My Bullet Journal: Things That Didn’t Work


This is one post in a series of posts about My Bullet Journal Journey. I’ve sequenced the posts so that they chronicle my journey and are step-by-step guides for those of you considering starting your own. 

I decided to start a bullet journal about 10 or so days into January. I had no real idea what I was doing, so I’m chronicling my progress through the first year. I also hope it might help some of you who want to start one but might be a little afraid to take the plunge.

I followed the guide from another blogger who was very vocal about her bullet journal. Nereyda got a lot of bloggers on board. And there I was sitting behind the safety of my screen ooohing and ahhhing. For months. I was scared I would be a failure at bullet journaling and I couldn’t compete. Let’s be real: I still can’t compete.

Every once in a while I get a brilliant idea for my bullet journal. And then other times I realize…that totally did not work for me. And I hate it. Let’s not do that again. Gotta find something new.

Things That Didn’t Work For Me 

And What I’m Doing Now Instead


Monthly Tracker

Jan 3 Jan task list

When I started my bullet journal in January, I was following the guides of others. I spent a lot of time researching that first month and in large part imitated things I found. So when I started, I thought my monthly calendar along with its companion (left) and the monthly task list (right) were gems. I could track my bills, my blog posts, and my own personal tasks and notes.

Then came February. I set my monthly up the same way, except I changed up the companion (bottom right) due to time consumption. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to keep structuring that page and it changed over the course of the months.

But that task list! Notice how it’s mostly empty? While I loved the concept of this spread, it didn’t end up working out for me. I just didn’t realize it yet. For February I had moved the blog section to the left page and made it the full page, and split the right side between the tasks and the bills. The point of the tracker for my blog was to list out posts I had already completed and scheduled. Then I would be able to see where I had holes in the weeks and which posts I hadn’t completed yet.

That didn’t end up working out. I almost never looked at this page after I created it. And my March one is even more telling. I didn’t even fill in my posts! They’re all still blank besides the type of post!


After March I discontinued the task list entirely. I only continued the monthly calendar and companion with my books, to-do, and goals.


Monthly Calendar

After ditching the task list, I spent two more months not quite satisfied with my monthly calendar and companion. The calendar stayed the same, always on the left side and always the same size. I started realizing the boxes were too small to write for some days if there were multiple events or things I needed to record. And it was hard to see at a glance.

So I decided to use a full spread calendar for June to see how it worked out. And I do like it better! Now my monthly calendar looks like this:



Mood Tracker

20170518_201605.jpgI started the year off setting up some basics in my bullet journal, including a mood tracker for the year. I’ve seen most people call this Year in Pixels. Same thing. When I presented the bullet journal project to my students, they expressed their dissatisfaction with my limited moods and a lot of “blah” days. I was also unhappy with the few mood choices, too.  I added a “frustrated” mood, but I kept wondering how to classify my mood when there could have been more than one throughout the day. What if there was one thing that really set me off and pissed me off, but otherwise the entire day was good? Which mood do you pick?

Then I found someone on Instagram who was using a daily mood tracker. And not just one mood, either. They recognized the same things I was wondering about and had multiple moods to be marked each day. At the bottom of their pages, I remember seeing three separate items: situation, temporary, and something else I don’t remember. I thought those were very good ways to put your days and feelings into focus. I just spent 30 minutes trying to find it again. I’ve got to find a system to saving things to go back to on Instagram. *sigh*


I’m still going to be keeping track of my daily mood tracker for the year, but my new mood tracker with multiple moods might help me better select what fits best for the whole day.


Sleep Tracker

Jan sleep

I’ve been having a lot of sleep issues for the last ten months or so. It seemed to be getting worse, and I even had a joke of a sleep study done. I decided I needed a sleep tracker when I started bullet journaling.

My January tracker was very basic. I decided to do a line graph. I thought it looked interesting, but after finishing it for the month I realized it didn’t really help me tell my doctors what time I went to sleep and what time I woke up to help me in building a routine. (Pffft. We don’t need no stinkin’ routines!)


I kept the line graph for February, but then got a little smarter in March. I redesigned how I was going to track my sleep by both the time I went to bed and woke up, as well as color coding the amount of sleep I got in two-hour increments. This makes it very easy visually to see both of the important things I needed to know.

