Planners vs bullet journals

Planner vs Bullet Journal--Which One is Right for You?

I have been having the planner vs bullet journal debate with myself for a couple of years. Right now, I am a planner girl.  Give me paper and pens of all colors and I'm a happy girl.  But I also happen to have a bullet journal. And I think both of them have their pros and cons depending on what type of person you are. The one thing I  know for sure, is that trying to plan my life on my phone just doesn't work. At least, not for me. I seriously doubt I'm the only one!

My Planner

Right now I am using a planner from In the Leafy Treetops and I love it! This is my second year using this particular planner, and the longer I work in it the more I get along with it.  My personal problem with any planner is that there's just no possible way to make it "one size fits all".


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I don't have kids living at home anymore, so I don't need anything to schedule kids' activities.  I love to have plans in place for travel or holidays, but the way I do it doesn't seem to fit inside most planners very well.  The In the Leafy Treetops planner I use comes about as close as I can possibly get to what I need.

In The Leafy Treetops Planner
This is my planner at the moment. If came from In the Leafy Treetops and I have a bunch of covers that are interchangeable, which is awesome!

My Bullet Journal

You've probably heard all the raving about bullet journals and how awesome they are. If you're still not completely sure what a bullet journal is, let me tell you:

It's a completely blank book that you can customize exactly as you like. The sky is the limit!  So you can color code it, doodle in it, keep it simple, make it complex, and create any number of different pages that work for you.  It really is nothing but a blank canvas.

Leuchtturm 1917 bullet journal
This is my bullet journal. It's a Leuchtturm 1917, which is definitely the best one I've found! The pages are thick and the markers don't bleed through.

That being said, along with what I just said about having pages in my planner than don't work for me, you'd think I would be a bullet journal girl through and through.

Once upon a time, I was.

At the beginning of the month, I would create a calendar for the month, a goals sheet, a monthly to-do appointment sheet, and start with the first week's spread where I could plan out each day, my menu for the week, my shopping list for the week, a habit tracker for the week, draw a nice inspirational quote on the page, and then decorate ALL of those pages with markers, stickers and colored pencils. Phew!  *insert deep breath here*

Related: 15 Lists to Keep in Your Planner to be more productive and organized

It was fun. But, man, was it time consuming!

Add to that the infinite amount of time I spent online looking for page layouts and decorating ideas that I just HAD to have. I know, I know...I said you can keep it simple.  But a simple person I am not. If there is a way to complicate something, I will find it. And I'm not ashamed to admit that when it comes to artsy things, I'm a perfectionist.

I also found myself tracking and creating pages I didn't really need just because I found a cute layout for a page on Pinterest and just had to copy it.

I loved it, but I didn't love it.  Does that make sense? So the planner vs bullet journal debate had to resume.

So which is better?

They're both better.  It completely and totally depends on what you want to do.  I'm going to give you a planner vs. bullet journal comparison list, just so you can get the idea. And a few sample pages so you can really see some planner vs bullet journal examples

The Planner Pros

  • Pages are premade, with boxes and spaces ready to fill in
  • It's bound and the paper is usually thick and pens don't bleed through
  • There are monthly dividers
  • The pages are already decorated, so you don't have to use valuable brain power trying to decorate them.
  • You may see places to organize or keep track of things that you didn't even know you needed to keep track of.
  • The pages are in a specific order so it's easy to know where to look to find things.
In the leafy treetops planner example
This is an example page from my planner. I decorated it up with some stickers, and I chose to use the horizontal planner, but she also has one with vertical days as well.
In the leafy treetop planners example
This is another page from a different month. You can see the background design is different for each month. One of the "cons" of this is if you don't like the background design, you're stuck with it for a month.

Bullet Journal Pros

  • Pages are blank, so you can literally do anything you want to do.
  • The index pages in the front allow you to create an index so you can find the pages you've created.
  • You're not carrying around pages you don't need and won't use.
  • You set your own box size, or don't have boxes at all!
  • You can decorate, doodle, draw or write anything anywhere you want, and can use every space.
  • If you don't care about it looking cute and only want it to be functional, one bullet journal will last you several years.
bullet journal example page
This is one example of a page I set up for the week in my bullet journal. All the doodles and things were fun to do! But they definitely take time.
bullet journal monthly calendar spread
This was probably my favorite months page that I ever did! That title was fun to make! It is one of the reasons I sometimes miss my bullet journal.

Planner Cons

  • There will always be pages that you don't need and won't use.
  • The layout is already decided for you, whether you like it or not. If certain boxes aren't big enough for everything you need to enter, there is no way to change it.
  • The pages are decorated, so you have limited ability to customize your decorations
  • Planners are generally more bulky and larger than a bullet journal
  • If you choose a bound planner, there are very limited options for adding pages if you want to.

Bullet Journal Cons

  • If you're a perfectionist (or having a hard time making decisions) you will likely freeze up and not be able to make decisions and move forward very easily
  • Staring at a BLANK PAGE can feel daunting.
  • There may be no rhyme or reason to the order of your pages, making the index absolutely necessary if you want to find anything
  • Migrating things from day to day and month to month can be time consuming
  • Having to redo the monthly pages every month and the weekly pages every week can be tedious.

Conclusion?

Honestly, the conclusion is, both ideas are fabulous, it just depends on what you're looking for and your own personality.  Right now I'm in planner mode, but every once in a while I take my trusty bullet journal off the shelf and thumb through it lovingly, remembering how much I enjoyed it and contemplating going back to it.  Maybe there is room in my life for both of them. Or maybe I'll overwhelm myself if I try..

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