Since I started my first bullet journal seven months ago, my days have been filled with complete and utter creative, balanced, ecstatic bliss, to put it in the most blatantly planner-nerd-way possible. I know feel like I’ve figured out how to fit everything I love into my life in an organic way.

When I first started using a Bullet Journal it was simply another creative project for me; I used a few different colors of pens, and created numerous time-consuming spreads each week, month, and at the start of each book. A slim 121-page softcover Leuchtturm1917 would last 1-2 months. But after a couple months of brainstorming what my priorities in life were, I came to find that I preferred to make bigger, messier things. Now I have other projects that get me amped up, and my bullet journal has become more of an indispensable tool instead.

I’ve recently condensed and simplified my methods so that I’m spending as little time with my Journal as possible. Since I use my bullet journal for so many aspects of my life, I require a more complex setup than Ryder’s original framework. And, since I also schedule all my appointments and work projects in Apple Calendar to sync across devices, Ryder’s monthly spread serves a different purpose for me.

After seven months I have experimented enough with extra features and pages to know what works for me in envisioning, balancing, and reflecting on my busy life, and what does not. These are the big-picture features I use, how often I refer to them, and why they jive with my lifestyle:

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6-Month Plan

This is one of the first spreads in my bullet journal. It serves as a means to envision how I’ll be filling up my creative life, and then I use Apple Calendar for all my appointment scheduling and the breaking down of projects into days. This 6-Month future plan is for seeing where current projects will be overlapping and where it might be realistic to start working on something new. I am constantly having to talk myself out of taking on additional projects, workshops, and trips, and this spread is my accomplice in the weeding-out process. The boxed items signify due dates or milestone events for projects, but no other events or dates are included here for the sake of saving space and time. I use hollow bullets for project signifiers so that I can fill them in when complete, use an “>” to push them to another month, or X them out if canceled. I also use arrows to carry projects over multiple months.

Big-Picture Layouts for Creative Lifestyles

Hour Log

My timesheet calendars have become extremely valuable to me in logging hours spent on trade projects, art pieces, volunteer time, yoga practice, start-up projects, etc. I use it as a means of tracking my time so that I not only know how much to charge people if it’s a paid gig, but also to better estimate how long a similar project might take me in the future, which in turn helps me fill in my 6-Month spreads. I put two calendars to-a-page in this journal because I was becoming resentful of having to make a new Hour Log spread each month. I list the projects I’m working on the side of the month in the order in which they come up, then I move over and jot down a 2-letter code before writing down my hours. In the past I had more than a couple lines per day to write down entires, but it ended up being a waste of space, since I do the logging of all my graphic design work projects in my invoicing software.

Big-Picture Layouts for Creative Lifestyles

Monthly Intentions & Projects

I create my Monthly Intentions/Projects spread as sort of meditation on my life.

On the Intentions page I rate six different areas of my life on a scale of 1-10: Relationships, Adventure, Home, Work & Money, Mind & Body, and Creativity. Then in the six lists below my graph I write down actions I can do to improve or sustain those areas; some I make up on the spot, some are projects I’m already working on or obliged to do.

The Projects page allows me envision how my projects, many of which are tied to the left-hand Intentions, will fit into my month. On the right side I have have various project time ladders that run vertically in categorized columns. The key to the right also allows me to include important dates that may affect the planning and plotting of projects.

This spread is most valuable at the start of the month, although I tend to check in on it about once-a-week to check things off, refocus, and maybe add, delete, or migrate Intention actions.
At the end of the month I add a few unexpected highlights to the bottom right corner, because this spread ultimately ends up acting as an archive of how much bootay I kicked. These highlights aren’t usually tasks, but along the lines of “Reconnected with Jesse”, “Killed all my tomato plants”, or “Found $100 on the street”.

Next month I think I’ll limit my Intention actions to two-per-category, to lessen the pressure off myself and encourage more focus, hopefully encouraging the growth of new habits.

These three above techniques are the fundamental tools that I use for my daily and weekly planning and archiving, and important elements in assessing and reflecting on my time. They help me see my life and projects from a distant place that gives me a sense of peace in my crazy-creative life, and maybe bits or chunks of them will make their way into your bullet journal as well. Thank you all for the incredible inspiration I’ve gained from this massive planning and journaling community, directly, indirectly, and from the massive sense of support – cheers!