The only thing about this tracker was a lot of times I would either get the day wrong or I’d be on the wrong hour line and I’d mess up. So I started tick marking with a pencil and also using a ruler on the sides to ensure I was staying within the day’s vertical lines.

20170527_201633.jpgWhen I came back from hiatus, I started reviewing things in my bullet journal and updating for June.  I wanted to try something different for my sleep log. It was WAY MORE work up front, but all I have to do is mark my sleep time using a highlighter and highlight from start to stop for the night! I also included a wider range of times, because sometimes (ahem, weekends, holidays) I sleep much longer than I normally would otherwise.

This will have to be one thing I set up well in advance due to the time it takes. I will miss all the color, though.

Do you have some things that just didn’t quite work right for you? Or something that’s been phenomenal for you? 

Look for the next post in the series about some of my most recent work. 

15 thoughts on “My Bullet Journal: Things That Didn’t Work

  1. It’s so reassuring to see that I’m not the only one who keeps trying and tweaking things in the bujo. I’ve tried several things and had to abandon them or change them to make them work for me. I’m still trying to figure that out, TBH. I recently decided to try combining my weekly calendar/agenda (a two-page spread) with a sort of journal — I have my appointments bulleted, and any scheduled or planned blog posts, but under that for each day there is space where I can jot down anything that happened that day that is worth remembering. Of course, since I’ve never been good at consistency when it comes to habits, I often forget to write anything down at the end of the day! So that’s still a work in progress.

    I’ve also decided that it’s OK to print up some lists and paste them in — specifically, lists of books I want to read and ARCs I need to read — rather than writing the whole list down. I can fit more onto a page that way. I use Goodreads to keep track of my ARCs and want-to-read books, of course, but I realized when I went on vacation in a place without internet access that I don’t always have Goodreads available when it’s time to pick my next book. OTOH, if I have a list in my bullet journal, I can see at a glance which ARC I need to read next.

    • It is! I thought I was awful because things weren’t working for me and then I realized that was stupid. I just needed to figure out how to make them work for me. It’s a process. I’m really bad at habits and consistency, too. My doctor even told me that. erk! I’m going on almost a week I haven’t touched my bujo. I like the idea of adding a journal space. It would be a great source of memories. I also want to find more things to print instead of writing out. I need to convince The Man to set up my laptop to print stuff at his house. I love having the list in my bujo. Physically checking things off is so satisfying!

  2. I love this series of posts Charlie! I have to catch up on them now. I do have some things I tried that didn’t work on my bujo. First, I never, ever used the index so when I started a new bujo I left a blank page but I have no plans on making an index. Also, I love filling in boxes so for one month on my weekly spread, I made a small grid and kept track of things like workout, sleep 6+ hours, clean eating…etc. When I got to this month I created a whole page for tracking things for the month instead of weekly. That’s just 2 things I can think of off the top of my head. I have been wanting to do a bujo update lately and this is really inspiring.
    Thanks for sharing these things!

    • Thanks! I wasn’t sure if this was anything anybody would really be interested in. I’m glad you love the series – it’s growing on me! Now that the year is underway, I’ve stopped using my index. I love filling the boxes, too! I find that when I see what other people track, I think to myself “I should track that too!” I hope you do an update soon..ish. 🙂

  3. I’ve actually shied away from bujo’s because it just seems to be SO. MUCH. WORK! And I really don’t need to be adding more stuff to my already overflowing plate of things to do! They are really pretty, though, and I love how you’ve made yours more personal to your specific needs.
    I use my fitbit for my sleep patterns, it knows when I lie down in bed, and then, based on my heart-beat and how much I move (or don’t) let me know how much of my sleep was deep, REM, or light, and when I woke up and how long I was awake for. It’s really neat! And no work needed on my part 😉
    I hope you’ll be able to continue to tweak your journal to make it perfect for your needs!

    • It can be a lot of work if you make it. I’ve seen several who are true bullet journals that are simple lists without any frills, stencils, colors, etc. One of the reasons I decided to do a sleep tracker is to have a record to show I do need a real, in-lab sleep study. The Man is convinced I need a CPAP, and I think so, too. I do want a fitbit – when I found out they could track the sleep components I became very interested. Perhaps I should start dropping hints now for Christmas. 🙂

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