Skip to content

Journey to the Right Layout

Posted in Paper

I always feel a little presumptuous, writing these “here’s how I do things” posts, but you all seem to really enjoy them. So today, I’m sharing my current notebook layout and how it’s evolved into this over the years. I’ve just started a new notebook, and this seemed like the perfect timing for the layout post I’ve been planning.

Note: Please excuse the redactions. Some info I just can’t share with the world.

My current layout.

Getting Started

I’ve kept a notebook since I started working, mainly to keep track of meetings, projects, etc. As my workload increased, I started daily to-do lists, but also began a search for a better way to keep track of things.

Google led me to bullet journaling (bjuo). But bujo, “true” bujo, has a lot of rules that I wasn’t interested in. I still wanted to take notes, write, etc. And I knew that setting up a full notebook for the year wasn’t for me.

So, I adapted a form of bujo about 4 years ago — it’s hard to believe it’s been that long — by picking what I felt would be the most useful bits. I meshed them together to form a preliminary layout.

My first "layout."
My very first layout. Back before I discovered dot grid ruling.

A Bit of Advice

I’ve watched several friends dive straight into the deep with bujo and tracking things, only to “fail” miserably and quit in defeat. Instead, I suggest you start slow.

Adopt the main premise — if you think it will suit you — and one or two things to track — if you’re a person who likes tracking things. Consider putting reminders in your phone for a while until the new system becomes habit.

Once you’re comfortable with the new format and decide to keep it long term, then you can slowly add more bells and whistles. The concept isn’t going anywhere. It’s OK to take your time developing a good system for you.

Also, DO NOT fall victim to what I call Inspiration Guilt. The online bujo world contains everything from ultra-simple layouts that stay true to the initial bujo idea all the way to fully decorated, amazing layouts that look like they belong in a manuscript. Don’t feel you have to develop your layout or presentation a certain way. That way lies damnation. Just build something that works for you.

My Layout Evolution

As you saw above, once I discovered bujo, my first “layout” was simple to the extreme. It was a long time ago, but I think I was trying to stick to the “true” bujo practices as much as I could.

But, it didn’t take long for me to find the bujo community and feel obligated to spruce it up a bit. While the basic idea was the same, I played around with doodles, colors, and designs. It was fun at first, but soon became rather tiresome. I still went back to “fancier” elements over time because I aspired to the gorgeous layouts I saw online. I tried tracking different things: pens used, snacks, etc., and wavered between including weekend information and leaving it off.

And then, I tried something very different. I think I was trying to minimize the amount of space I used for weekly planning. Basically, I’d write a numbered list of all of my taks, and assign the numbers to each day. In theory, it was a good idea. In practice, the extra time it took to see what I was supposed to do ended up more bothersome than taking up 2 pages.

The very simplistic layout I tried.

So, I went back to what I’d been doing before. And I stuck with it for several variations.

In August 2018, I came across either a post or article about using washi tape to mark the edges of important notebook pages. This seemed like a great idea, and I started doing that for my weekly spreads. For some reason — probably a post as well — I also changed the spread layout a couple weeks later, which I’ve pretty much stuck with since.

Since then, I’ve added, removed, and re-added different items to track — water intake, sleep, pain, makeup, etc. — but the base layout didn’t change much. I did change how I handled the washi tape, switching from using random tapes to ones that related to the month. Doing so allowed me to easily flip to a specific month. I also finally accepted that design simplicity works best for me. I don’t have the patience to make each spread “beautiful” in terms of drawing. And, somewhere in there, I decided to use only two colors per week, so that my layout looked more cohesive.

Once it became apparent that the pandemic would be more than a couple months’ issue, I started adding bits to my weekly spread. First to focus attention on what was making me happy, then to track chores (that didn’t lack long), and finally, to make sure I kept in contact with friends. Most recently, I’ve added calendars to help keep track of upcoming events (notice the colored dots), and a small weekly tracker.

Cool Layouts, But What’s Your Point?

Well, you can see how much my layout evolved over the years. The point I want to make is that you should be flexible, not just when starting a new system, but throughout your time using it. Things change, and that means your system likely will, too.

If I had stubbornly clung to my initial layout, I likely would have given it up ages ago, and I’d be the poorer for it. But, by allowing my system to evolve, I’ve been able to keep with it for years. It’s now a part of my life I couldn’t see myself comfortably doing without.

My system has kept me on track at work and from getting overwhelmed. It’s helped me develop a new way to use my pens, and focus on what makes me happy in day-to-day life. It’s even helped with ADD and anxiety.

Obviously, a tracking system won’t be all things to everyone, and my be wrong for some. But, if you think it might be for you, I highly suggest you try it.

So, tell me in a comment, do you use any kind of layout or tracking system(s)? Have they helped you? Have they evolved over the years?

Make sure to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any posts. I generally post at least once a week.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *