5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Bujo

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Bujo

Are you new to the bujo community? Did you know you can use any notebook to start your first one? Here are a few things I wish I would have known before starting my own bujo. If you don’t know what a bujo (bullet journal) is, I highly recommend going to read about it from the creator of the system, Ryder Carroll, here, and coming back to read the rest of this post.

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com.  If you purchase products from these links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  To read my full disclosure statement, click here.

1. You Can Use Any Notebook (But Size Matters!)

If you scroll through Instagram or Pinterest for bujos, more often than not, you’ll see layouts in gorgeous notebooks, journals, and traveler’s notebooks. However, before you go out and splurge on an expensive journal, you can test out the bujo system in any spare notebook, even one you’ve already written in! The system works as long as you use it and you can make it work in anything as long as you have a key, an index, and you keep up with your pages. If you are wondering if the bujo system works for you, this is a great way to test it out. My first bujo was in an old journal that I repurposed and covered (the original cover didn’t suit me.)

One thing to keep in mind when you’re ready to purchase your bujo’s new home is the amount of space you’ll have to work with for each page. For 2018, I switched to a traveler’s notebook and it’s much more narrow than the Moleskine journal I was used to during the summer of 2017. It does impact how I make layouts. So far, I’m loving my traveler’s notebook, but there are pros and cons to using it for my bujo. (I’ll likely make a post in the future about this.)

2. Mistakes Can and Will Happen (and It’s Okay!)

It’s easy to be intimidated by the picture-perfect layouts of other people’s bujos on Pinterest and Instagram. One thing to keep in mind when you’re looking at other people’s pictures online is that you are seeing the final, polished product. There’s no real way to know if the person who posted that beautiful spread got it right on the first try or if it was the 20th attempt at the same page. Really, though, it shouldn’t matter how many tries it took someone or if they are naturally gifted. Each person’s bujo tells a unique story about their user. You do not have to be artistically inclined to successfully keep a bujo. No matter what your skill level it, it’s fun to watch your growth as you continue to use your pages and improve over time.

I made a short video about some of the mistakes I’ve already made in my bujo this year. You can click on the link here or watch it below. (I apologize for the abrupt ending; my baby was waking up and I wanted to get to him before he was loud enough to be heard in the video.)

3. Be Mindful of Where You Keep Collections

If you watched the video, you’ll know that one of the mistakes I made early on in my traveler’s notebook was keeping my Year in Pixels page in the same insert as my weekly layouts. I’ll go through this insert long before the year is over, so I’ll either need to redraw it in another insert only for collections or simply cut out the page and put it in the other insert.

Whether you are using a traditional journal or a traveler’s notebook like mine, making use of your index and recording each page number for the collections you keep in your bujo will also spare you a lot of headaches trying to figure out where everything is.

4. The Amount of Freedom

Your bujo can be anything you need it to be and you can customize it however you want. You could go minimalist with the layout or go all out with detailed drawings, stickers, and washi tape. There are no wrong answers for the amount decorating you can do. You can also make collections for anything and everything you can think of. I have seen collections for books to read, 30 Day Challenges, Netflix series to watch, self-care routines, and all kinds of health trackers, just to name a few.

Even if you don’t feel like making a fully decorated page but you want to jot down ideas or journal, you can do that on your pages, too. Just give it a place in your index so that you can refer to it later. It’ll help you gain perspective to go back and read your pages long after you’ve written them.

5. It’s Never Too Late to Change Things

The part about having a bujo I love the most is that if something isn’t working for me, I can change it whenever I want. If you are the kind of person who struggles to stick with one planner the whole year through, a bujo may be the answer your looking for. If you suddenly decide you don’t like horizontal layouts for your weekly spreads, you can switch to a vertical layout next week. You can freely experiment with the pages and learn what works for you. If a habit tracking system isn’t working for you, you don’t have to keep using the same tracker. I talk about changing up my habit trackers here.

It’s also worth noting you can start a bujo whenever you want to. You don’t have to wait for January 1st to start. You could start in the middle of April and not have to worry about wasting pages. You’d start keeping track of the dates from the day you start, not the beginning of the year.

If you are brand new to the bujo community, what would you like to know about keeping a bujo? If you’re a veteran, what would you like to have known? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to read your questions!

If you are ready to buy a bujo, here are some of my recommendations. If you purchase anything through my links, I’ll earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. I appreciate your support!



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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Bujo

Use Stress-Free Habit Trackers for Practical Self-Care


Journal and Pen
Make Habit Trackers Work for You Stress-Free

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com.  If you purchase products from these links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  To read my full disclosure statement, click here.

What Are Habit Trackers?

