Forgiveness and Grace in the Bullet Journal

Perhaps my favorite thing about the bullet journal is its flexibility, and freedom to become whatever it is you need it to be in that moment. In a strange way, the bullet journal has taught me some things about offering myself forgiveness and grace – which I’ve come to need quite a bit as of late. Let the string of personal development posts continue!

A reflection and #realtalk about what I've learned about forgiveness and grace from the bullet journal

I appreciate so many things about this system.  In Ryder Carroll’s original bullet journal system, you go day at a time, using as much or as little space as you need.  For some, this was liberating because they wouldn’t waste a bunch of pages in a pre-dated planner – you could skip days as necessary and get right back to it when you needed it.  I actually don’t see too much of this in the Instagram community, but it’s been helpful for me.

I’m pretty diligent about the weekly set ups since my sanity at work depends on it, but the weekends and travel days are really loose for me.  I often have half-sketched out weekends, or no weekend spreads at all – because I have a lot of events happening or the tasks are already prominent in my head. And that’s okay!

What I've learned about forgiveness and grace from the bullet journal

Use it from desire, not expectation. Again, the bullet journal is a tool so if I don’t need to use it, I don’t.  Sometimes I hear about people feeling pangs of guilt for skipping days in their bullet journal or weeks, and I want to ask them who they think they’re disappointing by skipping days.  It’s one of those expectations that feels real but is not – can we get some permission to take the days that we need?

In similar ways, I’ve been trying to give myself permission to challenge expectations that seem real but aren’t – by taking days off of posting on social media, not having a blog post, by posting what I really feel and not just happy rainbow stuff, by being okay with maintaining my blog rather than growing my blog.  For saying no to commitments I don’t have time or desire to make.  Not saying that is easy by any means (I talk more about why that shit is hard over here), but that I’m challenging the expectations so I can do more things that are true to what I need right now rather than what I think other people want from me.

What I've learned about forgiveness and grace from the bullet journal

Structures are evolving, not permanent. I often change the structures of my weekly layouts in my bullet journal to suit my week. And when I’ve done good reflecting and at my best, I can identify ways to change structures in my own life to allow me to live more simply, smoothly, intentionally.

I’ve been trying to block off time in my work calendar for busy grading weeks, setting aside time in the mornings for planning and reading (not just doing), to sign up for workout classes to keep committing to my physical wellness, challenged the “1-hour default” for work meetings, and most of all – realize that structures can be moveable.  Every week you can do something new – choices that seem huge are usually not permanent.  You are evolving, your self and your needs and desires are evolving and you can also evolve your life and structures to go along with it.

I’m learning this: Worry less about making the RIGHT choice and much more about making an INTENTIONAL one. 

We are resilient, strong, capable people – WHEN happens in ways we don’t expect, we will adapt and we will figure it out.  I’m learning to look that uncertainty and fear in the eye and move into it, not knowing if it’ll even be worth it but knowing that eventually, I can be okay.  The choices and the structures are not permanent.

What I've learned about forgiveness and grace from the bullet journal

You choose what to migrate. You see all my checkboxes and to do list items – and yet every week I make many choices that leave them open and undone.  In the act of migrating tasks week to week I choose what is important to me right now, and what is important to me later.  Lately, tasks or events arise where I’ve actively made the choice, as I’ve mentioned before, from a place of my own desire and what I want to do in that moment.  However, it is not without a cost.  I’ve chosen connection with people over my responsibilities grading, I’ve chosen helping someone else at the expense of writing a blog post – there is always a loss.  Which means I have to choose who I am disappointing in this moment, and needing to be okay with that.

Lastly, this: keep what is serving you, release and let go of what is not. 

Way easier said than done.  In my bullet journal, I had let go of the index, a monthly tracker, and future logs.  I adopted a weekly, color, and slightly different bullets. Despite the side commentary I receive, I’m okay because this is what works for me.  Each week or month I add what might be helpful, keep what has been good, and let go of what wasn’t.

I’m trying to do the same thing in my life.  This has been the hardest lesson.  It’s like Kon-Mari-ing my life. In this stage it feels like I am looking at everything and asking myself, “does this spark joy?” There are things I’ve carried throughout my life that have become burden rather than foundation, acquaintances that have become more life-depleting than life-giving, parts of myself that I have buried rather than nourished or suppressed rather than embraced.  I’ve realized I limited and silenced myself in more ways than I’ve ever known.  So I’m trying to dismantle those things so I can be more of myself, full throttle. And most importantly, to have PEACE with that self, and believe that it is worthy.

