Battle of the Books: The Bullet Journal Method vs. Dot Journaling

Recently, I got into bullet journaling. In quarantine and remote learning, I quickly learned that my beloved Lilly Pultizer Agenda just wasn’t what I needed. I need a place where I could keep all of my tasks and random thoughts. Basically, a place to brain dump.

I had dabbled bullet journalling earlier. In October 2018, I bought a superrr dot grid journal from Walmart on a whim. I *hated* how my spreads looked. I was so frustrated that they didn’t look like the picture prefect spreads I saw on tumblr and pinterest. Long story short, I quit.

I’ve been using my bullet journal (bujo) off and on since then, mostly as a collection of to-do lists. Little did I know that that’s exactly how you’re “supposed” to use a bullet journal. Anyway, since quarantine, I re-entered the world of bullet journaling, and in true Marie fashion, I turned to books to help guide me.

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The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Ryder Carroll is the creator of the bullet journal method. He started this whole trend. He is to bullet journaling what Kim Kardashian is to naked bathroom selfies. Essentially, he need a framework to organize his life that was simple, effective, and ultimately analog. Working in tech, he needed a break from screens (as many of us do) and choose to pick the mode of pen and paper.

That’s all great, but you know what’s not great? This book. Urgh! This book was great, until I was on like page 250 with what felt like no end in sight. Allow me to number my thoughts so this some incomprehensible rant.

Number One

This book is so dang self congratulatory. He spends a solid fifth of this book raving about how amazing the bullet journal system is. He also goes on these pseudo-intellectuctual tangents about matters about philosophy for example. That particular tangent felt completely out of pocket because isn’t this a book about bullet journaling?

Number Two

For a book about bullet journaling, this books talks surprising little about bullet journalling. The second fifth of the book is consumed by Ryder’s absolutely random life stories. If I wanted a memoir, I would’ve bought one. The third fifth of the book is stories of people who had wonderful, life-changing experiences with their bullet journal. Like, great, bullet journals are amazing – we have established that. Now, will you finally tell me how to make and use one???

Number Three

This isn’t necessarily a complaint, but the advice in this book is just fine. It’s really not anything special. It’s perfectly satisfactory. If I was rating this book solely on the advice given in book, I’d give it a solid 3 stars.

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Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Rating:★★★★☆

I liked this book! I really enjoyed it. Compared to Carroll’s book, this book is fun, interesting, and concise: three adjectives you could not use to describe Carroll’s book. I enjoyed this book for three main reasons:

Number One

Rachel Wilkerson Miller is seriously funny. There were moments while was reading this book where I had real laughs out loud. In this except, Rachel talks about a list she started called “Wins” in which she writes things that went well.

“As you may recall, 2016 was a garbage year (although calling it that honestly feels a bit unfair to garbage), so I did except to find [many wins]. But I ended up filling four pages with all the good things that happened to me in 2016″ (Wilkerson Miller 152).

Number Two

This was a quick read that taught me everything I needed to know. I feel that productivity books, in particular, ought to be as concise as possible. Why delay the positive gains from reading said productivity book because it takes you a month to get through it?

Number Three

Practical Examples. For every major idea introduced in the book, there are also accompanying pictures to show you how to do it. I wouldn’t consider myself a visual learner, but seeing examples was incredibly helpful in deciding how I wanted to organize my bujo. Additionally, Rachel also shows multiple ways of accomplishing the same spread (ex. 5 different ways to do a habit tracker).

Final Thoughts

Obviously Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller wins! I just really enjoyed this book. It’s 172 pages compared to Carroll’s 320 pages. This is pretty trivial considering the whole point of a bullet journal, but Wilkerson Miller’s graphics are just so much more visually appealing.

Originally, I was skeptical of Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide. I thought “If I’m gonna try bullet journaling, I should go straight to the horse’s mouth”. I was wrong. Ryder Carrol’s book is truly a waste of money. That should be your big takeaway from this post. If you want to learn bullet journaling for Ryder, himself, check out his youtube channel. I do think his youtube videos are helpful. He comes across far more approachable and humble on his youtube videos than he does in the book.

The Verdict: If you’re going to buy a book on bullet journaling, byDot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. But you really don’t need a book – Ryder’s youtube videos will be more than enough for a beginner. However, Rachel’s book is a delightful read and has new and interesting ideas and spreads.

