The Bullet Journal: Diary versus Planner

Image Description: the background is a white flat surface with stationery items resting on top the surface. From left to right, a silver notebook (grey coloured elastic bound around it to keep it closed and grey ribbon poking out the bottom). four black pens with different coloured pen-caps, and a thick silver pen.

Starting a new hobby can be expensive, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. There are a lot of financial accessibility problems with regards to stationery projects and Bullet Journaling is no exception. So, I want to make my position on this topic this very clear, if it hasn’t been made apparent already.

The man who invented the Bullet Journal system is Ryder Carrol, he has ADHD, and he invented the Bullet Journal system to help himself. The Bullet Journal system is an accommodation tool designed with accessibility in mind. So, if you find a cheap planner and you like it, use it. If it works for you, then it works.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you must have X-thing or X-brand or you’re not a “real” bullet journal enthusiast because that’s bullshit. Don’t let the aesthetic snobs intimidate you. Don’t let the elitists tell you what you “must” have. The entire point of the Bullet Journal is that it’s created and designed with your individual needs and wants in mind.

So, what do you do if you’re limited to only predesigned and preorganised forms of planners? What if you don’t have access to the types of supplies recommended? How do you turn a planner that is not easily accessible into a planner that is?

A beginner could waste a lot of time investigating something, only to find out that product-x isn’t available in Australia or, the more likely case scenario, it will cost a ridiculous amount of money to have it shipped over to Australia.

For example: Moleskine Blank Planners and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks are difficult to find in Australian stores and are expensive to purchase. I know Dymocks and Officeworks have a selection of Moleskine journals available, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend them. I mean, why should I pay AU $35 for a journal when I can purchase the exact same journal from Book Depository for AU $16.35? It might take a few weeks for it to arrive, but at that price, I’m willing to wait.

Side Note: if you run an online store and intend to sell physical products that require shipping, I consider it good practice to inform your potential customers of how much the shipping fees are and whether or not you can sell to customers living outside of your country-of-location. I should not have to get to the “Cart” stage of purchase before I am informed of how much the shipping fees are or that this seller does not sell to “international customers”.

But back to the original topic!

In my experience, it is a lot more difficult to use a predesigned planner for Bullet journaling, however, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

There is a lot of the information about Bullet Journal and Printable Documents available online and in very specific niches. Personally, I have no interest in Mother and Child blogs that do detailed posts about parenting and home-schooling, however, these are the blogs that often have the required information I want/need.

But it takes time to go through all those blogs (there are so many of them), you also need the ability to navigate the internet (equal access to high-speed internet is still a problem in Australia), and you also need the ability to critically and correctly evaluate information.

Some printable documents might not work for you or are in awkward colours. Previously, I’ve found printable documents in bright neon green and purple, which were difficult for me to read in colour and in the black-and-white version, so I don’t use them.

In most circumstances, in order to access the free printable document, like say a free blog planner, you’ll need to subscribe to the website. I don’t have a problem with this, these people have worked hard to design and publish a useful document, subscribing to their website is a small thing in exchange. But, as I usually don’t have an interest in the content most of these blogs produce, my subscription is usually for a limited time.

I’ll use my Mother-in-law as a case study.

My mother-in-law fits a lot of the key criteria of the online demographic interested in using a Bullet Journal for Self-Help or Mental Health reasons, so it was only a matter of time before she took an interest.

Her choice of Bullet Journal is an A4-sized Planner with pre-designed daily pages. It’s normal for beginners to purchase these types of journals as they’re cheap and accessible, however, there are a few problems with this type of journal.

I generally don’t recommend using these types of planners because of how the front-end pages are usually dedicated to subjects I don’t have an interest in, so I don’t use them. These are pages of information like when School Holidays and Public holidays begin and end, also pages that store contact details such as address pages and international phone numbers.

While I’m sure some people will still use those sections, stationery companies need to update their design process and possibly reduce those number of pages (or at least re-evaluate the content). Because every page is already predetermined and predesigned, it leaves pretty much no wriggle room for creativity or flexibility in thinking.

Unfortunately, until stationery companies figure out that not everyone thinks the same way, I suspect that we’re stuck with this rigid method of organising things and useless pages.

On the plus side, with the resources of the Internet and my enthusiasm, I’m sure I can figure out a Planner-Patch that might help my mother-in-law achieve her goals. My usual method of working around this is to find printable templates, such as a Habit Tracker template, and glue the template in.

In order to figure out what she wanted, thus what pages she would be interested in, I needed to know what her goals and objectives were. Knowing what you want is half the battle when it comes to Bullet Journals. Is this the type of journal with more of a personal-diary style? Or a professional planner type of a journal? Unfortunately, my mother-in-law didn’t know what she wanted.

So, the first thing I did was show her my own Bullet Journal, I showed her how the system worked and why I picked the pages that I did. Every page, thus far, in my Pink Bujo serves a purpose and is justifiable. In contrast to my possibly ridged pragmatism, my mother-in-law wanted self-help elements like a mood tracker and a food log. I’ve thus concluded that my mother-in-law desires a more personal diary-style of Bujo.

I’ve found pages for Mood Trackers, Food Logs, and I’ve also printed out some “Adult” colouring in templates (as she seems like the type of person interested in that). I will also include a Habit Tracker template. I think it might also help to split her Daily page into two columns (like “Work” and “Personal” columns). I’ll do some more research and I’ll have to monitor the situation. If readers have recommendations for Mental Health/Self Care Bullet Journal Spreads/Layouts, let me know in the comment section below.


Printable Documents
~The Handmade Home – Free Planner 2018

~Designer Blog Studios – Free Blog Planner 2018

~A Well Crafted Blog: Free Blog Planner

~A Well Crafted Party: Printables

~Productive Flourishing: Free Planners and Printables

~Scattered Squirel: Personal Planner

Bullet Journal Guides and Tutorials:
~Bullet Journal for ADHD by Jessica McCabe

~Buzzfeed: 29 Bullet Journal Layouts For Anyone Trying To Be Healthy by Anna Borges

~Buzzfeed: 21 Genius Ways To Track Your Mental Health by Anna Borges

~Buzzfeed: Here’s How To Use A Bullet Journal For Better Mental Health by Anna Borges and Rachel Wilkerson Miller

~Tiny Ray of Sunshine – The Food Log: Learn about your eating habits with your Bullet Journal

~Bullet Journal Collection – Track Your Moods with a Bullet Journal

~Pretty Prints and Paper – 5 Ways to Add Self-Care to Your Bullet Journal

2 thoughts on “The Bullet Journal: Diary versus Planner

  1. Oh wow this is amazing! I’m honestly too overwhelmed by all the bullet journal information to actually start one. Agh. I tried last year but ended up not being able to stick with it. But it’s really cool the inventor has ADHD! I hadn’t heard of that before and I love how he created something that helps so so many people. Also totally keen to check out some of the resources you linked to. 🎉🎉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I suspected my mother-in-law was having the same problem, so I figured I should step in. Personally, I have the same problem with Pinterest, and all the Link rabbit-holes you have to go down in order to get the information you actually wanted. I didn’t know Ryder Carrol had ADHD until I watched a video featuring him on How To ADHD, and I thought that was pretty cool too. Honestly, I thought this post was mostly me babbling on, so I’m super surprised and glad that someone has found any of this useful. Thank you for stopping by, it means a lot 🙂


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