What I've learned about forgiveness and grace from the bullet journal

In light of all of this and the book I’m reading, Present Over Perfect, you may see just one post a week from me.  I’m trying to give myself more time in my life to care for myself.  This blog and account are wonderful parts of my life – but I wanted to let you know straight up I’m letting go of the expectation that I keep up with it in the same ways as I have in the past.  I hope you can give yourself the grace to do something similar for yourself.

Does this resonate at all with you? Do you have thoughts, reflections, good quotes, encouragement, alternative perspectives? I’d love to hear.  Or you can drop me a line at my email address:





23 thoughts on “Forgiveness and Grace in the Bullet Journal

  1. So insightful! I am a strong believer in living in the moment and that helps me when I get too hard on myself. When I feel overwhelmed by my schedule, I take a step back and think, “What is really the most important here?” Sometimes it is hard to do because I can be a perfectionist and want all of my boxes checked off my to-do list. Overall, I believe that taking care of ourselves is priority because at the end of the day we always want to be our best self! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Have a great week ahead.


  2. Jessica,
    I just set up my BJ a couple of weeks ago with the intention to start using it in January. It is kind of symbolic to me because of the western calendar year start (everything I do has to have meaning for me…). BJ is the best thing I have run across and I am so excited! As I built the frame for what is going to become MY BJ the first thing I set out was the commitment that this is the way I want to organize my life and I will stick with it. However, my intention from the beginning was to add and take away from it as I go in order to customize it to fit my lifestyle; I can do that only after I have used it for a while. You and Kara Benz (from BohoBerry) have been the biggest inspiration for me as you both utilize the BJ system in almost completely different ways. For me taking a littlbit from both works like a perfect balance. I actually set up my BJ in a Filofax (as Kara did), but I ordered my Fauxdori materials so I will be setting up that one as well. The plan is to use the two parallel each other for a month or two to see which one works better for me. 🙂 Also as an example, I am currently looking for a job after I stayed home with my baby for the past 16 months. It’s hard finding a job, I found, after you have stayed home for a while. So your BJ for job interviews video was very helpful and I included the table in my BJ-love it! Almost as much as I would love to stop using it when I find a job!! 😀
    And that is what I took out of my extensive research I did on bullet journaling – a system so simple yet so genius that once you learn it, it can take so many different forms. That indeed is the genius about it, and what you have done with the concept is so creative and inspiring to me! This latest post from you is one of my new favorites from your blog! It resonates so much with me at this season of my life (even your reference to the Spark Joy book I am currently reading). Thank you for posting and thank you for deciding to take care of yourself and to grow in new ways! Only then will your audience grow, too. See, your audience grows with you!
    Best of luck in all you do! – Bia

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Jessica!
        Thanks for following up with me; That’s very nice1 🙂 Yes, I am moving forward with the same style you are using. I really found it more practical and kind of fell in love with it. 🙂 Although I love the Filofox I have, the rings started getting in the way and… So in deciding between fouxdori and the official BuJo notebook, I decided to go with the fouxdori because of the sectioning I am able to do through the notebooks. I started in four A5 equivalent size notebooks and I love it! In fact, I ran across and ordered four notebooks from Note Maker (an Australian company) and I am waiting to receive them. Once I do, I will transfer everything I have so far to the new notebooks. The notebooks have a similar feel as the Leuchtturm 1917, but are made for a fauxdori bound system. They have an interesting indexing system that I think is great especially for the collections part of the BuJo. Also, a little update: Inspired by your work, couple of days ago I finally decided to proceed with starting my blog. I have a lot to learn about blogging, but I figured if I don’t start, I wouldn’t learn… I am keeping it simple for now, but plan on building to what I have envisioned, one step at a time. I am planning on posting a video explaining the system of these notebooks… I think it may be something of value to some bullet journaling folks out there… 🙂
        There are so many blogs on bullet journaling, and you are able to get pass through all the noise and offer some truly valuable information. Thank you for that!
        My best to you,


  3. Great post! I’ve also tried to let go of the feeling of “have to” when doing things I want to in my personal life. Stepping away from my blog, and posting when and what I want without worrying about growing it has been the hardest for me, since I spent all last year trying to do the opposite. As for bullet journalling, I also find my style evolving. This is because I’m now using 2 TNs (a pocket and a narrow/wide) at once. My pocket is “ugly,” all the stuff in my head, my to-dos, etc, and my standard is “pretty.” One is work, and one is personal.