About Ursala Hudson

Ursala is a bullet journal advocate, better known as @honeyrozes on Instagram. She is a mother, graphic designer, artist, community activist, and overall maker of things. When she’s not busy strategizing ways to fit more projects into her life, Ursala can be found making messes, gardening, taking photos, wrangling small children and/or eating pie. On special occasions she blogs at stone-currents.com
  • Creative, simple, and beautiful 🙂 So many wonderful ideas here – I especially love the project management section + coupling it with the areas of her life and getting a peek into how she refines her process every month.

    • You’ve been such a big well of support through the whole process – thank you for being my cheerleader!!

  • Vidya Yalla

    I have been loving the bullet journal system!! It’s only been a week but the fact that I can incorporate both creativity and planning is a huge plus and will ensure that I follow through and don’t stop half way through.

  • Great ideas and very neat handwriting! Thanks for sharing and reminding us all it’s not always about getting things done; sometimes it’s about allowing yourself to just be.

    • Yes! I’m constantly trying to talk myself into this mindset… productivity is not always what’s best!

  • Kevin

    Looks amazing! I like the monthly intention and more importantly – scheduling it (even informally). I also do not use the monthly calendar part of the BJ because I keep my calendar electronic, which seems to work best for me.

  • Leapops

    Can’t believe I missed this before….. I love your monthly intentions and having tasks/ways to improve on them – I have been looking for something like this to help me and I think this is a winner. Thank you so much for sharing Ursula!

  • I really like your Monthly Intentions and Projects spread! Definitely going to try that out in September.

  • Milisa Smith

    Love the hourly spreads! Makes so much sense to really get an idea of how long each of my projects take!
    Thanks! Milisa

  • Amy Carrigan

    There are some things in here that I feel like I’ve always been missing. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Kathleen Brune

    Thank you for sharing some great ideas! They’ve given me some food for thought in creating my future layouts.

  • Tracey

    I love these ideas! I also haven’t been using the monthly and I feel like the Intentions and Projects spread would be a much better use of the space. Thanks for sharing!

  • phwree

    So glad I found your spreads – I’ve been looking for ways to do future planning and ntentionally work on personal development… these have proved very inspiring. Thanks 🙂

  • Erin

    How do you use the little white tabs at the top? Great ideas, thank you for sharing them.

    • Thanks Erin! My white tabs mark the following sections: 12-month view (similar to the 6-month, but only listing the big big items & future project ideas), 6-month view, my hour log, and my ledger. The lil red tab marks my weekly and the bigger red tab marks my monthly intentions/projects.

      • Erica

        Hello 🙂
        What do you use to make the little tabs? I’ve been trying different things, but not convinced I have the right thing yet!

        • Hey Erica, I actually buy them. I’ve found that certain products are really worth my money, but I gotta warn you that they are permanent. When I’m done with a journal and don’t want the tabs there anymore then I just cut off the tips. You can find links to the products I use on my lastest bujo video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4_ZYCEGgV4

  • Patti

    I love the projects spread – what a rest way to keep track of multiple long-term projects!

  • jonnekus

    I’m going to incorporate your ideas in my bujo-routine! I hope it can help me get even more focused!!!! I love your minimalist style, gorgeous!!!!!!!!!

  • Rhea Kate

    Thank you for the inspiration! I have literally only just begun my first BuJo, but love the hour log idea. I split my time between 3 jobs, a 2 year-old and a current pregnancy and am really trying to find ways to be more efficient and productive!

  • dieter28

    oh my..! erin, thank you for all the inspirations i took from your article! i’m retired yet, and i’m looking for something to structure my days, which are currently a real CHAOS, and i guess, i have found soooo valuable hints to do so! once more, thanks a lot.

    • Great to hear, thanks for the feedback 🙂

  • Makeda McLean

    Love this

  • BigMama

    Hi Ursala… What is the light gray marker that use? I love using highlighters, but the light gray marker is much nicer looking.

  • S Young

    I enjoyed this article very much, thank you! I’m amazed we both came up with the same idea for the monthly intention – I do something very similar to your left hand July page, without the ratings. For example, my categories today are Business, Responsibilities, Environment (doing major house renovations), Personal/Nurturing, and Relationships.

  • Lyssy

    I adore your Monthly Intentions & Projects spread! Thank you for sharing. I’m going to try and modify it to work for me (: