2021 planning tools (gasp! bujo drama!)


DISCLAIMER: Any links I provide aren’t sponsored links — I just want those who are interested to be able to find exactly what I’m talking about. 🙂

If you’ve been here for a while, you might know that I’m something of a bullet journal fanatic. You also might know that I recently started college. Naturally, as I expected, my planning habits needed to change to accomodate the sudden lifestyle change. A college student’s agenda is often filled to the brim with countless tasks, but those tasks are established months before they actually happen. It should be a comforting thing, but the sheer weight of daily to-dos felt so overwhelming at first that I didn’t know how to even start. Eventually, I had no choice but to just figure it out. (That’s kinda how college works.)

I needed some way to transfer my syllabus materials into my planning system at the beginning of the year so there were no surprises in the middle. I thought my bullet journal was completely out, and I was already mourning the loss of my favorite notebook because I had no use for it. But wait, there’s more!

At my college bookstore, I found countless planners. None of them seemed right. I couldn’t see myself using a traditional planner like I did in middle school. It just didn’t ever work for me, it felt clunky, and I didn’t like how it was already decorated. I’m the kind of person who covers my notebooks and laptop and water bottle and… everything… with stickers and other stuff. What’s a gal to do?

Then, I saw it. The Moleskine Weekly Notebook. It was a slim, black number with the personality of wet cardboard and the comfortable features of my bullet journal. The pages felt nice and homey, and it had — not one, but two — timetables for my semester schedules! It wasn’t quite a planner because on the opposite side of the weekly page, it had a lined page for notes. This was perfect, and I snatched it up.

Here are all the features I loved: year at a glance, monthly pages with spaces for notes at the bottom, 2 timetables, dated weekly pages that start on mondays (I like to see my work week and my weekend separately), weekly notes section, extra notes space in the back, a built-in pocket, bookmark, sturdy elastic band, and a 13 cm width (for reference, my typical notebooks are 14 1/2 cm).

So, I had that planning part squared away. But what about days when everything felt way to overwhelming? What about days when I had no direction and could see all of the directions I could go? Enter the Bloom Daily Planner. (Note, they don’t sell the version I have anymore, but the linked version has almost the same features and is the same size.) Desk pads are almost always too clunky to use, but this one doesn’t feel that way at all. It’s pretty, and it fulfills a big task: get my life together on days where everything feels like a mess!

It has a lot of goodies: top three to-dos, important times (great for Zoom meetings) a massive to-do section, random notes area, gratitude section, meals tracker, water tracker, and exercise/self care slot.

Alright, so that’s good. Got that done. But does this mean I don’t need *sniffs* my precious bullet journal baby anymore? Nope. I still need my bujo. It carries my hopes and dreams. It holds all my lists, poems, song lyrics, calligraphy practice, collages, journaling exercises, brain dumps, doodles, musings, and literally everything I could possibly need to write down. Lately, my “bullet journal” hasn’t been much of a planning system. I had to let go of the original system I fought so hard to keep. It served my needs for a while, but now, it’s not anything but an idea catch-all, which is what Ryder Carroll intended it to be.

I always heard people say that getting a journal is the most important thing a creative person can do, but I never understood it because I was trying to adhere to what the internet told me to do. I didn’t like habit trackers or massive monthly calendars or anything like that. I realized that I hate structure. Me! Crazy, right? My whole school life has been nothing but structure. But it took a massive lifestyle change to realize that I love freedom, and a no-rules notebook allows me that.

So what am I using? Well, in the past, I’ve had two Leuchtturm1917 journals and a Rhodia Webnotebook. Leuchtturms were a great starting point, just to figure out the baseline and to get used to that kind of notebook. I loved my Rhodia Webbie, and I’ll definitely keep using it until the pages fill up (which won’t be long at the rate I’ve been journaling). But I complain a lot about the dots. I wanted my pages to feel more structured for calendars, maybe some trackers, and other more bullet journal-y things.

I won’t sugarcoat it — I bought a hardcover Moleskine with squared pages. I know! The bullet journal community is quaking! For reasons I cannot comprehend, the bujo community has shunned Moleskines. I don’t get it. I feel no difference in paper quality from the Leuchtturm, and in fact, I think Moleskines hold up better from wear than Leuchtturms do! My last Leuchtturm, Charlie, looks so awful and beat up from a year of use. My Moleskine planner still looks like new, and I bought it 6 months ago.

The paper does ghost, but so does Leuchtturm paper. Frankly, so does the Rhodia paper I’m using now. I’m stepping out into the shunned world of Moleskine with no regrets.

Okay, that was a little dramatic, but I know that bullet journal users are super particular about their planning choices (coming from me!) and would appreciate a little extra pizzazz. Anyway, if you’d like to read 10 ways you can use a bullet journal that you’ve probably never thought of, you can become a subscriber to my blog. I’d like to know how you plan to, erm, well, plan for 2021. Are you a premade calendar person? Digital? Bullet journal fanatic like me? Do tell!

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Read 10 ways you can use a bullet journal (that you’ve probably never thought of) when you subscribe today.

