Bullet Journals: Digital or Paper?

How I jot down my to-do’s and schedules.

The idea of bullet journaling was always captivating to me. It’s an “all in one” solution to being organised.

For those of you that have never heard of bullet journals, it’s a medium that holds your calendar, your to-do list, birthdays of your loved ones and even that doodle you did during your online lecture. It holds anything that you want to be recorded or organised.

I’ve tried two ways of bullet journaling: classic (in an actual journal), and digital (on an iPad). Here’s an account of both those experiences.

My experience with digital bullet journals

I didn’t know if I’d commit to bullet journaling in the long run so I decided to run a trial run first with my iPad. (It saves paper too!)

I used GoodNotes 5, my preferred handwritten note-taking app. There are other apps out there too, most notably, notability. (See what I did there?)

I created a digital notebook on GoodNotes and doodled out templates for my “month in a glance” and “day in a glance”. This was another reason why I chose an iPad over a traditional notebook — the copy-paste feature.

I could easily just copy that template page and make it into “April”, “Monday” or “Friday”. It seemed comically easy to me.

This was the point when I realised I would prefer having my bullet journal on my person all the time. It’s easier to strike out tasks in a little notebook than lugging around a 10.5” iPad and flipping it open to strike out a line.

I could easily see my tasks on the iPhone app for GoodNotes, but I couldn’t interact with them. I could’ve used my finger on my phone to strike the tasks out but that just made the whole thing look messy.

Another thing that threw me off was that using an iPad just wasn’t as satisfying as compared to using a notebook to write down your tasks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for writing down your class notes, but as a bullet journal, it just became annoying.

I thought enough was enough. I decided to get a notebook.

My experience with classic bullet journals

I bought a book from our local store. It was single ruled and it had an all-black cover. It was simple and minimalistic.

I looked up several videos on YouTube to see what the best way of doing this art was, and then it hit me.

There’s no right or wrong way of making a bullet journal. It’s a personal thing designed to help you. What I do might help me, but it might not help you.

Some people like to make their journals artistic with drawings and beautiful calendars. They’re amazing to look at but I know I don’t have both the patience and consistency to do that, so I opted for a simpler way of doing it.

Every month, I’d write down all my upcoming tests, events and whatnot. I also tried incorporating a habit tracker into the month page — inspired by Thomas Frank’s habit tracker.

After that, I added bullet journaling into my morning routine. I’d write the date and then a little to-do list of things I had to do. I also wrote down my daily highlight, my daily gratitudes and also something to let go of, as a little morale-booster.

This was a great system! The book was small enough to take with me wherever I went. My system was simple enough to be able to do it consistently.

Personally, I wouldn’t say bullet journaling was life changing, but it did help me in visualising my responsibilities. There’s obviously going to be some changes when you move from trying to remember your daily tasks to actually writing them down.

Sure you could just open up your favourite to-do list app and write down the same tasks in there. That’s probably much easier and more convenient too.

I expected myself to jump on the “app bandwagon” too but that didn’t happen. I’m all up for making everything digital, I’ve gone completely paperless with my notes since 2019.

I didn’t quit bullet journaling though. I still write my tasks on paper and strike them out with a pen because it’s satisfying. I find myself wanting to do mundane chores because I want to get them off my to-do list. I don’t want to write them again under tomorrow’s date, which is much easier done on an app than on paper.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d say everyone should try out bullet journaling. I’m not saying you should stick to it and do it for the rest of your life, but try it.

You might get more work done, you might have fun making the journal itself! In contrast, you might find it annoying to have to keep a book with you all the time when the little computer in your pocket can do way more.

As the old saying goes, don’t knock it till you try it.

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