Why I Don’t Believe in Bullet Journaling
Because I’m an expert in the planning space, I naturally get questions about a lot of related tools — one of which is the bullet journal. So today I’m sharing the reasons I don’t believe bullet journaling will benefit your time management or productivity.
That’s not to say that bullet journals don’t have a place in your suite of tools, but I do not believe they are assets to your productivity. In fact, in most cases, I think they actually harm it.
My definition of productivity is always getting the most important things done in a way that doesn't stress you out. And in my opinion, the bullet journal can’t accomplish this.
What are bullet journals, and how do you use them?
Before I get too specific on my reasons why I don’t believe in bullet journaling for productivity, I want to define what bullet journals are and how they work.
Physically, a bullet journal is basically a blank 6x8 notebook. And there are four key elements that you need to set up when you get started using your journal.
Step one: You go to the first open spread (or set of pages), and you label it “index”. This is where you will build the index of every other page in your bullet journal.
Step two: Create your “future log”, which entails going to another spread and deciding how many months out you want to start planning.
For example, you could divide the spread into six grids for six months. Then, you need to number the pages of your spread at the bottom and turn back to your index page to write down the future log pages.
Within your future log, you have tiny little rectangles for an entire month. In them, you are then supposed to write down all the things that you think you’d like to accomplish in those months.
Step three: Create your monthly logs. This involves setting up one spread per month.
So, again, you create the spreads, number the pages, add them to your index, etc.
Then, on the monthly log pages, you write the days of the month, and next to them you write down the big things that need to happen that month — no priority order, no time frames, etc. Tasks that take 30 minutes aren’t differentiated from tasks that take all day.
Honestly, there’s just no room to write any specifics or priorities here.
Step four: Next, you create your daily log, and the process begins again.
Now, I won’t go into my specific thoughts on daily planning, because I’ve shared repeatedly why I don’t believe it works well and why it leads to overwhelm, overscheduling, and keeps you from hitting goals. For more on this, you can check out some of my other blog posts and podcast episodes.
A Key With Bullet Journaling for Time Management
Aside from the fact that everything I just listed out is a lot of work and can lead to stress in and of itself, a major issue I have with bullet journaling for productivity and time management is that nowhere in all of these logs and spreads is there space to write down the actual time you are doing something.
Nowhere can you see the hours you have from the time your day starts to the time it ends. Nowhere can you put the time of an appointment or meeting.
Could you take the time to write that out every day? I guess so. But who has time for that?
And this is a foundational piece of everything I teach about planning inside The Top Planner system.
My Biggest Issue with Bullet Journals
There is nothing in the bullet journaling process that takes into account how much available time you really have to work with — in the day, in the week, in the month, etc.
And because of this, using the bullet journal system does not take into account the realities that so many women face.
Nowhere in the bullet journal system does it allow you to recognize those large pockets of your day when you are in motion and super busy! You have carpool and after-school activities and dinner and...the list could go on and on.
When you can visually see the big, time-intensive things going on in your planner, you know that you can’t tackle a huge project or a lot of tasks in a specific time, so you don’t add them to your calendar and set yourself up for feeling like a failure.
And if you are currently attempting to use a bullet journal as a planner, I beg of you, stop using your bullet journal for that and get a true planner.
What a Bullet Journal IS Good For
Sometimes when I'm in trainings or reading a book or listening to a podcast, I'm inspired by something. This could be a thought, idea, quote, or just something that I want to capture and be able to come back to and have as a reference later.
And I could see how a bullet journal could be kind of a good repository or filing system for those kinds of things. The index system used in bullet journals could even be useful for this.
So, while I feel bullet journaling could definitely have a place in your overall organizational system, I do not believe it can be used as a command center for your life like a true planner can.
If you're interested in learning more about what my planning system, The TOP Planner, can do for you, I invite you to check it out here.
And for even more tips and exercises on all things time management, organization, and productivity, check out more blogs or podcast episodes.