Walk into any stationary or bookstore, and you’ll probably see a wide variety of planner options — and maybe some bullet journals, too. As you take in all the colorful designs and endless choices, you may be wondering: What’s the difference between a bullet journal and a planner anyway?
While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some important differences to keep in mind. Here’s everything you need to know about how a traditional planner differs from a bullet journal.
What is a bullet journal?
Bullet journals, also known as “bujos,” are more structured than your typical journal in the sense that they include things like trackers, planners, indexes, and more. A bullet journal can serve as a creative outlet that’s also organized: You can use a bullet journal to track moods, habits, goals, meals, and spending; you can utilize a weekly spreads, keep track of upcoming plans and appointments, free-write, the list goes on.
Very visual and creative people tend to love bullet journals, because in addition to using them to achieve goals and keep track of important to-dos, they get to spend a lot of time drawing, sketching, and coloring and they create their pages. Although you don’t have to be an artist to have a bullet journal, people who don’t consider themselves artistically inclined tend to feel a bit intimidated by them, in which case a tool like Silk + Sonder is great: They take care of all the visuals, and your only job is to fill in the information you want to keep track of.
Bullet journal example
What is a planner?
A planner is a simpler space, usually in a calendar format, where you keep track of what's coming up in your week or month. While a planner can be built into a bullet journal (and Silk + Sonder comes with one), planners are more simple than bullet journals. While a bullet journal is filled with different activities and trackers, a planner is typically used more for keeping track of what’s coming up. Have Wednesday dinner plans? Great, that will go in your planner. Want to make sure you work out four times next week? That will go in your planner, too — and by writing it down, it will help keep you accountable.
Planners come in a lot of different forms, from digital planners to daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planner. Some are very bare bones and only include a calendar (usually with a decent amount of space to write) and others come with space for to-do lists, devote pages to inspirational quotes, leave room for short journal entries, and more
Bullet journal pros
If you’re intrigued by the idea of a bullet journal, good for you — because using a bullet journal regularly comes with a lot of pros. These include:
- Can serve as a creative outlet
- Helps organize your thoughts
- Helps you achieve goals
- Can help a lot with productivity
- Can be used as a planner to help you keep track of appointments and other to-dos
- It’s customizable, meaning your bullet journal can be whatever you want it to be — as in-depth or as simple as you want.
- It isn’t expensive
Bullet journal cons
Some cons of using a bullet journal include:
- Can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re using a blank notebook
- It’s time-consuming
- Takes up space
- Sometimes overdoing it — like tracking too many habits at once, for example — can backfire
Pros of using a planner
Some pros of using a planner include:
- Planners are simple and straightforward
- They can help you keep track of upcoming appointments
- They help with accountability
- There are a lot of digital planner options
- Planners are generally inexpensive
Woman using a planner
Cons of using a planner
Cons of using a planner include:
- Planners are more rigid than bullet journals
- Planners don’t allow a lot of space for creative expression
- Some planners don’t leave enough space for everything you want to write down
Bullet journal vs planner: Which one’s right for me?
Bullet journals and planners are both excellent options for tracking, so figuring out which one’s right for you really depends on what you want to track. If you want to track your moods, habits, meals, spending — the list goes on — you might benefit more from a bullet journal. Additionally, if you’re a visual, artistic person who loves drawing, you might find the creative act of using a bullet journal to be soothing.
If you’re someone who likes to keep things simple, you might benefit more from a planner. While a bullet journal is a bit like the ultimate accountability buddy, a planner can help you stay accountable too because it allows you to plan specific to-dos — like exercising, for example — ahead of time.
When it comes to choosing a bullet journal or a planner, there’s no right or wrong. It all comes down to preference — so do what feels right for you.