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Planner vs Bullet Journal: Which is Right for You? + Free PDF

Is a planner vs bullet journal or a hybrid approach right for you to gain control of your life, mind and schedule? Find out which is better for you, recommendations and a free guide to help you decide so you don’t waste money on something that doesn’t work for you.

planner vs bullet journal: an easy guide to decide if a planner or bullet journal is right for you

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What is a planner?

For purposes of this post, I’m calling a “planner” the tool you use to manage your days. It usually has structured monthly and weekly or daily pages so you can map out your appointments, tasks and priorities. Some people call it an agenda or organizer.

Whats a bullet journal?

The Bullet Journaling Method was developed by Ryder Carroll to rapidly log important appointments, events, notes and ideas all in one book. At its core, bullet journaling is the simplest form of get everything out of your head and onto paper planning. A simple bullet journal typically consists of:

  • a symbols key (the icons you draw to signify completed, in process or migrated tasks, events, and notes, for example)
  • an index (like a table of contents with lists and page numbers so you can easily find the information you are looking for)
  • monthly page (a simple list of the days of the month and any events happening on those days)
  • daily page (a simple list with the date and what you need to get done that day)
  • collections (all the other lists, notes or ideas you might want to write down so you can find it later, ex. meeting notes, project notes, goals, books to read, shopping lists, etc)

The beauty of bullet journaling is you can make your journal what you need it to be, all you really need is a pen and a notebook really.

What is a hybrid bullet journal planner?

For purposes of this post, i call a hybrid bullet journal planner a combination of the two. These bullet journal planners have monthly, weekly and/or daily pages already printed and then plenty of notes pages so you can add all your lists, collections, notes, goals and ideas and have everything you need in one book.

Planner vs Bullet Journal

Planners provide structure but a good bullet journal allows you freedom and creativity to make it what you want and need. Bullet journaling these days can get super fancy with uber-talented artists showing off their creations. And that’s beautiful and fantastic for them.

But it doesn’t have to be you unless that’s what YOU want and need.

If you’re overwhelmed or new to bullet journaling, check out my easy bullet journaling tips for beginners post.

I’m a list lover so I’ve compiled some lists to help you decide whether a planner or bullet journal is right for you.

shown: a sample weekly page from the Erin Condren Hourly Planner


  • You like daily, weekly or monthly page layouts but don’t want to or have the time to draw them out yourself
  • You want to see the whole year at a time
  • You like to plan in advance
  • You are motivated and inspired by preprinted graphics, colors or quotes
How a Summer Bullet Journal for Kids saved my sanity by Mom's Small Victories. A kids bullet journal is easy to put together using leftover school supplies you probably already have at home.


  • You are a minimalist who just wants to write down lists, brain dumps and keep on going.
  • You are a creative who wants to use the bullet journal for a keepsake
  • You want to be able to customize everything to exactly what you need
  • You don’t need detailed planning too far in advance
  • If you need calendars, you don’t mind drawing them out or printing and taping them in
  • You want to use a simple notebook you already have to save money
  • you need a creative way for your kids to keep busy in the summer

Hybrid Bullet Journal Planner

In my opinion, the combination or hybrid bullet journal planner is the best of both worlds. In my planners, I incorporate different bullet journal elements into them, such as:

  • An icon key to indicate task progress (not started, in process, done, migrated to another day)
  • An index to keep track of all my collections, lists and category lists on the notes pages
  • Notes pages are numbered so lists can be indexed and easily located
  • PLENTY of notes pages for my oodles of lists, and
  • Habit trackers for my routines

I recommend testing out planners and bullet journaling if you can to see if a planner vs bullet journal is right for you.

Where to Find Free Planner Printables

Here are some of my favorite sources for free planner printables:

How to Bullet Journal for Free

I made some basic bullet journaling dot grid pages so you can test out the bullet journal method for free to see if you like it. Dot grid pages are popular for bullet journaling because it makes it easier to draw straight lines without a ruler.

You can print as many dot grid pages as you like and I recommend drawing or writing the following layouts to get a good feel of whether the bullet journaling system will work for you:

  • icon key
  • index
  • monthly page
  • weekly page
  • daily page
  • master task list

Subscribe to my weekly productivity newsletter and get the bullet journaling pages, 40+ free printables and the free guide (this post in a pdf form so you can keep it as a reference). You can print up as many dot grid pages as you need, keep it in a binder or discbound notebook (I like half letter or junior size discbound notebooks) and make a free bullet journal.

Recommendations for the Best Planners

Recommendations for Simple Bullet Journals

Recommendations for Hybrid Bullet Journal Planners

  • Wonderland 222 planner with 52 gsm Tomoe River Paper – a dream to write on and plenty of notes pages. You can add a coordinating notebook if you need more room.
  • Passion Planner Weekly – the weekly layout has enough space for all your to do lists and lots of notes pages for your collections. The large size is my favorite for bullet journaling.
  • Simplified Weekly – pops of color and focus on simplicity with 31 notes pages in the back for collections, lists and creativity.

Well, what do you think? When it comes down to a planner vs bullet journal, which do you think will work for you?

Want more free resources and productivity tips so can get it done and have more fun?

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