Take it from the girl who is always changing things and completely okay with failing. We all make bullet journal mistakes. Here are the five you want to fix for your own sake.
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I sincerely hope I didn’t offend you with the ‘newbies’ label in the headline. Sometimes as a blogger, you choose unfavorable words because they are going to spike the interest of potential readers more. Click-bait.
Does that make me sound a bit douche-y?
The longer version is this. I don’t click-bait people just to drive them here to make money. No, no. My legitimate reasoning is that I feel the content is important and helpful. And without the catchy title, sometimes it gets bypassed.
Take it as an excuse or as truth. My intentions are good and I want to you to leave this post feeling as though you were not tricked, but guided into quality content.
If ever I am wrong, I trust you to let me know truthfully through the comment section or in an email. I have thick skin.
So, now that we are passed the ‘newbie’ thing, let’s get down to business.
Over the last few months, I’ve been on a metaphorical rollercoaster ride with my bullet journal. For a week, I’m great and use it daily and feel like it’s really helping me to stay on track.
And then, we have an event or a few busy days and I forget to use it. After that, the overwhelm of playing the catchup game takes over, and then I am stressed out. Can you relate?
Ultimately, it comes down to making a few seemingly little bullet journal mistakes that have profound effects.
Well, here is where my title is deceptive. Not just newbies make these mistakes. Sometimes, well-seasoned, ‘Professional Journalers’ make these mistakes, too.
And that’s why I feel this post is so necessary. It’s not just for ‘newbies’. It’s for anyone who is struggling through the motions of journaling, finding balance, feeling comfortable, and not getting stressed out with their journal.
Alas, here are the top 5 bullet journal mistakes that everyone makes.
The Top 5 Bullet Journal Mistakes You’ll Want to Fix
1). Doing Too Much
With all of the inspiration on Pinterest, blogs, YouTube, and Instagram it’s easy to get caught in the web of wanting more. More tracker, more monthly challenges, more collection pages, more ev-er-y-thing!
And at first, more seems better. It seems like you’ll be more diligent with your tracking which will ultimately lead you to great manifestations, achieving all of your wildest goals, and being the best doodler this side of the continental divide.
But, after a few days or a week of keeping up with all of these trackers, you get burnt out. This is usually when you skip a day or two. And then those couple days turn into regret and disappointment for not staying on top of all these pages.
Do you see how this can create a nasty spiral that results in ineffectiveness?
What to do instead
Critically think about what trackers and spreads are most beneficial to you. Which ones are actually helping you to reach your goals or be a better person? Narrow down your list and try a more minimalistic approach for your next monthly setup.
More is not always more. For the month of December, I narrowed my habit tracker down to just seven habits. In November I had fourteen. But, I knew that I was filling some of those habits in aimlessly and that they weren’t really doing me any good. So, instead, I focused on what mattered most to me right now, knowing I could always change it up again in January or down the road.
2). Doing it for the Gram
Trust me when I tell you that I still struggle with this. There are still days where I catch myself making trying to add more detail just so I can take a picture for Instagram.
While doing this occasionally isn’t a big deal, if you are doing it one every page, it can escalate into a problem. Because, instead of using your journal effectively, you are now putting yourself under pressure to be perfect. To get likes.
From experience, I can tell you that this can lead to almost despising your journal. For a while, it’s fun. But, after weeks or months of doing it, the pressure of perfection will start to tear you down.
And then, you stop using your journal completely because it feels like a chore.
What to do instead
Make your spreads pretty, by all means. But only if that’s really what you want to do. Remember. Heck, remind yourself daily that your journal is for you. It’s not for Instagram or Pinterest.
Sure, likes and follows are wonderful and they make you feel a sense of validation. But, at the end of the day, most of those people won’t remember whose picture they liked. They won’t remember how perfect your handwriting was. But, you will feel, either stressed out or completely content depending on how you choose to use your journal.
3). Not Nailing Down the Basics
This has become a growing problem. I get tons of emails from people who want to start bullet journaling because of a book tracker, a weight loss tracker, or some other collection they saw on Pinterest. But they don’t know where to start.
The blame isn’t to be placed on the individual, here. There are thousands upon thousands of articles on Pinterest detailing how to create beautiful mood trackers and lists of neverending collection ideas.
In that, the bare bones basics get lost.
Just like anything else, if you are lacking a solid foundation, all of the details and the hard work you put in to make it look good aren’t going to matter much. You have to build from the ground up.
So often, this results in people giving up on their bullet journal because they aren’t seeing the benefits. They aren’t using it effectively.
What to do instead
While I’m a huge advocate for the evolution of the bullet journal system, I still believe that the basic foundation of the system is what makes it so special.
So, even though you are super excited about getting started and creating awesome reading trackers and running logs, take time to sit down watch Ryder Carrol’s video on the bullet journal system. Or, buy his book, The Bullet Journal Method.
Get a solid grasp on what makes the system unique and how it was intended to be used, and then begin your journey. And if you have questions along the way, don’t hesitate to ask.
4). Playing the Comparison Game
Of all the bullet journal mistakes, this one seems to have the most profound negative effect on people. And unfortunately, it’s one of the most common.
If you go to Instagram and want to browse the #bulletjournal hashtag, the top 100+ posts are from large accounts with picture perfect spreads.
It appears as though these people take hours to draw one cover page. And, some people do put in that kind of time. But, it’s not realistic for many adults who are working, taking care of a family, going to school, and trying to manage their own life.
But, it’s so easy to get caught up in comparing your work to someone else’s. You find and pick out every flaw in your own spreads. And you unintentionally allow negative self-talk to take over.
My writing looks terrible! I’ll never be able to draw like her. My brush lettering looks like crap.
And from this mindset, there are two options. You either talk yourself out of bullet journaling altogether because you think you aren’t good enough. Or, you decide to try harder.
