Whether you are new to journaling, or you have been doing it for years, you have probably wondered what kind of planning system is actually the best to use – a bullet journal or a planner? Personally, I think both bullet journals and planners have their pros and cons, and which one is the best for you depends on what you’re using it for, and what your creative preferences are.
Most people want a way to keep track of the things that go on in their daily lives, and this is where having some form of planner is going to help. In order to be successful and organised, you need to find what works best for you. The million-dollar question is bullet journal or planner? Both planning systems are great, but what works best for one person does not work well for another. Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you will know which one is perfect for you!
Differences of Bullet Journal vs Planner
Firstly, we should break down the differences between the two.
A bullet journal (also known as BuJo) is a customisable diary that contains a number of sections. You can log to-do lists, weekly calendars, and goals. You can track your physical and mental health, habits, and finances. Bullet journals give you a larger scope to be creative and make your diary more personal and specific to your needs.
Classic planners or organisers usually have fixed layouts with the daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly calendar views already printed into the pages. They come in a variety of types depending on what you’re using them for, and enable you to keep track of your busy life using predetermined trackers.
Now we know what each planning system is, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, starting with bullet journals.
Bullet Journal Pros
The number one pro of using a bullet journal is that they are 100% customisable. There are no set structures or pre-planned pages in bullet journals, meaning they are more flexible than traditional planners. All you really need to start a bullet journal is a plain notebook. There are also plenty of higher quality journals available.
Journals can be diverse and you can have one for literally anything. This flexibility means you get to decide in every single detail of your journal. Whether you want to include your yearly goals, weekly tasks, or daily to-do lists. Or whether you want to track your health and fitness habits, or your sleep cycles. You can make a spread for all of these things in your bullet journal, because it is down to you to include whatever you want to.
You can choose any theme for your BuJo. You may dedicate a whole journal to gratitude, or to your dreams or travels, or you could use it as a diary to get your thoughts out onto paper. Every detail of your journal is down to you!
Due to the monthly nature of bullet journaling, each new month gives you the chance to switch it up. If you choose a pastel-coloured theme for one month, you could completely change it to using only a monochrome colour palette the next month. You could even theme your bullet journal according to the seasons, making each quarterly spread unique.
Bullet journal enable you to adapt as the year goes on. There is no set plan or pre-organised layout in a BuJo, so if you decide to add in a new tracker or change your planning structure, you can do just that!
Most people prefer to start a new bullet journal at the start of the calendar year, but this is by no means compulsory – you can start a new one whenever you want to, whether it is the first of January, or the 1st of July. In fact, you could even start a new bullet journal spread in the middle of a month or week because there is no predetermined structure unlike with a planner.
If you’re someone who loves to draw, paint, or practice calligraphy, using a customisable planning system such as a bullet journal is perfect for you to get your creative juices flowing. You can design the layouts that will fit with your wants and needs, and you can add in fancy lettering or doodles.
They are a great way to show off your art skills, and take time for yourself. Bullet journals can act as a form of meditation or art therapy to many people. The process of finding inspiration and bringing your ideas to life in your journal can be relaxing and is almost like a form of mindfulness.
You can pick up lovely, high quality bullet journal for under $20 and they can last you up to a year.
Bullet Journal Cons
The 100% customisable nature of bullet journals is not for everyone. Some people do not enjoy building an aesthetic, colour-coordinated, themed spread from a blank page, and instead prefer to just ‘fill in the blanks.’
Creating the perfect planning system will take a lot of trial and error. It can be frustrating if you’ve spent money, time, and effort on creating a fancy BuJo spread only to find it isn’t working for you. Finding the right system for you and your needs can take anywhere from one month to one year of bullet journaling, and a lot of us don’t have to time to waste creating something that won’t be beneficial to us in the long run.
Bullet journaling takes a lot of time and consistency to stay on top of. Creating a brand new spread every month means that you must schedule time every month to sit down and plan your upcoming BuJo pages. In reality, when work and social events get on top of us, it becomes harder and harder to dedicate time to our journals.
Due to the nature of bullet journaling, it can require a lot of supplies. It’s not only the cost of the journal itself, but also the stationary (pens, pencils, paints, stickers) that can add up to a lot of expenses.
Another thing to note with bullet journaling is the risk of messing up. When you’re drawing, doodling, or painting, it’s easy to slip up! If you’ve spent hours making a spread only to mess it up right at the end, you’ve wasted a lot of time and energy for a page that you might not want to use. The pages in most bullet journals are not the easiest to rip out either!
Planners also come with their own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at these.
For those of you who are busy and have a hectic work schedule, a planner is a perfect way to stay on top of this. Planners are much more time and energy efficient than bullet journals, because you do not need to create a whole planner from a bunch of blank pages,
When you want to stay organised, but do not enjoy being creative and artsy, planners are much better for you than bullet journals. You can still add your own spin by writing titles, or placing stickers on your trackers, but it will be simpler than starting from scratch. This also reduces the costs of supplies because all you need to fill in your planner is a pen, unlike with bullet journals where you can spend hundreds of dollars on art supplies!
Planners are pre-templated with calendars or weekly spreads that simply need filling in with your personal details and deadlines. It’s super easy to record everything you need, because the layout is predetermined. If you have a lot of errands to do, writing them in planner will help you stay on top of them.
The ease of use makes planners ideal for business owners who attend several meetings a week, or track a bunch of numbers and metrics. The calendar templates are good to use as datebooks, and provide a clear way to keep track of important meetings.
If you have a more specific use for your planner, there are different types available to plan for everything including fitness, academic, finance, and weddings. This makes planners suitable to a wide range of people.
Not everybody wants to spend a lot on their planners. Basic planners are cheap and cheerful. You can pick one up for under $10 and it will last you the whole year.
The fixed structure of planners makes them less customisable than bullet journals. If you want to add in an extra tracker, or make more room for a particular task you have coming up, it’s much harder to make additional space for these in a planner when compared to a BuJo.
Planners are nowhere near as creative as bullet journals. For those of you who love art and DIY, a planner is not going to excite you because there is limited room for adding in your own drawings and lettering. They are less a form of art therapy, and more just a practical way of staying organised. You’re unlikely to feel inspired if you’re using a plain, monochrome planner in comparison to creating a colourful, personal spread in a bullet journal.
The pre-templated aspect of planners makes it difficult if you want to create more space for certain things. You have a limited amount of space for each part of your planner. There is not much room to work with if you want to rearrange your trackers, or if you have a particular long to-do list one day.
Generally, planners begin at the start of the calendar year, making it difficult to start a planner half way through the year. There may also be sections printed in the planner that you do not need to use, so you end up wasting pages and leaving them blank.
If you want a high-quality planner, it can get very expensive. You can pay up to $100 for a decent planner, or even more if you want a leatherback book.
So which is best for you – Planner or Bullet Journal?
So now we’ve looked at the pros and cons of bullet journals and planners, it’s time to decide which is the best for you. My advice is that if you are a creative person who has time to sit down and design your own journal from blank pages, a bullet journal is for you. If you simply want a planner for the practicality of having somewhere to keep all of your tasks and deadlines, a planner might be a better option for you.
Ultimately, it is completely dependent on how you like to work. Remember you can always switch from one to the other. If you buy a BuJo and find after a month, you just don’t have the time to create your own spreads, invest in a planner instead.
Your planning system should be something that makes your life easier, not something that adds unnecessary stress, so make sure you choose the one that suits you and your lifestyle the best.