Habit tracking is one of the reasons many people keep a bullet journal or bujo instead of a traditional planner.  If you search on Pinterest or Instagram for the hashtag #bujo or #habittracker, you’ll find hundreds of different habits people want to keep track of, from health habits such as water intake or logging hours of sleep to no spend days or time on social media.  They are valuable tools for trying to create good routines or break a bad habit.

If you’re unfamiliar with the bullet journal system, I encourage you to go read about it from the creator of the bujo, Ryder Carroll, here. I love the system because it’s so customisable and I plan on writing a future post about how I have mine set up since, like many bujo enthusiasts, my bullet journal doesn’t look exactly like the original concept.

Keeping Track of Your Habits Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

If you spend any amount of time searching for habit trackers or bujo layouts on Pinterest or Instagram, you’re bound to come across several gorgeous, intricate designs.  I have a board dedicated to these inspirational pages here.  Sometimes, though, I’ll come across a Pin that leaves me feeling intimidated, featuring habit trackers with over 30 items listed and fully illustrated. I don’t know about you, but the idea of having to check off so many things every single day sounds overwhelming. As a writer and work-at-home mother of two young children (3-years-old and 5-month-old at the time of this writing), my time is limited. Someday, I would love to try one of the many extensive trackers I’ve looked at, but right now, it’s not how I want to spend my time.

This is hard to admit, but I’m not sure if detailed tracker would work for me even if I wasn’t so busy.  When I try to change too many things at once, I tend to fail. I become discouraged by the lack of progress and nothing changes. When building new habits and routines, I have to start small and gradually work towards my end goal.  That’s why I’m currently tracking six habits in my weekly spread and have one year-long tracker for my mood.

Bullet Journal with Simple Habit Tracker
Weekly Layout from My Bujo.  This week featured my one little word for the year.

How I Use Weekly Habit Trackers

I’ve simplified how I use habit trackers since switching to a traveler’s notebook. The narrower pages for my weekly layouts made it an easy decision.  Each week, I think about what habits I want to maintain, which ones I’d like to start doing, and what I’d like to stop doing. I make an effort to keep the list short so that I don’t put too much pressure on myself.

My current list of six habits for the week are yoga, dance, read, write, journal, and craft. I’m trying to start an easy exercise routine, so I’m attempting to get back into yoga. I also want to teach my kids healthy habits, so I make an effort to have 20-minute dance parties with them. It makes exercising much more fun for me.  The last four habits are a mix of things I hope will help me professionally and keep me focused on self-care.

One final note about my weekly habit tracker: I’m not afraid to change what goes on the list. I used to track my morning pages and bedtime. However, I was consistently doing my morning pages, so I didn’t feel the need to continue tracking that habit. If I start slipping in that area, I’ll add it back to the list. I stopped keeping track of my bedtime because it was demoralizing. My baby still keeps me up at night and logging these long nights aren’t helping me. I’ll try tracking this habit again in a few months.

How I Use a Year Long Habit Tracker

Mood Tracker
My Year in Pixels page, heavily inspired by the many other mood trackers on Pinterest and Instagram.

I saw several variations of the My Year in Pixels mood tracker on Pinterest and fell in love with the idea. I’m a gamer and a nerd at heart, so I immediately knew that was going to go into my bujo this year.  I’m happy to report that so far, I’m off to a good start this year (even if I woke up grumpy on New Year’s Day.)

Close up of Habit Tracker
Closer view of My Year in Pixels mood tracker.

More Tips for Simplifying Your Habit Trackers

Here are a few more ideas to help you get started or simplify habit tracking:

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. If the idea of keeping track of seven things every day sounds overwhelming, don’t do it! Try keeping track of only one thing, such as water intake, doing morning pages, or no spend days.
  • If you’re consistently doing a habit every day, you may consider removing it from your habit tracker to free up space. Unless, of course, you want to keep it on the list because you love checking it off every day. There’s nothing wrong with that!
  • If you keep listing a habit in your tracker and never do it, consider why you feel the need to continue giving it a place in your habit tracker. Is it really a habit you actually want to have, or do you only think you should have it? You may be trying to be something you’re not. Don’t be afraid of removing a habit from your tracker- I did it!
  • If you genuinely want to start doing a habit but haven’t successfully done it yet, you need to take an honest look at your routine to see how you can make it happen. Maybe breaking the habit into smaller pieces (like attempting it once a week instead of every day) would help you get started.

As you start using habit trackers, you may decide a more detailed habit tracker. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to keep track of several things. It isn’t for me right now and that’s okay. Maybe someday it will be, and I’ll write a post called “Why Super-Detailed Habit Trackers are Awesome!” In the meantime, I’ll stick to admiring other people’s layouts online.

