So you love the idea of bullet journaling and want to try it yourself.
You’ve watched a bunch of “how to” videos on YouTube and drooled over countless photos on Pinterest of gorgeous bullet journal spreads. You may have even gone out and bought a fancy notebook to use for a bullet journal…and yet you still don’t do it.
The good news is: The problem isn’t you. It’s PERFECTIONISM, and here’s how to get past it so you can start enjoying the benefits—and fun—of bullet journaling today!
Adopt a Mindset of “Experimentation”
No matter how many articles you’ve read or YouTube videos you’ve watched, there’s no way of knowing what will work for you until you actually try it.
We all lead different lives and our brains work differently. Expecting to create a system that works perfectly (there’s that word again!) right out of the gate is unrealistic.
Instead, you should expect a fair amount of testing, tweaking, changing, refining, and (gasp!) discarding until you come up with something that works for you.
Use a Cheap, Ugly Journal
Yes, I know the photos on Pinterest are lovely. The journals are all pretty and pristine.
But, you need to realize that those journalers have been at it a while. They did not start off that good. Think about it: Would you show off your first tentative, fledgling efforts? Of course not!
Give yourself permission to experiment and practice in a cheapie spiral notebook, or even an old journal you started and abandoned. That way, if you mess it up, it’s no big deal.
Once you get the hang of bullet journaling and figure out what works for you, feel free to splurge on a nice journal. Until then, take the pressure off yourself to be “perfect” and use a cheapie until you’re satisfied.
Get Over the “Penmanship Thing”
Like I said before, the journalers you see on Pinterest with impeccable handwriting didn’t start out that way. They, too, were messy at some point.
(Okay, maybe they were “penmanship geeks” in grade school, so they’ve been at it longer. But they didn’t start off as good as they are now.)
So just start. No one will see your journal but you, and your penmanship will get better with practice. Or, you may discover you like your writing the way it is. That’s what happened to me.
I can force myself to do lettering like an architect/draftsman, but it takes me a loooooooong time. After I stopped worrying about it and just wrote naturally, I discovered that I like the “edgy” way I write, so I’m going to keep on writing in my bullet journal that way.
Keep It Simple
When you first start bullet journaling, it’s very tempting to want to track Every. Single. Thing. And you probably have a million ideas for collections.
Well, enthusiasm is awesome—and it’s great to try lots of different things—but you also risk over-committing and burning out.
Start small and pace yourself. Follow the basic bullet journal format with an index, a key, and a monthly spread. Add new lists, collections and spreads one at a time to get a feel for what type of information is useful and what isn’t.
Always keep in mind that your bullet journal is a tool that’s meant to be helpful, easy, and fun…not something that adds to your workload!
Keep Your Options Open
There is no one “right” way of making a calendar or doing scheduling, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to one style. Set up multiple options and see which one(s) you like.
You may find that a simple monthly calendar is all you need, or you may want extra space for writing in a weekly or daily layout, or some combination of formats.
Also, you might enjoy a time-based daily layout for tracking things like your moods and feelings, or what tasks you’re completing on any given day. If you work from home, this can be helpful in seeing what hours you spend working, and what hours are spent on other things.
Get Creative With Your Journal
Keep in mind that everything you see about bullet journals is nothing more than an idea. You don’t have to use the layouts or elements that other people recommend. What works for them might not even be relevant to you.
And don’t feel pressured to have the the prettiest or most unique pages. Try including some blank pages in your bullet journal with no layout whatsoever. They can be set aside at regular intervals, or sprinkled randomly throughout your journal.
Use these blank pages for traditional journal writing, jotting down notes, doodling, making small collages, or adding photos. This will make your bullet journal more personal, plus it will break the monotony and smack down any residual perfectionism about rules that “should” be followed.
Don’t Be Afraid To Rip Things Out And Start Over
The idea of ripping pages out of a book or journal makes most people cringe. But the fact is, it’s only paper. There is no such thing as the “journal police” or law prohibiting ripping out pages!
If you find that something isn’t working, RIP IT OUT. Don’t agonize. Just get it out of there.
Maybe you thought a grid for tracking your exercise habits would encourage you, but you discover it’s more disempowering than motivating. Rip it out.
Maybe you were inspired to have a weekly reading collection, but now it feels like a dreaded task. Rip out that page.
Maybe you’re seeing that the overall layout for your bullet journal isn’t working for you. Rip out all the pages you started…or just throw the whole damn thing in the trash and start over!
This is the reason for starting out with a cheapie notebook or one you already have on hand. Grab that old journal—or whatever’s left of your cheapie—and just start over.
Rinse and repeat until you arrive at the setup and system that’s right for you.
Let It Evolve
A bullet journal is, literally, a perpetual work in process.
What works for you now may not work at all for you in the future. As your needs and interests change, you’ll outgrow some of the elements you presently enjoy.
Nothing about a bullet journal is ever etched in stone. Changing things up is not only a good thing, it’s to be expected.
There’s never any shortage of ideas on Pinterest and YouTube for “hacks” and custom layouts. Just remember that it’s okay to experiment, discard, and start over.
Over time, you’ll learn to embrace the ongoing process of trial and error with your bullet journal and kick perfectionism to the curb.
It’s definitely worth the patience and effort involved!3