OK, before I get any hate from the bujo community, Bullet Journaling can be a waste of time. There, everyone happy now? Thought not, let me explain.
I’m relatively new to bujo, I have been using GTD for years and decided that I would try out bujo to see how it stacks up. I haven’t hated the transition and I’m staying with bullet journaling for the foreseeable future. I can see the value in it.
But I can also see how many people can fall into a bujo trap that wastes their time and ultimately causes them to look for something else.
Here’s the way it happens.
You hear about bullet journaling, that it can help you be more intentional and even get more done, so you google it. The results are full of beautiful spreads and collections with awesome flower motifs and geometric borders, with color and stickers. It just looks super fun and something that would be awesome to have.
So you watch a YouTube video and order yourself a notebook (dotted of course because how could you ever journal on lined paper?!)
Your journal arrives and you sit down to make your first themed spread but then you realize you haven’t done anything artistic since school and have no artistic ability whatsoever! You power through and finish the spread after about 40 minutes of coloring and outlining, hand aching.
You still have three more spreads before your bujo is set up for the month and you’re going to have to do this again next month.
This might sound familiar if you’ve ever started a bullet journal. Although I didn’t exactly fall into this trap as I used Ryder Caroll’s video to start my bullet journal, I did still try to use fancy lettering and put borders around some of my pages – it didn’t go well. And it was a waste of time.
But take heart, it doesn’t have to be this way!
Productivity or Creativity?
Whether or not you think bullet journaling is a waste of time really depends on the way you think of bullet journaling. Is it primarily a productivity tool or a outlet for creative expression?
There’s no wrong answer here but it helps to know how you think of it. If you want to use bujo as a productivity system but find yourself spending hours making it look pretty, you will only end up frustrating yourself.
If, on the other hand, you want to create a working piece of art in your bullet journal, have at it.
Realistically though this is going to be reserved for the artistically inclined. And most artistically inclined people are more likely to focus their creative abilities on actual pieces of art rather than a notebook.
If you’re struggling with whether a beautiful bullet journal would be a waste of time for you, ask yourself this question.
Would you Draw and Color Anything Else?
I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t add a motif or color a flowery border around anything else I write. If you’re not the sort of person that is already creating artistic birthday cards for people or writing beautifully penned letters with calligraphy pens, why start now? “But this is a bullet journal!” Actually no, it’s not.
The Original Bullet Journal Wasn’t a Waste of Time
The original Bullet Journal as conceptualized by Ryder Carrol and described in The Bullet Journal Method doesn’t have the themes, borders or washy tape. It’s very minimal and efficient. The calendar is just a list of numbers!
It was created this way to be a purely functional tool to help combat Ryder’s ADHD. It wasn’t until the method became popular that the stylized bujos started to appear.
Am I Just Being a Downer?
Perhaps. But I really do think that using a bullet journal would help so many people.
It gives your life direction, forces you to be more self aware and allows for meaningful reflection. All good things. But I fear that many people are either scared off by the artistic bujos they see online, or quickly get discouraged and quit.
How to Make a Minimal Bullet Journal that isn’t a Waste of Time
The first thing to do is to throw away all those fancy colored pens and highlighters, the washy tape and the glitter. Were going to get back to basics.
All you need is your journal and a pen. Check out Ryder Caroll’s video on how to set up the future log, month view and daily log below.
Use simple minimal Spreads
I get it, the Future, Monthly and Daily Logs aren’t enough to really be productive, you need collections for doing project planning, trackers and lists.
These are all easy to do with a simple title at the top of the page. No border, no double lined lettering, no color, just a title and then get to it.
Here is a spread I made of blog posts I’m working on, it’s not beautiful but it is very functional.
Use pre-made trackers
Trackers can be both fun and useful for tracking all sorts of things and discovering the relationship between certain activities. I discovered that I get more shoulder pain the days after I drink, for example.
The thing is, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time you want to create a new tracker. There are so many already online that you can just wholesale plop into your bullet journal.
Google “minimalist bujo trackers” and choose something that will be easy to set up and fast to use each day. Always have a reason for tracking what your tracking.
I tracked a few habits to see which was causing my shoulder pain. I really wasn’t sure if it was my diet, alcohol consumption, workouts, laptop use or gaming so I tracked them all against my pain levels, at the end of the month I could see a clear correlation. I’ve since changed my habits and the pain has reduced considerably.
Use printed calendars
This is a huge time saver if you like to have a box style monthly calendar in your bujo. Getting out a ruler and creating it is one thing but then you have to add in the days of the week and each day of the month, it really can be a huge time drain. instead just print out your months for the whole year and stick them into your bullet journal.
You can the same for the future log with a full year calendar. You can also buy calenader stamps that will print the whole month for you which you can stamp anywhere you need.
So keeping a Bullet Journal can be a waste of time. But whether it is for you is really down to how you want to use it.
Being mindful about why you bullet journal the way you do is the key.
Originally from the U.K, Greg has lived in Asia for over 15 years. Fluent in a handful of languages, he ran a management consultancy before creating Face Dragons. He spends his time now traveling around Asia, writing, taking photos, and drinking coffee.