Tools I Use for My Habit Trackers

Here are a few supplies I love to use in my habit trackers. If you purchase anything through my links, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


What kinds of habits do you keep track of in your bujo? Do you prefer to track several habits at once or only a few at a time? I’d love it if you share what works for you in the comment section.

Bullet Journal
Make Habit Trackers Work for You Stress Free

How to Choose Your One Little Word

traveler's notebook
One Little Word

Do you have a word of the year? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please go read the original post behind “One Little Word,” created by Ali Edwards here. The idea is to choose a word that represents a theme, a state of mind, or an ideal that you want to strive for during the year. I had a word of the year in 2016 but did not in 2017. I wish that I would have chosen one last year, especially as it was a challenging time for me. This year, I’m going to surround myself with my one little word, because it will help keep me focused as I work towards my goals.

Why One Little Word

I personally love the idea of having one little word for the year because sometimes goal-setting can be intimidating. I’m very good at dreaming up big ideas, but sometimes, the process for getting started on chasing my dreams feels too overwhelming. Having one little word as a guiding post for setting the tone for my year gives me a starting point to build on.

My One Little Word

The first time I journaled about deciding on a word of the year, I chose “Content,” the word I used in 2016. I had picked it because it had worked well for me for at least the first half of 2016, and it seemed like a wonderful ideal to strive for again. At first, I was happy with my choice, especially since it fits in with the idea of seeking peace with one’s present situation. However, after sleeping on it, the less I felt the pull of the word.

The trouble is, I’m not content. I think it’s a great sentiment, but my goals and mood are not aligned with the word. It’s no secret that I’m no longer content with the status quo- both personally and on a global scale, but I do need a more positive spin for my personal life than “Change.” No, I need to overcome obstacles, both real and imagined, that are holding me back, which is why my word of the year is “Rise.” If 2017 has taught me anything, it’s that I will have plenty of setbacks. I want to rise above those setbacks and pursue my goals anyway.

One Little Word page in my traveler’s notebook

How I’m Going to “Rise:”

  • I’m going to break my big, scary goals into smaller, actionable pieces.
  • I’m going to push my boundaries while being mindful of when I need to take time to recharge and practice self-care. No one can go full-throttle all the time without rest.
  • I’m will keep a record of my victories, big and small.

How to Choose Your Own Word

If you’re having trouble deciding on one little word for the year my process for how I choose mine is simple. In a journal, notebook, or even a scrap piece of paper, write down the best and worst parts of last year for you. Next, free-write about the kind of year you want to have, the kind of person you’d like to become, or any traits that you’d like to adopt. After looking over your list, start writing down words that fit in with any recurring themes you noticed.

If nothing stands out to you right away, don’t stress out about finding the perfect word now. Sleep on it. Let your subconscious think about it as you go about your daily routine. You could try journaling or morning pages to see if any themes come up in your writing.

How to Use Your Own Little Word

Now that you have your own word for the year, there are several ways that you can use it to stay inspired. Many people include a page about their word in their planner or journal. You could easily make a dashboard page for your planner to keep you inspired whenever you look at the page.

Other ideas:

  • Write your one little word on several Post-It notes or journal cards. Place it around your home where you’ll have reminders of it (bathroom mirror, dresser, fridge, etc.)
  • Be on the lookout for journals, notebooks, shirts, or even jewelry that has your one little word on it. Find ways to keep the one little word physically with you.
  • If you’re feeling creative, you can make a scrapbook page or art journal about your word.
  • Feeling shy about your artistic skills? You could make a Pinterest board or a collage about your one little word. Fill it with quotes that evoke the feeling of your chosen word.

Staying Inspired

I know how hard it is to stick with resolutions. How many people make big goals in January, only to abandon them by mid-February? If you don’t want your one little word to fall by the wayside, here are a few ideas for staying inspired throughout the year:

  • Keep a gratitude log. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could be a spare notebook, or if you keep a planner, write down one thing you’re grateful for, no matter how small. If it’s an especially bad day, your one small thing could be as simple as your morning coffee. Over time, you can look back to see how all those little things add up.
  • Set reminders in your phone’s calendar or write down in your planner once a month to revisit your one little word. Ask yourself if your life is reflecting your word. If not, what do you need to do to get back on track? If the word no longer fits, you could always choose a different one!

One Final Note

If it’s no longer the beginning of the year when you’re reading this, it’s still not too late to choose your own one little word. It’s never too late to make a new start.

Do you have one little word for the year? How do you use it? I’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comments.

traveler's notebook
One Little Word