(This article contains affiliate links; if you click on items and purchase them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, read my disclosure.)
Have you ever started something brand new, super excited, super motivated, and ready to make a positive change in life???
Only to find that four weeks later you can’t even keep up with it anymore?
If you’re starting a bullet journal, maybe you’re already concerned that this will be your reality… but it doesn’t have to be!
Brand new year, you can do it!
Thus, it’s important to have a plan for success, especially if you are new to bullet journals and/or struggle with maintaining consistency.
People have a tendency to start a bullet journal and quit a few weeks or months later.
Why does this happen to so many people?
- Unrealistic expectations
- They do too much at once
- Lack of time management skills
Keeping that knowledge in mind is the first step toward success.
Unfortunately, knowing these problems alone doesn’t magically make them disappear.
Individuals succeed in making the bullet journal habit long-term when they have a more realistic set of expectations, along with tools and techniques that nip any problems in the bud.
If you feel like you’ve struggled with consistency or prone toward giving up when the going gets tough, this article may provide exactly what you need to ensure an entire year (or hopefully more!) of bullet journal habit success.
Be Mindful of What is Normal
Start off 2018 right!!
Shared from amazinglymarvelous on Instagram
When you see so many beautiful bullet journals on social media and websites, you get inspired. That is terrific! I encourage you to find inspiration wherever you can.
Unfortunately, I believe this can also lead to a problem. ESPECIALLY for beginners who have no idea what to expect when it comes to making the bullet journal habit long-term.
What’s the Problem?
You expect far too much from yourself as a beginner.
Talent like Alex shares on Instagram takes TIME!
One of the most common challenges people face when it comes to bullet journals actually isn’t a problem exclusive to bullet journals alone.
They are actually very common challenges for anybody implementing new time management techniques in their lives.
(I’ll actually touch more on the time management side of this toward the end of the article.)
For some reason, people expect perfectionism when it comes to learning time management techniques.
This extends to people who want to make a long-term bullet journal habit.
Nobody really highlights the normal challenges and struggles people face when bettering schedules. Changing your life is a big step that involves a lot of hard work.
There is no quick fix when it comes to improving time management.
So instead, you can counter this unfortunate time management paradox by trying these tips.
Tips For Success
1. Find an accountability partner
Every month there are hundreds of new bullet journal accounts popping up on social media. There are more individuals joining Bullet Journal groups on Facebook. Having an accountability partner can provide a sense of relief with challenges and encouragement when you don’t feel like working on your bullet journal.
Plus, I’m certain there are dozens of people (like you) who want to make the bullet journal habit stick.
2. Recognize that everybody struggles
Even with bullet journals. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this though when you’re shown absolute perfection on the internet.
If you feel like comparison makes you prone to losing inspiration and motivation, I’d highly recommend reading this post called “11 Reasons People Struggle with Bullet Journals“.
It can be hugely relieving when you know you aren’t the only person struggling with making a successful bullet journal habit.
Practice Benefits the Bullet Journal Habit
Another key problem I notice of many bullet journal users is that they are unhappy with the look of their art. Or their lettering.
My spreads have improved greatly since this one!
If they are beginners, that’s actually kind of understandable. I’m relatively certain that no beginner loves their art.
Unfortunately, they see established bullet journal accounts that are amazing.
It could be that they are beautiful artists, they have large followings, anything that would cause them to compare themselves in a negative light.
Whatever it is, these new users automatically assume that these ‘amazing accounts’ have always been amazing. They don’t consider the long process it took for the accounts to develop, feel discouraged when they don’t get those results right away, and then they drop the bullet journal habit for good.
People get discouraged when their abilities aren’t as ‘good’ as more established users.
My very first weekly spread EVER.
I want to tell you a secret.
My first couple months of bullet journals are not pieces of work I actively show off to my audience.
In fact, when I started my first bullet journal account online, it’s hard not to cringe at my first thirty Instagram posts.
But you know what? I’ve kept at it. By practicing and learning new skills, now I’m more confident in my art and bullet journal abilities.
I’m happily maintaining the bullet journal habit.
Nobody starts out perfect. Some people may have more natural talent than others, I won’t lie.
But every bujo professional out there improves their skills with practice.
Thankfully, there are dozens of ways you can start to improve your art and lettering.
