We’re now over half way through the year which means it’s time for me to migrate into a new bullet journal. I recently read The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and it entirely changed how I use my bullet journal. To the point where I’ve been using my bullet journal religiously for the last six months and have to migrate into a new bullet journal.
This is really quite unusual for me. I tend to regularly change up my planning style. Sometimes this comes from wanting a change. Other times what I need out of a planner can change. I don’t see the point in using a dated planner when I’m really busy because there will be days where I don’t check it. I love the bullet journal system because I can continue right from where I left off. Even if there has been a two-week gap.
All of this means that after 6 months of use I have now filled up a notebook and need to migrate my bullet journal into a new notebook. This isn’t something I do very often so I thought it would be interesting to share my process of moving my bullet journal into a new notebook.
WHEN TO START A NEW BULLET JOURNAL
The first stage in moving to a new bullet journal starts with the question: when should you start a new bullet journal? It might seem obvious to some that you start a new bullet journal when you’ve finished the last. It’s not quite so simple as that.
If you’re migrating into a new bullet journal and you’re anything like me don’t start till you’ve actually finished your last notebook. When you start getting to the end of a notebook you might be tempted into looking for a new one. Or even starting your new bullet journal.
I would advise against this because as soon as you start that new bullet journal you won’t want to continue using the old one. You might only have a few pages left in your old notebook but they are still perfectly usable.
If you’ve spent any time on the Bullet Journal website or read The Bullet Journal Method you might come across Ryder Carroll’s advice to start a new bullet journal at the new year. Personally, I would advise against this because there’s no point.
If you’re halfway through a notebook and feel the need to start again just because it’s January then you’re spending money when you don’t need to. If you decide to start bullet journaling in January as part of the whole “new year, new you” thing you’re going to put too much pressure on yourself and this bullet journal.
You can start a new bullet journal whenever you want. Carroll’s reasoning for starting in the new year is so you look back at old projects, reassess goals and what you want to put your energy into. This is a perfectly good idea, but you don’t need a new notebook for it.
HOW TO MIGRATE TO A NEW BULLET JOURNAL
CHOOSING A BULLET JOURNAL
The next step is choosing a notebook to migrate your bullet journal into. Usually, this would be some sort of A5 sized notebook. But it’s perfectly possible to use other sizes. For a while, I used an A6 Leuchtturm1917 notebook as a bullet journal and I loved how minimal it was.
I have a whole post on how to choose the best notebook for bullet journaling. But my advice would be to assess what you liked and didn’t like about the notebook you were currently using. If the paper wasn’t quite right, maybe try a different brand. If you wanted more space try a different size.
MORE LIKE THIS: My 2020 Bullet Journal & Planner Set Up
Cost is something else you want to think about when choosing a new notebook. If your notebooks don’t last very long you could get something cheaper. Or with more pages. If you’ve decided you really like bullet journaling you could look at something more extravagant.
The last notebook I used as a bullet journal was the MD Paper notebook in A5 size. I loved using this notebook and had planned on buying another. However, I also had a Leuchtturm1917 which I bought for a different project. I had only filled a few pages of this notebook so decided to remove them and start my new bullet journal in the Leuchtturm instead.
As much as I loved my MD Paper notebook I didn’t see the point of buying something when I had a perfectly good notebook lying around. Incidentally, if you look at the photos in this blog post you might see pink tape on some pages. This isn’t for aesthetics, the tape is holding those pages in the notebook.
DECORATING THE COVER
My next step when migrating into a new bullet journal is decorating the new notebook. I can be a little bit funny when it comes to notebooks. I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to make the notebook look nice. Something which I would be happy to show others.
This is an unnecessary worry, your bullet journal doesn’t have to be Instagram worthy. You don’t even need to share photos of it. Your bullet journal is a planning tool. But I still have the urge to make my bullet journal perfect and I’ve figured out a few ways around this.
I ruin the cover of my notebook. Ever so slightly. So it isn’t perfect anymore. I actually figured this method out years ago when my dog had a little chew on a sketchbook I was using. Obviously, I don’t go feeding every notebook I own to my dog. Instead, I add stickers to the cover.
This has turned out to have multiple benefits. I don’t feel like my notebook should be pretty. And I’ve also made friends because of the stickers on my notebook.
In the beginning, I wouldn’t go out intentionally looking for stickers to add to my bullet journal. I would use stickers I had received in Etsy orders, or in subscription boxes. But more recently I’ve begun to buy stickers from RedBubble or Society6. The stickers aren’t the best quality but they are cheap and there is a huge selection to choose from.
