Opinion: Time to bite the bullet journal

Bailey Tomlinson, Columnist

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Typing “bullet journal” into a search engine will yield photo after photo of strikingly detailed, hand drawn full page spreads. Things like ornate headers and doodled borders abound. They’re creative, they’re well executed and frankly, they’re a waste of time.

Bullet journaling didn’t begin as the Pinterest-savvy craft it is today. Created by Ryder Carroll, a New York Times bestselling author, the “Bullet Journal method” originally began as a way for busy people to be able to keep track of their schedules with intention. As a system, it’s downright minimalist. 

Based around listmaking and symbol use, the Bullet Journal method’s website states, “it’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system,” and utilizes what it calls “rapid logging” to do so. 

Teagan Kimbro

The main point of the practice is to streamline information, tasks and reminders into an at-a-glance format. The website even touts a side by side comparison of a page using the Bullet Journal method and what appears to be an average person’s to-do list, a small note under the photo claiming “60% less content!” 

Bullet journaling in this sense, utilizing the method it was created to accompany, is a valuable exercise in condensing data and including mindfulness while scheduling. However, bullet journaling in the sense of the trend has devolved into is merely an exercise in procrastination. 

The highly personalized, decorative pages have lost all semblance of the original goal of the practice. They can take hours to do, and if the intention is to use the journal as a weekly or monthly planner, the same templates will have to be hand drawn multiple times. There are services that allow the creation of personalized scheduling templates to be printed into formal planners, so this painstaking control over design cannot even be argued as stemming from a place of necessity. They are handmade simply because they can be.

Bullet journaling has seemingly become a distorted reflection of itself, retaining none of the core idea and morphing into a trend that counters its cause. The supposed benefits of bullet journaling can’t begin until so much time has been invested into creating the framework that any usefulness derived from it is overshadowed. A bullet journal can’t be utilized as a resource until the owner has put more time into crafting it than would ever need to be put into actually utilizing a printed version of the same tool. With any other tool, this characteristic would seem absurd.

Add these considerations to the lifestyle of one of the most likely demographics to start a bullet journal: students, particularly students in high school and higher education. Students have a busy schedule and, at times, an overwhelming amount of work to do. As a student myself, I know that creating journal spreads from scratch is something that I don’t have time to pursue, especially if doing so is a prerequisite to having a resource for keeping track of all my deadlines in. For the majority of people, it just isn’t reasonable.

So if starting a bullet journal is on your to-do list, you might need to reconsider. Bullet journaling, in the trendy form it takes now, is an interesting creative outlet and should be supported as such. However, there’s no reason to believe that it’s more productive than a traditional planner or actually employing the Bullet Journal method. 

“Productive means that we’re using our time wisely by focusing on what matters,” the Bullet Journal method website says. If somebody has a schedule busy enough to consider keeping a bullet journal, designing and hand drawing entire page spreads just isn’t covered by that definition of productive.