Hey you! Today I am thrilled to have Amanda of DearJoie here to discuss her use of a test bullet journal. I actually use a test bullet journal and had never even considered writing a post on it, so I’m so excited to see another creator talking about this method. So without further ado, I’ll hand the reigns to Amanda so she can explain this awesome technique! – Shelby
Trying Something New
The new year may have arrived, but it is still a perfect time to reflect on the past year with a year-end review. For some of you, a year-end review is a brand new spread. You have to figure out a layout to record what went well, what didn’t, and what you’ve learned in the last year. What’s most daunting about this task is coming up with the new spread from scratch. It pains me to butcher a fresh, clean page in my Nuuna notebook without a plan. Instead of causing myself grief, I utilize a test bullet journal to get down my rough ideas and see what works before I lay down ink in my bullet journal.
What is a Test Bullet Journal?
The test bullet journal is the keeper of all your rough drafts of various layouts. This is the notebook that holds all the dimensions and grid amounts for your ideas and spreads. That way, when you’re planning, it’s easy to get it right in your bullet journal on the first try. Plus all your rough drafts can be used again when you migrate to another bullet journal, so you don’t have to start over every time.
You don’t need to buy a brand new notebook to become your test bullet journal. Chances are, you already have one readily available… A notebook that’s sitting around, waiting for the ink to touch its pages. Perhaps you have an old bullet journal that you didn’t finish because you were too excited to migrate to a new one. Maybe you can use one of the notebooks you bought for something but never got around to using. Of course, you could use scrap pieces of paper if you really wanted, or photocopy blank pages of your existing journal so you have the dot grid to reference. I just like having a test bullet journal so that I can look back on it again and again.
My Year-End Review
My test bullet journal is helpful in a few different ways. I like to figure out what information I want to put in my spread, as well as how everything is going to be laid out, spaced, and designed so that it looks nice. For example, in my year-end review, I wanted to have a list of prompts to help me reflect on the past year. I decided to primarily focus on outlining my wins, losses, joyful experiences, what I’ve learned, along with gratitude for the past twelve months. Besides the types of prompts, I also considered how many prompts I wanted on each page without making things look too busy. I’m a fan of clean design, and my test bullet journal helps me strike a happy balance between function and style.
Your Test Bullet Journal
If your test bullet journal is identical to your current bullet journal, the migration from test bullet journal to the real deal will be easy. However, if you are using a different size test bullet journal, you will need to put in some extra thought when you transfer the design.
My Nuuna notebook is larger than my test bullet journal, which is a Leuchtturm1917. Instead of trying to make a size conversion with my designs, I just take up more space in my Leuchtturm to compensate for the difference. I lay my Leuchtturm vertically and draw out the rough draft of a layout across the whole spread, which ends up being the same size as a page in my Nuuna. That way I can know exactly how the proportions will fit in my final design and I can plan everything perfectly.
If you don’t want to go through that trouble, then feel free to get the same notebook brand for both your test bullet journal and your real bullet journal. I personally work best with this method, but make sure to do whatever works for you!
One quick tip: When you are using your test bullet journal to create layouts, I suggest you draw the outline of the page in pen and write everything out in pencil. That way, you can erase, redraw, and erase until you get it just right.
Putting it All Together
Once you have your outlines set up in your test bullet journal, then you get to play around with total creative freedom. You can experiment with the headers, columns, and rows. How big should they be? How will they all fit into each other? The page is your playground, and you can use this creative space to figure out exactly how to lay out your bullet journal spread.
Once you are pleased with the rough draft in your bullet journal and all the aesthetics are just right, it’s time to transfer the design into your real bullet journal! If you already thought about the size variations between notebooks and dealt with those potentially tricky conversions, then this will be a quick and easy transition. All you need to worry about when you’re creating the layout in your bullet journal is the lettering!
A Quick Note
Creating a test bullet journal is an incredibly handy tool for anyone who enjoys bullet journaling. A place to keep rough drafts is one of the best ways to cure the blank page block. No longer do you need to stare at a white page, fearing that you’ll ruin it somehow. You can put pen to paper with confidence and keep moving forward.
One thing to remember, though, is that you don’t want to use a test bullet journal as a crutch. If you’re anxious about using your bullet journal and it’s freaking you out, it might be tempting to rely on a test bullet journal and never get around to your “real” bullet journal. A test bullet journal is there to help you take the pressure off of you to get it right the first time. If you’re spending all your time creating rough drafts looking for the perfect bullet journal layout, then you need to read this. Remember that the only way to find the best bullet journal system is to try and try again.
You can use your test bullet journal to play, experiment, and try new styles however you want. The possibilities are limitless.
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