Don’t be Ashamed of a Minimalist Bullet Journal

I’ve seen something on boards that discuss Bullet Journals that make me a little sad. You’ll see these gorgeous layouts and artwork and suchlike that people post about when they show their journals. No, that doesn’t make me sad. I like pretty.

What I’ll see are people commenting that they don’t want to show or talk about theirs because of crap handwriting, or lack of artwork or lack of pretty layouts. Yes, artsy bullet journaling is a valid way to do it. If it wasn’t, who cares? It’s your life; organize it how you want to. However, I want to put out a much plainer version just to show that the idea of a bullet journal has nothing to do with the art. It is all about the structure and its flexibility. For reference, check out the original video on how to make a Bullet Journal.

Here’s my Index.

Figure 1: Index

There is nothing pretty or fancy about this. The handwriting is legible, although just barely, and I am even switching out pen colors, without using color as any sort of information indicator. I know it looks like I did a different color for a different month. I didn’t. My turquoise pen just ran out of ink, and I’m going to have to wait for the replacement I ordered to come in.

You want part of the beauty of a Bullet Journal for me? There it is. I have a notebook. I have a pen. I’m all good.

In fact, let’s talk notebooks. Yes, you can get yourself a fancy, expensive notebook. I might sometime in the future. This is the one I have. It has hard covers and paper that isn’t too ink-absorbent. But a thirty-dollar notebook, it ain’t. It works great.

Figure 2: Notebook Cover

I did draw out my November layouts a little in advance. I did this first because I don’t have a lot going on between now and the end of the month but routine chores and Halloween, and second because even if it turns out I need to take a lot of notes for something, I can add a module and put it in my Index. After all, that’s exactly the point.

Figure 3: Monthly Log

Figure 4: Menu Plan and Grocery List

Figure 5: Habit Tracker

Even my habit tracker is plain text. If I do what I intend to do that day, I just write a big X over the date just as I would over a task bullet when marking the task as done. The sole exception to this is exercise, as I do more than one sort.

So, for those of you who have very plain Bullet Journals without the artwork, don’t be ashamed of them. While doing the artwork and fancy layout thing is fine, you don’t have to, nor is it at the core of the system. It can work for you how you need it with just pen, a notebook, and text.

7 Replies to “Don’t be Ashamed of a Minimalist Bullet Journal”

  1. Thank you! What a fantastic post for beginners like me, who were drawn in by the amazing artwork and creativity but then found it all so much that I can’t jump in and hit the ground running. I spend all my time thinking about my ideal bullet journal that I can’t start it until I have planned every page – I know this is not what it’s about but I can’t help myself. It was an eye opener that you have used a wire bound lined notebook! It doesn’t have special dots and has normal writing. Wow – I can start today with the ordinary notebook I have and just get on with having a more organised life. Truly, thank you!!

    1. I’m glad this was useful. Unfortunately, I think that the concept of the DIY, low-tech, minimalist journal has been kind of taken over by people who are doing something a little different.

      It’s not that I have anything against artists, or people who want to more or less draw their own planners. I’m married to an artist, after all.

      But the problem is that for a lot of people who find a Bullet Journal useful, the core of it is that it IS minimalist and takes no time. They don’t have a hobby of drawing planners. They just want an extremely simple organizational and productivity system. Putting stuff about that online? You can’t post pretty pictures about it. It’s NOT pretty.

      I think in our image-driven age, “pretty” has definitely gained an inappropriate place. (When is the last time you’ve heard of an unattractive pop singer?)

  2. Found your post by looking up intj bullet journal. Glad to see I’m not the only minimalist journaller out there. I don’t doodle so my journal consists of lists and notes and general brainstorming. I have my calendar in another book so zi dont have to draw out templates every week. I also made a template I coukd glue in to track my habits every month to avoid having to draw anything. I’m currently using a $1.50 dollar store spiral notebook and it works just fine. Doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to be useful!

    1. No, it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated at all. I think those of us who use the very simple ones do well to put our work out there, as I think the core of the system is quite simple and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

  3. For someone is who is just about to start bullet journaling (and not even on a notebook, but a free Starbucks planner), this is very heartening. For while I used to be quite artsy and creative in my younger years, I found that some of the creative juice just doesn’t flow as much now. Haha.

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