Solutions To Fix the Problem
1. Take a Class
What better way to improve your art or lettering skills than taking a class? If you have a Michael’s or local art store in your region, check to see they offer art and lettering courses to help better your skills.
Lots of great resources to improve hand lettering!
Don’t have an art course, or prefer to learn on your own?
There are many fantastic services to utilize online to improve your art.
Have you heard of Skillshare?
Skillshare is a wonderful online learning community that offers many terrific video courses on improving your art.
Beyond art, you can learn so many other valuable skills relevant to bullet journals!
Skillshare has many beneficial video courses on:
- Time Management
- Bullet Journals
- Hand Lettering
(And that’s just bullet journal related. There are still dozens of other types of classes!).
(That means you can take all the classes you want on bullet journals, other kinds of art, technology, business, cooking, health, languages, and so much more. For only $0.33 each month for the first three months**!!! New classes and workshops added daily)
**After three months, you will be billed $99 for a yearly membership. I have the yearly membership and couldn’t be happier!
2. Use a Workbook
If you prefer a system where you do it yourself at entirely your own pace, a workbook may be a little more your style.
If you’d like assistance with lettering, there are some terrific options to play with. One of my favorite Etsy accounts (GraceCalliDesigns) actually sells PDF files with hand-lettering practice sheets. What is nice about this option is you can either choose to print the files and letter by hand, or download them to a touchscreen device and practice digitally.
3. Make Time to Practice Daily
Practice the skill you want to work on for ten minutes a day.
Are you willing to sacrifice ten minutes of your day to learn something that you want to do anyway?
10 minutes at one time doesn’t really seem like that much, does it?
Well, if you do 10 minutes every day in a week, that’s an hour and ten minutes worth of practice at the end of the week.
At the end of the month, that turns into five hours worth of practice.
And at one year? 60 hours worth of practice.
Virtually two and a half days worth of time dedicated to bettering your bullet journal habit. In only one year.
For only ten minutes a day.
How you set up your bullet journal affects your ability to use it properly.
Beautiful ‘2018 Introduction’ Spread by Claire shared on Instagram!
Something I’ve noticed is people don’t consider this an issue when it comes to using bullet journals.
Let’s explore this concept a bit further.
Your Bullet Journal is a disaster.
Ok, maybe it’s not a complete disaster…
But it’s frustrating to use if there’s no sense of organization or structure to your system.
Lack of structure can cause these problems:
- Inability to find your information
- Spreads not used to the fullest potential
- Wasted space
There is a lot of value in knowing how to optimize your spreads and layouts. Thankfully, there are some pretty easy solutions!
Solutions To Fix the Problem
1. Rough Drafts
Rough drafts help with art and lettering. They also help with preventing mistakes, which is great if you feel that is something that negatively affects your ability to continue using your bullet journal regularly.
Start in pencil!!!!
The other thing rough drafts help with is space optimization.
A rough draft can help you accomplish the same amount of work in half the space.
When I started making rough drafts of my weekly spreads, I was able to cut the number of pages used for the layouts in half.
It means the life of my bullet journal is longer, too!
It’s so much fun to have a system where you can change things up all the time. I love being able to make changes when I need a fresh look.
But when starting out, constant change of bullet journal spreads isn’t always the wisest idea.
I mean, it’s one thing if a layout just plainly fails because it doesn’t meet your needs.
But if a structure is working well for you, why not keep it for another month? Another week?
Why can this be helpful?
Well, one, it’s less you have to completely change while making your next spreads.
But two, it helps you develop a better appreciation for the specific layout you’re using.
After using it for a couple of weeks (or months, if it’s a monthly layout), you will have a much more solid idea of what is working versus what is not.
3. Ask Yourself: “What Do I Like?”
You may think this is an odd suggestion to combat a messy bullet journal.
However, another common issue I’ve noticed in bullet journal communities is that people are trying to copy what other people do.
I love this style of cover page shared by vukada_bujo on Instagram!
Instead, your bullet journal should reflect who you are.
If you have a naturally minimalist style in real life, maybe cluttered and chaotic spreads aren’t your thing.
Do you understand how this could hurt your bullet journal habit?
If you don’t like it, you probably won’t want to use it as much.
It’s OK if you don’t know much about your personal style. My friend Sheena made a quiz that can help with determining your personal styles for your bullet journal.
