When it comes to planning and organisation, I decided to go with something a little different this year. I love a good agenda, I really do, but as I started my self-employed journey this year, managing a number of clients, pursuing a range of creative pursuits and with a lot of travel planned (not that that went very well…), I thought I’d give the free-flowing nature of bullet journaling a try. Throughout the year, I’ve got to know my way around a bullet journal, trying out different spreads, ways of organising and a lot of front pages that turned out… less pretty than the Pinterest inspo (the fault there was definitely mine). So with a year’s experience in mind, I’ve collated all of my pros and cons of using a bullet journal into a quick post for you so you can ask “what is bullet journaling??” and decide if it’s for you.
“Inevitably we find ourselves tackling too many things at the same time, spreading our focus so thin that nothing gets the attention it deserves. This is commonly referred to as “being busy.” Being busy, however, is not the same thing as being productive.” – Ryder Carroll, The Bullet Journal Method
What is bullet journaling?
Before we jump into the pros and cons, I need to answer the question “what is bullet journaling?”. Bullet journaling is a style of agenda that involves the user creating their own page layouts to fit their specific needs and wants. Essentially, it’s a blank book that you turn into a homemade journal.
The Pros of Bullet Journaling
Let’s start off with the positives, shall we?
1. You get complete freedom
When you start your first bullet journal, you’ll be starting with a completely clean set-up, bespoke to you, your work and your life. For those among us that want to record and plan absolutely everything, this will be a godsend. There are millions of spread ideas out there (blessed be our beloved Pinterest) for just about anything you could want to write down. Even if you manage to have a crazily obscure idea or need for your agenda, you’ll be able to create a spread for it, and if you run out of ideas, the internet has limitless inspiration for you. The design is completely in your hands.
2. Change your mind
Ever had agenda envy halfway through the year? Having a usual agenda locks you into a repetitive design for the whole year. This is great if you love it, but if you change your mind or should your planning needs change, you’re stuck with it or forced to buy a new one – which I always see as a waste of both money and resources. But, with a bullet journal, you can reinvent your planning every month, every week, every day even! Add and drop spreads whenever it suits you.
Some agendas can be really expensive! Especially when you want a lot of spreads and space. Bullet journals, however, don’t need to be anything special. Any plain or dotted notebook will work completely fine, so you only have to worry about the outside design (and it seems to be popular right now to just go with plain black ~ classy and cheap). However! There can be extra costs. To really get the Pinterest vibe in your bullet journal, you might want to invest in some other supplies, stickers, pens, washi tape, etc. so those costs can definitely rack up too.
4. One journal to rule all
One of the best things about bullet journals is the fact that you only need one of them. You can include anything and everything in your bullet journal so you don’t need a hundred other journals for other things too. This’ll help your back when you’re not lugging four notebooks around and will be handy for you to have everything in one place.
Suggested: How to Get Organised: 9 Organisation Tips
The Cons of Bullet Journaling
And on to the cons. Of course, these are just issues I had with bullet journaling – it’s not to say they’d be problems for everyone – one man’s treasure and all.
1. You get complete freedom
Sound familiar? Well, this one’s a blessing and a curse. For some, they might need crazy spreads with a load of niche things to record, but even as a self-employed person with a crazy everchanging schedule, I never found myself in much need other than the obvious pages – to-do list, budget, a month at a glance for birthdays and content planning… that was really it. I tried a lot of other spreads but soon tired of them (of course, that’s just me personally, some people will love recording some of this stuff!). But, everything I need tends to be found in an off the shelf agenda and doesn’t involve having to drawing out a page setup every week.
Which leads me onto my next point, bullet journalin can be really time-consuming. By the end of the year, I was taking little pride in the appearance of my bullet journal. I kept it neat, but I wasn’t flashy or creative with designs – I’m not very artistic. But even still, it took me quite a while to draw out my spreads. In the end, to make things a little quicker, I just started using it as a usual notebook full of lists and notes, with no particular layout. I have no doubt that some people would love spending ages perfecting and creating their spreads, and they’d put a lot more effort in than I have. But, for me, and any of those among you who aren’t fussed or gifted with art – an agenda might be more suited to you if you don’t want to end up with scrawled unruly pages.
3. Only as aesthetic as you are
I love a good aesthetic, but damn – I’m no artist. My bullet journal has proved that no end. Of course, I could practice, but honestly, I’m not too interested in art, especially just for my notebook. But, I still really enjoy having pretty journals so my plain bullet journal, with bad attempts at prettiness didn’t bring me any joy. I’ll be getting a pretty agenda from a real artist next year!
4. A nightmare for perfectionists
Like I’ve said, I didn’t put much effort into my designing and know that my artistic ability isn’t up to scratch. But, this didn’t mute the part of me that wanted a lovely aesthetic journal. I had ideas for designs, but couldn’t make them happen. I prefer to entrust that responsibility in someone else, designing me a pretty journal I can choose. Even maybe for the more artistic among you, it can still be tricky to actually get anything planned when you have to spend ages perfecting a design, removing any pages you didn’t like and planning out your designs before you commit to them. Maybe you’re lighthearted and will go with whatever you come up with – I respect that, but it’s not for me.
As a conclusion, know that I really did enjoy bullet journaling this year and I love the concept and all the lovely designs others create, but, I just don’t think it’s for me. Next year I’ll be getting a usual day planner (expect some planning vids from that fella) coupled with my beloved digital planner, Asana. But, this isn’t to knock bullet journals. They work for the right people and they’re really enjoyable to do! I hope this has helped you make your decision. What’s your preferred planning method? Let me know in the comments!
Happy planning. Love, Ella-Rose xx