5 Newbie Bullet Journal Mistakes I’ve Made!

Ah Bullet Journalling: finally a hobby that can be both incredibly useful, and, incredibly soothing – well, until I make a mistake, and then I pretty much want to throw the blasted thing out the window. Literally. Before I tell you about the mistakes I’ve made (already), let me just say that this is not a “mistakes I’ve made, so you don’t have to” type of a post, because if you take up bullet journalling (or any other new hobby) you ARE going to make mistakes, that’s just part of the learning experience. Instead, I wanted to write a post just to share what did go wrong for me – because, trust me, I was completely blindsided by some of these issues – just as some food for thought for other new Journal-ers, and also to try and lighten the mood a bit about some of these sorts of mistakes, ‘cos like I said, it’s normal to make them… but it’s still pretty soul destroying to spend several hours on a spread only to realise it is in fact April, not May. Yeah.

a close up photo of some of my pen testing in my Bullet Journal

1. I didn’t test my pens PROPERLY

I mean, I did test them, of course, just not well as it turns out. I diligently assigned the back couple of pages of my book as a testing space, and I took the time to take every pen I own and draw a line with it to check for bleeding and ghosting – sounds good, right? Well, as it turns out, there’s a difference between quickly drawing a thin line with a pen and using a pen to “colour in”  – even if that is just doing a thicker line, or filling in a box on a tracker. What I discovered, was that I owned plenty of pens that I could quickly draw, or write lines with, but actually very few that could be used for shading or blocking in colour – but boy, did I learn this one the hard way!

Flicking through my Bullet Journal

2. I left pages blank that I was going to absolutely, definitely come back and do, like, any day now

I had read warnings about this before I started; about the importance of not pre-allocating pages and of making assumptions about future content. But it was fine, I KNEW I was going to want this spread, I KNEW I was going to do it just in a couple of days or something. Yeah it wasn’t fine, I didn’t do that spread, and I still have blank pages near the start of my journal.

One of the great things about the Bullet Journal system, is that, thanks to the indexing system, you don’t need to plan the page-allocation of your entire book out beforehand – if you decide you want a new tracker, you can just pop it in between months. But in my head I just really thought I would try and guess at what all my annual trackers would be and place them all at the start of the book, because it would be prettier. Yeah, random blank pages are not “prettier” as it turns out.

a close up of a spread I badly designed

3. I didn’t consider how much functional space I actually needed on a page

When I first started setting up page layouts, I was so focused on the aesthetic – on making them look cute and complete, and well put together, that sometimes I seemed to just totally disregard what I actually needed to use the space for. This went both ways – some pages I have masses of space when I only needed a few lines here and there, and other pages I’m now sitting trying to write three sentences in a space roughly the size of a postage stamp *sigh*.

A stack of journals

4. I didn’t trust my gut enough and I did all the pages I should do

Obviously the core bullet journal system is very well thought out, and used by a lot of people, but, one of the most amazing things about bullet journalling is its adaptability and flexibility. When I started out doing my journal I diligently included the year planner page… even though, thanks to crippling anxiety and depression, I don’t have any friends and therefore no weddings or dinners or parties to attend. (not feeling sorry for myself here, but it is nevertheless true). We aren’t taking any vacations or trips this year due to Kenny finishing off university and my cat now being at a stage where she can’t readily be left with other folks so easily… so yeah, not really a whole lot to mark on that page. At all. Probably should have just trusted my instincts there and saved myself the time!

Flicking through my Bullet Journal

5. I Didn’t check layout consistency from one page to the next: there’s so many things to think about,  it can be hard to get it all running smoothly at first.

Starting learning to Bullet Journal is a bit like starting to learn to drive, at least here in the UK anyway. You come up to a roundabout and when you’re new at it, it seems like there’s 1000 things to think about and you can’t autopilot any of it, so you’re trying to actually not hit any other cars, handle the clutch, time your move and have the correct speed crossing the roundabout (and don’t hit IT either), all while remembering to change gears appropriately and to mirror, signal, manoeuvre. At first, it’s a lot. Well, I think Bullet Journal layouts are the same – at first it’s hard to get your writing styles looking consistently the same, to have the same line intensity, same shading, same portions of the page divided up for different things  – it’s quite likely that you’re going to drop the ball on at least one of those things and “screw it up” a bit. Fortunately, like driving, you soon become more able to auto-pilot things, and fortunately unlike driving you don’t run the risk of killing someone in the meantime.

So those are just some of the “mistakes” I’ve made in my Bullet Journal already! I’m looking forward to making many more as I continue on this learning journey. Let me know down in the comments below if you use the Bullet Journal system – what did you find most difficult at the beginning? Do you have any tips for me?

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