While the quiz will not delve into the deepest layers of what you should do with your bullet journal, it’s a terrific tool to give you direction.
The other thing you can do is get acquainted with other bullet journal accounts.
There are dozens.
(Actually, there are probably thousands.)
Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a style that you like.
While I haven’t created a resource of every single account out there (oh my goodness, that would be a lifetime project!), I have highlighted 18 inspirational bullet journal accounts that I feel span a wide range of abilities and styles.
Even better, these accounts span across different formats and social media, so you can easily determine which ones will help you find your style best.
Less is More
When ANYBODY starts a new time management system, people have a tendency to go all out.
There are a lot of great tools, trackers, and layouts and no shortage of examples on the internet.
Understandably so, people are motivated, excited, and want to do whatever they can to make the best system possible.
The temptation to buy everything is REAL, man!
So they do EVERYTHING. They buy everything and dive head-first into this new activity.
Have you done that before? I have.
When I do this, I find this ‘excited motivation’ lasts about between two weeks and two months.
Then it fizzles. I get overwhelmed. The stuff piles in a corner. And ultimately, I quit.
I know people have had this issue with beginning their bullet journal habit (I’ve gotten quite a few emails).
Thankfully I’ve learned a lot of good things from my first bullet journal that I can share to help you, so let’s find a way to prevent this.
What is the Problem?
People are adding way too much to their bullet journals, which makes completing their spreads challenging and intimidating.
Eventually, they lose the desire to keep moving forward. Thus, they quit.
How do you prevent this?
Tips for Success
1. Limit How Many New Things to Try at Once
When you start developing your bullet journal habit, force yourself to (pause for dramatic effect) slowwwwww dowwwwwnnnnnnn…..
Buy only 1-2 things at a time. Add only 1-2 trackers at a time.
Get to appreciate the tools and layouts you have first.
Then, try other stuff.
Once you feel like you’ve adapted to a new system, this would be the optimal time to add in another new system or layout.
2. Optimize What You Can
When I first worked toward starting my bullet journal habit, I tried making different themes for each week.
This was frustrating because it took up SO much time.
I found a way to maintain better consistency with this challenge, while also being able to enjoy a bit of variety.
How did I accomplish this?
I went with a monthly theme instead of a weekly theme.
This was from a monthly ‘tree’ theme! Each week had something different.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I wrote a whole post on monthly themes (and even twelve ideas to get you going!).
What a monthly theme provides is a broader topic range. From there, you can select ‘sub-topics’ to give each layout a little bit of variety.
Poor Time Management
Ultimately, this is probably the most common reason people quit while developing a bullet journal habit.
I’ve noticed a lot of people turn to bullet journals as a time management tool because other methods haven’t been effective.
They see the bullet journal as a creative, flexible tool that can virtually ‘solve their problems’.
Yet, this isn’t fully realistic. Here is why that is.
What’s the Problem?
People believe that the bullet journal will solve time management woes.
You still have to put in the effort!
Bullet journals are a terrific, creative tool to help improve time management.
But the bullet journal system alone isn’t what will solve your time management problems.
I’m guessing that you are visiting Planning Mindfully because conventional systems aren’t really your thing.
(That’s ok! They aren’t mine, either!)
Here are some of the tactics I’ve utilized that have helped me develop time management proficiency and helped to make the bullet journal habit stick!
Tips for Success
1. Use the Bullet Journal to Learn About Yourself
The concept of knowing thyself applies here… if you don’t know your personal tendencies; it can be a lot more difficult to pinpoint problems related to poor time management.
If you don’t have one, I’d really recommend a habit tracker.
2. Acceptance of Self
If you are less structured than you’d prefer, there’s no sense in beating yourself up and trying to be something you are not. That said, you can be less organized and still utilize time management well.
(I mean, if I can, so can you!)
One of the most powerful tools that helped me was to remember that the concept of needing to be perfect to be a ‘planner’ is just stigma.
You are amazing the way you are.
The fact that you have socks under the kitchen table, or you haven’t put laundry away for a month does NOT mean you can’t plan.
Do not let anybody tell you otherwise.
3. Determine What is Holding You Back
If you’ve explored the other problems (and solutions) and feel like your biggest issue is related to poor time management skills, have you asked yourself ‘Why’?
What is causing you trouble?
