The bullet journal system is more than just pretty pages and fancy stationery supplies. It’s possibly the best productivity and organization tool around. But, sometimes life or the pressure of perfection can cause people to give up on the system. If you need some tips to get started again, read on.
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I receive tons of emails every week. Among them are wonderful success stories. But, fairly often I get an email from someone who has given up. They express their disappointment in themselves. As if they have done something wrong. And, I always aim to reassure them that it’s not over. You can start in your bullet journal again after a long break.
Everyone has different reasons for choosing to no longer use their journal. But, there are a few commonalities.
1). They feel pressured to create perfect spreads with impeccable calligraphy skills and drawing abilities. Aiming to be just like the people they see on Instagram. And because it turns out flawed the first or second time, they feel inadequate. OR 2). They think that they have to spend hours a day in their journal. Between a family, a job, and day-to-day responsibilities, it’s just an added chore.
Both of these reasons have real merit. Everyone wants to better. Everyone occasionally looks at someone else and wants to be more like them. And sometimes, when our skills or abilities don’t meet our expectations, we lose our motivation. It’s human instinct to take the easy route. And that’s why we give up when things get hard. There’s a quote by Jerry Rice (because everyone can relate to a quote):
Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what other’s cant.
In essence, it means that you have to do the hard work if you want to be successful. This applies to any area of your life.
Trying to lose weight? You’ll have to put in the work. There is no magic pill or detox tea that will change your body significantly on its own. Want to be a watercolor artist? Just because you buy the most highly recommended paints doesn’t mean a masterpiece will show up on your paper when you put your brush to it.
Rambling and metaphors aside, the point is this. Anything that’ worth doing takes effort. And any area of your life that you want to be better in, is going to take time, patience, trial and error, failures, and lessons. No one was born an artist or an athlete. The people who are at the top of their class for their skill have put in the time. And no matter how easy Instagram makes it looks, behind the scenes, those people have struggled too.
Let me just ramble a little more here with a personal story. When I started my first bullet journal it was still pretty early on in the bullet journal community (you can see a comparison of my first bullet journal and my 2017 journal here). There weren’t 50,000 bullet journal accounts. And there certainly weren’t people creating gallery worthy cover pages. But, there were people doodling amazing headers and incorporating bouncy brush lettering into their pages.
I’ve always had a passion for arts and crafts. And, as far back as I can remember, I loved snazzy pens and doodling. I was also the girl who always tried to have perfect handwriting in high school. I thought it would make me cooler. Still, I was intimidated when I started my first journal.
First off, my now fiance and I were not in a great place financially. Everyone on Instagram had dot grid journals. I looked them up on Amazon and couldn’t believe that people were spending $20 or more on a notebook. There was no way at that time that we could have afforded one just for me to doodle and play around with. Plus, I had half a dozen planners, a quarter of the way filled in, buried in a closet. I wasn’t exactly confident that the bullet journal would be any different.
Then came the pressure of having expensive brush pens and fancy drawing pens. That immediate feeling of inadequacy set in. How could I ever create anything “pretty” when all I had was a cheap lined journal and a four Sharpie Pens in basic colors? I didn’t even have a ruler.
So, to say my expectations were low would be an understatement. I went into my journal expecting to fail. Expecting to hate it and be discouraged by my efforts. But, after a few very minimal weekly spreads with shakily drawn banners, I began to feel a little more confident. I let loose and said, “to hell with Instagram and Pinterest.” It just felt good to doodle and be creative.
That’s when it really hit me. I realized that this system and what made it so intriguing to me wasn’t the perfection or the need to be like some else. It was and still is, the flexibility to make it whatever I want it to be.
The moral of that long story is: if you’re giving up on the bullet journal because you feel like you don’t have the right supplies, or the natural ability to create art, you are giving up for the wrong reason. Just because your floral drawings don’t look like the ones you saw on someone’s Instagram feed doesn’t mean you should throw your pen down and forfeit. This system offers so much more than perfect drawing and lettering. It offers a space to create, to learn, to be yourself. For me, it helped me find myself and really embrace my passions and my skills. And lastly, it offers organization, productivity, and accountability. Name another system, place, or thing that can give you all of that in one?
