10 Bullet Journaling Mistruths You’ll Never Believe Again


Have you been fooled by one of these common Bullet Journaling mistruths? It happens to the best of us. Today, I’m drilling down to the truth of the most pervasive Bullet Journaling mistruths. I bet you’ve experienced at least a few!

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Something has been on my mind lately. In fact, today, I couldn’t shake it, even as I was furiously packing my bags to go to a blogging conference. They’re still sitting in the corner, NOT packed. But lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of Bullet Journaling mistruths making the rounds. I assume this is, in part, a side-effect of having so many people interested in Bullet Journaling (yay!), but as the community has expanded, so have misunderstandings about what Bullet Journaling really is.

For the record, I’m not a Bullet Journal purist — meaning, I enjoy many different styles of planning and journaling ALL AT THE SAME TIME. You won’t catch me telling anyone they’re “doing it wrong.” After all, I really mix things up into a peanut butter and jelly mess, so I know all too well where this confusion is coming from…

People like me. Bloggers. Instagrammers. The creative journaling crowd.

Together, we have a loud voice, and we often set expectations for people who are new to Bullet Journaling. That’s why today, I want to use my voice to clear up a few things. The last thing I want is for people to give up on Bullet Journaling over misconceptions. Some of these go beyond Bullet Journaling mistruths…they’re outright lies.

You can help spread the truth by sharing this post with all your new-to-Bullet-Journaling friends (share buttons are at the top and bottom of this post). Let’s dive right in!

10 Bullet Journaling Mistruths You’ll Never Believe Again

Now, just to start off on the right foot, let me clarify that I’m talking about Bullet Journal, the brand. People often use “bullet journaling” (lowercase) as a generic term for planning in a notebook, but the term is a proper noun (and trademarked). I try to respect that when I write about it.

1. Bullet Journaling takes too much time

I can’t tell you how often someone will make a comment about my pages with a “You have too much time on your hands.” Comments like that don’t bother me, though. Productivity isn’t always about doing everything quickly. It’s about making the right choices for your time.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

But let’s take a minute to address the misconception that Bullet Journaling takes loads of time. Using the simplest of layouts, you could easily create a future planning log in about 15 minutes, a monthly in 10 minutes, and a daily in less than 5 minutes. Those 5 minutes a day help you make intentional choices about your time, so the rest of your time can go to real progress on projects. You’re anticipating, rather than reacting.

It’s not unlike financial planning. You make a small investments up front for big dividends later.

2. Bullet Journaling must be artistic

Bullet Journaling is not inherently artist. The system itself is very minimalist, but it has enough flexibility that it mixes well with creative journaling, art journaling, and decorative paper planning. That’s why it has spread like wildfire!

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Again, I think this is one of those lies we’ve accidentally spread on social media. I love sharing about my various journaling pages here and on Instagram. Of course, when we share our journal pages publicly, it’s only natural that people share their very best work. That leads to a culture in which we feel pressure to make our pages, prettier, more colorful, and more eye-catching to get those likes.

Unfortunately, someone who is new to Bullet Journaling might think, “I can’t draw like that, so what’s the point?” Oh, it breaks my heart when people are intimidated by the very community that means to inspire them.

If doodling makes you happy, do it. If you like messy flower doodles, add them to your pages. If tap-dancing lady bugs are your thing, draw them! If straight lines and plain pages work best for you, great! You don’t have to buy into the idea of a Pretty Pages Club. This is not art class, and no one is grading you.

3. Bullet Journaling shouldn’t be artistic

Remember how we were talking about Bullet Journaling taking too much time? I think the art is what gives that impression. I’ve seen words exchanged on social media (on more than one occasion) over whether or not artsy journals were “real” Bullet Journals. Yikes, I can see the hackles rising, already!

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Now, to be fair, I understand the point some people are trying to make. Because “bullet journal” is so often misused as a generic term for a creative journal, others have come to the defense of the original Bullet Journal system by espousing its simplicity. In most cases, I don’t think anyone is criticizing artistic journalers. They’re simply pointing out that the system itself is based on productivity, rather than creativity.

You might also hear people claim that artistic elements are a drain on productivity (i.e. “What a waste of time…”). But the creative elements are also how many journalers make themselves feel at home in their notebooks. It’s also expression. Sketching a portrait of a loved one is not a waste of time. Painting a landscape is not a waste of time. Neither is communicating artistically in a notebook.