10 new year journal prompts.


2021 is almost upon us. Egads! The goal-setting fever I usually have has decided to be extra quiet this year, and I think it’s because I feel lost in a sea of pandemic-y election-y first-year-of-college-y mess. I decided to come up with some deep journal prompts to open up a dialogue for how I want the new year to go. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you don’t feel like going crazy in 2021, but feel free to use these prompts if you are so inclined. Happy journaling.

  1. What do you need more of? What about the things you don’t need? Most of the time, we use the new year to think about what we want to add to our lives. It’s a great idea, and it’s definitely important. But what about things we need to get rid of? Maybe you’ve let someone treat you like a doormat this year, or you’ve blamed yourself for something you shouldn’t have. Do some deep thinking about what you want to get rid of and what you want to add.
  2. How are you going to take control in the new year? Lately, life has felt entirely out of our control. However, there are still so many things we can control. We can control when we wake up, our routines, the foods we eat, the way we treat people, the enthusiasm we put into our projects, the media we consume… Make a list of things you can control, and claim the things you feel most confident in. Stick to those when the going gets tough.
  3. What have you accomplished this year? No, really! You have done so much this year, and you probably haven’t even glanced at it. What goals did you set last year? Did you accomplish those things? I bet you at least made progress. I bet you absolutely crushed some projects. Before you even think about setting new goals, think about what you’ve already done, and celebrate that! Find a way to reward yourself for all your successes.
  4. What did you learn about the world and yourself? What do you still need to learn? We’ve spent more time with ourselves than usual, and we’ve definitely paid more attention to the world around us (if you’ve been on social media at all). You’ve probably gained a lot of new insights about yourself and the world. What did you learn? And do you still have questions about yourself? About society? Make a commitment to find out the answers.
  5. What are your top priorities for the next year? Prioritizing can be really difficult. Everyone’s coming at you with requests and distractions and needs. What do you care about? What are your life goals? Don’t think about what everyone else needs or wants from you. Don’t let your life become a pizza that you were gonna eat, but you gave a slice to everyone who asked for one, and now you don’t get any pizza. Decide the slices you want first, and then figure out how much you can give to others. It’s not selfish — it’s self care. Your life is yours. What do you want to do with your time?
  6. Who do you want to be? How will you be that person? I love this one because it means I create a whole persona for 2021 me. 2021 me will be generous and kind to others. 2021 me feels passionate and motivated every day. 2021 me wakes up at 8 a.m. with a smile on my face. 2021 does skin care and drinks enough water. Who is 2021 you? And the important part…. How are you gonna become 2021 you? Give yourself definitive actions you can take to get from this version of you to the “new” you. It’s like a creative project, but it helps you improve your life and get closer to your goals.
  7. How can you create something to look forward to in the new year? I know we’ve all lost things this year. We had trips planned, events to attend, and people to see. We had stuff to do! But there are still ways you can add excitement and anticipation to your year, so think about what those things might be. Pencil them in your 2021 calendar and get excited NOW.
  8. Name one habit you’ll change, one new thing you’ll learn, and one way you’ll bring joy into your life. These sort of feed into all the previous ones, but if you can boil it down to three main things for the entire year, you’re in the clear. Too often, we set ten million different goals, and it’s so overwhelming that we don’t devote time to any of them. Choose three. For example: This year, I will do yoga before I watch Netflix, I will learn how to crochet, and I will bring joy to my life by having a dance party during my mid-afternoon Zoom break. See?
  9. How can you eliminate stress from work, school, your home, or your technology? The fun part! Scrub your inbox. Delegate tasks. Clear your desk. Deep clean your house. Invest in a better planning system. Join a study group. Ask for help. Quit things. Unfollow people. Curate your life to be stressless!
  10. In what ways will you practice self care? How? Asking “how” might seem a little redundant, but I promise, it’s necessary. Someone might answer, “I’ll take more baths.” Okay… sure. But how? How are you going to physically carve out time to take a relaxing bath more often? Will you take on one less project, one less meeting, one less volunteer hour? Will you take the time to make your bathroom feel like a spa room? Will you purchase some yummy rose bubble bath and a lifetime supply of face masks? Seriously define your self care. That is the only way you will actually do it.

Remember, these prompts are just to help you start thinking about any resolutions you might make. Your final goals are up to you. The best goals come from honest reflection and deep thought. Happy goal-setting!

—ellynn ❤

starting a bullet journal? read this first.


It’s a new year, and LOTS of people are excited about trying a new bullet journal! That’s so cool, and I love to see everyone doing this planning system for the first time. However, I think there are a few things we need to remember.

