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Friday, September 5, 2014

My ongoing debate: day per page diary or notebook/ Bullet Journal?

I know, I know. Why does this bug me so much?

Backstory for those who haven't been following the saga:

For years I struggled to journal. Finally in 2013 I had great success with a dated day per page diary. The dated page prompted me to write SOMETHING every day, or else the page would be wasted. So I got in the habit of capturing details every day. It was grand.

But I struggled a bit with the book. It was heavy in my bag, and sometimes a page per day felt limiting.

About this time last year I busted into a notebook/ Bullet Journal instead, and enjoyed the freedom. But for some reason day per page diaries have a charm that pulls me back. I just like them.

Now that I've been using a notebook/ Bullet Journal for almost a year, I can evaluate the pros and cons of each system. Get ready for some serious geekdom:

Dated Day Per Page Book: 

  • I love the aesthetics of the chunky book. 
  • Superior archiving and easier to find things in one book all year. 
  • Captures a snapshot of my day. Easier to flip through and see one page/ day at a time. 
  • Easier to see trends over the entire year like when flowers bloomed, leaves turned etc. 
  • Edited to add: I like the progression through the book as the progression of the year.
  • I like the content of DPP diaries (maps, conversions, etc). 
  • Having a dated page per day makes me fill in as much as I can about the day, which sometimes causes me to write MORE. I don’t like empty spaces. 
  • Can fill in things on days ahead of time, like what to bring along to places. 
  • Kids can draw pictures and borders on upcoming days for a nice surprise when I arrive at that date.
  • Timed lines help me map out my day better… 

  • …but I tend to become a slave to it, looking at it all day to see what I should be doing at any giving moment. 
  • Content tends to be more businesslike, simple log book with less depth. 
  • Limited to one page per day. Have to make choices about what is worthy of being written on each day’s page. 
  • Heavier book. 
  • No space for lists and non day specific items. 

Plain Notebook/ Bullet Journal: 

  • Can be whatever I need it to be at that moment, even different day to day. 
  • Kids do drawings on the pages without restrictions.
  • More FUN/ in-depth content. 
  • Lighter book. 
  • I get to use several books per year, a new book every 3-4 months which helps satisfy my urge to use new books. 
  • More space to stick things in, although I hardly ever do. 

  • Doesn’t have the content of dated DPP diaries. 
  • Several books each year means relevant lists must be copied over or lost. 
  • Have to dig out old books to look up past information.
  • Harder to find things in pages. 
  • Despite having unlimited space, sometimes I actually write LESS because I don’t feel the pressure to fill the page. 

I like both, for opposite reasons. The structure and content of day per page diaries vs. the freedom of undated notebooks.

So what I'm trying out now is pre-dating two weeks of day-on-two-pages in my notebook/ Bullet Journal. That way I have a good compromise: I can fill things in ahead of time, and having two pages already designated for each day encourages me to write more.

Which do you like better? Dated daily pages (like Hobonichi etc.), or a notebook/ Bullet Journal? Why?


  1. Are you trying to journal and plan in one book? I can't do that at all. I have my planner, where all my to-dos, appointments etc go, and then a separate week with notes as a journal.

    1. Nope I have a completely separate planner for all planning.

    2. Ah... In that case I would go for a day per page planner. Like you I like the structure. If you end up with empty space, could you get your little ones to fill in the gaps for you? If you need more space on one day could you tape in a little bit of extra paper?

    3. Nellie that's what I'm thinking. Last year I used a dated DPP diary and when I switched to a notebook this year I missed the structure. Already with pre-dating the upcoming two weeks in my notebook, I have discovered I absolutely need this. Being able to see the fine details of the upcoming several days is important. It's no wonder I was struggling! I'm thinking I'll finish the year in notebooks and probably start a new DPP diary January 1st.

  2. I've kind of franken-plannered both into my working system. I'm using a Franklin Covey 2 PPD, and my structured stuff is on the left page. My unstructured is on the right - and that's where bullet journaling plus freeform writing goes. If I need more room, I have blank sheets in the back of the binder to add as needed.

    Next year I'm thinking I'll use Franklin Covey's 2 page monthly spreads and DIYFish dailies, allowing me a ton of flexibility depending on the day. :)

  3. I can't make it without a scribble book (i.e. unstructured bullet journal whatever book). I don't worry about not writing something on a particular day as I will jot that down when I remember it again, if it was important to begin with. Or decide to cram it in the notes section of my weekly planner. I don't think I could handle structure in my scribble book. The whole point for me is lack of structure.