Those of us who need the creative life can use the Bullet Journal system as the underlying structure, then add artistic elements on top of that. People who need simplicity and clarity can use the system in its most basic form. Neither one is more correct than the other. Full stop.

4. You need lots of supplies for Bullet Journaling

Me: “I need to live more minimally.” Also me: “Yay, new pens!” Yep, that’s me…only every other day of the week. I’ve got it all:

To be clear, the Bullet Journal system requires one pen or pencil. One.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

I have a hunch about why people feel pressured to buy fancy supplies right out the gate. As a community, we talk about supplies a lot. I even keep a running list of my favorite journaling supplies HERE. We swap stories about paper quality, color intensity, exactly how flat a certain lay-flat binding gets, ghosting, bleed-through, and other details that still seem foreign to my husband (no matter how much I blab about stationery)!

Journaling is my time for personal reflection. I enjoy it, so I occasionally go overboard on supplies because I like using them. Without a doubt, this is very common in our community. Yes, it helps to have a high-quality notebook that won’t fall apart on you. Yes, many of us enjoy using certain supplies more than others. Still, supplies are not what makes the Bullet Journal. One pen. One notebook. Everything else is bonus.

5. Bullet Journal = Handwritten planner

Bullet Journaling is a planning system, without a doubt, but it’s more than that. Because it is so flexible, people can incorporate everything from goals, to everyday lists, aspirations, even class notes.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Now, there are definitely people who draw traditional planning layouts in a notebook because they prefer to create their own planner. For them, it’s just a planner. It might look very much like a planner you would buy in the store, but it’s hand-drawn. Heck, they might even call it a Bullet Journal. If that’s you, and you want to call your handmade planner a Bullet Journal, I say go for it. You let that freak flag fly!

But planning and journaling are distinct activities. They come together nicely in a Bullet Journal, but it always bothers me just a bit when someone mistakes it for a mere planner. My journal is so much more than a planner!

6. Bullet Journaling is a drain on productivity

This goes hand-in-hand with “Bullet Journaling takes too much time.” Now, I’ll be the first to admit that pages like the one below take time to make. It definitely falls more in the “creative journaling” category than the Bullet Journal category. But it’s one of my favorite pages, and I reference it often.

Today, in fact, I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed by my obligations (family, the blog, pregnant with baby no. 3, packing for my conference, quarterly taxes, and packing for a move to Japan). A quick glance at my self-care page helped me realize I needed a nap. After my 45-minute nap, I felt positive, refreshed, and ready to tackle my [very long] to-do list.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

However, there have also been a few vocal articles claiming that to-do lists (a huge part of Bullet Journaling) are a waste of time, and ultra-successful people don’t use them. Hence, the claim that Bullet Journaling is a drain on productivity.

For starters, these articles tend to look at a few successful people who don’t use to-do lists, then they apply those personalities to the entire population. Furthermore, good to-do lists work very differently from ones that are poorly executed.

Bullet Journaling emphasizes intentional to-do lists. You should evaluate each item and see if it’s worth your time. This not only removes the stress of having to do everything, but it also ensures your time is spent in the most impactful ways. Sounds pretty productive to me.

7. You have to do it every day

If this were true, I would be an epic Bullet Journal failure. Yes, I journal most days because I find it most effective that way. Occasionally, I have weeks where I work from Monday’s list until Thursday, and I don’t migrate at all. I’ve even experienced entire weeks where I simply didn’t feel like doing any journaling at all. I think it’s natural for people to go through those slumps.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Missing days every now and then is not a huge deal, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw out your journal. Just jump back in and work to solidify the habit. Good habits keep you on track, even when life tries to derail you. You’ll find your rhythm in time, but don’t let early setbacks turn you off to Bullet Journaling. They happen to everyone, even seasoned Bullet Journalists.

8. Mistakes in your Bullet Journal are a HUGE deal

Mistakes are a huge source of stress in the journaling community, but they’re not a huge deal. This is ink one paper, after all. It’s not life and death. At the same time, I don’t want to trivialized how frustrating mistakes can be, especially when they happen at the beginning of the notebook!

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

I’m not the first person to tell you this, but life if full of mistakes. Your journal will be, too. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can make peace with it. Let’s say it together, “My journal is not without mistakes, and that’s what makes it perfect for me.” 

You can also come up with a plan for dealing with smudges, splatters, and misspellings. That way, you can conquer each blank page in your notebook without fear of failure nagging at the back of your mind.  Like a Bullet Journal gladiator!