While working to improve your skills is awesome if you are doing it just to be as good as someone else or try to replicate their work, then you may fall short of your expectations.
What to do instead
Comparing is practically human nature. We compare our physical bodies, our sense of humor, our work skills, and our hobbies. But, when you catch yourself doing this, stop.
Stop your brain and say aloud, I am good enough. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Allow yourself to try and fail. And if you have a hard time looking at seemingly perfect bullet journal spreads, stop. Put a hold on Instagram and Pinterest and avoid those sites for a while.
Instead, go on Facebook and find a group and find people who are at a similar skill level as you. Find your tribe and build one another up. Talk about your struggles AND your achievements.
5). Buying Too Many Supplies
I said it.
But, from experience and the three drawer storage container under my desk plum full of stationery I haven’t used in a year, I feel I have some ground on this one.
Much like having too many collection pages, having more supplies isn’t always better. Because, chances are, you already have your favorites.
For me, it’s fineline black pens and Tombow Dual Brush Pens. They are my go-to’s for just about everything. And once in a while, I pick out some other pens or a rip off a couple inches of washi tape.
Your experience might be totally different. Maybe you use washi tape on a daily basis and prefer colored pencils or gel pens. But, you still have your favorites.
All the extra is taking up space and costing you money that you didn’t need to spend.
In the end, it’s completely up to you on how you spend your money. And I am not the person to tell anyone how to spend money!
But, because I have spent hundreds of dollars on supplies I will likely never use or only use once, I can say that I don’t feel it’s worth it.
What to do instead
Think through your purchases. Will you really use all 45 rolls of washi tape? If you will, by all means, do it. But if you’re like me and tend to use the same pattern once every 2 months, it’s probably not a great buy.
Find what you love and invest more into those items. If I could take all of the money I have spent on washi tape and pens that I didn’t really need or have a use for, I could have bought more Tombows.
I don’t always add a conclusion to my posts. But, I feel it’s necessary with a post like this.
Calling people on out their mistakes is a questionable act. And I want you to know, I don’t do it to try to make you feel lesser. You are not lesser.
I do it because I want to see you succeed in your bullet journaling experience. I want it to light a passionate fire that burns brightly inside of you.
And, if you can change the things that are making it hard to enjoy journaling, you will have a better chance at success. So, I don’t do it be mean. I do it in hopes that if you are struggling, you can relate to one of the above bullet journal mistakes and fix it before it turns you off from the system.
As someone who feels so strongly about journaling, planning, and creativity, I too have been put off by the exact mistakes mentioned above. They have made me want to quit altogether.
So, if I can help a few people readjust their methods and feel happy about their journal again, then I will feel that this post was totally worth it.
Please feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I did all of the above… I ended up not using my journal for 8 months. Now I startet again but I only use monthlies… In time I might start on weeklies again, but small steps…
Hi Jasmin. Thank you for taking the time to comment with your experience. I think it’s quite common and it’s very sad. But, at least you have found a way to ease back into it and know that you just have to take your time and find balance.
Jasmin. I tried so hard to like weeklies but they are just too much for my personal bujo. So all I use regularly are a monthly spreads with weeklies or dailies thrown in as necessary (like during a move or for a vacation). Making the decision to let go of how a bujo is “supposed” to look and making one that functions for me has made me love my bujo all the more because it is just what *I* need!
Dave Smith says
Great article, Erin. Very well said. I wish I had read something like this when I started bullet journaling. I tend to doodle and color in my journal, but love the simplicity of my friend’s bare-bones, pen & ink journal. We each have our own style, and I have to remind her of that when she starts to compare her’s to mine. 💖 And a big thing I like about bujos is their flexibility. Month to month, week to week, or even day by day. Keep up the good work. Love your inspiration.
Hi Dave! Everything you said is absolutely true! Every person is so individual in their tastes and they can change in a heartbeat. Sometimes I just want a simple monochromatic, no fancy lettering or doodles spread, and sometimes I really enjoy going all out with color, doodles, and lettering. The flexibility is wonderful and it is what makes the system so perfect for anyone! It can be whatever you need it to be at any given time. Thank you so much for your kind words! Have a wonderful day.
As someone who just started on bujo and was inspired due to pinterest, this post really pointed out all that I have done. As I am someone that gives up very easily, it helped me to step back on my pace and also to slowly build up my journalling instead of scrambling and wanting to do everything at once. Thank you for this article and I hope that I will be able to continue to use it often instead of throwing it aside after a while. Please continue to share your experiences as I’m sure alot of newbies like me would like to hear more so that we will not commit the same mistakes 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind comment. These are the comments and the words that remind me why I do what I do and why I love it so very much. I love to see people succeeding at something that will benefit them, and loving it. And if I can help beginners find their confidence and feel free in their journal, I am doing my job right. Thank you so much! You are highly appreciated.
Also, to add on, may I ask a question as to what sort of pens are best suited for people who are new to calligraphy? thank you and have a nice day!
I have tried a few different brush pens and I really like the Ecoline Brush Pens. I feel like Tombows are amazing, but they take a long time to get a hang of. They are so soft and you have to be pretty precise with your pressure. And if you are on a budget, grab some Crayola Supertips. They aren’t brush markers, but they can be used for brush calligraphy.
Focusing on using my extra pens right now, and not buying any new ones. Gave away some extra journals and stickers. I hear ‘ya on extra supplies, lol!
This is SO helpful. I’ve been stalking several of you Youtubers for Bujo ideas and fear of failure because I can’t draw worth a lick has confined me to a planner. My mind is bujo driven for tracking things, keeping my calendar and not being confined to a planner. I’ve had my bujo, ruler, markers and a few stencils for several months now. I’m going to dive in this week to start the new year!