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!
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.
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!
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!
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:
- Tombow Dual Brush pens
- Tombow TwinTones
- Leuchtturm1917 (But which size? A5, A4, B5, A6?)
- Scribbles That Matter
- Rhodia Goalbook
- Jayden’s Apple stencils
- All the best gel pens
- This list could go on for a while…
To be clear, the Bullet Journal system requires one pen or pencil. One.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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