When a Bullet Journal Spread Stops Working

Bullet journaling, while a great tool for organization, relaxation, and many other things, can also be frustrating at times. When you see a beautiful and functional spread on someone else’s Instagram or YouTube, you may want to try it out and see how it works for you. Sometimes when you do this, you’ll find that it’s an amazing spread that revolutionizes the way you use your bullet journal forever.

And other times, you get to the end of the month or the end of the year, and you discover that you haven’t used the spread at all. Why not? It had seemed so perfectly suited to your needs.

Sometimes, bujo spreads just don’t work, and the reasons why can be a little hard to determine. But today, I’ve got some tips to help you figure out what to do with those spreads that just don’t seem to be coming together just right.

Examine the Why

This is something that you should do with every spread you decide to include in your journal. Why do you want the spread to be there? What purpose will it serve? Will it actually help you to reach your goals and get things done, or will it just get in the way and take up time that you could be using for something more meaningful?

The answer to these questions will depend on you. Bullet journaling is an intensely personal thing. The system is intentionally open to interpretation so that you can tailor every page of your journal to your very specific needs. If, after asking yourself these questions, you realize that the reason why a spread isn’t working is that it’s not helping you further your goals in any way, then ditch the spread.

When you first start using a bullet journal, it can be easy to get lost in the excitement, and you might be tempted to put twelve trackers for every possible thing you could ever want to track. But all that will do is overwhelm you and make you not fill out any of them. Before trying a new spread, always ask yourself why you want to use it. How will it help you?

Refine and Rearrange

Sometimes you really want to use a spread because you think that it will be legitimately helpful for you, but you struggle to come back to it and fill it out. Maybe you just forget, or you get busy, or you can’t find the motivation to fill things out.

First of all, you should never feel pressure to use your bujo every day, but that’s a whole other discussion.

If you have trouble remembering to turn back to a monthly habit tracker and fill it out, you might want to consider using weekly or daily trackers instead. That way you only have to look at one spread. Everything you need to know is right there on that one spread. It makes it a lot easier to fill things out when they’re on the spread you’re using every day anyway.

Or maybe the problem is the layout of the spread. Bullet journal spreads are designed to be customizable. For example, habit trackers. Some people like simple graphs, others like to do mini calendars for each habit. Still other people like to do doodles for each habit, and color in different parts of the doodle depending on how many habits they did that month, like this spread, for example:

If the layout of a spread isn’t working for you, try mixing it up to make it more visually interesting or fun to fill out.

For example, a cool idea for a water tracker might be to draw a water bottle that you slowly fill in as you reach your water drinking goals. It’s all about making it into whatever layout motivates you the most to actually fill in your spreads.

Change the Content

Sometimes the problem with a spread isn’t the layout, but instead what you’re tracking. For example, if all the habits on your habit tracker are things that you don’t care about, you’re probably not going to come back to that spread very often.

In these cases, it can be helpful to sit down with your goals and really think about what habits you can implement that will help you reach them. If you tailor a spread’s content to your goals, it’ll be easier to return to it because you’ll actually care.

Stop Setting Up the Spread

Sometimes no matter what you try, a spread just doesn’t work for you, and that’s okay. You might try coming up with a different but similar spread that will work better and drop the old one entirely. A bullet journal is meant to evolve as we grow and change. Sometimes spreads that worked great for you for months or even years just won’t be relevant to your life anymore.

You can try to revamp them and make them work for you in a new way, using some of the tips we’ve talked about above. Or you could just cut your losses and stop setting up that kind of spread. Maybe someday you’ll come back to it, but for now, it’s not serving you, so why should you include it?

That’s something I did a lot last year when the pandemic started. Before it started, I’d gotten into a routine of using expense trackers, habit trackers, etc. Then, when the pandemic started and I ended up spending a lot more time than usual at home, I didn’t need those trackers anymore. So I stopped using them. For the last half of 2020, I pretty much only used basic weekly and monthly spreads. No trackers or anything else.

Now that things are getting a little more back to normal, I’m starting to implement more trackers into my bullet journaling routine, but at the time I didn’t need them, so I didn’t use them.


I hope this article has been helpful to you! Sometimes a spread just doesn’t work out, and that’s okay. Life is crazy, especially right now, and your bullet journal shouldn’t be adding to that stress.

If you’d like some more bullet journal insights along these lines, check out my post about why it’s okay to leave spreads unfinished.

Have you ever had to cut a spread you really loved the idea of because it just wasn’t serving you anymore? Let me know down in the comments!

I’ll see you soon!

-Ariel

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