The Bullet Journal Daily Spread: Find The Perfect Setup
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At the core of any bullet journal is the daily log. These basic to-do lists help keep order — but more importantly, they help develop productive habits.
The Heart of Your Bullet Journal
The heart of the bullet journal is the daily bullet journal log. In your daily spreads, you write down all the little tasks that you need to accomplish, appointments, events, notes, and ideas. The engine of the bullet journal is fueled by the work done in the dailies.
To learn how to set up your daily log the original way, I suggest you visit my Ultimate Bullet Journal Guide. But today I am offering a few alternate ways to set up your daily pages by humbly showing you my growth from my very first daily page several years ago. You can witness my journey from the traditional, bare-bones method to where I am now.
The Bare Bones Bullet Journal Daily Spread
In the beginning, I did precisely what Ryder Carroll suggested when he introduced the bullet journal to the world. I did black ink, square bullets, simple dates, and simple migrations. The essentials of a daily spread are simple: you just need the date and all tasks or appointments for the day. You can add notes or ideas throughout the day as well. No more forgotten ideas!
I crammed some six or seven days onto a single page back then. That’s so crazy to me now! I think I used to feel like I needed to conserve my paper for some strange reason, so I tried to be as brief as possible with my tasks and notes. After much growth and experience, I say you should use as much paper as you need or want. If you have a busy day ahead of you, don’t feel shy about eating up most of a page to get down all the information you need. Your journal is meant to be used!
You’ll Get Better as You Go
I used to have pretty lousy handwriting when I first started a bullet journal. I have naturally improved my handwriting over the years by writing so much down daily. One of the nice things about keeping bullet journal daily spreads is that you will probably be writing more than you used to, so you get tons of handwriting practice without even trying. It also helps to switch from crappy ballpoint pens to smoother pens, like the Uniball Vision Rollerball pens. (If you are struggling to improve your handwriting, you may want to check out this post.)
Consistency is a major goal to strive for when you start a bullet journal. But don’t beat yourself up if you miss some days. When I was first starting, I would often go four, five, or six days without so much as touching my bullet journal. This resulted in many things falling through the cracks. Over time, I found ways to create a habit out of the journal. If you are struggling to stick to a routine, don’t worry! Just keep trying new things until something clicks, and you will find yourself coming back day after day. It came to me eventually, so I’m sure you will find what works for you!
Add Some Color to Your Bullet Journal Daily Log
Eventually, I started experimenting with different decorative dates, the occasional pop of color, or silly fonts. I used some pens I already had, like my Microns or my Prismacolor markers. I was still shy about using too much paper or buying anything new for my bullet journal. But I had fun playing with the pens I already owned, and I started trying new things like banners and scrolls.
If you go back through my Instagram, you can see exactly when I got my Pilot Varsity set for the first time. I wanted to splurge just a little, so the Varsity fountain pens felt fun without costing an arm and a leg. I started incorporating more color into my headers, boxes, and lists, slowly getting more colorful over time. My setups were simple and I got things done. But I still struggled to use my bullet journal every day, so this still led to problems with forgetting tasks and deadlines.
Adding Trackers to Your Bullet Journal Daily Spread
I went through a sort of bullet journal Renaissance once I realized that my bullet journal daily spread could be more than a basic to-do list. I added a few elements to my dailies, including a water tracker and a meal tracker to help lose weight. This was when I first started to actually have fun with my planning. I looked forward to setting up a new day and filling my bullets when I accomplished a goal. It felt like I was doing more with my days, and it felt good.
I started adding color more liberally to my spreads, particularly in the form of my water tracker. Initially, I used Sharpie Highlighters for this, but I began using them for color in other places as well. I also broke out the Crayola colored pencils for little things here and there.
You’ll also notice that I started allowing myself to take up more space with my dailies, putting only two or three days on a single page. This breathing room makes me feel less anxious and more productive.
Another addition that became a staple in my dailies is the weather forecast. If you want to keep track of the weather in your journal easily, grab my printable weather icon stickers from my Etsy shop!
Creating Watercolor Bullet Journal Dailies
Eventually, simple dashes of color were not enough. I needed more. I needed a way to channel my creativity in a way that made me more productive.
I’ve always loved watercolors, but I mostly stopped working with them once I got into college. There never felt like there was enough time in the day, and I always felt like I was procrastinating if I sat down and tried to paint. Plus I was terrified of the prospect of sitting down and coming up with a beautiful painting. What if it was terrible? What if I ruined my nice watercolor paper? So for years and years, I pushed my watercolors to the back of a drawer and didn’t dare touch them.
Then something clicked for me. I realized I needed to start using watercolors in my bullet journal. Doing so led to a massive leap in my productivity. For the first time in years, I could relax and use my watercolors without stressing about making art. I was comfortable playing around and not taking it too seriously. And that feeling of fun and play led to me coming back to my bullet journal day after day. At this point, I cannot even imagine not using watercolors in my bullet journal. I even briefly moved to a watercolor journal so that I could go crazy with watercolors.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
My bullet journal daily spreads changed dramatically over time, and I have really enjoyed the transition. Flipping through my old daily log has reminded me that experimentation has been the only reason I’ve stayed with this planner for so long. I realized over time what was important to me, what was interesting, and what simply didn’t work.
I had to deviate from the original plain daily spread because it was just too dull for me. To remain interested and convince myself to come back day after day, I had to spice it up with color, doodles, and extra stuff. If that doesn’t work for you, that’s ok! You can prefer the black lines and simple boxes over intricate headers if that is what keeps your productive engine purring. As long as it makes you happy, don’t let anyone tell you that you are bullet journaling “wrong”. Pro tip: there is no wrong way!
Change is a Good Thing
My advice for setting up our dailies is to try something new all the time. Don’t grow stagnant on your headers, bullets, trackers, etc. You will surprise yourself with what makes you tick, and the trick is finding it. So allow yourself to play and use new tools, and your ideal daily page will slowly emerge.
How do you set up your daily spread? Tell me in the comments below
I have question for you, Shelby.
Which watercolor journal did you purchase when you switched to watercolor for your planner? Can you recommend one is both a watercolor journal and bullet journal? I have seen some on Amazon but they do not have “dots” plus they only have like 20 pages in one journal. Anyway, any recommendations as to how to get one with lots more pages, with dots and comes in watercolor paper?
Hey Kathy! I originally used a Moleskine Watercolor Album, which was a landscape-oriented watercolor sketchbook. It didn’t have dots, which was less than ideal, but the paper was stellar. However, I have been using an actual watercolor dot grid journal from Archer & Olive this past year and I love it! I’d definitely recommend checking that brand out. The journal is a bit more pricy, but it’s the only one I’ve found that has all the benefits of a journal PLUS all the benefits of watercolor paper. Plus you’d get to support a small business that puts a lot of time and care into their products.