Try a few of these techniques for dealing with mistakes:

  • Cover mistakes with pretty stickers or washi tape
  • Incorporate mistakes into a doodle
  • Invest in correction tape
  • If the entire page was affected, paste a coloring page or printable quote card
  • Embrace the mistake and write yourself little notes about it

9. You can’t just dive into a Bullet Journal “whenever”

It’s very common for people to feel like they have to start a journal on January 1st and end it on December 31st. Likewise, people often wait until the first of the month to begin their Bullet Journaling.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

There’s something alluring about starting on firsts. First day of the year, first of the quarter, first of the month, first day of the week.

But you really can jump into a new journal any time you like. In fact, I think it’s best for newbies to start as soon as possible, in whatever notebook they can get their hands on. You may discover some things about your journaling style that will help you along the way. By the time you’re ready for a fancy new notebook (or the new year), you’ll have worked through most of your early struggles.

So, go ahead and start. If you like starting things on a “first,” try first thing in the morning!

10. Bullet Journaling will immediately change your life

Sometimes, I wonder if we’ve oversold Bullet Journaling. That will sound strange coming from someone who writes about it as much as I do. Hear me out…

The journaling community is enthusiastic about Bullet Journaling because it has helped us in so many ways. We swap stories about how much closer we are to our dreams, our homes are cleaner, we’ve lost weight, our finances are in order, or our newfound organizational skills landed us the dream job. These are real, life-changing results!

So, when we share these stories with people who are only beginning to explore Bullet Journaling, they expect immediate results. But the journal is just a tool, a way to organize our thoughts and tasks. You still have to put in the work (off paper).

Most people need a month or two to find their style. Take your time getting comfortable in your Bullet Journal before you decide if the system is for you.

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

What’s the most outrageous Bullet Journaling mistruth or lie you’ve ever heard? Drop me a comment below, along with your reaction!

Brainstorm with me!

Subscribe to my newsletter for Page Flutter updates, posts, and announcements.

Don’t worry, I only deliver the good stuff. No spam.

Facebook // Twitter// Instagram // Pinterest

Megan sig feather

Which Bullet Journaling mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

Which Bullet Journal mistruths fooled you? The truth about your favorite system for planning, time management, task management, and productivity.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Megan Rutell on FacebookMegan Rutell on GoogleMegan Rutell on InstagramMegan Rutell on PinterestMegan Rutell on TwitterMegan Rutell on Wordpress
Megan Rutell
Megan Rutell
Writer & Creative Blogger
Megan Rutell is the blogger behind Page Flutter. She's also a writer, stationery lover, Air Force veteran, and homesick Colorado girl.

22 thoughts on “10 Bullet Journaling Mistruths You’ll Never Believe Again”

  1. ALLEGRA D'ADAMO

    Yes, I’ve often heard the “You must have so much time on your hands” comment! I try to convince the other person to just give it a try…you can spend as little or as much time as you’d like!

  2. charmedlife2006

    Great article and so so true. My bullet journal is a wonderful tool and I pick and choose what I see out there on the internet. It is a fun collection of stickers and washi, lists and plans, sketches and writing. I stopped feeling guilty when I left pages incomplete because what started out as a great idea (a list or tracker) turned out to just not really be me. I have fallen into almost every trap you listed and it is good to know I am not alone.

    1. You’re definitely not alone! I’ve been guilty of most of these, and I get emails almost daily from people saying the same. We have to be true to ourselves, too!

  3. I found that there will always be people that shoot things down, even if they know nothing about it, so carry on and enjoy it, it is after all only thΓ¨ir opinion! Those in the know , know better! I remember when I was doing a degree by correspondence course, people would ask me how long it will take. When I replied ‘ 4 years’ they would react and say but that’s so long. As we all know, time flies, and soon I had my degree and they had not accomplished anything. I always think of that when I start any new project. That, and the way my mother always said to me, just make a start! Although I don’t Bullet Journal, I think it is a wonderful way of organizing your life and I enjoy reading your articles about it. I am retired and my days are much of a muchnes, so I my journal would be quite empty. I make use of lists and a calender to keep up with my to ‘to do’ things.

    1. Thank you so much, Suzette! You’re absolutely right; there will always be negative people in the world, but we just have to keep doing what works for us. πŸ™‚

  4. My advice is find a half used notebook and start your bullet journal there. Don’t go out and buy all the stuff from the start. Just use pens that you already have. Just start with a day planner. Do it today, do it tomorrow. Soon you’ll have found your own style of BuJo.

