I love the start of a new month. It’s like a clean slate. It brings fresh opportunities. You can look back on the last month — at what you did or didn’t do — and focus on them for the new month. One way I plan for a new month, for any month really, is by using a bullet journal. And since I prefer simplicity I use a very minimalist bullet journal setup.
You’ve probably seen bullet journal spreads on Instagram and Pinterest. And I’m sure you were scared off of starting one by the intricate spreads and artistic designs you saw. You think, “Does mine need to look like that?” The answer is no. You can use the bullet journal system with a minimalist approach. In fact, the creator of the bullet journal, Ryder Carroll, keeps his super simple.
How do I set up my monthly minimalist bullet journal?
Every bullet journalist is different. The point of the system is to cater it to your unique life and lifestyle. Pre-printed planners are useful, but I find the bullet journal method keeps me more organized and productive.
My monthly minimalist bullet journal setup includes four components:
This page isn’t necessary for everyone. Most people just turn to the next clean spread and create their calendar. I used to do that. But at the start of 2021, I began experimenting with cover pages. And I love them.
My favorite thing about them is how they act as a kind of ending to the previous month. The blank page is a transition from one month to the next.
Here’s an example of what my cover page looks like:
Normally, I’d write the name of the month in large letters. Keep things simple. But I received these stickers as a gift a while ago and I want to use them up. The cover page is the perfect place for them.
Although I pride myself on being a creative person, my strengths lie in writing, not drawing. So if you’re not an artistic person but want to incorporate some color into your minimalist bullet journal setup, use stickers. Or don’t. The choice is yours. I plan on using them for my cover page until I run out. Then I’ll go back to simply writing the name of the month myself.
After the cover page comes the monthly overview, or calendar. I used to have a ton of calendars. I had my bullet journal, a large desk calendar, and a smaller one hanging on the bulletin board beside my desk. I also had everything in my Google calendar. It was literally calendar overload.
I realized I was rewriting events and deadlines on ALL of them. Um, no thank you. I ditched the desk calendar and bulletin board calendar and now only use my bullet journal and phone.
If you search #bujomonthlyspread on Instagram, you’re going to see a lot of colors. I mean, A LOT! The bullet journal method has been a great outlet for people to express their creativity. That’s amazing and important. But that shouldn’t take away from its mission, which is to keep your life planned and organized.
Here is what my monthly calendar looks like:
Black and white. A single pen and a ruler to help keep the lines straight. I will note that when I start filling in the days, I use colored markers to differentiate things. For example, my color code system works like this:
- Green = Work calls + deadlines
- Orange = Doctor appointments
- Blue = Birthdays + Anniversaries
- Purple = Blog + Writing related
- Pink = Holidays
- Red = Events like BBQ’s, hair appointments, trips, etc
You can choose to use a color code system or not. This is just so my brain can see right off the bat what is what.
One of the most important aspects of my minimalist bullet journal setup is the Goals Page. Each month I have a list of 4-5 goals I like to work on each day/week of that month. The goals could be part of some larger project that I’m working on or are simply a goal I want to accomplish that month.
The way I set up my goals page comes from Andrea over at Plan for Productivity. She has amazing tips and tricks for how to make your bullet journal work for you. Her book, Journal Planning Magic, breaks down how she plans goals and it has been a game-changer for me.
Here’s how I set up my goals page:
Again, a simple pen and some more stickers. Nothing fancy. The left page includes the goal itself and the actionable things I need to do to achieve it. This can be one or a few. They might be habits I need to start doing or a single activity to do at some point during the week. On the right side, I have one box per week to review my process.
I believe to achieve our goals, we need to know the steps to take. This spread has helped me a lot. And it’s fun to review them briefly and see where I am at the end of each week. Andrea has used a variety of different spreads for her goal tracking. Be sure to check out her Instagram for some more inspiration.
The final page in my monthly minimalist bullet journal setup is the Monthly Review. This is another spread I was inspired to do from Plan for Productivity. I reserve two pages and at the top of the left side, write “[MONTH] Review.” Again, I might use some stickers to decorate the corners.
That’s it. Those pages will be blank until the end of the month when I sit down and reflect on how the month went.
During my monthly review, I use a pre-set series of questions and prompts. They include:
- Wins = What were my big wins this month? It could be anything from getting my COVID vaccine to finishing the draft of a novel.
- Focus = Every month I have a focus and this is where I write whether or not I stuck with it.
- What Worked = Here is where I write about the methods I tried that worked. Could be how I scheduled my day or how a habit worked out in my favor.
- What Didn’t Work = The opposite of “What Worked?” Was there a certain method I tried that failed? Did I do something that didn’t bring results? Writing it down means I won’t repeat my mistakes.
- Goals Progress = One goal at a time, I write down my progress. No more than a few sentences on where I stand with it, if it’s done, or if I need to change something in the way I’m working towards it.
- Next Month = What do I want to focus on next month? What habits do I need to change or implement into my schedule?
- Positive Lesson/Gratitude = I like to end my monthly reviews on a high note. I’ll include here something I learned about myself or something I’m grateful for. Or I might write a quote that really spoke to me.
Monthly reviews are a great way to plan for the next month by taking stock of things that worked and things that didn’t. That’s powerful information to have as you move forward. If your review goes beyond two pages, that’s fine. Write however much you need to.
There you have it. That is my usual minimalist bullet journal setup for the month. Some months may vary depending on what’s going on in them, but those four sections are the main spreads I always include. They give me the perfect birds-eye view of everything.
I want to note that even if you don’t use the bullet journal system, you can still incorporate some of this. If you use a pre-printed planner, use a plain notebook to keep track of your goals and monthly reviews.
It’s also important to note that not everyone will find what I use helpful and that’s ok. The beauty of the bullet journal method is that you use what works for you.
I want to know more about the way you plan. Do you use a standard planner or a bullet journal? Do you prefer sticky notes for your to-do list or a notebook where you can keep all of them? Comment below with your preferred planning method.
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