Links to buy (Amazon):

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll

Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Happy journaling!

Sincerely,

Marie

It’s OK if you’re struggling.

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It’s okay if you’re struggling. I am too.

This is a hard time. It’s hard to be productive and feel good all the time, most of the time, or even some of the time.

I struggle to focus every day. I have a hard time even starting my work, much less actually doing it. And that’s okay. We have to be kind to ourselves. It’s the only way we’re going to be able to get through this time.

Here are so ways I’m practicing being kind to myself

  1. Not beating myself up when I have an unproductive, depressed day.
  2. Eating healthy foods – so I can avoid the groggy and gross feeling I have when I eat too much junk food. Some of my current favorites are celery with peanut butter, carrots with raspberries, and orange slices.
  3. Journaling – I already have a whole post on this linked here, but this saves me every day. Having a place to air your feelings unfiltered is essential.
  4. Going on walks – Sometimes I have to force myself out of the house, but when I get outside, I feel so much better.
  5. Reading – Right now I’m reading The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. So far, I like it a lot.
  6. Crocheting – the simple repetition of crocheting helps me to quiet my mind. I also like to listen to an audiobook while crocheting. Right now I’m listening to James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney (former Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife).
  7. Writing letters – I have started pen-palling to my reverend and friend. I absolutely love it!
  8. Meditation – I can’t say enough good things about the Headspace app! It’s a gamechanger!
  9. Maintaining personal hygiene – No one wants to admit that their hygiene has fallen off a bit since social distancing began. I definitely don’t! However, taking 15 minutes to wash your face, brush your teeth, do your hair, and slap on some mascara and lip balm will make you feel soooo much better!
  10. Acceptance – accept the uncertainty and just focus on what you can do to make yourself feel better.

These are hard times. I won’t lie to you and say I’m doing well. I’m not. I’m nearly three weeks behind in my history and chemistry classes. My motivation is nonexistent, and frankly, I’m depressed. I just have to accept what is and work on making tomorrow better.

PRACTICING SELF-CARE IS THE FIRST STEP TO GETTING BETTER.

Sincerely,

Marie

My Journaling Tips & Tricks

I love to journal. I’ve kept a journal off and on, mostly off, since I was about eight. For the past 5 years, I have been writing entries into my journal/dairy/whatever-you-want-to-call-it about once a month at least for multiple times a day at most. I really enjoy just writing down my thoughts. I typically journal when:

  1. I’m stressed and need a release.
  2. I’m sad and don’t want to talk to someone else.
  3. My therapist tells me to.
  4. I have very intense feelings (either positive or negative).
  5. Something awesome happens, and I just have to record it.

For journaling some of my favorite supplies are:

Journaling has been such a great way for me to get in touch with my feelings in a safe, low stakes environment. Here are my tips to be successful in journaling:

Number 1: Keep It Low Stakes

It’s absolutely OK if you don’t journal every day. I’ve gone months without a single entry – that’s okay. It’s ok if you misspell a word. Lastly, it’s ok not to journal about every single thing. One of my friends records every single thing she does every day in her journal. That could never be me. It’s also OK is you’re the person who wants to record every moment in your journal, but you don’t have to.

Number 2: Find a Style that Suits You

It doesn’t have to be perfect, pretty, or aesthetic. It just needs to be functional and work for you. Until this week, I only really ever journaled in one way; just blurting out my thoughts on a page. I don’t really even have paragraphs – just my sentences on a page. Occasionally, I write in my journal as if I’m writing to my future self, or to someone who may be reading it. One of my favorite entries are my “State of the Union” entries. In these there are two columns: In and Out. On the “In” side are things that I’m enjoying: this could be anything (people, movies, pens, activities) and on the “Out” side are things I’m over or are upsetting me. Last, is a style I’ve just recently started. One night, I was lying sleepless in bed around 12am, and I decided to journal to get all my thoughts out in hopes out actually getting some rest. But I just had too many thoughts, so I just started a numbered list of everything that was running through my head. I keep writing until I get all my thoughts out or get tired, normally the latter.

Number 3: Set a Time to Journal

Generally, I journal before I go to sleep. I do almost all of my journaling in bed, so I keep my journal on my nightstand. Setting a dedicated time to journal helps to cement it into a part of your routine.

I hope these tips can help you in writing and maintain a journal!

Sincerely,

Marie