Bullet Journaling: Planning Slumps
I have been through a couple of weeks of total slump. There! Said it!
Some days just a little bit of slump. Some days full blown slump. Being in a slump effects my planning, productivity and my mood. To put it mildly: I do not like these slumps. I get nothing – or next to nothing – done. This bums me out. I don’t use my lovely spreads, my customized habit tracker is blank or half-blank, and I totally fall out of my planning routine. This is very difficult for me, because I really like my planning routine and I like the stability it gives me in my everyday life. On top of that, I am dependent on my productivity for my business. It sucks!
Now; I have been through these slumps before. They pop up every now and then. About one every other month. I have worked very hard on trying to work around them in some way. Thanks to my notes, diary and reflections – going back a year – I am now able to predict (9/10 times) when a slump is on the way. This is a huge step for me. And I really applaud myself for the consistent and diligent work I put into getting this far. But… I still can’t avoid the slumps entirely. They vary; and there are many different kinds of slumps. It’s still a work in progress for me. And I struggle with this on a monthly basis.
If Boho Berry can have a planning slump…
Just as I was beginning to write this post, I saw Boho Berry’s newest YouTube video: Planning Slumps. It hit home in a BIG way! It’s nothing short of brilliant. Just what I needed. I was beating myself up for being in my own slump for the second week in a row – even though I know, I know, self-blaming is counter-productive and only prolongs the slump. I had a hard time moving past this. So the description to Boho Berry’s video was so important to me: “In a planner slump? Me too! Let’s commiserate:)”. Ohhhhh yes: Let’s!
Boho Berry’s video and her honesty about being in a slump, was just what I needed. The feeling that I was not alone. I had someone to commiserate with. I wasn’t the only one in The Bullet Journal Community that was going through a slump. It was so relieving. Boho Berry (aka. Kara Benz) is, for me, one of the queen bees of bullet journaling, she is a role-model of mine, and she is also the bullet journalist that got me into bullet journaling last year. If she, the queen bee, can have a planning slump; anyone can – me included. This relief helped me to move on in my own slump. I gave myself a break and started fresh.
If (when?) you find yourself in a planning slump
I have jotted down a few steps I think some of us can use to go through and come out of a slump. These aren’t all inclusive. They are based on my own experiences, what I have seen on Instagram, read on Pinterest, and my background in psychology, coaching and stress management.
Note! I don’t think you should ignore a slump or push through it. I think that the experience of being in a slump results from a disharmony between your expectations to yourself and what you are actually capable of doing right now. In order to go through a slump in a “productive” way (instead of white-knuckling through it) and thereby minimizing the likelihood of the same slump popping up again (you probably will experience other forms of slumps), you need to do some reflection. Do this so you can narrow in on what created the disharmony that landed you in your slump. You need to feel it in order to heal it.
This step is all about accept. You don’t have to like your slump, and you probably want to be on the other side of it as soon as possible, but you need to accept where you are in order to let go of the stress, guilt, negative thoughts and self-blaming. It will probably take some days to accept where you are, let go of where you wanted to be and forgive yourself for the gap in-between the two. It might even take longer. And that’s okay.
Many of us struggle with accepting things we do not like, because we instinctively think that acceptance means ‘approval’ of the situation. Not so at all. You can accept a situation you wish was different. Acceptance is all about releasing energy. From a focus on what isn’t working to: “Okay, this is not working for me. I accept that. I let go of the stress this is causing in me and ask myself what is the next step?”. Acceptance is a very sophisticated form of proactiveness. You need to accept where you are in order to move forward.
I believe that many forms of slumps are caused by our body and mind that are forces to make us to stop up. It becomes almost impossible to do the things we planned. Your body wants and needs you to relax, recharge and reassess. If you – like me – don’t do this on a regular basis, and you push and push and push yourself, then eventually your body will stop you. Now the choice of weather you would like to relax or not is taking away from you. Now you have to relax! You won’t get anything done before you do.
So while you work on accepting your slump: give yourself time. Relax, recharge and reboot. Give yourself time to get centered again. For me a
slump is signaling: “Stop up! There is something here that needs your attention. There is something you need to start or stop doing”. Of course if you are so lucky to be on a holiday or vacation induced slump; then you really need to cut yourself some slack, just let go, pull out the plug and relax.
As with many other things: When you have accepted your situation it becomes possible to move on to the next step.
The second thing you can do is finding the cause of your slump. You can ask yourself: “Do I have some kind of disharmony between my expectations to myself and what I am actually capable of doing right now?” If the answer is “Yes”, then proceed to: “What is holding me back? Where are my difficulties arising? Why am I not where I wished to be? What is causing my slump?”.
