I think we can all agree that keeping track of time has been much harder during the pandemic; days blur into each other and it’s difficult to keep up any kind of structure or to remember what you’ve done and what you’re supposed to be doing. When there is so little to do, keeping a calendar might seem unnecessary or, according to Waterstones’ viral tweet last year, foolishly optimistic: “A customer has just bought a 2021 calendar. Sir, we admire your optimism.”
But personally, I’ve found that keeping a calendar was the only thing that kept my sense of time intact during the 2020-2021 academic year. I wrote down tasks from hoovering and shopping to breaking down my uni assignments to manageable chunks. I even noted what movies that I’d watched occasionally. These helped me see what I had been doing in a concrete way and ticking off to-do lists helped me when it was hard to motivate myself to do anything.
Of course, this didn’t mean that I succeeded in everything I wanted. Sometimes I didn’t want to obey anything I’d written down, and the monotonous structure and appearance of the store-bought calendar seemed to mock me with its repetitiveness; it wasn’t very inspiring to look at. My flatmate, however, had made herself a bullet journal the summer before uni started. She’d decorated it and made stylistic choices that suited her, and she told me that because of this she would later be able to differentiate between the weeks. And as it was so nice to look at, it was more fun to complete those menial tasks. As I was envying her calendar and feeling inspired just from leafing through it, I realised that this could be the solution for me. So, I decided to make myself one for next year too!
Now, how am I going to go about this? Typically, bullet journals aren’t made in advance – the idea is to make a new weekly spread for the upcoming week. But I already know that I won’t have the time or energy for that during all the studying. Instead, I’m going to look at it as a calming summer activity and make the whole thing in advance. I bought an empty but dotted notebook from Blackwell’s – bullet journals are typically made with dotted pages, because they make it easier to make lines, boxes, etc. The beauty of bullet journals, however, is that there are no strict rules. You can buy any kind of notebook that works for you!
I then looked up some videos about the topic to get some ideas and tips. I will share the wisdom I learned:
1) The bullet journal is meant to be a tool. It’s not a magical, live-saving calendar, but something that you make for your specific needs to help you.
2) People often make weekly spreads so that all seven days of the week are visible at one glance, but some prefer to dedicate a whole page for a single day. Or the whole week in one page, if you feel like you won’t have that much to write about for each day (my flatmate did this for the winter holiday)!
3) You don’t need to make habit trackers (which are quite popular in bujos) or anything that feels unnecessary for you. Listing absolutely everything that’s going on in your life can start to feel overwhelming. However, this can be helpful for some.
4) You don’t need to make it beautiful if you don’t want to! The point isn’t to create extra stress for yourself because your bujo isn’t decorated “enough”.
There are some very simple ways for you to decorate your calendar though, if you want to make it a bit interesting! If you have colourful markers or colouring pencils, you can dedicate a certain colour or shade to each month and use it in the weekly spreads so that each month will have a different feel. Doodling small flowers for the warm months and perhaps snowflakes for the winter months are easy but effective ways to differentiate the months, too. Attaching a stripe of washi tape to the top or bottom of the page is also an easy way to make the pages look more fun. There are loads on etsy and they can be pretty affordable! Same with stickers!
I’d also like to show these three videos I found that helped me understand how to make simple but nice weekly spreads:
- Four layout ideas by Shayda Campbell (she’s also done some tutorials on how to draw different kinds of flowers really easily!)
- Five-minute layout ideas Part 1 by Jashii Corrin
- Five-minute layout ideas Part 2 by Jashii Corrin
You can look up different tutorials depending on your needs and interests, or just improvise the whole thing. Personally, I’m going to make it a bit of a mix of everything: occasional watercolours, scrapbooking, doodles… And remember, you can make the weekly spreads really simple at first and decorate later if you have the time or energy! That way you won’t get stuck decorating one spread for a long time and get stressed out by the effort. It’s also a nice idea to ask if any of your friends are interested in either bujoing or just drawing/crafting, so you could arrange a hangout session where you’re working on your own projects. This totally works with a videocall!
So, if you want something light but creative to work on during the summer and are worried about your time management for the next academic year, why not try bullet journaling?