Ad: some items featured within this post were sent to me from Office Monster in exchange for a review. This in no way influences my opinion and all words, photos and opinions are entirely my own.
I talked way back in 2016 about why I loved bullet journalling, but haven’t really talked much about it since. That’s because, if I’m totally honest, bullet journalling the way I was before just wasn’t sustainable for me. I absolutely love the idea though, and I’ve recently been trying to make it work. At around the same kind of time as I started back up, Office Monster also got in touch about reviewing some of their office supplies, so I thought this was the perfect chance to share some tips on on how I’m making bullet journalling work for me, and the supplies I can’t live without. For this first post, I’m focusing on what I use, and over the next few I’ll talk about setting up, different spreads I use, and how I use it for book blogging specifically.
First things first, supplies
The absolute first thing you’re going to need is a notebook. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or fancy notebook, so a lot of posts will tell you to use a notebook you have lying around. Whilst that’s true, this is something you’re hopefully going to pick up and write in every single day, so if you desperately want a dot grid, or can’t stand your current notebook’s inability to lie flat, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with picking up something you’re excited to write in to get you started! My first bullet journal was a dotted Leuchtturm 1917 in Emerald (~£17). The Leuchtturms are a popular choice, come with a choice of dot/grid/lined/blank layouts, two ribbons and 249 pages. I liked it, but it was a bit boring, if I’m brutally honest. I tried using a Game of Thrones Lannister journal (~11) from Insight Press which was absolutely gorgeous and felt like a higher quality notebook, but I couldn’t get on with the lined pages. If I can ever convert myself, you can bet I’m going to work my way through the awesome geeky collection they’ve got! I tried a Scribbles That Matter bullet journal (~£17) which has pre-printed weeklies and flexible dailies, so is somewhere between a traditional planner and bullet journal, and thought for sure that’d work for me, as it took out some of the effort (I’m lazy!) but left some of the flexibility, but actually it just felt like the worst of both worlds! Finally, my latest (and current) bullet journal is a Dingbats Earth notebook (~£18) with a coral reef on the front. It’s got slightly fewer pages than the Leuchtturm (192), but it looks nicer when it’s shut, and it has most of the same features (dot grid, two ribbons) and some extras I love – tabs along the edge for colour coding, vegan leather cover, FSC certified paper and 2% of profits going to WWF. I might get through it a bit quicker but it feels much more me!
Pens & accessories
This is where your costs can rapidly start to creep up, especially if you’re looking at some of the beautiful bullet journals on instagram which use washi tapes, stamps, 8 different varieties of pens, stickers, stencils, water colours and more. For me personally, I keep things simple: some everyday writing pens, some pens for colour and decoration, and maybe when I’m feeling really creative, a stencil or two.
I’ve tried using a variety of every day writing pens from biros to fountain pens, and I’ve always got pens lying around because I’m both a stationery nerd and a teacher, but my absolute favourite so far are the Staedtler pigment liners (~£12 for 6). Honestly, I just love Staedtler pens generally, because they do everything I want them to do without costing me very much. The pigment liners are are just six different thicknesses of black pens (0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm, 0.5mm & 0.8mm), which I use literally every day in both my bullet journal and my teacher planner. I tend to use the 0.2/0.3 for the bulk of my writing, with the smaller ones for attempting to draw icons/symbols, the larger ones for underlining, creating boxes and adding details.
I don’t tend to stick to colour coding for very long, but I do sometimes choose to write in colour instead of black: most often I’ll write in pink for anything with my husband, pale blue for blogging, green for social and red for urgent, and again, Staedtler are my go-to: the 10 pack (~£10 for 10) is cheap, and covers all the bases. I especially love that all the Staedtler pens come in a case, because I’m hopeless for losing pens – because they all go back in the box, and the box gets thrown in my bag, it’s super obvious when I’m packing up if I’ve missed something, so I don’t get home and wonder how all I’ve got left is yellow! I use these every day in my teacher planner at work too, writing in black for most things, red for deadlines/things I must remember to do, dark green for any homework I’m expecting in and pale green for any marking I need to do.
I am NOT a particularly artistic person, and while I love looking at things like Tombow brush pens, I’m not naive enough to think they’re going to magically turn me into a calligrapher, so I always rely on cheaper pens for adding colour and putting in titles etc. I’d heard really good things about the Papermate Flair (~£14 for 16) felt tips, so decided to give them a go and have to say I’m really impressed with them! They’re quite fine, at 0.7mm which means I can use them for both big titles and little subheadings, and the colours are really bold and stand out, plus you get a real variety as it’s a pack of 16. The other thing I use to add colour is a variety of pastel highlighters – I love using them to label where a day of the week starts, or just add a bit of colour without making it too in your face. I’ve been using the Bic Highlighters (~£3 for 4) and the Stabilo ones (~£7.50 for 6). The Bic have a finer nib (1.6-3.3mm) compared to the Stabilo (2-5mm) but the colours match almost identically, so I can use the Bic for underlining or writing, alongside the Stabilo for adding big sections of colour, and end up with a co-ordinated page.
While I do intend to add some washi tape to my collection, and have been lusting after the StudioL2E stamps for just about forever, I don’t currently use many accessories in my bullet journal, because I want to keep it quick and efficient, and build the habit first! The only extras I ever use are a ruler (or more often, a bookmark/sheet of paper/anything else straight I have lying around) and very occasionally a stencil. The set I bought are no longer available, but there are plenty of similar ones around: personally though, I wouldn’t buy them again. Only images that are effectively silhouettes look any good, and they’re not a particular time saver. Get some stickers or a stamp instead!