I love talking to y’all about your bullet journals. It’s always great to hear about how you found the bujo, what you track in it, or just to trade ideas and strategies. That said, I’ve noticed that for a lot of people (myself included!) bullet journals became a source of anxiety. From cutting out messed-up pages to editing Instagram photos, the bujo community has a lot of pressure to be perfect, and that stresses me out from time to time.
So I let it go. Here’s what worked for me – and some ideas that might work for you:
Tips to Soothe Your Bujo Anxiety
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Let Go of Expectations
This is my first and most important reminder: your bullet journal, your spreads, your handwriting – they’re all yours. If you spend time and effort trying to make them look like someone else’s, you’ll probably disappoint yourself. Not because you can’t pull off that cool thing you saw, but because you’ll always be looking at your work critically.
If you’re feeling anxious about your bullet journal, your first move should always be to take a deep breath and let go of pressure. This is for you! Your bujo should help you, and you should enjoy making it. When it gets to be a stressful challenge, rather than a fun one, you know it’s time for a change.
(I promise, the other tips are more grounded!)
Warm Up Your Handwriting
It may not be that taxing, but writing is a physical activity, too. And that means you can “warm up” for a better performance. I always find that taking some time to write and doodle on a spare sheet of paper improves my handwriting a lot when I finally start writing in my journal. For adding daily tasks or quick notes, I don’t bother, but for big spread titles and headers, jotting down a few sentences beforehand really helps.
On the flip side, your hand can and will get tired, especially if you’re anxious and tense. So while setting up your spreads well in advance might feel rewarding, beware and achy, cramping writing hand if you spend too long.
And if you do make mistakes, there are always…
These were novelty items back in my middle school days, but for the bullet journalist, they could be indispensable. If you love the bold inked lines of pens but are worried about mistakes – or just change your mind a lot – an erasable pen gives you the best of both worlds.
Of course, those novelty middle school erasable pens weren’t of very high quality. A lot of times, the ink was more smudged than erased, or the eraser shredded the page. So while that pack of dollar-aisle erasable pens might be tempting from a price standpoint, keep an eye on quality. I did some research on consumer rating sites and it seems like the Pilot FriXion line of erasable pens is well-loved by stationery enthusiasts.
Whatever brand you go with, be sure to test your erasable pen on an inconspicuous page in your bujo, so you know just how well the eraser works!
This seems kind of disingenuous. If you’re worried about your bujo, do you really want to risk someone else’s judgement?
The answer is yes. When I pulled out my bullet journal in my college courses, I always noticed people eyeing it. The ones who speak up are always in awe, no matter how crappy my spread looks that week. One of the main reasons people don’t start bullet journals is that they’re afraid they don’t have the time or talent to make one. As someone with very little time and no artistic talent, I can say for a fact that they’re wrong. But it doesn’t make your bujo any less impressive, and sometimes a little outside affirmation can do wonders.
If you don’t have any public places to casually show off in, I actually made a list of my favorite bullet journal Facebook groups, where you can meet a supportive community. I’ve even started one myself, dedicated to support and encouragement, called Bujo Bootcamp!
Make Your Straightedge Work For It
Things I have used as a straightedge while bullet journaling:
- A ruler I got in fifth grade
- A book of critical essays on Back to the Future
- Another journal’s cover
- A birthday card from my uncle
- A Starbucks giftcard
I own an abundance of straight-edged items that I can use for bullet journaling, but all of them could do more. (Even the ruler!)
Currently in the mail: A multipurpose straightedge tool like this one. It’s new, and has a single purpose. I can use it for angles, circles, octagons, hexagons, and even heptagons if needed. It was inexpensive, I’m sure you local office store has something similar, and it’ll keep me from scavenging in my junk drawer, looking for a tool.
Make Something New
Nothing boosts your confidence like solving a problem, so if you’re feeling down on yourself and your ~mad bujo skillz~, think up a new spread or tracker that you’d like to try and start drafting a layout.
Use scrap paper or trace lightly in pencil to test out spacing and line placement, and think about how much room you’ll need for each section. Search the internet for inspiration if you’d like. But focus on making something that’s uniquely yours, even if it incorporates other people’s ideas.
This is a great time to try new accents – incorporating more washi tape, doing your first Dutch door, or even a little handlettering wouldn’t be amiss here. The point is to change things up, shake yourself out of your comfort zone, and ditch the little voice in the back of your head that thinks you’re not good enough.
Once you’ve got a new, functional idea, ink and admire it. It doesn’t have to be #flawless, just a step in the right direction. There’s something really satisfying about looking at a new spread or tracker and thinking “I made this, by myself and for myself.”
Your Bullet Journal Shouldn’t Be Stressful
If you can’t put pen to paper without a few deep breaths, I get it – I’ve been there. But remember, this is a tool that help you get more done! If making it beautiful and artistic makes you happy, then you should go for it. But your bujo is your own. There are no rules to break.
So relax, focus in, and get stuff done. No pressure, no stress.
(Psst – if you want to join a supportive community of low-pressure bullet journalists, I’ve started a Facebook community called Bujo Bootcamp that might be perfect for you!)