It’s been six months since I began my journey in bullet journaling – it seems so long ago but at the same time not long at all! In that time, I have learned a lot of things: Tombows bleed over Staedtlers but not Microns, perfection is never achieved, don’t bite off more than you can chew, and it’s normal to make mistakes, to name a few! (I just realized that rhymed, hah!)
However, there are five essential tips I’ve learned that are super valuable, whether you’re a beginning or trying to get back on track! These tips will help to solidify healthy bujo habits that enable you to stick with it. Honestly, I wish someone had shared these with me when I first started. It’s always better to learn from others than through experience!
1. Learn from others, but don’t compare.
Boho Berry, Tiny Ray of Sunshine, and Christina77 are some of my favorite bullet journalers that I follow. Their works are beautiful, organized, and seem to make each them so productive! When I first began, I wanted to mimc all of their spreads. However, I quickly discovered it was hard to implement someone else’s spreads to a tee. Not to mention, some of their spreads made no sense at all for my life!
It’s so easy to get discouraged when you are comparing your work to others. I began thinking things like:
Why doesn’t mine look like that?
I should rip this out because it’s ugly or I made a mistake.
This spread doesn’t really work for me – but it worked for them…
Look at how much they got done in one day!
Eventually bullet journaling can become a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ scenario and create more harm than good.
Actually, comparing my bullet journal to others’ is the exact opposite of what drew me to bullet journaling in the first place. I loved that I could customize this is planner/journal to fit my needs and my life. Why would I want to fit my life into someone else’s spreads?!
So the lesson is: learn from others, be inspired by others, but please, don’t compare yourself others.
2. Gather great supplies slowly.
The next thing I wanted to do (after comparing my work) was the second big no-no: I wanted to buy EVERYTHING.
You know what I’m talking about… you go on your ‘secret’ Amazon account that you’re husband doesn’t know about, put about 50 million+ ‘highly’ recommended ‘essential’ bullet journal products in the cart, and hit ‘Purchase’ before you even begin your bullet journal.
Don’t. Do. That.
I recommend you start off slow – know thy self. If you are a notorious notebook/office supply hoarder, use what you have at home. If you never seem to finish projects that you start, pick up a simple notebook, pen, ruler, and maybe colored pencils from Walmart. See if you truly enjoy bullet journaling before investing in all the bells and whistles.
Perhaps then you can reward yourself for sticking with it by splurging on Tombow Dual Tip Markers or Micron Pens. And eventually, you’ll want to invest in a dot grid notebook like the Leuchtturm1917 or the Rhodia webnotebook. Make it a gradual process – I promise you won’t regret it.
3. Choose a planning day.
Before I had a designated planning day, I would sometimes forget to set up my weekly until Tuesday or Wednesday. By then the week was half over, and I’d be tempted not to use my bullet journal for a whole week! Then came the guilt… trust me, this is not a place you want to be.
To avoid that situation, I began using Sunday afternoons as a time to reflect on the last week. Then I’d decide how to set up my bullet journal in the next week. I know several people use dailies or a combination of weeklies and dailies, but I would just simply make my next weekly spread. It never took me more than 30 minutes, usually less.
These days I plan a month ahead, but it’s still on a Sunday! (You can check out my monthly walkthroughs at the end of each month.)
4. Follow a daily routine.
Another aspect to actually using your bullet journal is having a routine. Everyone’s routine is different, but I’ll share mine so you get an idea.
I work from home, so this is what using my bullet journal looks like for me:
- After waking, I come into the office and check my daily task list.
- Since I work best in the mornings, I begin with the most creative tasks.
- Once I reach noon, I take a short break. Then I begin working on the remaining tasks until 3ish.
- The rest of the evening is for fun, relaxing, napping, and fixing supper, so I don’t typically look at my bullet journal again.
However, on days where my morning is interrupted and I don’t follow this process, I rarely accomplish much. My bullet journal is where I place all those random thoughts and tasks, so I don’t have to hold them in my brain! If I don’t have my bullet journal, I usually don’t remember what needs to be done.
Now keep in mind, your routine might look totally different. The important thing is to have one and follow it daily.
5. If it doesn’t work, ditch it!
Depending on your personality, this may not be much of a tip. Some of you are thinking, “Duh!” However, there are those of us who are looking at those six words like a godsend from heaven.
There are some, including myself, who believe that it something should work a certain way that it will. With bullet journaling, this just simply isn’t the case. Sometimes you spend a brainstorming session developing the most immaculate spread that is supposed to inspire you to productivity – and it just doesn’t. Learn to let it go.
I’ve seen spreads that seem to make perfect sense in another’s bullet journal, but when I try to implement it, it falls flat. Prime example: the index. For whatever reason, I could not make the index concept work for me. I hated filling it in, and I never referred to it. Another example is the calendex. I thought it would be useful, but I don’t look at it enough to make it relevant. Rather than waste time and effort on spreads that make you feel this way, ditch them.
And that’s it. Nothing fancy or elaborate. But are those the best kind of tips? Ones that you can actually implement quickly and easily? It wouldn’t be much of a tip list if I gave you a gazillion things to implement! These five tips will definitely help you whether you’re just starting out or need help getting back on track.
Did I miss something? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments!