Consistency is key when it comes to bullet journaling actually being a useful tool to you, but just like me you might be making some “mistakes” that keep you from sticking to it.
I have been bullet journaling for multiple years by now and there have certainly been phases, where I wasn’t as consistent with it as I would have liked to be. For example, last year I definitely had a low point where the last spread I did was in April, and I didn’t start up until Mid-January this year. During those phases I like to take a step back and reevaluate what’s stopping me from keeping up with it. While doing so, I have noticed some “mistakes” I was making, which were stopping me personally from using the system continuously.
Why do I write “mistakes” in quotation marks you ask? Well, none of these really are mistakes in the sense of you’re actually doing something wrong, if you do these. No, not at all! But for me they were mistakes because they hindered me in using my bullet journal effectively. So they are my personal mistakes, if you will. Some of these I have also already mentioned in my Five Things Beginner Bullet Journalists Should Know blog post, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to mention them again, for good measure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So, now that this disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get started:
1.Not setting apart a designated time of day for journaling
This is crucial, especially if your day tends to be different every single day. Set aside a designated time in the morning and evening in order to fill in any trackers, plan for the next day or plan any new spreads.
For me, I now like to start into the day with it. So after getting up, I sit down, still in my pyjamas, fill in my sleep tracker and add on any additional tasks that I might still have thought of. Then I go about my day, ticking off tasks whenever I achieved something and then in the evening, before I got to bed, I fill in my other trackers and plan my next day.
Since I am only using one type of weekly spread, called “the rolling weekly”, I add on tasks and events regularly during the week into one big list instead of copying them over day by day. (Btw, if you’re interested in how that works and what that looks like, make sure you leave a comment, and I can make a mini post about how the rolling weekly works and why it is the best method for me personally)
2.Not setting apart a designated time for creating new spreads
The same thing as above goes for creating new spreads in general. I often found myself being way too late for setting up a new weekly spread. I have made sure to set aside a designated day of the week, that day being the Saturday, in order to work on a new weekly spread. This is especially useful, if you wanna make intricate, special spreads for each week that are a bit more time consuming than the rolling weekly.
3.Starting with monthly set ups too late/ trying to do them all in one day
This “mistake” goes hand in hand with the two above but I still decided to mention it seperately. Same as with the weekly spreads, I often started with new monthly set ups way too late ( and by that I mean way too late, like we’re talking either last day or, even worse, the new month had already started by the time I got to it…) and on top of that, tried to do the whole set up in one day.
Now, if you’re like me and you like intricate monthly set ups that do take a bit of time to set up, you will easily see the mistake here. Setting up a nice title page often takes me about 4-5 hours alone, depending on how intricate and detailed I’m making it of course (I think the longest one was even 6-7 hours). That’s half or more of a regular work day… yeah.. not really possible to do an entire set-up, unless I spend like 10-12 hours a day on it, which is time that I certainly don’t have, nor want to have.
So the solution for that mistake is an easy one: start a few days before the month ends, so you have enough time in order to finish it, before the new month starts.
4.Too many or complicated trackers
Another “mistake” that I made was having too many trackers in my bullet journal. Sure, in the beginning you wanna try stuff out to see what works for you and what and how you want to implement them, but I certainly overdid it with the trackers. I was basically tracking every aspect of my life, which ended up with me feeling bad if I didn’t accomplish things or simply forgot to fill out the tracker.
I have since then downgraded to 3 main trackers (habits, mood and sleep) and a gratitude log, and let me tell you, it becomes so much easier to fill those out, especially if you manage to implement them well.
5.Focusing too much on making spreads look intricate/ perfect
In the beginning, I wanted my bullet journal to be perfect. Like all those other ones that I was seeing online; with beautiful covers, detailed spreads and gorgeous illustrations. I quickly realized, how time consuming it actually was to make those spreads, but I still spend time that I actually didn’t have on making them. By focusing so much on that I lost the fun I orginally had with creating those spreads because they took so long to make.
Taking a step back and realizing that simpler spreads are just as effective and may be even more so, when times are stressful has helped me immensely in adapting my spreads and my effort to how much time I actually have.
6.Comparing yourself to others / not allowing yourself to be a beginner
This point is one that I would consider the most harmful out of all of my mistakes. Maybe you know the feel: You’re confronted with all of those wonderful and talented people making all of these beautiful and intricate spreads and then you look at your own and promptly get discouraged. Sound familar?
I know how you feel, cause I felt the same when I was just starting out. I spent ages on making a spread and in the end it still wasn’t “good enough”; and that realization hurt. It hurt so much that I was completely and utterly ashamed of some spreads, to the point where I didn’t want to show it to anyone, despite being proud of it beforehand.
Or maybe a spread didn’t turn out the way that you imagined it? Yeah, had that too, and it was so insanely frustrating. I was focusing more and more on the mistakes I was making and my shortcomings instead of on the things that I was getting better in.
To be honest the only real advice I have for you in case you’re experiencing those feelings as well is to stick with it. Stick with it, try to focus on the things that are improving and start simple. Start with the things you know you’ll be able to do easily and gradually move up from that. You will get better because practice does make perfect.
It also helped me to figure out, how long some people have already been bullet journaling before and/or have done art before. It can put things into perspective.
7.Not allowing yourself to be inspired by others
This next one sorta ties in with the one above but please as much as you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, allow yourself to gather inspiration from others. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to copy them, of course, but put your own spin on things.
I often wanted to be completely original, cause my thought process was that if I’m not original then I’m just a copy. That is not how things work though. You are definitely allowed to sit down and recreate a spread or hell, even a whole set up that you’ve seen and you like. It’s so easy to make it your own though. Use different colors, change certain elements, add on or leave out things; the options of customizing spreads and set ups are endless.
Slowly but surely you’ll notice that you develop your own style and are more and more able to work with even just small bouts of inspiration and make those into fully fledged set ups and then all you need to do is to share them with the world. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one who’s inspiring others then. ^-^
8.Not trying out new things
This is one was a big one for me as well. I kinda forced myself to stick with the things that I started with, despite noticing that it wasn’t really working for me the way I did it, just because “everyone else does it that way”.
Not trying out new things, giving yourself the chance to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, replacing the things that aren’t working with things that might be, almost killed my entire process of bullet journaling. Had I not taken a step back and taken the time to figure out what I can change/ try out in order to make the system work for me (again), I would probably have stopped bullet journaling and never taken it up again. So take a step back, maybe watch a few different creators on youtube, gather some inspiration and really give yourself the time to try out new things. This is your bullet journal. The goal is to figure out a system that works for you and no one else.
9.Focusing too much on not having/ getting the “right” tools
Last but not least, a short but really important one. (Although this doesn’t apply to anyone because some people prefer to keep it simple anyway).
I remember spending way too much time and money on finding and getting the “right” supplies. There are so many creators out there who are using all of these fancy stationary, such as calligraphy pens and markers and gel pens and different types of fineliners, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: You don’t need all of those. You can do faux calligraphy with any fineliner of your choice and you probably have some colors at home that you can use to make your spreads a bit more lively, should you decide to do so. Those pens you were/are using in school? Brilliant! Markers? Hell, yes! That pencil you use on a daily basis? Yep, perfect! To cite a lot of people who have said this before: “All you need is a notebook and a pen” Anything else is just a bonus.
So there you have it, 9 bullet journal “mistakes” that I was making and that you might be making too. I hope you enjoyed reading this post, see you in the next one and as always: Stay safe and healthy ❤
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