Without further life lessons from my fingertips to your eyeballs…
How to Start in Your Bullet Journal After Giving Up
Above, I went over the reasons that people often times give up on their bullet journal. Now, it’s time to talk about how to get back into it… and stick to it.
All of the following tips are actionable. You have to do the work to see the results. You have to want to do this and make it a priority. Reading a blog post won’t suddenly make you a bullet journal whiz. It’s up to you to use your journal it’s fullest potential. And I promise you, if you take action on these tips and make your journal a priority, you will fall in love. It will no longer feel like a chore or a heavy pressure. But, you have to take action and hold yourself accountable.
Make Your Bullet Journal Your #1 Priority
Okay…maybe not #1. You should definitely feed yourself and your children above writing in your journal. You should probably go to your job, too. Okay, so like #3 or #4. But, the gist is to make it a top priority. Every single day you make time to do certain things that you consider a priority. Often times these things better your life, right?
You go to work so you can have a home and a car and food. Top priority. You make yourself breakfast so you aren’t hungry at 11AM. You take a shower so that… well, so you don’t stink. So, you get the idea. Everyone has priorities. Some are pretty standard across the board. Eating, working, sleeping. But, after our basic human needs, we make certain activities a priority because they are important to us. Some people go to church. Some people go to the gym. Others watch TV, play video games, color, etc.
Make your bullet journal one of your top priorities. Consider it just as important as taking your dog out to go to the bathroom. You wouldn’t miss a day of that, would you? And it only takes about 5 minutes. Do this every single day. Create a routine.
Create a Routine
At first, this may feel more like a chore than a fun hobby. But, as you get more settled into your routine it will feel comfortable and more relaxing.
For me, every single morning I grab my coffee, my journal, and my pens. I sit down, maybe turn on a podcast or some music, drink my coffee, and start writing my list for the day. Then, I fill in my habit trackers and so on. And when I’m done with the important stuff, if I’m still in the mood to write or draw, I continue until it’s time to move on to my next task.
This routine might look totally different for you. If you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, maybe you’ll create a nightly routine. Before bed, take your journal and do the necessary tasks first. Then, move on to creative aspects if you have the time or feel like getting out a little creativity. And if neither of these options works well for you, consider your lunch break, or while you wait for your kids to get out of school.
Have your Supplies Handy
This can make all the difference. I have a “space” where I do the majority of my journaling. It’s at my desk, which is a comfortable and happy place for me. It has natural light, lots of colors, my music, etc. All of the supplies are within grabbing distance. So, if you have a place that you normally journal, make sure to keep all of your supplies right there.
If you are mobile, or a couch journaler, find something small that you can put your most used supplies in. This pen caddy can hold a lot of pens plus your notebook. For something sleeker, this beautiful A4 zippered case would be perfect for all of your favorite journaling supplies.
Again, this may seem like something you don’t want to do. But, to be successful at anything, you must be disciplined. This doesn’t mean you have to grunt and groan your way through your journal. Just do it every day. Even if it means simply doodling the banner for the day of the week or practicing your handwriting while writing down your task list. The essential takeaway is that you should be opening your journal and putting pen to paper every single day.
Work Towards Bettering Your Skills
If you are giving up because you feel like you lack in the creativity department, as mentioned in the very long intro of this article, you have another option. Instead of backing down and giving up, choose to better your skills. The internet is packed full of content to help you improve your skills. You will find tons of free content on YouTube and blogs. Here, on The Petite Planner, I offer tons of tutorials on lettering and doodling.
Check out my step-by-step floral doodles here.
Doing this will not only help you get back into your journal and find your passion in it, it will give you a new set of skills to hone in on. You might find that you are really amazing at florals. Or that you can paint with watercolor exceptionally well. Aside from just bettering your journaling experience, learning new skills is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
After reaching adulthood, many of us stray from education. We don’t take classes or attend workshops. We continue doing what we’re doing, with no real direction or goal to get better. But, if you listen to any personal development podcast or audiobook, they will all tell you how important it is to be constantly learning.
As I mentioned, there are a ton of free sources of education on the internet. While some people criticize our technologically advanced world today, it certainly has its benefits. We have YouTube which can give you unlimited hours of education. And, we have access to thousands of bloggers who are continually writing helpful new articles.
But, if you prefer a more structured approach to learning, there are tons of options that don’t require you to leave your home or even get out of your pajamas. Heck yes to that!
