Have you ever been too busy to use your bullet journal? But you know you still need your journal so you try to make it work even when you simply don’t have the time to figure out what that even means. Yep. Me too.

Let me tell you about my January and February.

As much as I’d love for Stationery Nerd to be my full-time gig, that’s just not reality. I have a day job (and a side business too). Somebody needs to earn enough to pay for my stationery obsession and buy cat food. It seems the universe has voted me in. I’m a graphic designer for my day job and also do design and brand management for my side business.

It’s during this time of the year when my day job pretty much takes over my life with the biggest, most public, most important project of the year. From about mid-January to mid-February, everything else takes a back seat. Sleep, eating healthy, the side business, social life… everything gets put on hold. Including my bullet journal.

In the past, I would simply neglect all forms of organization during this hyper-busy time and just focus on the one project in front of me. Maybe neglect isn’t the right word. I plan for this time of my year. All my clients know that I’ll be out of touch but in the weeks leading up to this time, I make sure they have everything they need until I come back online. The house doesn’t get cleaned. The cats get angry at me because I’m not around to give them belly rubs. And those little fun projects I start (like Stationery Nerd) tend to get put on the back burner. (Sorry about that, I’m back now though.)

It was interesting to see how things evolved with my bullet journal, though. And that’s actually the whole point of this article – I want to share with you what worked for me and how it might help you too.

How I use my bullet journal when I’m too busy to use my bullet journal

Normally I create a full page for each day and split it into four parts: personal, design business, Stationery Nerd, notes and then I add a small daily tracker. And I kept that up for the first couple weeks of the crazy season. But then it simply didn’t make sense to devote that much space when I was really only working on one thing and it just so happened that the thing I was working on wasn’t even a thing I tracked in my personal bullet journal anyway (I keep a whole separate journal for day-job tasks).

But there was all this stuff in my head that needed to be put somewhere so I could have a clear brain for creativity on this project. So my solution came in the form of a two-page spread split into five sections:

  • Personal tasks
  • Design business tasks
  • Stationery Nerd tasks
  • Notes / gratitude
  • Shopping list
brain dump in bullet journal

I used a two-page spread to jot down anything that came to mind during the busy week at work. If you look closely, you’ll notice I wrote “beef broth” on my grocery list twice – clearly not paying attention to the list, just writing stuff down as I thought of it.


Then I just slapped the week’s date along the top of the page and used it as an organized version of a brain dump page. I had no intention of actually completing any of these tasks while I was working on the big project, but I knew I needed to get these thoughts out of my head. I just jotted things down as they came to mind. It’s not a big jumbled list of stuff I’ll need to sort and deal with, but it’s good that all those things are down on paper so I can see them, rather than causing more stress by staying inside my brain.

I gave myself permission to neglect the bullet journal for my normal routine.

It’s the only way I could do it, really. The big project went off beautifully and I’m able to pack it away for another year. And yes, after it was done, it took me almost a week to rest and find enough energy to get back into my journal. So that weeklong brain dump page became more like a week-and-a-half. But that’s OK. I needed the time. In fact, I still need some extra rest and it’ll take me about another week to get back to normal again.

Give yourself grace.

I share this story with you, not to gain sympathy for my busy time of the year. Instead, I wanted to share this because I see so many bullet journalers who beat themselves up for missing a day or week or month because “life got in the way.” Yep. Life happens. It happens to the best of us. So instead of getting discouraged that your journal can’t be exactly what it’s always been, embrace the possibility that it could be something different for a season and that “different” might be exactly what you needed all along.

Give yourself grace. Adjust to what life is throwing at you. Whatever you’re doing with your bullet journal is not wrong. Just do what works for you and fits into your daily routine. You have permission to be imperfect.