MY RULES FOR BULLET JOURNALING
Before I start a new bullet journal I like to set out some rules for how it will look. This can be things like headers and how the daily logs will be set out. If you’re coming to the end of a notebook it can be helpful to try out some layouts to figure out what you like.
I like to decide on my header style and layout before starting a new bullet journal. It means I have one less thing to think about when setting up and I’m not constantly changing styles as I begin to use my bullet journal.
I wouldn’t even call them concrete rules, but this is my preferred style for bullet journaling. I always use the same four pens and pencils in my bullet journal. I have my Muji gel pen, a grey Mildliner, a pencil and a coloured pencil. I mainly use the pen and highlighter, but I have a pencil for anything which might need to be changed and the coloured pencil to add highlights.
I really like having an established colour scheme. I think it makes my bullet journal look more cohesive, the little bit of red helps highlight important information. But because I mostly have a monochromatic colour scheme I can change the red to some other colour like blue or yellow and it will still look good.
I like using really minimal headers in my bullet journal. It’s one less thing I need to think about and it’s quick to draw. If you’re trying to figure out a tidier style of bullet journaling you should pay attention to white space. I try to leave space between blocks of text. It means I have less on the page which looks tidier as a result.
This is a good time for you to start thinking about what you’re going to do if you make a mistake in your bullet journal. My whole ethos is you should embrace mistakes. But others may think differently.
If you make a mistake you could decide to try erasing it with whiteout, covering it with washi tape or just accepting the mistake. What I do just depends on what the mistake is and how big it is.
For example, if I’ve spelt a word wrong, I will use my red pencil to strike through that word. Treating it the exact same as a completed task. If I’ve done a piece of lettering but the ink has smudged I will just accept the mistakes.
There are no right and wrong ways when it comes to dealing with mistakes. What you do is entirely up to you. You might decide to embrace mistakes but there could come times when you’ve written a date wrong where you have to fix it.
HOW TO START A BULLET JOURNAL
THE COVER PAGE
The hardest point when you migrate into a new bullet journal can be deciding what to put on the first page. Especially if you’re like me and want your notebook to be perfect. I prefer to have a simple first page introducing the bullet journal. This is usually a piece of lettering.
For this bullet journal I’ve written bullet journal and added a space where I can write the dates when I used the notebook. Other times I might write a quote on the initial page. When it comes to the new year I like to hand letter a quote which represents my aims for the year. I know this could get really elaborate and if that’s your aim you can find inspiration on Pinterest.
Even if you don’t include it on the cover page I would highly recommend noting down the date you started and ended a notebook. Knowing when you used a notebook can help narrow down a search if you’re looking for a specific piece of information.
The first step when you migrate into a new bullet journal involves setting up some initial spreads. My Leuchtturm1917 comes with an index but some notebooks don’t so it’s a good idea to set one up. Even if you don’t usually use an index.
This is also a good time to go through your old bullet journal and finish adding pages to that index. It will make finding information much easier if you have to refer to an old bullet journal.
Usually, a future log would be the next spread in your bullet journal. Personally, I don’t like future logs. If I have an event happening at some point in the future I prefer to note it down on my Google Calendar. I find future planning is one area where the bullet journal doesn’t quite work. There are workarounds like the calendex but they seem very convoluted.
The Google Calendar works especially well when it comes to recurring events like birthdays. Yes, you could set up a collection in each new bullet journal to track birthdays, but doing it in Google Calendar is much easier. There is an option to make the event recur every year and you can choose to get email reminders.
One of the things I liked about going back to bullet journaling in a Leuchtturm1917 notebook was how I had more space on the page. This meant I could set up a monthly spread on the left-hand page and a to-do list on the right.
This initial to-do list came from a quick sweep through my old bullet journal. I went through the last 30 or so pages looking for unfinished tasks. I then decided which tasks still needed to be completed and if they did they were added to this list.
PEN TEST PAGE
As you migrate into a new bullet journal I would highly recommend setting up a pen test page. I tend to have this in the back of my bullet journal but you could have it anywhere. There are some examples on Pinterest of how you can turn this into a full art piece.
Even if I’m going back into a notebook I’ve used before I will still test the pens and pencils I’m going to use in the notebook. There have been times in the past where I’ve bought a new version of the same notebook. But the manufacturers changed the paper quality, meaning a pen I was once able to use in the notebook now bleeds through the page.
This saves you from learning your favourite marker will bleed straight through the paper you’re using when you try to create your first header.
It’s also a good idea to test art supplies if there is ever the chance you might use your notebook to create art in. The Leuchtturm notebooks are surprisingly good at handling wet media like watercolour and ink. But it’s a good idea to know how much paint the paper can handle before becoming a soggy mess.
