Back in 2017, I talked here about why bullet journal “hacks” weren’t really a thing, but I’m a member of a few different bullet journaling and planner groups on social media, and as with any large group, each day it seems that new members ask questions that have been answered time and again, I thought I’d flesh out that concept a little more for you today. I’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions and Stated Myths About Bullet Journaling for this week’s post. So let’s get right to it, shall we?
1. I really want to start bullet journaling, but I’m not artistic at all so I’ll just enjoy everyone else’s posts. – MYTH! Nowhere in the concept of bullet journaling does it state that this must be an artistic endeavour. We couldn’t possibly pinpoint when bullet journaling turned from Ryder Carroll’s concept being introduced to the super artistic spreads appearing on Pinterest or Instagram, but the truth is that you don’t need to be an artist to bullet journal. The system is about optimizing productivity, not creating art. With that said, if you really want to add artistic flair to your layouts, try using stamps and stencils rather than free-drawing or doodling. These can lend that creative look you want without you getting frustrated over your inability to draw or paint. Remember, there is no “wrong” way to bullet journal except for the way that doesn’t work for you.
2. So, I got a bunch of washi tape and stickers, but I don’t know how to use them. Any ideas? Washi and stickers can be as creative or functional as you want them to be. Some people edge their journal pages with washi which helps them better find months or important spreads without flipping pages. Others use washi and stickers as space fillers or decorative accents on pages. Washi especially really is versatile and there are thousands of posts, pins, and images out there that show you the best or most creative ways to use it in your journal, on stationery, and around your home! Do a little research and I know you’ll find the inspiration you need.
3. I’m really poor/broke and can’t afford to bullet journal, even though I really want to. – MYTH! Now granted, I’m not going to say that anyone who is poor can afford a single item beyond the absolute necessities. I never want to assume privilege that way. BUT, if you can afford two dollars, you can head to the dollar store to buy a notebook and a pen and begin your own bullet journaling journey! The idea that only those who afford expensive notebooks, pens, and markers are “real” bullet journallers whilst the rest are left out is absolute rubbish and should end here and now.
4. My handwriting sucks, so I can’t bullet journal. – MYTH! I have friends who give doctors a run for their money when it comes to illegible handwriting. I have friends who have legible, but not beautiful handwriting. Even my own writing isn’t all that great, and I can’t do brush lettering to save my life. But these things haven’t stopped any of us from adopting the system and making it our own! If you can read your own writing, you can bullet journal, period, full-stop.
5. I keep seeing everyone talking about GSM and I don’t know what that means! GSM stands for Grams Per Square Meter, and it refers to paper weight and quality. The higher the GSM, the heavier the paper.
6. Can you recommend a pen that doesn’t bleed/ghost so much? Ah, well, the thing is, it’s usually not the pen but the paper that is the real culprit here, which brings us back to the previous question about GSM. The heavier the paper, the less likely it is that your pen will bleed or ghost. Unfortunately, a higher GSM usually translates to a higher cost journal. In the case of stationery and journals, you really do get what you pay for in this case. Well, 99.99% of the time. If you’re using a cheaper journal or notebook, your best bet is probably going to be to use a common ball point pen. Most artist pens such as Faber Castell PITT or Pigma Micron use archival ink and, as with most felt nibbed pens in general, will bleed right through thinner papers.
7. I want to use watercolour in my journal, but whenever I do, it soaks right through or the page crumples. What can I do to prevent this? Once again, it’s all about the GSM and paper quality. Scribbles That Matter recently changed their paper to cater to those who wanted to use watercolour or other water based artistic mediums in their journals. Unfortunately, this has not translated well for many users, as the coating on the paper is waxy and causes ink smears fairly consistently. But! It definitely takes watercolours quite well. The bottom line is this: the thinner the paper, the lower the GSM, the more likely it is that your journal pages will not hold up well to watercolours or water based mediums. If you’re really set on using them without buying a more expensive journal, you can try to glue two pages together to create a thicker base, or use gesso to stiffen the page and prevent bleed through.
8. Why do you use habit trackers? What should I track? This one’s easy as we’ve covered that specific topic here before! Rather than delving into it again, I recommend you click the link and read the post.
9. I’ve made a mistake on my page and I just want to throw the whole journal away and start over again. What should I do? Turn. The. Page. And. Start. Again. Well, there are loads of other options. You could tear the page out but…that seems almost as excessive as tossing a whole book over a mistake. You could put a sticker or paste an image that has meaning to you over the mistake or whole page, and start fresh on the next one. Or, you could simply turn the page. I get the urge to chuck the whole thing and start fresh. Really, I do. I’m a perfectionist at heart, but one of the things bullet journaling has taught me is to let go of the little mistakes, sigh, and turn the page on the bigger ones. Mistakes are part of life and none of us are perfect. I think one of the reasons that imperfections or mistakes bother us so much is that, deep down, those are the things that remind us of our own flaws. Embrace them. Learn from them. But don’t bin 20+ dollars worth of journal over a one page mistake!
10. You guys! I just saw [insert brand/journal of choice here] and I really want to get this but I’m only halfway through my current BuJo. What should I do? Similarly, there is also, You guys! I was just gifted my dream journal but I’m only halfway [or less] through my current one. What should I do? Everyone may have different thoughts on this one, and I have to admit that there was a time when I’d just toss whole journals because I’d neglected them for too long or found a better, shinier one. Granted, these weren’t bullet journals but regular, diary type journals. Nevertheless, the concept was pretty much the same.
When I started bullet journaling, I ordered the wrong journal! It was a grid, not dot grid, LT 1917. I hated the grid, but couldn’t afford a replacement for it for a little while, so I made myself start with what I had. I did order the correct journals less than halfway through my first, and I wanted desperately to just chuck the graph grid notebook and start again, but I realised that this was a pattern of mine and one I didn’t want to continue. So my answer is, finish what you’ve started. Exercise restraint, and the reward is all the sweeter when you finally get there. Not only is this less wasteful, it teaches us to rein in our impulsivity and instant gratification needs – lessons that we could all use, especially on this day and age of instant gratification and bouncing like squirrels on drugs from one shiny to the next.
So there you have it. The top most frequently asked questions and stated myths answered and debunked. I’ll open up the comments section to more Q&A if you’re so inclined. Feel free to ask away, or let us know if I missed something! And if you’re really new to bullet journaling, I recommend you do a search for “Bullet Journal 101” on YouTube (click the link to bring you to a list of BuJo 101 videos on YouTube!). There are loads of great tutorials out there just waiting to help you enter the world of bullet journaling!