January Week #4: My Bullet Journal Fails (so far) & What You Should Do if You Fail

Bullet Journal Fails - why I'm okay with it and what you should do if you fail too

I see lots of comments on Facebook all the time in various groups “I hate the spread I created, I want to throw this notebook away or just start a new one” or “I’m going to rip this page out” or just simple questions “what do you do if you hate your spread in your bullet journal?” Here is my experience dealing with bullet journal fails.

Inspired by January’s Ugly Spread

If you’re coming over here from Instagram – you probably saw the quote lettering video snippet (if you aren’t coming here from Instagram – here’s a link to that post so you can check it out, and while you’re at it, follow me over there…you’ll get to see all the stuff I don’t post here).

Bullet journal page fails - get back up and try again

Ugly Spreads So Far (well… a few of them)

So here’s a list of the spreads that I hate in my bullet journal. I’ll let you know right now it’s not a complete list. Some of my fails I used through the week. Some of them I turned the page, one I taped two pages together. But the point is, I moved on. When I first started this bullet journal journey, I used a ring-bound set so I could remove pages if I messed up on them. But I became so paranoid about messing up, I would only use one side of the sheet and I felt like that was just a waste and it felt incomplete.

My desire to be perfect all the time and have every page look amazing paralyzed me! It wasn’t until I decided that I would just (ahem) bite the bullet and use a bound notebook. It was at that time that I would finally give myself the freedom to ‘mess up’.

What to do when pages don't work - Bullet Journal Fails, advice & Ideas

When You Make a Mistake

First of all – you are doing this with pen and paper. There is no undo or back button. Life doesn’t have an undo or back button. I am a firm believer that mistakes happen and it is how we deal with them afterward that makes the biggest difference in our character.

For the most part, if I make a mistake in my videos, I tend to keep it in the video. I want you to know that I am not perfect and you should not expect yourself to be perfect either. Expecting perfection is debilitating and will only do you harm.

Instagram tracker page mistake, water painted over and quote written on top - Bullet Journal Fails

I Keep Mistakes – Or Fix Them with Whiteout

Whether you call them Bullet Journal Fails or not, your bullet journal will have mistakes. It will have spreads you do not like.  Watch the video on my January 2018 Future Log – and you can see where I make the mistake. It’s at about 30 seconds into the video. In this case, I just used a little whiteout tape (yes, one of my best friends) and moved on. The tape is not exactly the same color as the page, but it doesn’t matter in the long run. I barely notice after I use correction tape, in fact when I review the page I am surprised sometimes to find it there.

Pro Tip: I buy my correction tape in bulk (really) and take one with me wherever I go. There are smaller packs for ‘on the go’.

Mistakes will happen that white out can’t fix. So what do you do about those times?


Here are some suggestions and tips from someone who has messed up in their bullet journal.

After bullet journaling for less than a month, Amy @purplescapedesign (check her out on Instagram) said: “I’ve misspelled words and it’s by no means perfect but it’s mine and it works for me so I’m happy!”

Realize that this book is yours and yours only. It doesn’t matter what other people do or don’t do. I think this book is a conduit to happiness so don’t let it be something that makes you feel bad about yourself.

  • Misspelled words – write on it “oops” or “oh well” and move on – I misspelled “horrible” on my December Habit Tracker
  • Missed days – so sometimes you include two Fridays in a week. I’d be ok with that in real life, but to fix it in your bullet journal, white it out and simply write next to it “oops, meant Thursday” and seriously move on.
  • Turn the page into something else
    • Put a sticker the size of your page on top of your mistake.
    • Glue or tape two sheets together (I would not recommend Elmer’s glue – I would say to use permanent adhesive.
    • I watercolored over this page – and added a quote over top
  • One thing that I commonly do – just turn the page. Seriously, I just turn the page and move on.
  • Washi Tape is your friend. You know those piles of washi tape just sitting in your drawer but never touched? Dust them off. Use them to cover up your mistakes.

Examples of page fails my bullet journal from unused trackers (and bad ideas) to messy pages and washi-cover ups. Bullet Journal Fails happen.

The Technical Reason Why You Shouldn’t Tear out Pages

I had a fear of the bound journals because I couldn’t remove pages if I messed up. I knew from past experience with other bound journals that once you tear out a page, it never is the same. Unless the book is ‘glue bound’ where each page is glued to the spine individually, they are actually a bigger sheet of paper folded in half and stitched into sections then the separate sections are bound together.

That’s why on some pages if you look down the center, you will see a thin string running down the page. That page is the center of that section.  But each page is connected somewhere on the other side. If you tear out one page, it’s connected page won’t hold in the binding and will fallout.

When one page falls out, it loosens the stitching and makes it so the other pages aren’t held in as tightly. I cringe whenever I hear people say they are just going to tear it out because if they do that, I am sure they will ruin their whole book and be even more upset. Besides that – the torn edges (because who can tear straight) will still be in the book and will be another source of frustration.

Binding in a sewn bound book


Think About This:

One thing that people forget – this spread will be in your life for a day or a week. If it’s on a monthly or yearly log, you won’t refer to it very often. Your life does not revolve around this mistake. And when you turn that page for the next day’s or week’s spread, you’ll forget all about this mistake.

I remember more details about the time in my life where I made a mistake than where I had a perfect layout. And it’s not just remembering the mistake, the details are clearer to me and the memories more vibrant. It’s kind of nice.

Bullet Journal Fails: Smudged words and a page so bad I taped it together

Lessons Learned from my Bullet Journal Fails

When I started in a bound book, I told myself it was a test of being able to forgive myself for mistakes. The second part of the test is to move on either by fixing the problem and finding a solution or by just turning the page. This, perhaps, has been the greatest thing that bullet journaling has ever taught me.

Two Things You Shouldn’t Do – A Challenge For You:

So the first thing you shouldn’t do I listed above – don’t tear out a page. The second thing is more important: don’t give up. Here is a page of quotes I created after I smeared the ink on the quote. I thought it was a great page to turn into a spread of mistakes quotes.


Page fail quotes - mess up on a page? Add quotes to it.

Remember to plan your life so you live beautifully and don’t be afraid to ‘fail’.


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Want to know what I used in this post? I’ll tell you – even though it was a total fail. (Contains affiliate links – if you click-through and end up purchasing a product, I receive a small commission – though the cost is the same to you.)

2 thoughts on “January Week #4: My Bullet Journal Fails (so far) & What You Should Do if You Fail”

  1. Just the life lesson I needed for today! Striving for perfection is a great goal, but learning how to move on from “fails” is an even better one. Sometimes “fails” can be adapted while others can be laughed off. Some can be a bit haunting, but all can be learned from. Great reminder for all aspects of our lives!

    1. Hi Sharon!

      I am so glad to hear that it made a difference to your day. Posting ‘fails’ is always kind of nervewracking but I figured other people needed help getting over that fear too! Thank you for your comments.

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