Bullet Journal

How I Began Bullet Journaling – Failed At It – Then Mastered It

Hello to my Bullet Journal Junkies out there!

I have gone through quite an up and down journey with bullet journaling until I finally got it. Some fails were due to tools I was using. Some were due to being over extravagant and competing with other bullet journals. And some were due to carelessness and not making sure I was making the most out of bullet journaling for me.

That’s right. For me. I hit every button to emphasize that phrase because bullet journaling is for yourself. It doesn’t have to be the prettiest thing in the world. It needs to be functional for you and what you want to get out of it.

Some people want/need to have extravagant posts because it brings pride, it helps with stress, it can lead to business, it brightens up their day and makes them smile when they look at it, etc.

Some people want a minimalism spread that simply tells you what is happening in the day, when it is happening and what tasks are associated with their day. End of story. And that is fine. Because that is all they need out of their bullet journal.

This is the time of aesthetic and design I’ve decided to incorporate into my bullet journal. And it does not take a lot of time for me to do so. Aside from my more extensive spread (the weight loss tracker – which I will be doing a future post about so stay tuned!), I spend 30 minutes on Sunday and 10-15 minutes every other day of the week to maintain my spread and keep it functional for me.


So, now to get into my story.

I started bullet journaling after seeing spreads from Kara (@boho.berry) around June of 2016. I was hooked. I knew I needed a planner because I took on a lot of different coordinator positions at work and needed a way to keep track of them all and the tasks associated with each of them. I found a dotted Moleskin journal at my local Target, got some fineliners and went to work. And at first, it really did work. I found a spread I liked, I tracked all of my tasks and meetings and it was functional.

Then I did what most of you probably do – searched Pinterest, Instagram hashtags and Facebook groups for inspiration on other things I wanted to track and create spreads for. I didn’t even need most the spreads I started adding – I added them to simply add them and try them on for size. I also ran into the problem that most of the designs I was trying to use, I had to make a lot of adjustments for because they were in a Moleskin. And I do not want to bash Moleskin at all. They have good products. But I was using smaller than an A5 and it absolutely did not work for me with everything I was trying to add.

So here are a few things I did that caused me to fail and give up for months:

  • Added large-scale trackers (on things that I didn’t even need to track just because I wanted to fill spaces)
  • Was not using my ruler the correct way and got frustrated with smudging (here is the way you should be using a ruler FYI)
  • Used a bullet journal that was not sized well to meet my design needs for my spreads (A5 is working well for me now. But you may need a full notebook to meet your needs! You do you!)
  • Added spread for things I wasn’t going to do – and I knew I wasn’t going to do (For example, I don’t really got out to the movies. But I DO binge-watch on Netflix. So, I did not need a movie spread and should have substituted out for TV series I want to watch) 
  • Spent too much time designing a spread, rather than filling it with tasks/meetings/appointments (which you remember was the entire purpose of starting my bullet journal)
  • Started designing a new spread every week (if it works, why spend more time than you have creating something new?)
  • Threw my soft paper-cover notebook around like a rag doll (and destroyed an entire notebook during a rainstorm)
  • I was doing daily pages spreads that made me duplicate my work from my weekly (again, this was totally a personal preference and dailies can be extremely useful for people who are not me)

Ok. So, the ultimate question:

Why did I go back to bullet journaling after such a roller coaster experience? 

Easy. I was overwhelmed at work. The same thing that got me into it in the first place! And on top of that, I started advancing in my lettering, selling more pieces due to the Christmas rush, and was on the brink of transitioning my hobby into business.

I bought a notebook to do rapid logs in until I got back on track. Unfortunately, that notebook, while very affordable and pretty, did not have grids. So again, I started spending a little too much time on designing spreads and measuring things out to be even.

So, a few weeks ago, I finally went out and got the notebook of my dreams – Scribbles That Matter. And I have to say. I love this thing. It ticks off so many things I needed out of a notebook.

  •  It is aesthetically pleasing
  • It has a hard cover
  • It is bound very well and an elastic band that isn’t flimsy
  • It has 2 ribbons where I can mark my monthly spread and my current spread for the week
  • It has a place for a key, color code and several pages for an index
  • It has a cute expandable pocket in the back
  • It is an A5 and dotted which were both very important to me
  • The pages are numbered to help index
  • The ghosting is minimal if any

But it wasn’t only the journal that I decided to change. It was my design aesthetic. I didn’t want something too in your face. But I wanted something slightly more colorful than a monochromatic minimal spread. So I decided what I liked the most, and started using it and started keeping more consistency between my spreads so it looks like a collection from the same person, working on the same things, week in and week out.

However, I do still like to incorporate small variations. And it is still important for me to try out new things! Because who knows, it could work better for me! For example, I would like to start planning out my day in advance, so I am going to incorporate a small time tracker to help me plan my day. Will it work? I have no clue. But I’m willing to try it for a week.

I guess what I am trying to say throughout this post about bullet journaling is that it doesn’t have to be about all of the flashy spreads. It can be! But it doesn’t have to be. If you are a working mom who only has 20 minutes – you can bullet journal. If you are a manager at a company with a lot of workers that you delegate to – you can bullet journal. If you are a college student – you can bullet journal (and I seriously wish I knew about this when I was a student!) If you don’t have time to write out spreads, you can for sure get a pre-made planner and incorporate different bullet journaling ideas into your planner!

Do it for you. And do what is functional and helps you get through your day!

Stay creative and journal away!

Erin Floto

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