In my bullet journal, I tested the four pens and pencils I’m sure to use. But I also tested a number of brush pens. From this, I learned the ink in these pens all act differently. Some inks take a long time to dry, something I have to be mindful of if using them. Other inks came out as a dark grey rather than black. These tests were especially useful because I then knew what pens to use if I wanted to letter in my notebook.
HOW TO USE A BULLET JOURNAL
The next stage when you migrate into a new bullet journal involves moving unfinished tasks into the new bullet journal. One of the real advantages to the bullet journal system comes from how it manages tasks.
Task migration is one of the key concepts of bullet journaling. When you set up a new month in your bullet journal you should also set up a new task list to accompany it. This list sets out all the tasks you want to complete in that given month. These tasks could come from your collections, future log, or have been migrated from a previous month.
In your daily log, you write out a list of tasks to be completed that day. Some will be completed, others won’t. This is where the bullet journal system comes into play. You should be constantly looking back through your old dailies for unfinished tasks. Then you can decide if that task is still relevant. You might decide to migrate a task or delete it depending on your circumstances.
This system works exactly the same when it comes to moving tasks into a new bullet journal. You look through your old bullet journal for unfinished tasks, decide which ones still need to be completed and which can be deleted.
How far back you go through your old bullet journal is up to you. I started my bullet journal in the middle of the month. So setting up my new bullet journal wasn’t quite as simple as just starting as if it was a new month. But I looked through about six weeks of daily logs in my old bullet journal. I found any tasks older than this weren’t relevant any more.
One thing I’ve started doing regularly in my bullet journal is something called a mental inventory. This is a concept I learned about in The Bullet Journal Method. It’s something I’ve been doing for a while. Essentially brain dumping everything I’m working on at a specific point. I found that writing out everything I had to do really helped me make decisions because I can see it clearly on paper.
In the past, I’ve posted a number of images of my “stuff to do” lists. These are essentially my brain dumps. They are useful because I can write down all the projects I’m working on. But also smaller tasks which are associated with those projects.
The mental inventory is slightly different. And far more organised than my attempts at brain dumping. You have three columns, projects you are currently working on, projects you should be working on and projects you want to work on.
The point of this exercise is to help with decision fatigue. Sometimes it can get to the point where you have so many different things to be working on that you don’t do anything because you don’t know where to start.
The mental inventory helps because you clearly write out everything you want to be working on. From there you can go on to decide if a project is really worth you putting the time and energy into it.
The Bullet Journal Method doesn’t say how often you should do this method. But I would say if you’re starting a new bullet journal that’s the best time to take a mental inventory. I will usually also do one at the start of a new year and midway through.
SETTING UP COLLECTIONS
Another key concept of bullet journaling is collections. Sometimes you might have notes and tasks in your bullet journal which revolve around the same theme. You can set up a collection to track that theme. Then anytime you make notes related to that collection you just note down in the index the page where that collection exists.
I’m not the best when it comes to maintaining collections. So I’m going to share how I set up a new collection in my new bullet journal based on a thread through my old bullet journal. This collection is all about ideas relating to my blog posts.
In my old bullet journal whenever I had an idea for a blog post I would note it down as part of a daily log. Occasionally I would have a larger list if I was researching an idea for a blog post. But for the most part, I’d just note them down wherever I could find space.
I created a collection in my new bullet journal called blog post ideas. I then went through my old bullet journal looking for any notes I made relating to blog post ideas. But I didn’t just transfer all the notes over. I first took the time to assess those logs. In some instances, a post idea was no longer relevant. Or was something I had then gone on to turn into an actual blog post.
The only information which was transferred over were ideas and tasks related to blog posts which I hadn’t already actioned in some way. From there I could break those ideas down into smaller tasks. Ones which would be easy to complete. The next and most important step was setting out time where I acted on those tasks.
I hope that was a detailed enough explanation of how to migrate into a new bullet journal. Honestly, I’ve really enjoyed bullet journaling over the last 6 months. The Bullet Journal Method has really changed how I set up and use my bullet journal.
All this has meant I have many thoughts when it comes to migrating into a new bullet journal. The process really is quite simple when you think about it. You move over the information and tasks you want to keep. Everything else is left in your old notebook. In a way, it’s quite therapeutic.
I know I feel better being able to look back through old notebooks and see all the projects I’ve finished. But what do you think? Is this your first time migrating into a new bullet journal or have you been bullet journaling for a while? Or are you just starting out in the whole bullet journal world (if you are I have a different blog post for you).