Try this: Sit in a quiet room for 10 minutes. I’d like you to have a piece of paper (or, even make a bullet journal spread for reference later). Write down how you’d like your bullet journal to improve your time management. Write down your expectations.
Make sure to leave a few lines of space below each item you write down.
When your ten minutes are up, I’d like you to stay where you are at.
Reset that timer for another ten minutes.
This time I want you to go through each point you’ve written down. Underneath, jot down what you feel prevents you from accomplishing your expectations.
Once you determine what holds you back, then you can try to find tools to help you work through it.
Read below to get the tools that correspond with potential flaws in time management.
4. Explore Time Management Tools
There are lots of great tools to improve time management!
There are tons of great time management tools, systems, and apps that can help aid in your bullet journal and productivity journey. Here are a few that I utilize to make my life better.
Trello is a terrific board tool that makes spacing out your projects and to-do lists more manageable. Many people, including my friend Megan at Page Flutter, use Trello and Bullet Journals to optimize their organization system.
I LOVE Trello.
While I’m currently working on an article on how I make this work with my bullet journal, it’s also another free tool that’s amazing for breaking down long-term goals.
Workflowy looks almost like a plain word document with bullets (perfect for the bullet journal!). You can take a task in one bullet, then add a ‘sub-bullet’ underneath it. And you can make sub-bullets for the sub-bullets.
I love it because it helps me break down future goals and tasks into smaller chunks, which is an AMAZING productivity tool.
You get 100 bullets free (per month) at sign up, but Planning Mindfully users can get 150 bullets free per month signing up from this link here!
Ok, this isn’t actually so much a time management book. It’s really a book that can change your perceptions when it comes to doing things that you don’t want to do.
It follows the concepts used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This strategy helps users learn to handle unpleasant feelings and sensations instead of avoiding or overreacting. It helps you look at learning skills and doing activities as a small step to the bigger picture of what you want to accomplish in life.
This book was coincidentally introduced to me while I was starting my bullet journal in October 2016. In all honesty, it’s helped me push through challenging times and the concepts help me work through bullet journal problems.
Even when the last thing I wanted to do was use my bullet journal.
Ok, please don’t eat a frog! It’s a metaphor!
You don’t want to eat me?!?!
This time management book is based on the phrase by Mark Twain:
“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
I love that this book is real with you in that there is just no way you are going to complete everything on your list of things to do. A lot of people who struggle with time management believe that somebody who is good with time management will get everything on their list done.
That isn’t so.
What this book strives to do is to help you prioritize your task list, so that you can do what really needs to be done instead of focusing on tasks that do not get you anywhere.
I think the concept of the book is straightforward.
Why I promote this book over other books that teach similar concepts is because the breakdown of techniques is very bullet journal friendly.
You’ll probably notice some similar tools such as in ‘Eat that Frog’, but I believe this is the book that helps with putting the tools into practice.
Practice that be applied to your bullet journal spreads.
The other thing I like is, much like the Happiness Trap, this book is great at helping you apply the concepts from a ‘big picture’ viewpoint.
Creative thinkers need to know why they should do things. They don’t want to do things because people tell them to.
Mindfulness = Better Bullet Journal Habit
Starting a brand new bullet journal is very exciting and very fun. You can find success, even if you aren’t initially good with time management!
I believe in you!!!
The secret to a successful long-term bullet journal habit, however, is being mindful of the common challenges described above AND actively utilizing the tips to overcome them.
If you aren’t willing to fix the problems, you aren’t going to succeed. It’s as simple as that.
Thankfully, you’re at the right place to help guide you.
Not to mention, you are also taking positive strides by taking the time to fully read through this article because you want to be successful.
Way to go!!!
Sometimes, though, you may need additional help and guidance to guarantee success! And that’s why I said you’re at the right place!
You have me to help.
The fastest way I can help is for you to join the Planning Mindfully email list.
You get everything I have to offer ahead of anybody else:
- Blog Posts
- Helpful information NOT found on the blog
- AND firsthand access to ALL future e-books and courses
The fastest way to do this is to sign up below.
After you sign up, I’d love to hear what strategies you are using to ensure your bullet journal habit will stick!!!
Are you already using some of the concepts I’ve discussed above?
Or are you doing something completely different?
Explain what you are doing in the comments, so you can help other people who struggle with time management!
If this helped you stick to your bullet journal habit,
help others by sharing on Pinterest!