  1. It’s not all about how pretty it looks. This is it! I’m starting off this list with the single most important thing! I rant about this all the time. New bullet journal-ers are SO excited to start, but they often start for the wrong reason. Instead of telling you what it is supposed to be, I’m going to tell you what it isn’t. The purpose of a notebook is not to compare your art or handwriting to another person’s notebook. It’s not to be the perfect planner or a gorgeous container of paper that’s supposed to get you thousands of followers on Instagram. It’s not for anybody else to enjoy. It’s not fluffy or stupid, either. It’s not a shallow thing. So what is it? It’s for you. What do you want it to be?
  2. You don’t need special stationery. Look, I love pens and pretty stationery as much as the next fanatic, but a true bullet journal sticks to two basic objects: a black pen and a notebook. That’s it. Not a tombow dual brush pen, not a mildliner, not a crayola supertip marker, not sparkly washi tape… It relies on only a notebook and a pen. Hey, I know someone who uses a binder and notebook paper for easy removal of pages, so I guess you don’t even really need a notebook. For the most part, I just use a black pen and my trusty hardcover dotted notebook. I’m not going to link it because I don’t think you need to copy what works for me to get good use out of your notebook. (However, if you truly want to know, go to my YouTube channel, Rachel Ellynn M.) Just use what you think you need.
  3. Keep it simple at first. So, basically, the original Ryder Carroll format isn’t what I stick to. However, it’s the method that was designed to work for ADHD and he wants it to be universal — until you find something that works better for you. I found a system that I altered, and it worked more and more the more I allowed it to show itself to me. I couldn’t have found that system unless I tried the bare bones and decided other things were going to work better. For example, I started using daily rapid logging like the original method. Then, I switched to weekly spreads (this was a mistake because I saw how pretty the ones on Pinterest were and wanted to make them like this). After that definitely didn’t work, I went back to daily rapid logging and found that it was best for my running mind. I guess my point is, don’t get too excited about all the crazy trackers and collections you can implement until you know for sure what basic pieces work for you.
  4. Do a mental inventory before anything else. This is the most therapeutic part, and I love it so much because it dumps out your mind! Seriously. There are three sections: what I’m working on, what I should be working on, and what I want to work on. Sounds kind of easy, but you really have to sit down and think about it. Some people do it in sections of their lives, like school, work, personal, family, spiritual… I like to dump it all into one. Just make three columns, label them, and start writing. Now, look at the things on all the lists in one. Which items are non-negotiable? Circle them. Which items can you not care less about? Cross them out. If you don’t absolutely need to do something, and you don’t want to do it, then here’s a simple revelation. Only put priority items on your plate. The mental inventory can help you weed those out.
  5. Carry it everywhere. I’m sure people will dispute about this, but I treat my bullet journal much like car keys, a wallet, or a cell phone… I take it everywhere. In 2020, my new one is Pepper, and she is going to get extremely acquainted with the way I live my life. If this sounds silly, I don’t care, but I think my notebook can learn about me and serve me better if I take it along for the ride. Plus, at the end of the notebook’s use, you can smile and notice all the places where you dropped it or the bookmark frayed. You can watch it age. Your journal is a piece of history. Take it and make note of anything and everything.
  6. Claim it as yours. Listen, this journal is only for you. Only you have to see it, use it, keep it up. So make it yours! Much like a blank canvas or empty house, design it the way you see fit. Keep it minimalistic and only add the bare details, or plaster it with artwork and make it crazy colorful. Mine is somewhere in between. I myself enjoy a collage or quote page every once in a while, but then again I also enjoy a quiet page for simple lists. Whatever makes you feel at home in this notebook that you’ll call home for however long it takes to fill it up. (Also, I usually start over for the new year, but I never finish the notebook, so I’m using a shorter one this year.) Let yourself take creative space in the journal that keeps your life together. It’s gonna be in your possession for a while.

So those are just six little reminders before you truly break into that notebook. I wish the best to you and your little companion.

-ellynn

re-blog: stop comparing your efforts to others.


“Hello. Ima get real with you all.

Being a bullet journalist, it’s often a struggle to be confident about my own skills. There are so many people out there who can do it better, easier, prettier, faster, more elaborate… You get the point. Eventually, the insecurity I have about my art skills becomes all-encompassing, and it actually does worse than damages my motivation to make art… It deprecates my self-esteem.

Now, I see this happen all the time in my daily life. I see my whole world as how successful I can be, how impressive I can be, how ___________ I can be. Just fill in the blank. It’s so easy to slip into these modes of ultimate depression and self-hatred with any competitive activity; it doesn’t have to be art.

There’s just one thing that keeps me sane. Just one thought. You are here to create art; the art does not create you. Yes, you should never compare yourself to others in order to shame yourself. No, you shouldn’t hate yourself because you don’t think you stack up. But when all hope is lost, when you just can’t find a reason to stay positive about how your work is, just say to yourself, “I’m here to invent/create/do this thing, but this thing is not me.”

Boom, over. done with. Automatically you realize that what ever you’re able to do, it doesn’t define you as a person. You are disconnected from that thing. You can now start to fill it with things that do define you.

Are you smart? Beautiful? A good listener? Do you have a good taste in music? Whatever it is, go after it with all your heart and put that idea in place of the thing you think you’re not good at.

So on this lovely Sunday morning, I ask that you take advantage of this mini mind shift. I honestly use this daily, and if helps me. Try it throughout the week and let me know if you notice any differences!

Happy succeeding.

love,

-rachel ❤”