & answer the questions above. (I created a monthly calendar helpsheet you can save & use anytime!)
- 5 week rows
- Starts on Tuesday / ends on Thursday / 31 days
- 26 squares / 7 days of the week = 3.7 squares wide
- If you’re wanting to keep your lines on the dots and not use decimals, round that 3.7 number down to the nearest whole number (3).
- Then multiply by 7. (3x7 = 21)
- The width of the calendar will be 21 squares wide
- We have 5 columns left over. (26-21=5)
- The full calendar here is 21 x 15 tall (plus one extra row for day labels).
- Since I had 5 columns leftover from #2 above, I left a 2-square border on the left side of the calendar and a 3-square border on the right side and left this area blank.
- I made sure I had enough room for all 31 days underneath the calendar in case I want to write anything important underneath the calendar. The calendar boxes are pretty small for writing too much, but you can include symbols in the boxes with explanation down below.
All of my monthly spreads are different, and you can choose to add whatever you like to the extra page of your spread. In this example, I used the whole page as a brain dump section so I had room to make a list and organize my thoughts before and during the month. I call this E.S.T. “Every Single Thing” and write down anything and everything that comes to mind that’s currently circling around in my brain!
How to Draw a Vertical Monthly Calendar
In this example, I'm using November 2019. I'll answer the 4 questions again & get started:
- Starts on Friday, ends on Saturday with 30 days
- 38 squares down / 7 days = 5.4.
- Round 5.4 down to 5.
- 5x7 = 35
- Our calendar will be 35 squares tall in all. We’ll have 3 leftover rows (38-35=3)
- Each box can be up to 5 squares tall.
- 26 squares across / 5 week-rows = 5.2
- Round 5.2 down to 5.
- 5x5 = 25
- 26-25 = 1 leftover row.
- Our calendar will be 25 squares wide in all. We’ll have 1 leftover row, and each box can be up to 5 squares wide.
I understand many of you hate math or just want to draw your layouts with no measuring, and that’s definitely ok, but I thought I’d help you out with a few basics for calculating actually how big you can make your calendars if you’re wanting them exact! I grew up with a math teacher as a dad, so he would have loved me teaching this too! 🤓
Here's a monthly calendar helpsheet I created specifically for this blog post (so you don't have to remember the math when you're creating your next calendar)!
What to do with the extra page?
These are simple examples of how to create your own calendar pages on ONE page of your book. Unless you stretch your calendar across the spread, you’ll have another full page to use how you like. You can keep it simple and try some lettering like the hello November below:
Or you can use it like an extra tracker page like my October currently page.
The ideas are endless, it's just a matter of trying new things and experimenting.
After over 3 years, I’ve learned the best way the system works for me, and it’s still evolving. I’ve created hundreds of layouts. I’ve created several tools to help make the layout-making process easier. I’ve published guides, videos, and even created an online course about how to get started with your own journal.
Bullet journaling is a new beginning.
I dare you to stop waiting, and pick up that pen, that blank notebook, and move those ideas from out of your head and onto paper. You never know where this journey will take you, but it’s definitely not downhill.
If you’re wanting more bullet journal inspiration, full guides, and brush lettering help, head over to lifebywhitney.com and take a look around! The VIP Vault is where you'll find 100+ pre-measured layouts & all of my extra special goodies (like the guide in this blog!)