  5. This article is so valuable because you have condensed important information into one place. I would very much like to print it out so that I can share it when working with other bujo newbies. Do you have a printable version? Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    1. Hi, Donette! I don’t have a printable version yet, but I’m certainly open to creating one. I’ll see what I can do. Keep checking here or in the PF Vault (my resource library for subscribers). πŸ™‚

  6. Great article Megan! I started my Bujo this past October in the middle of the month! I just knew it was perfect for me and my life. I’ve had planners my whole life, but nothing ever quite fit my life until I found bullet journaling and YOU! I’m serious – just about the time I discovered bullet journaling I found you on FB, then your website and your book (which I use constantly as a resource). I’m still discovering ‘my groove.’ I use a lot of different weekly layouts, calendars, etc., but that’s the fun of bullet journaling – you have to find what works for you and not be afraid to try new ideas! I teach 2nd grade and when my colleagues see my journal, they often make the same comments about time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, it’s just how we choose to use them. I choose to spend some of that time on my journal to help keep my life organized and efficient. Thanks for being the ‘myth buster’ – you rock!

    1. I’m so happy you’ve found a system that works for you! Teachers are some of my favorite readers because you
      all have SO MANY things to keep track of. I’m thrilled to be able to contribute something useful to this wonderful community of planners. ????????

  7. Megan, I really enjoyed your article – it’s helped me put answers in to words for when someone makes the comments about time wasting, etc. I just found you through pinterest, and I’ll be reading you for awhile just to get caught up! I really like the format you have chosen for your blog – where you have many posts on a page with links to the rest of the story. I would love to make a suggestion though….. have you ever thought about putting a “return to top” button at the page bottoms? They make it so easy to go back and keep travelling through a blog.
    Thanks for all you share.

    1. Thank you Elaine! Yes, I agree with you about the “return to top” button. It’s a limitation of my current website theme that I can’t add one. I’m getting ready to do a redesign, and I hope to make the flow much more user-friendly. πŸ™‚

    2. I spoke too soon! I figured out another way to add the button you asked for. When you scroll down on one of my posts, you should now see an arrow button appear on the bottom right of your screen. That button will pop you back up to the top. Thank you for the suggestion! I hope it makes your time on my website more enjoyable. πŸ™‚

  8. I have to say, I faced the same mistruths when I started my Bujo! Except that I was the one making the comments (Shouldn’t I wait the end of the year? Does it have to be that artsy? There’s no way I can do something that gorgeous!). But I had an old journal and I thought that I could try it to be more productive. And it worked! I stopped forgetting things, I track down when I read, when I write, when I meditate…
    My life is a mess, but it’s a wonderful organized awesome mess!
    BTW, I just discovered your website and I can’t wait to read more amazing stuffs!

    1. I told myself the same things when I was starting my first journal! Sometimes we have to fight our inner critics even harder than the people around us. I’m glad you found my website, and I hope you find the rest of it as useful. πŸ™‚

  9. I agree with you, bullet journal s don’t have to be decorated. I started out with a regular notebook and kept changing the layout until I found what I liked. Then I decided I wanted to direct my creative side to making cards. So now I go to my computer once a quarter and print out about 3 months worth of pages. I do take the time to add a new quote or meme for each week for inspiration.

    Sometimes I find my bullet journal to be overwhelming, so I make a big list and pick out the most important thing in each category (chores, menu planning, work, etc.) then I am able to de-stress. As I get those thing done, I really think about whether I want to accomplish more things are take some time for self-esteem.

    The goal is not to do more, but to do the important things.

    1. Absolutely! I love adding creative elements to my own journal, but I would never want to impose that on someone else. It’s all about setting your own priorities and making the system work for you. πŸ™‚

  10. Thanks for the wonderful article. I was almost about to give up before ever starting my bullet journal after reading way too many articles on the subject. I finally decided to just “do it “and I am so glad I did !! It is my “down time ” in the evening. I am a 60 year old grandma who has a little extra time in the evening. I am a chef and nave very busy days so this is such a wonderful creative and helpful time for me. Thanks so much for your wonderful article and great print outs. Happy Journaling !!

    1. Hi, Cindi! I’m so glad you didn’t give up on journaling. It can be so expressive and relaxing! We just need to block out the noise of the world so we can make it our own. Happy journaling to you! πŸ™‚

Comments are closed.