Bullet Journaling- Are we calling an apple an orange?

Posted on Posted in Bullet Journaling


I jumped on the bullet journaling train early. I feel like I really have watched it blossom from just a guys chicken-scratch system, to this multi-Facebook group, trending analog system. It has come a long way… which makes me start to wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Recently on one of the “minimalist” bullet journal groups there was a spicy debate on whether or not society is now generalizing the term “bullet journal.” After much back-and-forth banter there were points thrown out that too many people are calling their planner system bullet journaling even though they do not possess the basic structure that creator Ryder Carroll talks you through on the Bullet Journal website.


If you are unfamiliar with the basics please check out the site and his youtube video. In quick summation, the key components of bullet journaling are 1)Rapid Logging (topics, page numbers, short sentences, bullets), 2) Modules (index, future log, monthly log, daily log), and finally 3) Migration.


After much growth, however, some of these basic structures have been slowly disappearing for many people. I see a lot of bullet journal bloggers (including myself) explaining their set-up and saying things like “the modules don’t work for me so I do this…”


The big question is- how much of the original structure can you omit and STILL call it a bullet journal system. I do not have any answers. Someone on the previously mentioned debate posted wildly that the bullets make it a bullet journal system. This comment may have been to diffuse the heated debate- none-the-less I don’t think that makes sense. Another person said that customizing your bullet journal in itself, makes it not qualify as a true bullet journal. YIKES!


It is true that bullet journaling has become very trendy and very artsy – custom banners, color coding, calendex, ring binders, disk binders. On one of the pages on the bullet journal website it says… “All you need is a notebook and a pen…” It is strangely feeling more like… All you need is an expensive fountain pen, stencils, Microns, Staedtlers, stamps… oh my.


Then I take a step back and say… I DO NOT have to do all that other stuff- I CAN stick to the basics. The reality is, the people that have transformed and added their own “flair” are not hurting anyone. Ryder himself supports non-traditional bullet journaling and has featured them on his website. I personally enjoyed the mommy-related ones by EvieandSarah.com.   Let’s look back and appreciate the original methods (where we all started) and move towards the future. It doesn’t have to be a great debate. Cars have different makers, different colors, different features, different owners… but they are all cars. So cheers to ALL the bullet journals out their – no matter what it looks like.

14 thoughts on “Bullet Journaling- Are we calling an apple an orange?

  1. Considering that Ryder regularly has guest posts from people whose BuJo’s have very little in common with his method, I’d say it’s all considered fair game.

  2. I personally think that we should be tolerant, appreciate & encourage other systems. After all, what works for some, might not work for another. That said, I think they are all journals, but not necessarily ‘bullet’ journals anymore. We’re definitely calling an apple an orange or vise versa.

  3. Anything that helps you get things done and is a place for you to keep important (to you) dates and notes in one place must be a good thing. The downfall comes if the planning becomes the main focus instead of the getting things done and living your life.

  4. I think people are not judging those who don’t use the original system but expressing concern and frustration when it causes so much confusion for newbies. A pen and a notebook is just a notebook. A hand drawn calendar is just a calendar. Neither is a bullet journal. A bujo can be tweaked and customized but at some point it does become more of a DIY planner than a bujo. There’s nothing wrong with a DIY planner but if you’re going to call them all a bujo, then why isn’t a pre-printed planner also a bujo (particularly if the user incorporates bullets in their daily lists)? I don’t think every planner system you can conceive of is a bullet journal.

  5. I feel like you have a point but as a business owner, which is essentially what Ryder Carroll is, I’m sure he’s not too upset that people are using his system loosely. If I started a craze, no matter how people hear about it, I would support whatever representation was out there. When someone starts bullet journaling what is the first thing they do? The go to the Ryder Carroll site and do some research. That’s good business.

  6. I’m not really big on labels in any aspect of my life, so I don’t mind if someone else “customizes” their bullet journal. I space all of my dailies on one page because the irregularities in my schedule mean I need a week view to plan projects and necessary tasks on a smaller scale than monthly, but a larger scale than daily.

    All in all, who cares as long as it works for you! 🙂 The goal is to be more organized, productive, and happy in general- I’d say if your BUJO does that for you, go for it! Who cares if it’s not a “true BUJO”.

  7. I so agree with you! If I have to be honest I think Ryder put some order and simplicity to the way many people already bullet journaling and as any other journals (art journal for example) is so personal the way it works for each one.

  8. I know folks are like “what is the big deal” and I LIKE some of the more expansive layouts and tracking systems.. BUT the whole original POINT of the Bullet Journal that Carroll started was to get to basics and SO it is good to REMIND folks about the BASIC original plan because INDEED that is all you really need.
    I think that reminding folks about that can help a LOT of people. I get discouraged myself when I see these UBER fancy and overly artsy journals claiming to be “Bullet journals” . It can be very discouraging and confusing and I think loses focus. It is like the minimalist movement. We come out of a hyper consumerist society to a simple living, tiny house etc.. and even then say.. the tiny house movement (where you could conceivably create a tiny house for under 10,000 dollars are now ending up over 50,000 THOUSAND dollars.. defeating the original POINT of what tiny houses were supposed do . I don’t know. It is a disease or something. Some folks feel they always have to take it above and beyond and bling everything out all the time. I am sure the stationary and pen companies LOVE the new consumerism to their products. (oh and Washi Tape industry). While it is fun and I Certainly support opportunities for creativity and doodling and art.. and feel it is important.. it is equally important to get back to basics.

  9. I may be old and cynical, but I believe the whole “disagree with everyone and turn it into a flame war” objective is a large part of the blame for this type of thing. Not just for bullet journals, for everything. There are people who feel they can say anything to anyone online, because of the perceived anonymity. I go into *asocial* media mode for weeks or months at a time, because of the drama. This really doesn’t address your post directly, I hope that’s ok.

  10. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *