For about 6 months, I’ve been using a Bullet Journal as well as continuing with my Erin Condren Life planner. There are moments when I wonder why I am still using both systems. The simple truth is that I get joy out of both planning styles. As long as I am enjoying using both styles, I will continue.
So what does each style look like? What are some of the pros and cons and what are some of my favorite spreads from each? Buckle up. Here’s my guide for the two planning styles I love.
Erin Condren Life Planner:
Basics: The Erin Condren Life Planner (ECLP) is a favorite planner of the community for a number of reasons. It has many ways to customize your planner to your tastes and preferences from the very beginning. You choose the covers you want, add your name or family name, select a coil color, decide on a color scheme for the planner (colorful or neutral) and then decide which weekly layout suits your fancy. There are 3 layouts – horizontal, vertical and hourly.
The ECLP comes with a number of extras including several sticker sheets, a pocket inside your planner to tuck away documents or photos, a travel pouch to stuff planner goodies into, a ruler which marks which page you are on and a number of journaling cards/gift tags. It’s also possible to buy an extra 6 months of planning pages for an extra $5 which doesn’t seem like too much all things considered.
Price: Starts at $55 but my most recent ECLP was a whopping $65 (coil upgrade). On top of that – shipping is $12.95. While they do offer coupon codes and reference codes for customers – this price is still a little steep for your average customer. If you want to use my reference code for $10 off (it also gives me $10 off) – here it is!
My ECLP and why I started planning this way
My Erin Condren has a Neutral color scheme in a vertical layout. I am on my 4th ECLP. I started because I was sucked in by the cottage industry of sticker shops on Etsy which allow you to customize each month and week in your planner. I love that you can buy sticker packs which allow you to mark events, tasks and even silly little things like television shows. I decided to invest in an ECLP right before starting grad school so I could keep all my assignments straight and organized. It honestly was life-changing.
Instead of color coding, I now had more options for noting events and just decorating. It made me more conscious of deadlines and tasks. It kept me organized and focused. Plus, the added bonus is as an education masters student, it honestly was a great talking point and helped make friends. My best friend from grad school eventually also was sucked in (although practices significantly more restraint than I do on stickers).
Some Notes on my Style:
When I first got into the stickers – I was all about the pure functionality. Now, I like both to be functional and decorative. It’s fun for me to choose themed sticker kits which are sold with both stickers to mark events, check off tasks and track habits as well as decorate the week as you wish. I have sticker kits will all sort of themes from Harry Potter to seasonal kits to cat themed kits to holiday themed kits. I love them all. Any stickers I don’t specifically use are then recycled into my collection to be used in future spreads.
I don’t like to stick to one particular type of decoration or style. Sometimes – I cover the entire two page spread. That’s called “no white space.” I use that style when I have a busy week with lots of individual tasks. Normally, I use stickers only when necessary – “white space” spreads.
Here are some of the etsy shops that I most often get stickers from:
For Kits –
Scribble Prints Co – overall OG Sticker shop. Amazing customer service. Diverse kits. Really a little expensive but genuinely amazing quality. Plus sometimes she has amazing sales (watch her instagram on black Friday). She also does some functional multicolored sheets seasonally that I sometimes pick up. I probably use her kits more than any other shop.
Caress Press – She’s been on Maternity Leave for 5 months and I’m dying. She uses a matte vinyl paper and ships stickers at lightning speed. I can’t wait for her to come back as the spreads I create with her kits are often my favorite.
Firefly Paper Co – A wonderful shop that uses a lot of photos to create kits instead of drawn art. Her paper quality is fantastic and I love the way she uses colors.
Sticky Essentials – Best for a budget. Another vinyl matte shop. Great customer service. Very cheap international shipping.
Once More with Love – amazing selection of hand drawn characters. They have a bow on their head but no other personalized features which I prefer. They are also generally white with some accents of colors which I love. Cheap and quick shipping.
Coffee Monsterz Co – Similar to Once More with Love in style – white characters. However, she includes gay and lesbian date stickers which I love and also makes doodles of food, TVs, and books which are great.
The Pros of the ECLP
I think the biggest pro might be rather obvious at this point – this planner is extremely customizable. It’s colorful. It’s fun. It’s just something that makes me smile day in and out. It’s also a wonderful way to keep memories. I can look back at a day and tell you exactly what I did based on the stickers and writing I put down. I like to consider it my little alibi as looking at a day I can recount more or less exactly what I did. I’m hoping this has some sort of cognitive benefit down the line.
Another thing I really like about the way I plan and the ECLP is supporting creators and artists on Etsy where I buy my stickers. I like that these are individuals or small companies that I’m supporting rather than major manufacturers.
