2023 marks the 5th year of my bullet journaling practice and I’m glad to say that I’ve come a long, long way with it. I came across this technique in my 3rd year of college, back when I was having a really difficult time managing it all. I tested it out for a month in the December of 2018 and I fell in love with it. From 2019 onwards, I started out with my yearly spreads and set up my first-ever bullet journal. Since then, I’ve learned something about it each year and I’ve definitely become a better, more organised person because of that.
But as it the case with everything in the world, the light is always accompanied by its shadow. Last December, I learnt that there is such a thing as too much bullet journaling. I had been going through a particularly testing period in my life. At this point, I simply needed to be and needed to live. In this case, documenting my life was doing me more harm than good. So, I decided to step back and quit bullet journaling for a month. It was difficult at first, to abandon a practice that I had grown to depend on for the last 4 years. But with time, I was able to let go of it better and in hindsight, I’m really glad I did it! In 2023, I was able to pick up the practice with a whole new perspective and with a healthier mindset.
Here are a few things I’ve learned by quitting bullet journaling for 30 days.
1. It is simply a tool
When you’ve done something for a long time, say 4 years, it becomes a part of your identity. It is difficult, at times, to separate it from yourself and view it as something external. While the practice of bullet journaling has done me more good than harm, I had definitely begun to associate myself with it. It was an integral part of my identity and I couldn’t view myself without it. Quitting it for 30 days helped me realise that it is simply a tool for my use. It is a part of my life which is separate from me. This realisation was freeing in its own sense.
2. You don’t need to document everything all the time
I love adding trackers and logs to my bullet journal. It lets me get an objective view of my own life, helping me chart my progress. Little did I know that there were times when this could stop being useful for me. My therapist says that after your brain gets very used to certain practices, they can lose their utility. That is a good point to step away from that practice and let your brain reset. The same happened to me. While I noticed a big change in my outlook towards life after I initially started maintaining a gratitude log, I also noticed that it didn’t impact me as much a year down the line. The same was the case with my habit trackers. They were no longer indicators of my consistency but were now merely functioning as unnecessary reminders of the habits I had failed to build up over time. But given the state that I was in, it was unrealistic to expect myself to continue with these habits in the first place. Pausing this for 30 days let me be more empathetic towards myself.
3. You can tweak the practice according to your needs
Over the years, I had taken my time to build up layer upon layer in my bullet journaling practice. I had developed my own complex system that worked for me perfectly when I was thriving. However, I hadn’t paid much heed to the fact that these systems might be overwhelming to the low-energy, restful seasons of my life. I had almost become too rigid with the way I was setting up my monthly bullet journal to make room for the variations in my life. It narrowed my perspective of looking at things since I was used to looking at everything from a point where everything worked perfectly. Quitting bullet journaling for 30 days let me see the flaws in my too-rigid, too-perfect system and let me adopt a kinder approach towards it.
4. Flexibility is the key to longevity
Change is the only constant, as I am constantly reminded by life. You have to adapt in order to survive. That means being flexible and accommodating with everything that you do. The same principle can be applied to bullet journaling. I had this set system: A cover page, goals and affirmations page, monthly calendar, gratitude log, habit and health trackers and then my weekly spreads. I had been following this pattern for several months and never did I stop to see if this was still working out for me. The 30-day break allowed me a fresher perspective. I was able to recognise that in January, I don’t really want to track any habits because I simply want to restart the practice. Now, for February, I have been flexible enough to add a weekly gratitude log instead of a daily one! That video is coming out next week! The lesson here is that, in order to sustain this practice and make it work for me, I had to learn to be flexible with it.
5. Taking breaks from it is also healthy
Consistency is very important while getting into bullet journaling. And since I loved it so much, I was able to stay pretty consistent with it for 4 straight years. I missed a week at best and used it daily otherwise. I would be too harsh on myself for skipping this practice since I knew how beneficial it was. But this mindset was a little judgemental and harsh. Taking a break from it reminded me of how important breaks are. I am a huge proponent of taking regular breaks from everything and it's ironic how I let myself down when it came to bullet journaling. After this month-long break, I am certain that I will be more compassionate with myself. There will certainly be seasons in my life where I’ll need to step away from bullet journaling and from here on, I will be able to accept those times better.
It’s funny how these small things in life teach you all the big lessons. I have learned a lot through my 4 year-long journey of bullet journalling and also through my month-long break. I am embarking on this 5th year with a renewed spirit. I am more open to exploring new ways of setting up my bullet journal and being more spontaneous with it. Whether you bullet journal or not, I hope you found some take-aways from this blog post.