A few general answers I have noticed are:
- It is your planner, your planning system or your approach to planning
- It is it a matter of life happening. Like the kids going back to school or you having a baby, sending you out of your routine. Or you may be on a holiday/vacation and don’t actually need to use your planner that much
- Or it can be something emotional, psychological, physical within yourself. Like going through a tuff time in school, being stressed out, overwhelmed, tired, dealing with some kind of personal or family crisis, being sick, self-sabotaging yourself due to the need for control, perfectionism or fear of failure.
You are the only one that can find the most likely answer to what’s causing your current slump. Often it’s a combination of things because that’s life.
If you are in doubt about the answer: try to journal or brain-dump about it. Sit down, set a timer for 5 minutes or so and write until it rings. Review the result and note your answer. Repeat if necessary until you have an answer.
The “correct” answer is often the one that hurts a bit. Like acknowledging that you have a fear of failing in an area, or that you need to work on your self-control, or that you haven’t been taking good care of yourself, or simply that your expectations to yourself are too high.
This depends on what you answered in step two. Remind yourself in a self-loving, self-caring and self-accepting way: That it is okay – and actually VERY natural – to hit slumps since they arise when your expectations to your planning don’t match your reality.
It doesn’t matter if you hit a slump; what matters is that you get out of it wiser than you went into it! So be kind to yourself. I bet you are working hard and doing your best! There is no failing, just learning. Focus on that.
If it’s your planner, your planning system or your approach to planning:
Reevaluate what you need. Journal or brain-dump about it. Ask yourself: What should my planner do for me? What are my planning needs? What worked/didn’t work before? And so on.
Then you can search Instagram and/or Pinterest. Follow your gut in the process: What kind of planner/spread appeals to you and feels right in relation to what you found out during your brain-dump.
Try it out. Remember: there is no failing just learning. You can always stop up and reevaluate.
I have noticed that many are searching for “planner peace” or that one planner or spread that will make everything fall into place. Don’t know if that exist… But if you can’t find it, take into consideration if it’s something else you need to work with. It might just be the case.
If it’s a matter of life happening:
Best thing you can do: Cut yourself some slack. You will get back into your routine.
It’s very difficult to force motivation. So give yourself time to get back into the groove of things. Time, time and more time. Meanwhile you can reassess your expectations to yourself, so you’re not setting yourself up for failure or disappointment each day. Take your current situation into consideration and set your expectations realistically.
And if you are on a holiday/vacation: Then be on a holiday/vacation. You’ll be back in your everyday-life and daily routine before you know it.
If it’s something emotional, psychological, physical within yourself:
These kinds of slumps can be challenging to get out of. It’s almost impossible to give general guidelines for how to handle them. Because they are so individual. If you are struggling with something emotional, psychological, physical within yourself it becomes even more important to approach yourself in a self-loving, self-caring and self-accepting way. And you need to narrow in on your difficulties or obstacles. What is it within you that makes planning and productiveness difficult? When you know that, you can begin to seek answers that apply to your situation.
If you need help to deal with your obstacles, then reach out! If you need support, reach out. There are people out there that are going through something similar.
I have noticed that many of the bullet journalist and planning-nerds I follow on Instagram also have planning slumps. Not everyone likes to share when life hits them or when they fall flat on their face – and that’s okay. But some do share it. And this is so relieving to me and one of the many reasons I love the Bullet Journal Community.
Since I have been honest about my slump and sharing it openly, I have received so much support and love from the community. I am so grateful for that. It helped me immensely to know that I wasn’t alone and that others were going through similar slumps. Then I could accept my own slump, let go of the guilt of not being productive, begin to cut myself some slack, and work on getting out of my slump.
An example: My recent planning slump
For me it’s not my planner system. I have confidence in my system. For me it’s either a matter of life happening or something within me that sends me into a slump.
Many of my slumps have occurred because I simply push myself too hard. I want to do so many things, and need to do so many things, that I for periods of time totally ignore what I actually can do. That’s no good. And it’s a classic recipe for some kind of collapse. My body sends me many signals that I need to slow down, but when I ignore them my body forces me to stop up and relax. I have no energy, I am totally overwhelmed, stressed out. Only thing that is left is to hit the couch, Netflix, read, draw, go back to basics, and do ‘nothing’ for a while. I now know that my slumps are caused by my body and mind that simply need to recharge, reboot and relax.
So this is the learning I am taking with me from this last slump. The theory I now am testing is: If I take good care of myself during my productive periods, can I then minimize the risk of hitting another big slump? Time will tell. But I am dedicating my September to self-care. To help me stay focused on this, I am hosting a challenge #SelfCareSeptember. If you need more self-care in your life; feel free to join me.