  4. If I need the book purely as a journal, I would just get a blank notebook and use that. If I need it as a planner, I would use a dated planner. From your description it sounds like you do some degree of planning in your journal book (i.e. need to have dated pages to note things on future days). I'd not know what to do if I had a day book and a separate weekly planner and tried to incorporate a journal into either or both. Sounds baffling.

    I also struggle with journaling but decided not to beat myself over the head about it. If I want to write I write. If I don't, I don't. I am trying to focus more on enjoying the day rather than worrying about the future or frantically recording to review the past. Too much effort for me!

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks Josh. There is a very fine line between too simplistic and too complicated in this situation for me. Finding the balance is a feat!

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  6. This past year, my life got simplified for me. Long story. Anywho, I thought I could get away with a monthly planner, (I had previously been a die hard weekly gal). I liked the idea of a monthly planner with writing space, so I used Molskine's monthly. It has a couple of blank pages in between months, which I though would suffice. But it turns out life is never simple, and I missed the structure of the weekly, but I really enjoyed having plenty of blank space to do my own thing. So much so, that I wanted more! I started bucket journaling (basically bought a small pack do Molskine cahiers and strapped one into my monthly planner. It's not terribly elegant, but I thought it would work while I try out the new system. So far, it's interesting to me, but I know I am going to need more structure. I like the idea of a page per day. Do you recommend any that also have monthly calendars for reference? -Jean

    1. Jean it's not easy to find a day per page diary/ planner with monthly calendars too. Which is too bad because in my opinion it's an absolute requirement in a day per page diary.

      The Quo Vadis Journal 21 day per page planner has month calendars and excellent paper. I've reviewed it a couple of times: http://www.plannerisms.com/2013/07/my-journey-to-journal-21.html

      Time Traveler planners also have monthly calendars but I don't recommend ordering from them if you are not in the US. My two orders to the UK never arrived despite multiple emails and phone calls, which was extremely disappointing because I had used their day per page diary the year before and adored it. Their planners themselves are excellent. My review: http://www.plannerisms.com/2013/02/time-traveler-2013-day-per-page-planner.html And the Time Traveler website: http://stores.timetravelerusa.com/

      The Moleskine day per page diaries are excellent and I love the clean layout, but it doesn't have month grid calendars. I fixed that by turning the address booklet in the back of the book into a monthly booklet: http://www.plannerisms.com/2014/01/bound-planner-work-arounds-series.html

  7. I'm a shift worker, so I live my life in weekly chunks. For the past few years, a Moleskine weekly planner worked. Then along came bullet journaling. I tried it, but became frustrated with its lack of a real planner. Now I'm kind of hacking the system with a weekly planner on the left page and bullet journal items on the right. I keep it in a Midori Travelors Notebook type system with planner in the back and notes, references data, and lists in the front book. That's it for now, but journaling and planner are a continually evolving process for me.

    1. Michael you make a good point about the frustration of trying to make a Bullet Journal into a planner. It can be done, but only with modifications to the original design. Ryder Carroll, the designer of the Bullet Journal, never intended it to be a forward planner but instead a capture device. He himself uses Google Calendar for forward planning. He talks about the forward planning issues in this interview: http://5by5.tv/mikesonmics/95

    2. (They start talking about forward planning at about 15:30)

  8. I prefer the dated day per page. I need the structure for time and task mgmt and usually only need unstructured space for notes and journaling.

  9. My challenge is the hardware. With a laptop in my bag and my Moleskine journal in my Rickshaw case, I really only have space for one Moleskine planner. I would print my own journal (like I did in the past) with a variety of PPDs, calendars, and blank pages, but I cannot get the quality paper I want, and the same number of self-printed pages is much thicker than the Moleskine one.

    For now, I'm sticking with one blank ruled notebook. In fact, I'm procrastinating at this moment--I was about to sit down and draw my calendar for the week in my journal, but I came here to browse instead.


  10. I googled "diary or bullet journal?" and your post came up first. You've exactly covered my dilemma! Reading your post, and the comments, has been very helpful. I was specifically advised to get and use a week-per-view diary to help me deal with procrastination and prioritization. But I need the note-taking abilities of a blank book. BUT, does a bullet journal allow you to do a weekly plan? I need to read more of your blog!

    1. I ended up using a separate weekly planner for all my planning, and a notebook for dailies/ Bullet Journaling/ lists and notes. I've been using this method for several years now and it works great! I don't mind using two books, it's worth it to me. I wrote a post on how I use my two books and what I write in each here: http://www.plannerisms.com/2014/03/how-i-use-my-planner-bullet-journal.html


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