The myths of bullet journaling and New Year resolutions

New year is coming! January is almost upon us and expecting magical new beginnings almost all of us will start writing New Year resolutions, lists of goals and a lot of money will be spent (or they are already spent) on beautiful notebooks and expensive pens. Ok, if I am honest, I love beautiful notebooks too.

Myths about bullet journaling and new year resolutions

But do we really need a special type of journal and with all these tables and codes and arrows to be really serious in what we are doing? To create a better year and to really complete our plans for the future? To be really successful?


This is just a business and some people are making a lot of money from our desire to be more organised and achieve our goals, to keep our New Year resolutions and to create a better life. But for most of us, as you know, after the months of January and February, New Year resolutions are somehow fading. Did you ever ask yourself why?

Where the journal idea comes from?

Actually, a long time before 2013, when the idea of the Bullet journal was presented to the world by Ryder Carroll, in 2001 Brian Tracy published his self-help book “Eat that frog”. The book is one of the most powerful goal and happy life achieving tutorials I ever seen. Because it is gives us simple steps of how to start working for a better future and stop procrastinating.  The brilliant idea is: decide what you want, make a list of your goals and start ticking the boxes. First you need a year-list, second, a list for every month, next for every week of the month and then for every day.

Do you recognise this? Strange, sounds like a bullet journal…

In “Eat that frog”, Brian Tracy says that if you really work on your lists, you can be very successful. And he is absolutely right, because this is actually the great formula of success: idea + focus + hard smart work.

Every simple notebook gives you this. Notebooks have pages. Empty white pages to fill with ideas, plans, to do lists and goals to achieve. Yes, you can add some stickers, some beautiful arrows, some decorations. Do you need them? No.

The main problem

For me all these “beauty” elements are distracting.

Modern people really do not have enough time to try every good idea, to read every interesting or helpful book, to learn every new skill they are attracted to. We really have to decide what to do with our future and to start doing it now, not to draw beautiful front pages. The beautiful front pages are stealing our time for achieving our goals. All the doodles and page decorations are stealing our time for completing tasks. Imagine, you need to learn Russian, because this will give you an opportunity to change your job for a better and more interesting one with a bigger salary. But instead of learning words and trying to translate with the dictionary a page from a Russian magazine, you are drawing doodles. Beautiful doodles: “Learn 10 Russian words today!”. How much time does the drawing take? Probably enough time to learn another one or two words and make a better future for yourself?

For me the bullet journal idea is like a game for schoolgirls. You know these games, where you have to find a treasure, hidden somewhere, there are maps, there are codes and ciphers. We are playing the game on every page, sticking decorating tapes, drawing beautiful doodles and we keep forgetting the important thing – what this journal is actually about.

The journal is about our future

The notebook is about our future. We need only a pen or a pencil and a watch. The pen – to write our lists, the watch to work hard and to track how many minutes we actually are losing in decorating and being distracted. No, I was being evil. The watch we need is to track the time we spend on the different tasks and to find our own way to work smart.

Time is the most expensive thing on this planet and you don’t want to lose it just like that.

The myths of bullet journaling and New Year resolutions

The smart lists

The thing which the bullet journal is not giving you is the “work smart, not hard” idea. Smart means not wasting your time making washi tape decorations, if you can use these minutes to learn another one or two words in another language. To not draw doodles, if you can read a helpful article about your work. To not draw flowers and trees for hours, if you can use this time to really plan your week to be productive. Don’t get me wrong, I love washi tape, but there’s a time and place to use it productively.

Smart lists are not beautiful. Smart lists are full of notes, cross outs, arrows to different fields of the page. Smart lists show your thoughts. The beautiful ones are useless, they are just lists with decorations.

Let’s see… The last time I drew the front page of my planner was in September. Did this page change anything in my head? No. Did I lose time to do it? Yes, almost all the morning. Was I excited? Hm, definitely not. Will I do it again? No. My November and December front pages are only lists, with the monthly tasks I have to complete. Opening the front page, I see how many are crossed out and this gives me the feeling of good work done.

And do you really need a Moleskine to complete your goals? Yes? You are joking! I also love beautiful notebooks, but beautiful or ugly, it is not the trendy name that is making you complete your goals. If you are not focused even the most expensive and beautiful notebook will not help you. Do you really need these special “journaling pens” to tick the boxes? I have seen these articles, “The best journaling pens for 2020”. Great, someone will make some money. Not you. You will spend yours fulfilling someone else’s dreams and new Year resolutions. Believe me, the cheapest good writing pen for a few cents will do the same job.

So, how to keep your New Year resolutions and really change something in your life for the better?

Stop drawing sophisticated tables and filling your planner/journal pages with decorations. Decorations first, steal time and second, distract your brain. Imagine, you need to think about how to organize 5 important tasks in one day – something which is almost impossible to do, but you have to. There are days like this. But instead of starting to think and creating a “map” of your day, you start drawing flowers and gluing on stickers. Because this is the style of your journal.

Girls, I have seen journals where on the pages there is only place to write “eat”, “sleep”, “drink water” and “meet Sally”. That’s it! But they are beautiful! With flowers, with a key page, with all the arrows and “look at page 25” notes. Really?

If you want to complete your tasks and really achieve your New Year resolutions, start making simple lists and stop wasting your time. Just make a simple habit tracker, it will help you a lot more! Time is the most limited thing on the planet, so if you really want to do something for your soul, instead of drawing doodles, do 10 sit ups. It’ll be good for your body as well as your soul!

The planner, the bullet journal must be simple, because you need to see your goals. And keep the decorated pages for your art or travel journals.

Stop bullet journalling and start really planing!

If you are thinking about craft space decluttering and how to improve your craft skills, maybe will be interested to read my books about craft hoarding and capsule craft collection. If you are considering starting to work from home – maybe this book with the most important steps will help you to prepare.

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