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My Bullet Journal FAIL

My Bullet Journal FAIL.... What to Do (and NOT Do) When Setting Up Your First Bullet Journal!Have you ever been so convinced that something would be a game changer for you, only to fail miserably with it?? This was how I felt when I set up my first “BuJo”, a.k.a. Bullet Journal. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic…. my bullet journal didn’t actually end up in the recycle bin, although it came very close!

I’m a “learn by doing” kind of person, which for me involves learning by making lots of mistakes! So I’m here to share my bullet journaling adventure with you, with the hope that you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did and your bullet journal can get off to a strong start, should you decide to try one!

What is a Bullet Journal?


A bullet journal is basically a personalized notebook/organizer that can be as minimalist or as decorative as you like. It can be a combination to-do list, calendar, journal, sketchbook, habit tracker, seasonal bucket list, and place to collect ideas, inspirations, books you want to read, favorite quotes, birthdays, and more. The beauty of the bullet journal lies in its ability to be customized to meet your unique needs and to keep everything you want to remember in one place.

Most anyone could benefit from using some form of a bullet journal. If you have many diverse things you want to keep track of and/or make progress on, you might consider giving it a try! Teachers, parents, and creative people in all walks of life have found bullet journaling to be an indispensable aid for keeping their life on track!

What You’ll Need…. the Essentials

1. Some Inspiration

If you’re a true minimalist, check out this video by Ryder Carroll, the creator of the very first bullet journal. If you’re more artistic than minimalist, you can find an endless array of bullet journal eye candy on Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube. Lots of really creative people do “flip-throughs” of their bullet journals on YouTube, which can be both inspiring and intimidating!

2. A Plan

If this is your first bullet journal, you’ll need to give some thought to how you want to use it, what’s important for you to include, and how simple or decorative you want it to be. To do this, it’s helpful to look at what others have done (see above). But be prepared… you’ll have a lot of decisions to make, from layout to lettering styles, and beyond. The good news is, you’re starting with a blank slate and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The bad news is…. all those decisions! But if you expect that going in, you won’t be discouraged if it takes a little work to get your bullet journal ready for use.

3. A Notebook

This can be any form of paper collected inside a cover. You don’t need to get carried away with a special notebook if you’re just checking this out. While a dot grid paper is the clear favorite of most bullet journalists, plain, lined, dot grid, or regular graph paper will all work.

4. A Pen

It’s helpful to choose a pen (or pens) that won’t bleed through your paper, since you’ll be writing on both the front and back of each page. Buy your notebook first, then test your pens on one of the pages to check for “ghosting” (that’s when your writing shows through on the other side).

I made a lot of mistakes with my first bullet journal, but these supplies were among the things I did RIGHT!
I made a lot of mistakes with my first bullet journal, but these supplies were among the things I did RIGHT!

Starting a bullet journal? I Recommend….

In Case of Emergency…. use Tombow Correction Tape to fix those pesky misspellings and other minor problems. For bigger challenges, you can cover entire pages with Rhodia Dot Paper (assuming you have dot grid paper in your journal) adhered with YES! PasteRhodia Dot Paper is great for setting up “practice pages”, too, allowing you to experiment more freely.

4 Things You Can Learn From My “BuJo Fail”


1. Embrace imperfection.

I loved all the bullet journal inspiration I found on the internet, but the perfectionist in me became paralyzed by all the possibilities, which made it harder than it had to be to get started. So get inspired, take a few notes and maybe some screen shots, and then just go for it. Try to have the mindset that your BuJo is a work in progress. And don’t be a perfectionist!

2. Create as you go.

If you watch many Bullet Journal videos on YouTube, you’ll be sure to hear people advising you not to layout your entire year in advance. They’re right. And I didn’t listen. Now I’m stuck with weekly pages for months from now that I’ve found a better way to do, but can’t change…. because I’ve already created the whole year’s worth – in ink. Lesson learned. If you need a general idea of where things will be, you could use Post-It notes to plan the location of various pages, or even just lightly scribble some notes in pencil.

3. Make it work.

I ended up with a few unfortunate pages that I just couldn’t live with. I was already unhappy with how things were going, so this was nearly the kiss of death for my poor BuJo. But this was also the point where I decided that no matter how far below my personal standard of craftsmanship this bullet journal fell, I was going to use it and learn from it, and do it better next year. The bullet journal concept holds too much promise to risk bailing out too soon.

So I cut some paper from my Rhodia Dot Pad and used YES! Paste to glue the replacement paper in place over the offending ugliness. If you use an old credit card or gift card to spread the YES! Paste, it will cover the paper without leaving any gaps and will dry nice and flat. You’ll (almost) forget there was ever a problem! For smaller mistakes, the correction tape is a life saver. It completely covers the ink and there’s no waiting for it to dry, so you can write over it right away.

4. Have realistic expectations.

On the surface, my first bullet journal felt like a failure to me…. you won’t be seeing any flip-throughs with my BuJo on YouTube! But I did do a few things right. Most importantly, I started. And I’m using it. As a result, I’m already getting ideas for how to make next year’s bullet journal better. When it comes to bullet journaling, don’t expect to “nail it” on your first try.

Experimenting and trying different things is the best way to learn what works for you. Keep in mind that the most important feature of your bullet journal is its usefulness to you. If how it looks gets in the way of it being functional, you may be missing out on the very best thing about bullet journaling. I hope you’ll find, as I did, that this is a resource that’s worth investing your time, and your mistakes, into!

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