Why I Switched From Bullet Journaling Back To A Planner + The Pros & Cons of Both

Why I Switched From Bullet Journaling Back To A Planner + The Pros & Cons of Both

When I discovered bullet journaling, it instantly became my number one favorite pastime. I posted photos of my spreads on Instagram and had many people comment on how artistic I was and how they would never have time for something like that. I would thank them and, of course, tell them all about how great bullet journaling was and all the cool stuff I was doing with it. It was something that motivated me to be productive. I always looked forward to sitting down with a jar full of pens and making my plans. After spending lots of time with decorative detailings and fancy layouts, I would be excited to check things off my to do lists–after all, I wouldn’t let myself spend that much time on my spreads and NOT use them!

One day I was going through this spiel and the person I was enthusing to had the audacity to tell me, “Oh, but wait ’til you have that baby–there won’t be anymore of that!” I actually became somewhat offended by their dismissive attitude and vowed to myself to “show them.” Oh, how naive I was.

For a while after my son was born, I did keep up with my bullet journaling. But I also had the loose expectations of first time motherhood; people were constantly helping and the baby slept so much, nobody expected my house to be clean or my laundry to be caught up. Of course it was easy to find time for elaborate bullet journaling layouts!

Then, the newborn phase wore off, reality started to set in, and I had to admit defeat. I no longer had the excuses to allot long stretches of time for bullet journal doodles. So, my spreads became simpler and simpler–and worse! Sometimes I would go weeks at a time without writing anything at all in it! The next thing I knew, I was looking down at sad chicken-scratched pages that no more motivated me to wash a sink full of crusty pots than a fly swatter to the fanny.

Everyone has something that motivates them and brings them joy. Everyone needs a way to reward themselves when the work is done. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to reboot my passion for making plans and lists.

(*Note: when I refer to using a planner vs. a bullet journal here, I’m talking about decorative planning–elaborate drawings and layouts in the bullet journal or planner stickers. When used in a minimal way, of course, the two methods would be totally interchangeable.)

Switching Back To A Planner

I loved bullet journaling (and I still do), but I decided my naysayer had been right: I no longer had the time to stay huddled over my favorite Moleskine.

As a side note, of course, there are plenty of people who bullet journal in a very traditional way. Dated pages, concise lists, bullet points, done. I considered this option, but decided to forego bullet journaling altogether because I realized that the creativity of it is what sparked joy in me. If I was going to bullet journal like that, I might as well have just pulled out a piece of scrap paper and jotted down a quick to do list. No, I needed the color, the flair, and the variety to motivate me as I planned.

So, I went back to a traditional planner. My sister was kind enough to buy me my birthday present a month early so I could get back to planning pronto. I now use The Happy Planner…and I couldn’t be happier with it! (Terribly pun intended?)

Bullet Journaling Vs. A Planner

Are you traditional planner wondering if bullet journaling is for you? Or are you currently bullet journaling and wondering if you should switch back to a planner? Here’s a list of pros and cons to both:

Bullet Journaling Pros + Cons of a Planner

  • Bullet journaling provides a totally clean slate to create whatever template you want–make it big and bold with lots of drawings and doodles, or make it minimal and concise like more traditional bullet journalists!
  • Your journal can constantly evolve and change as your tastes do. This was always my problem with regular planners; I always got bored with the layout and found it hard to finish one planner before switching to another. Bullet journaling prevents planner boredom!
  • Although you can buy compact planners, this is still a pro for bullet journaling. I was able to carry my Moleskine bullet journal everywhere with me! My planner now is extremely large and bulky–not conducive to grab and go.
  • Bullet journaling, by nature, allows you to keep any and all information in ONE place. My Happy Planner is highly customizable, but not as much as a bullet journal. I was able to keep everything from music playlists to meal plans to capsule wardrobe sketches in my bullet journal, but my planner is more limited.
  • Bullet journaling can be as expensive or as cheap as you want! A major con to using a planner is the expense of buying lots of extension packs and planner stickers–especially if you are a no-white-space planner!

Bullet Journaling Cons + Pros of a Planner

  • I discovered bullet journaling on Pinterest by reading a pin titled “Why You Will Never Buy Another Planner Again.” It was a very convincing case…if you have the time on your hands for planning from scratch. Bullet journaling, if done the way I enjoyed it, is likely not the right choice for busy moms, people with tight schedules, and the like. As much as I loved bullet journaling, many days I would sit down to make my plans and just be too overwhelmed by the idea that I had to HAND DRAW the calendar before I could even make my to do list…meanwhile the stuff ON the to do list wasn’t getting done.
  • Speaking of which, you do have to hand draw everything to make a bullet journal (again, speaking of non-traditional bullet journaling) work. With a planner, the template is there and all you have to do is add the flair!
  • Bullet journal envy can occur. Yes, I’m declaring this a thing right now. If you begin bullet journaling you will undoubtedly find yourself scrolling through Instagram simultaneously fawning over how pretty everyone else’s journals are and loathing how googly-moogly yours looks. Then you will try to improve yours by adding a bunch of extra things to it and it will take up a lot of your time and then your house will be a mess and you will be in the same position I found myself in… switching back to a planner, which always looks pretty whether you have 3 hours to spend on it or not!

Here is the conclusion I’ve come to: bullet journaling is a great and fun thing. I still love it and will probably continue some simple form of it for less pertinent, more personal things (like tracking outfits or making date night idea lists). But, in general, fanciful bullet journaling is more suited to artists with a passion for drawing and planning or, on the other end of the spectrum, for people who are thrilled with the idea of traditional dated pages and bulleted lists. But for a SAHM with an endless conveyor belt of diapers, dishes, and dirty socks, a good ol’ planner will do just fine.


  1. I keep eyeing off planners in a rather covetous manner – they’re so pretty! And stickers! And SHINY! But I am working full time, I have two kids, and jugging all the stuff that goes along with all of that… Sometimes I use my bujo constantly, sometimes I don’t touch it for a couple of weeks (looking at you February – the most minimalist month ever! I think I left out two weeks entirely) If I had a planner and I kept having the blank spaces, I think I would get all disheartened and stop using it. So, aside from a bit of washi and the odd doodle to cover up inky smudges, my bujo is relatively decoration free. The simplicity and lack of “empty” spaces with a bujo works for me. BUT I still covet the hell out of a nice planner!

    1. Author

      I know that feeling exactly!! I got disheartened with a bunch of blank spreads when I was bullet journaling. I think that’s why a planner works for me, though. I won’t let myself leave it blank because then it WOULD be wasted space! With a bullet journal I would just let weeks go by without using it because I knew I could just pick up again on the next blank page.

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