    1. That’s interesting. I am new toe BJ and I am keeping it simple with just one A5 journal for now, but I was thinking of doing something similar to what you are describing. The only thing I was wondering is do you end up not using your beautiful A5 often because your pocket one becomes more convenient on the go? 😊 – Bia


  4. You always encourage me with the ways your BuJo reflects a balanced life full of the RIGHT choices, not necessarily ALL the choices. I am not a faithful reader to any blog if that means I read every post when it comes out, and I feel like one post a week is a job well done.


  5. Thanks for posting this. I find that what I migrate from one journal to another, some things make the cut and some don’t. One of the reason I love this type of journal is that I get to choose what works now, today, and what doesn’t.


  6. Love this post, I decided to use the bullet journal method back in January after purchasing a rather expensive beautiful planner and feeling myself SO guilty for skipping days (or even weeks) when I was sick or had so many things to do that my weekly view wasn’t enough. I ended up adding appointments and to-dos after they happened just to not waste paper, since I paid so much for that planner, but I felt silly doing it and, above all, I wasn’t enjoying it. I’m not a big planner decorator and I was wasting my time.
    I love the flexibility of the bullet journal, I like to switch from notebook to notebook according to my needs and my mood. I fell into the Leuchtturm trap, but I finally realized it isn’t for me, the pages are too wide and the notebook is too thick, not very handy to carry at University or in my bag all the time, I’ll probably keep it for my collections and move everything to a traveler’s notebook (that’s your fault! 🙂 ) once my current pocket Leuchtturm that I use for dailies will be over.
    I love that Ryder gives you all the tools and information to start, but you can do whatever you want with your bullet journal. I still prefer using Google Calendar for time blocking and events/appointments, it’s easier for me, since I’m a student; that’s why I don’t use a future log, a monthly log and a tracker in my bullet journal.


  7. I rarely comment on blog posts, but I was inspired to add a word to this one. The “happy-happy” vibe that seems to be the default for social media is, in many ways, unfortunate, so I appreciate writers who “keep it real.” This is one of those posts, and it resonates with me strongly. How can it not? We are human, therefore we are imperfect (thank goodness!).

    Those of us who bullet journal are, by default, most likely people who are already driven, already hard on ourselves, already perfectionists (or, as I like to call myself, a “recovering perfectionist”), so our lessons are often about toning those qualities and attitudes down and finding more compassion and acceptance. These days I look more for authenticity than for “shoulds” and “musts.” Needless to say, it’s an ongoing journey. I realized long ago that I don’t need to worry about my drive or about being productive, or about doing my best. Those are qualities that are built in–fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view. That stuff will take care of itself. What I need to pay attention to and cultivate is balance.

    As you suggest in your post, bullet journaling is in some ways a metaphor for how we live our lives, which is why I think it has become to valuable to so many. It asks us to evaluate what’s real to us, what works and what doesn’t, what we need to keep and what to discard. I find that paying attention to how I respond to my bullet journaling–whether guilt about skipping days, dissatisfaction that it’s “pretty” as someone else’s, or my delight at recognizing that that one big task I thought was crucial is not really all that important–gives me insights into my life that go much beyond tasks and schedules.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Jessica.


    1. And as such, thank YOU for your thoughtful comment. It took me a whiel to respond but hopefully you can forgive me for that 🙂 I am grateful that people are resonating with the “real talk” as I put it. It would be suffocating if I felt like i couldn’t share what was on my heart ❤


  8. I writing this line in my bullet journal tonight – “We are resilient, strong, capable people – WHEN happens in ways we don’t expect, we will adapt and we will figure it out.” Going through tough, uncertain times and this post helped me to be hopeful and stay on course. Thank you!



  9. Perfect is something I have struggled with my whole life. Except here’s what I’m learning… it’s an expectation I put on myself, that no one cares about but me. It’s deep rooted though, as a result of loads of baggage, and it’s going to take a long time to let go of those unrealistic expectations I pile on. That book is on my to-read list for next year, and the way things are looking.. maybe next summer. But that is okay, because I’m letting go of what’s not working in my life right now as well. ❤


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