Rock Your Journal E-Course
I created a course at the beginning of 2018 called Rock Your Journal. The intention of this course is to help people to not just feel comfortable in their journal, but to love it the way I love mine. I know the plentiful benefits that journaling offers, but I also know that people struggle with wanting to be creative while feeling doubtful in their abilities.
With this course, I break down that doubt through confidence building, simple step-by-step lettering and doodling tutorials, and an interactive workbook. Plus, there’s a Private Facebook Group/Community to go along with it. This group has some of the most supportive and kind people I have had the pleasure of knowing. I have seen people’s creative confidence and skills shoot through the roof with the help of this course and the group.
We go from faux-calligraphy to fun and simple creative headers, and then into doodle basics, doodle headers, floral doodles, and creative collection page ideas. It’s a bit of everything wrapped into one.
You can join the currently 400+ other students enrolled in Rock Your Journal by clicking this link. If you use code BLOG20 at checkout, you can get 20% off your Enrollment on either Rock Your Journal or Rock Your Journal VIP.
If the single course option isn’t for you, there are other online education options. If you haven’t heard of Skillshare, you must check them out. I have been a member for a few months now and have taken classes in watercolor florals, doodling, brush lettering, drawing animals, and quite a few other topics. It’s a great way to learn on your own time.
And if you get bored of the creative courses, you can take a course in business, technology, or lifestyle. There are over 10,000 classes on Skillshare, so I promise you won’t run out of things to learn.
They often run really great intro deals. Currently, you can get a 1-month membership for free. And you can cancel your membership anytime before the free trial ends if you aren’t loving it.
If you aren’t an online learner and prefer to sit down with a good interactive workbook, fear not. As bullet journaling and modern calligraphy become more popular, there a ton of great books out there. I was recently featured in 2 upcoming books, Hack Your Journal and The Planner Book. Both of these are available for Pre-Order on Amazon.
Both books feature incredible journaling spreads from multiple creators, and each includes instructions on how to recreate these spreads. If you’re feeling stuck or lack inspiration for your own journal, both of these are excellent books to check into.
Want to draw flowers? This book is my current favorite! Want to learn how to do beautiful hand lettering? Check out this book by Amy Latta. Honestly, just head to Amazon and search the books category for subjects you’re interested in learning. You’ll be blown away with the options available to you.
Join a Community of Likeminded Individuals
The last tip to help you get back into your bullet journal after giving up is to join a community of like-minded individuals. Facebook isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I rarely post on my personal Facebook, but I use Facebook multiple times a day. Because, Facebook offers more than just the latest gossip or political news.
Facebook has thousands upon thousands of groups. These groups are made up of people who have similar interests. And there are so many Bullet Journal Groups on Facebook that I can’t name them all here. They are broken down into more specific interest groups. There are groups for beginners, vegans, moms, minimalists, students, and those who want to lose weight.
Go to Facebook. In the search bar, type bullet journal. Then, once the results are produced, click the tab at the top that says, Groups. From here, you will find a long list of bullet journal related groups. Find one that fits you, and request to join.
Once you’re in, be active and engage with others. Share your accomplishments and your struggles alike. You will likely find other people who have similar struggles, which can be comforting. Having a support system and somewhere to turn to ask questions can help you stick to your bullet journal and even make you see it in a new light.
I truly hope this post can help you re-introduce yourself to your bullet journal in one way or another. The system is simple, but it’s currently the best productivity and creativity tool around, in my opinion. It has changed my life in enough ways that I should write an entire blog post on it. Honestly, the bullet journal system has helped me lose weight, find my passion and career, and opened doors to creative outlets I hadn’t touched in years.
You won’t become an artist overnight. And even when your good you will struggle. You will have days where you just want to snap your pen in half and spill coffee on your journal… okay, maybe that’s just me. But, you will have struggles. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to keep going. Don’t let doubt, fear, or lack of the right supplies stop you from doing something that could better your life.
I know this post was extremely long because I wrote it, and it took a long time. But, if you read it, first of all, I appreciate you. Secondly, if you have any questions or want to chat about what’s holding you back, please head to my About page and send me a message. I’m here to help and will do whatever I can to ensure you succeed at this. So, please, don’t hesitate.
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