There are many articles to be found across the internet on how to best use your bullet journal full of great advice. One of the topics I haven’t seen mentioned a whole lot, is how great bullet journaling can be for when you don’t have anything to add to it.
Now, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a bullet journaling failure when you don’t keep up with it for a day, or a week, or even a whole month or more. I’ve personally fallen into that trap over and over again. But I think it’s time to address the positives of these time lapses and how great bullet journaling actually is in creating a planning space that isn’t dependent on continuously maintaining it.
Accidental v. Purposeful Breaks
When you look at why you haven’t written in your journal for a while, often times you’ll find you didn’t do it on purpose. Maybe you didn’t have enough time to get your journal out for a few days. Maybe you have been dealing with a creative block or anxiety around journaling that makes it hard to go back to it after a few days or weeks. No matter the reason, an accidental break from your journal can be the hardest type to come back from. I’ve felt all kinds of things when I’ve skipped out on journaling for a while: embarrassment, failure, anxiety to name a few.
Purposeful breaks are different. Whether you’re taking a vacation, have a school break, or some other pre-planned event, it can be really nice to put your journal down for a while. Sometimes it’s to fully experience something without the added stress of journaling and other times you just won’t have anything major to keep track of. The nice thing with planned or purposeful breaks? They usually come without the negativity because you are giving yourself permission to take that break.
Bullet Journals are Best for Breaks
If I’m being honest, I take breaks in my journal all the time and most of them fall in the ‘accidental’ category. It can feel like you might as well just give up on journaling after a break, because it obviously hasn’t been working, right? I’ve found that isn’t really the right outlook at all! One of my favorite parts of bullet journaling, and something that I like to share with everyone interested in starting the system out for themselves, is that bullet journals are 100% customizable. That doesn’t just mean you can choose your layouts, style, and color scheme, but also how you manage your time and how often you use it.
The top reason I decided to try out bullet journaling back in March of 2016? I was tired of using a planner that I spent $$ on and never filling in all the pages. Planners that I used in college would be empty for weeks during my holiday breaks. The planner I used when I started working would be empty for weeks when I got busy with work and didn’t have a whole lot to keep track of in my personal life. When I started a bullet journal in a blank notebook, I no longer had to worry about skipping pages and pages of pre-printed calendar space.
How to Continue After a Break
When you’re break is over, it can be overwhelming trying to get started again. “Just do it!” may be the easy answer when you are wondering how to restart, but sometimes it isn’t that easy. Especially when your breaks are unplanned, but even if your coming back to your journal after a nice vacation, it can be a good idea to stop and reassess what is working and what isn’t. Sometimes you lapse in journal entries because your current system is too complicated for your current situation. The end of a break is a great time to do some thinking about which parts of your journaling process are truly helpful and which parts are actually making the process harder for you. It’s like trying to do a root-cause-analysis on why you stopped journaling in the first place.
If you’ve found some things that you realize you’d like to change in your journaling, make sure to move into them slowly. Try things out for a day or a week. Don’t get ahead of yourself and prep for months of journaling when you haven’t proven that it’s a system you’ll keep up with. But also feel free to try new things. Bullet journals are flexible, so you can try something out for a single day and drop it if it doesn’t work. Pretty journals are nice, but functional journals are better!
My biggest piece of advice, though, is to cut yourself some slack. It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you didn’t mean to take a break. It’s easy to push yourself too hard when you get back from a vacation and have so many things to catch up on. Your journal is a tool that is meant to help you plan your way through life. It isn’t supposed to stress you out, it’s supposed to do the opposite. If you find yourself more stressed from journaling than other things in your life, maybe it’s time to take a break, reassess, and come back a stronger planner with a clearer mind.
Have you ever taken a break from journaling? How did you get back into it? Or did you give up all together because you felt you couldn't make it last?