I‘ve been bullet journalling for quite a while now and to be honest, I’m actually really surprised I’ve stuck with it. I’ve tried numerous diaries/calendars over the years and every single time I get to about April before tossing it to the side of my room to gather dust (along with the gym kit I no doubt bought in January too, whoops).
Although my bullet journal isn’t *quite* finished yet, over the past 8 months I’ve gotten to know what I do and don’t like. The perfectionist inside me absolutely hates it, but it really is true that the bullet journal is all about making and learning from mistakes.
(Just a heads up, this post will contain a lot of jargon. If you’re not well acquainted with the bullet journal system, I suggest having a read of the official bullet journal website here before you read the rest of this post.)
The bullet journal system is designed to log the past, present and future, but personally I’ve found that planning too far ahead in terms of the physical journal just doesn’t work for me. I used to draw out a full month in one go, everything from my calendar, habit tracker and expense log to all four weekly spreads, four meal planners, four shopping lists… you get the gist.
I ended up losing the thing most unique to the bullet journal system – I had no room for spontaneity. I made my journal so rigid and awkward to use by pre-drawing spreads to fill in, and it also meant I couldn’t amend the system as I went along. It actually made the system more like a traditional diary in the sense I couldn’t be flexible with it at all.
These days I draw out my main monthly spread and trackers at the start, but after that I do my weekly spreads as I go along. It makes the system fit so much better with my life – if for example one week I don’t have many events I won’t bother making room for a calendar bit, if I know I’ve got a lot of tasks to get done that don’t need to be assigned to specific days I’ll add in a little ‘weekly to do’ section, and if I need to plan a blog post I can flick to the next page and start jotting things down.
Not Experimenting Enough
Quite similar to my first point, not experimenting with my journal enough eventually led to me getting quite bored of it. I was sticking to the exact same format for everything each month without ever stopping to consider whether they were actually suiting me/their purpose. Once I started changing up my spreads and actually evaluating if they were working properly I really started to notice a change in my productivity levels. It’s actually become an obsession/hobby to find new layout ideas, can you tell I have a lot of time on my hands lately?!
The things I’ve found from making an effort to change things up:
- having a monthly spread with everything on means I actually pay attention to my goals and to-do list, if my to do list/goals are given their own page I literally won’t look at it all month
- having a checklist on my editoral calendar works much better than on my blog post planner
- limiting my habit tracker to the important things means I actually make an effort to do them, having too many tasks every day just completely overwhelms me to the point I ignore all of them
Not Planning Ahead
You’re probably reading this like “Laura, you ok hun? You literally just said planning ahead was bad?”, which is probably why you should take anything I say in this post with a pinch of salt – after all, these are things that are mistakes to me, but might be exactly right for you.
What I mean by not planning ahead is that I didn’t sit down and fully consider which collections I wanted in my bullet journal. I didn’t think about where the best places for things were, and I forgot a lot of essentials in the beginning; which has resulted in a very illogically ordered bullet journal, often with months in between things that really needed to be next to one another.
For my next bullet journal I’ve already started to plan which collections/spreads I want, in the hopes of getting most of them up front and much easier to find.
There are aprox 20723209838y472389208 bullet journal related posts on Pinterest, which is fab for inspiration. But like everything bullet journal, it has to work for you. I used to copy exact spreads from Pinterest without considering how I could adapt them to be as useful as possible for me. Weekly spreads in particular would often include sections I just d i d not need or use; things like the weather, shopping lists, meal planners, water tracking. While something may look pretty, it’s pointless if it doesn’t help you win at life.
The index is one of the main features that makes the bullet journal system so effective. But what I’ve found recently is that it’s actually quite hard to find the pages I’m looking for now my index is so full. I have to scan through a ton of stuff before I can find things like my blog post ideas or healthy recipes list. In my next journal I’m going to only index the important things that I’ll actually need to refer back to in the future. Things like ‘June 5th shopping list’ are just clutter that overcomplicate the system. This isn’t a mistake per se, it’s just something that I’ve realised I want to do differently next time.
Tracking Things In More Than One Place
Tracking habits is something quite unique to the bullet journal system, it’s not something I’ve ever seen before in other planners or diaries. I love tracking things, almost too much – I track everything from my weight, my water intake and my step count to flossing, job hunting and making my bed. But one thing I started to notice the more I got into having monthly and weekly spreads as well as dailies is how I began to repeat myself constantly.
Water for example, I’d have reminders on my phone to drink, I’d track every glass I drank on my daily spread, track that I’d drank enough on my weekly spread, and again on my monthly habit tracker. I’d also track my food intake/syns on my phone on an app, on my weekly spread, on my annual tracker, as well as on my monthly habit tracker. It was getting so repetitive and really counterproductive, I probably spent more time filling in boxes to say I’d eaten and drank than the time I spent actually eating and drinking!