Bullet Journal Breaks: Starting and Ending Them

At the end of October, I took a break from my bullet journal (and most parts of life, let’s be honest). Recently, I took an unintended break at the end of March that last through most of April.

These two recent incidents aren’t the first hiatuses I’ve taken from my bullet journal. In fact, it’d be rare for me to commit to bullet journalling with the same motivation and dedication for more than 6 months.

Sometimes I feel guilty for setting aside my bullet journal. I should use it daily and rely on it. But there was a time before a planner and it wasn’t as bad as it might be in retrospect.

When you use a planner, it isn’t as if your skillset stays with the tactile book or software you use. A planner, whether it’s a bullet journal or printed agenda or an app, will strengthen your time management skills even when you’re not using it. That’s what a habit does, after all. So taking a break from your bullet journal won’t always be because of chaos or cause chaos.

My tips for taking a break from a bullet journal—whether it’s intentional or not—are similar to the ones in my post on how to take breaks from writing.

You might need to take an intentional/planned break from your bullet journal if you’re experiencing any of these:

  • getting distracted from your journal
  • feeling bored by using it
  • forgetting to use it at all
  • overwhelming pressure to create something (a nice layout, collections, spreads) despite not wanting to
  • “burnout” of any kind

Tips To Take A Break From Bullet Journalling

Be kind to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with putting aside things. A bullet journal isn’t a primary necessity in your life, like hygiene, food, or sleep. You can account for its disappearance in your daily routine if you need to take a break.

Pick a time to break from the bullet journal.

My last break, at the end of March, was just then: at the end of March. I noticed the above signs (all of them) on top of my priorities and mental health changing. I started a break from my bullet journal in the beginning of April.

A good guideline for starting and ending your break? Make them the same amount. If you’re start your break at the beginning of a month, have the break last a month. A week, a day, whatever suits your flow. If you notice you’re naturally stepping away from your bullet journal, take a look and see if you can extend the break mindfully.

Aim for a length of time to take the break—but make it flexible.

My month-long bujo break wasn’t exactly a hard-and-fast, cold-turkey disconnect from my bullet journal. I was barely using it for the first 3 weeks of April. During the last week, I needed to use it again, though not to the capacity I had previously been using it. My plan was to break for a month, but when necessity kicked in, I had to adapt.

Returning To The Bujo

My last point in taking a break mentioned necessity. When necessity kicks in, I use my bullet journal.

Signs it’s time to start planning again:

  • feeling disconnected from your activities
  • taking on more projects
  • increasing workload (personal work, professional work, housework, etc.)
  • making to do lists on scraps of paper, in your phone, anywhere

Tips To Start Bullet Journalling Again

Be inspired to create again.

You can look at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, and your own spreads to get jived to make something in your bullet journal again. My favourite way to get inspired to make a new spread is to look at new ones. Most often, my breaks happen because I’m bored of doing the same layouts.

Assess what needs to go into your bullet journal.

At one point, you may have had a habit tracker for every habit—a dozen or more—or you had an elaborate monthly calendar with quotes and routines all over it. Do you need that now, at this moment, to get planning again? You don’t have to set it aside forever, but is it what you need now? Think about what you need to write down, rather than what you want to look at later.

My recent return features a calendar, a sleep tracker, and 3 habit trackers. I thought that’d be good enough, but then I started making to do lists and… well, I’m bullet journalling again. But I’m doing it in such a way that leads me to my final tip for restarting.

Start simple.

Keep the pressure off yourself by making a simple spread first. This is always a good chance to go back to the roots of bullet journalling and look to Ryder Carroll’s system. The central concept for a bujo is adaptable and simple. It’s meant to be a quick and effortless way to plan, track, and remember your time. You may love doing calligraphic flourishes, or pretty headers, but ease back into them.

Incorporate the bullet journal into your routine again.

I like to look at my bullet journal once before bed, and after I’ve woken up and eaten breakfast.

At night, I review how the day went and see what needs to be done still. For an incomplete task, I add an arrow and write out the task again for the next day, or I look at a list of important, but not time sensitive, tasks that I’ve put in my spread. I also flip back to previous spreads to fill in habits and other places I need to touch base (bookmarks are handy for this).

In the morning, I assess how I’m feeling and how much time I have for the day. That way, I can accommodate any leftover tasks that I didn’t complete. Throughout the day, I occasionally check my bullet journal for what I need to do, especially if I find myself losing track of time.

But to start out with, I check in to my bullet journal at the end and beginning of the day, when it fits into my routine. I’m more likely to remember my bullet journal at the start and end of a day, so I make an effort to sit with it, undistracted, and adjust to changes in my time management. It’s okay to have unfinished tasks!

(An upcoming layout spotlight will feature the weekly + daily log combination I’ve loved using since the beginning of my bujo return.)

My Biggest Piece of Advice?

For both taking a break and returning from a break, I have one, single, be-all-end-all tip:

Don’t force anything.

Planning for something isn’t the same as forcing something. When you plan, you’re making space to accommodate the change. When you force, you’re trying to apply it when the time or circumstances won’t allow. Don’t force a cold-turkey break, or aim for an aesthetic if they’re things you can’t accommodate.

Happy bullet journalling, folks!

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