Are Bullet Journals A Waste Of Time? How To Bullet Journal When You’re Busy AF

Do find your bullet journal to be too time consuming to keep up? This is a common bullet journal problem I hear.

Take a look at any of the popular bullet journal accounts on Instagram or Pinterest, and chances are you’ll see meticulously designed spreads ready to be scrawled over for the week ahead. Gorgeous ink drawings, tastefully trendy brush lettering, and allllll the cute themes you can think of.

Bullet journaling has become an art form.

I don’t know about you, but I love art. I like to be creative.

I thought that bujo-ing would be a sneaky way for me to get more creativity into my life — all the while keeping me more organized.

But, after a few weeks spending half of every Sunday fussing over my next week’s spread, I felt I could no longer keep up. When your bullet journal takes too much time, it’s not helping you.

one of my earlier bullet journal spreads that took a lot of time
I spent way too much time working on this weekly spread, and then hardly used it.

Like Robert DeNiro says about cooking a steak in Raging Bull, “You overcook it, it’s no good. It defeats its own purpose.”

defeats its own purpose

The right and the wrong way to bullet journal

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that bullet journaling is being promoted as a creative hobby WITH the expectation that it’s still a productivity tool.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is not only how I saw bullet journaling in the beginning, but it’s also how I blogged about it.

While I *had* read through the instructions on bulletjournal.com, I still felt that I needed to make my personal bullet journal a work of art, that I should use it to express myself visually.

But here’s what I ignored on Ryder’s site. The word “method.”

Eventually I realized that this bullet journal method is more than just making a planner that matches my style.

It’s much, much simpler than that. And that’s why it works.

Understand the method

Okay, let me summarize how simple the bullet journal method is. I think a lot of people get confused about it because they’re presented with a bunch of new terms and concepts and… yeah.

So in the simplest form, bullet journaling starts with rapid-logging, which is just your daily brain dump of all the things you want to get done or remember for TODAY. I include “important things that happened” like you would write in a diary in this list, only written in short-form.

You might write down five things, or you might write down a page and a half of things. That’s why there are no layouts used. It’s just a list.

Looking at your list, you can identify which things you need to prioritize for the day.

After you complete one of your tasks, put an X next to it, and so on – you can read more about rapid logging and the bullet journal symbols here.

Over time, this method can help you spend your time more wisely, by recognizing which things were worth the effort and which things you thought would be important were actually redundant.

In practice, it requires very little time and effort. Now that you see how easy it is, I hope you’ll give it another shot.

Once you get into the habit of creating daily logs, you’re ready to add other components to the bullet journal, like monthly logs and things like trackers, if you want.

But I just NEED to have a weekly view

For some people, having more of a traditional planner is necessary. Especially if you have a very busy schedule every week due to work or school.

If this sounds like you, I suggest a planner with a vertical weekly layout. In these planners, every day of the week is a column, so you still get lots of length to write your rapid-logging.

But I just NEED colors, decorations, and all that cuteness

I hear ya! Yes, bullet journaling at its most basic is very minimal and utilitarian, which doesn’t appeal to everyone. If you get a kick out of making your planner look pretty, but just don’t have time to decorate it every week, look for a premade planner or planner pages that ticks all your boxes: a look you love, with room to bujo. Etsy is a great place to look.

So, if you’ve been struggling with how time consuming it is to keep up a bullet journal, first try getting back to basics with daily logging.

You can also try using a more conventional planner with vertical columns for each day of the week. Just don’t give up!

Think about what you need your bullet journal to do for you. What do you want most from it? Would it absolutely change your life if you could be more organized and productive on a daily basis? If the answer for you is yes, then don’t give up on bullet journaling.

Do check out Jes’s post about finding a way to bullet journal that works for her on her blog, Digital Sabbatical.

If your bullet journal takes too much time to keep up, here's my advice on cutting out all the time wasting stuff and focusing on productivity.