Do you ever look at those impressive pictures and videos of fully-filled journal spreads and trackers online, only to catch yourself thinking “why don’t my layouts look that full?”, or “how do they stay so motivated to use their journals?”. There are plenty of reasons as to why you might be finding keeping up with your journal difficult, but have no fear! There are things you can do right now to help yourself stay consistent in your journal and to achieve what you want from this system.
How does one even?
Hi team! Jess or JashiiCorrin from YouTube / Instagram here talking about how to keep up with your bullet journal practice. I’ve been with the bullet journal system for a little over 5 years, but I haven’t always used it consistently. I’ve had slumps, periods of demotivation, and a point where I considered switching out of the system altogether (looking at you 2020...). Through this though, I’ve learnt quite a bit about what we can do to keep up with our journals.
As part of our conversation about keeping up with your journal, I used the equipment below to carry out our reflection process. Remember you can use my code JASHIICORRIN10 for 10% off your orders at Archer and Olive!
Rather watch, then read? For a quick overview on how to keep up with your bullet journal, check out the video below!
Time to reflect
Reflection is a hugely powerful tool when done in a meaningful way, and we can use it here to get to the root of our journal consistency struggles. The reflection we’re going to be doing can be broken up into several parts, namely the purpose, the intention, and the execution. Were these words selected because they spell out P.I.E? Yes.
Our first step is to identify what your purpose for this journal is. Why are you keeping it, and what are you trying to achieve through doing that? There is a chance you might be trying to use your journal in a way that doesn’t align with this purpose, making it difficult for you to keep up with using the journal. You might be including spreads and trackers in your journal that don’t lend themselves to the journal fulfilling its purpose, meaning you’re spending time and energy on things that may not actually be important to you.
To help start your purpose brainstorming, people will commonly use journals as:
- A task list
- A place plan and track their progress towards their goals
- A creative outlet
- A memory-keeping system
These are just some ideas, but the process of clearly defining your ‘why’ can also help motivate you to stay consistent in your journal. If you think this would be the case, I’d encourage you to select one powerful reason for you to be keeping this journal. You could even write this reason in an easily referenceable place in your journal for when you need to remind yourself of this in the future.
In this section of our reflection process, it’s time to consider what “keeping up” means to you. What does this look like in terms of what you do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis? What does the end result of your consistency in your journal look like?
An additional thing to consider when reflecting on your intentions for your journal is why you consider “keeping up” to look that way. Again, having a meaningful reason behind why you want to stay consistent in your journal is going to help you reach that level of consistency.
Once you know the purpose of your journal and what you consider consistency to look like, it’s time to see how these line up with your current reality. How does your current execution of your journaling practice align with the purpose and intentions you have for it? Is the time and energy you’re spending on your journal actually going towards the purpose that you specified for it? An example of this would be if you’re using your journal as a creative outlet, but none of the setups you’re using allow you to exercise that creativity.
In this stage of the reflection, you should also consider other things that are contributing to you not keeping up with your journal. While these reasons will be different for each individual person, some common examples include:
- Finding filling in your journal overwhelming, boring, or tiresome
- Not having the time to use it
- Not having layouts that actually suit your needs
- Not liking the way your journal looks
The more specific you can be about the reasons why you're not keeping up with your journal, the easier it will be to find solutions. Make sure to take the time you need to get to the root of this issue!
As we said, reflection can be a really powerful tool if you take the time to be honest with yourself about the prompts above. I’ve also summarised these into a handy printable that you can use any time you feel yourself stumbling with consistency in your journal.
A way forward
Once you’ve reflected on the role you want your journal to fill, what “keeping up” looks like to you, and the reasons behind not meeting that expectation, it’s time to plan how we’re going to tackle the problem. Take some time to brainstorm possible solutions to the reasons you identified for not keeping up with your journal. While there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to keeping up with your journal, below I’ve outlined some ideas to help you get started.
I’m not keeping up with my journal because...
It’s too much
There's a lot of different journal inspiration out there, and especially when you're just getting started it can be really easy to cram your monthly setups full with a whole bunch of different layouts. Some of these layouts may end up being super helpful, but there will likely also be ones that you don’t find as useful. When it comes to actually filling in your journal, it can then be kind of overwhelming having to keep up with that many pages. One solution to this is to limit the number of layouts you're setting up each month so that keeping up with your journal becomes easier.
You don’t have time to use it
The problem of not having enough time is one that I can very much relate to, but I also consider this to be a multifaceted issue. Is the reason that you don't have time to work in your journal:
- Because you don't have scheduled time for it in your day,
- Because your actual journaling practice takes too long for the time you currently have available, or
- Because you genuinely have no spare time in your day.
While the third one will likely need a fair bit more of a look at than the reflection we’re doing here today, one of the ways you can address this issue is just to make your journaling practice more simple. Some examples of this would be making your layouts easier to fill in, or having less pages to keep up with.
It’s too complicated
Following that idea of simplicity, sometimes the reason we're not keeping up with our journal is because we've made the pages too much of a chore to fill in. People are much less likely to do things that they find tedious, so if you make filling in your journal too difficult, this will make you less likely to actually use it. If you're finding your journal too complicated to use, it's good to consider what part is actually complicated. For example, every so often I trick myself into thinking that filling a tracker in with watercolors is a good idea. However, I find watercolors more difficult to use than markers, so this often results in me not keeping up with my tracker. Another example is when I tried my hand using black out paper. Although I very much loved the aesthetic of the white pen on the black pages, I found that the time taken to set up the layouts was lengthy, and finding materials to use that were easy to work with was challenging.
I don’t remember to use it
When we get swept up in the busyness of any given day, it can be very easy to forget to check in with our journals. If you find it difficult to remember to check in with your journal, one possible solution is to set aside a specific time each day that you work on it. You could also help to enforce this time by setting an alarm on your phone or computer. Even if you only spend 2 minutes at that specific time working in your journal, doing this day after day will help you turn journaling into a habit, meaning over time you'll be much more likely to keep up with it.
I don’t like the way it looks
I can totally relate to this one; if I don’t like the way my pages look, I am WAY less inclined to actually get into my journal and use it. While we can talk about how we shouldn't compare our journal to others, or how journal artistry often requires a lot of patience and practice, what can be more helpful is to have a range of ways to decorate your journal that are simple and effective.
I’m bored with my journal
I can get really bored if I'm using the same style over and over for some of my layouts. I enjoy trying new things in my journal, so if boredom is part of the reason you're having difficulty keeping up with yours, trying a new style of spread could be an easy fix. For example, you could change your monthly log from a vertical list to a calendar layout, or introduce a novel tracker into your setup.
These are of course just some ideas of what might be keeping you from consistency in your journal and ways to address this. We’d love to hear from you regarding things you’ve identified as “keeping up” issues, and what you’re doing to help yourself keep up with your journal!
Don’t forget to grab your printable reflection checklist, and feel free to share this post with someone who might be having trouble staying consistent in their journal!