With the new year now in full swing, many of us have taken to our journals and planners to map out the months ahead. Some of us may be somewhat behind in our new year planning, unsure of where to start or what to do first.
Is there certain stationery that should be used? How far in advance in should one plan their journal spreads? These are common questions in the world of journals and planners — and that's why we chatted with Kathleen of @paperkatco on Instagram.
Kathleen is a talented creator with more than 13,000 followers on Instagram, and we interviewed her to learn more about her journal, stationery recommendations, and planning process for the new year.
Here's our conversation with Kathleen:
The Washi Tape Shop: What brand of journal do you use?
Kathleen: I mostly use the SEQES dotted journal.
TWTS: For someone who is looking to start a journal, what would you say are the key features they should look for in the ideal journal? (Any specific size, paper type, dotted/grid/lined/blank pages, etc)
Kathleen: The type of journal to choose depends greatly on how the journal will be used, but I think the key features to keep in mind when choosing a journal are journal size, paper type, paper thickness, and whether the pages are dotted/grid/lined/blank. Most of my journaling is done at home with gel pens and water based markers, so personally I prefer the A5 sized, white, thickness at least 160 gsm, dotted or grid paper. If you’re only planning on using a ballpoint pen and keeping it very minimal, you might be able to get away with some thinner paper or maybe even a smaller size. If you’re planning on using watercolor, you might need thicker paper. It all depends, but I think those are the key features to look out for.
TWTS: How would you describe your journal routine? Do you use your journal daily, and for what purpose? It seems that your journal is a great mix of a creative outlet and a planner, would you say that either one of these purposes is more important than the other?
Kathleen: I actually have multiple journals that I use, but mainly 2 journals. I have one that’s more of a freeform thoughts and feelings journal that I write in every day in the evening to reflect on the day. That one’s super plain, and it has only one rule: just write in it daily even if nothing interesting happened. The other main journal that I use is the one that I’ve set up to be a creative planner, and I use this one almost every day after work or on the weekends. The intent of this planner journal was to keep track of creative endeavors, as I had once read that if you want to improve in your art, you can’t wait to be creative only when inspiration strikes; you have to be somewhat disciplined in it. So I created this journal to help me keep track of creative ideas and a schedule for them. It started out as a pretty plain planner and has since morphed into being the creative outlet itself.
I don’t think I can definitively say whether a creative outlet or a planner is more important. Personally, I think they serve different but equally important purposes. The planner aspect has helped me with discipline and organization of what I want to do with my time (and avoid getting sucked into social media and not knowing where my time has gone), while the creative outlet has been super fun, relaxing, and has helped me enjoy the passing time.
TWTS: What is your go-to ritual for journaling? Do you journal at a specific time, in a specific place, or listening to music, for instance? Or do you use your journal more spontaneously?
Kathleen: During the week, I usually work on my creative planner journal in the evening while streaming whatever TV show I’ve been watching. On the weekends I use it more spontaneously, but still with a TV show in the background. For my other journal, I use that one daily before bed without any distractions because it’s harder for me to reflect on the day if there’s a lot of noise.
TWTS: As we enter the new year, a lot of people are using journals for the first time! Can you give us some insight into your 2021 planning process? How did you go about planning for the year ahead?
Kathleen: I thought about some goals that I wanted to accomplish and some habits that I wanted to track, and so I set up my journal keeping those in mind. Most of my pages are still the same as what I had been doing in 2020, but I’ve added a few new things. So with the new year, my setup now includes the monthly cover page, a monthly calendar/goals/tasks page, a brain dump page, a habit tracker, a mood tracker, and the weekly planners. For layout inspiration, I often look on Pinterest or Instagram for some ideas. Usually I end up combining a bunch of different ideas together to create something different.
TWTS: When did you start planning for 2021?
Kathleen: I started planning for 2021 in the last 2 weeks of 2020, although I did accumulate some ideas throughout 2020 for what I wanted to track in the new year so that helped a bit.
TWTS: Do you have monthly journal themes that you’re planning for 2021? Do you plan your spreads in advance, or just take it as it comes?
Kathleen: I usually don’t come up with the next month’s theme until I start working on it. The monthly setup is usually done about a week before the month starts, and each weekly setup is done anywhere between 1-7 days before the week, depending on how ambitious I feel.
TWTS: Is there any stationery you’d recommend to journal beginners who are using journals for the first time in 2021?
Kathleen: Other than the basic journal and pen, if you want to add more color to your journals, something I always recommend is the Crayola Super Tips. They have so many colors and it’s so budget friendly. The markers can be used for coloring or even hand lettering. Otherwise if you want to add more texture to your spreads, I’d recommend washi tape. They come in so many different colors, designs, widths, materials, etc.; you can find almost any kind of washi tape to fit your theme and they add such nice accents.
TWTS: Of course the world is in a very different place than it was a year ago, but if there’s one thing that you’d say that you’re looking forward to in the year ahead, what would that be?
Kathleen: Potentially going outside again? Haha, honestly I just want to be able to hang out with my friends in person and grab a bite to eat. Just the simple things that we’ve all been missing this past year.
Kathleen's journal story tells us that there is no right or wrong way to use your journal this year. Journals can be tools for both creativity and productivity, or for whichever is a greater priority to you. For some, it's better to plan their journal spreads far in advance, while others spontaneously use their journals when inspiration strikes. Whichever way works for you, if you were looking for a sign pick up your journal in 2021, consider this the nudge you needed.