Two other pros of the ECLP which to me tie into each other are these: one – it’s a conversation starter and two – it comes with a built in community. It’s really interesting to see what people think when they see the planner for the first time. Some people look at you like you are nuts but I find a lot of my friends just totally get it. My friend Will always asked to see the week when we worked together. Teacher friends totally understand why it’s important to stay vigilant about organization. Above are some gorgeous spreads from my friend Erin’s ECLP – she favors the no white space look. As a teacher, it helps her organize personal and professional tasks and goals.
My family has come to accept this as one of the quirks that I probably got directly from my mother (her job title was Planner after all). Then there’s the online community of Instagram, Facebook and YouTubers who show off their ECLP and provide support and encouragement.
Cons of the ECLP
This shit is expensive man. I spend a lot of money on making this sucker my own. While I enjoy every minute of putting down my stickers (it’s honestly almost zen to me) – it all adds up. From the planner itself to all of the stickers which I completely admittedly choose to buy – it’s not cheap. It’s the one thing that I absolutely am a mindless consumer of. While lately, I’ve been more thoughtful about my purchases – waiting for sales, looking for deals, buying in bulk if I’m paying for shipping from the states, etc. – it’s hard to not be energized to buy by genuinely gorgeous mini works of art.
The other major con for me is just the size. While I love being able to cram a lot of information into every weekly spread (and therefore day) as well as decorate – I’ve stopped bringing my planner with me to and from school just because of its sheer bulkiness.
Who is this for:
I do not think the ECLP is for everyone. There – I said it. If you just aren’t that into planning or if this is the first agenda you want to experiment with – don’t buy it. Furthermore, if you only jot down a couple of notes in a day – get a planner from Target or Amazon before committing to the ECLP. I saw an old professor for the first time in awhile last year and she told me that the one thing she remembered about me 10 years ago is how I always had an agenda. I don’t even remember that. But obviously that means that I’ve been used to writing my to-dos and reminders.
Who is this product for then? I think the ECLP system has a number of customers. It’s great for people who need to write a lot down for each day. It’s great for people with a number of competing demands. I got into it because I didn’t have a ton of time for a stress relieving outlet. My planner time is my zen time. Putting down stickers ticked the stress relief box as well as the creative outlet box. It sounds silly but as someone who wasn’t sure of my drawing or painting capabilities and with very little time to enjoy creative pursuits – this was a perfect thing for me during grad school.
Bullet Journal System
Basics: I did a whole post on the basics of bullet journaling. To summarize from that post – bullet journaling is a system which you start with a notebook and pen and literally create exactly the notebook/agenda/journal you want to have. While the creator of the bullet journal has a suggested system – you can use a bullet journal exactly how you want to.
My Bullet Journal and Why I started planning this way
I can’t honestly say why I started bullet journaling. I think a few YouTube “plan with me” videos popped up which were just really stunning. I had tried it before but as I mentioned in the past, I failed. I was too complicated. Now I’ve sort of tailored the suggested system to what works for me specifically. I like to use my BuJo mainly for planning this blog, habit and mood tracking and writing out my daily tasks and events. I also keep a month at a glance for birthdays, deadlines and events.
Notes on my Style:
Something I’ve recently changed is that I’ve decided to keep two separate bullet journals to house the main two functions that I use them for. In one, I keep my monthly and weekly planning spreads along with habit, mood and blog trackers. In the second bullet journal – I keep all of my list spreads. These are themed spreads which are functional only occasionally (I don’t travel every day or send mail every day.
As I’ve continued to use my BuJo, I continue to evolve a style which I feel is my own. For example, I choose inspiration points which are personal – often involving street art or a personal inspiration. For example, in May I decided to let my beautiful nephew inspire the style since it’s his birthday. I used his favorite color (blue) and found a piece of street art which I felt expressed his love of animals. I found that piece of art walking around Zaragoza. I don’t think there are many creators who take the same sorts of inspiration. They create beautiful and wonderful spreads that are unique to them.
Some of my favorite supplies:
Notebooks – I use both a Moleskin and Leuchttrum 1917 A5 sized notebook. I wouldn’t say I’m hooked on either but they are by far the most accessible. Out of the two, pens ghost and bleed through more in the Moleskin. Just a consideration. It’s also smaller which makes it good for travel but not as good for getting everything into the spread.
Pens: For simple black fineliners, I think the Pigma Microns are the best. You can get them in whatever thickness suits you or in a brush tip. For brush pens – I prefer the Pentel Sign pens – I think they have different names in different countries but that’s waht it says on mine. I think they are easy to use and vibrant in color.
Markers: I like the Tombow Dual Tip Pens and the Crayola Supertips. The Tombows are waaaay more expensive but have extremely vibrant colors. They also are able to be used with water for a water color effect.
Other: To personalize your bujo even further, you can use washi tape or stickers. I also like to keep a high quality eraser handy for when I’m cleaning up my spreads and getting rid of the pencil. I also keep a ruler around although I admittedly don’t use it much.
Pros of Bullet Journaling
The bullet journal isn’t just customizable – it’s personalized to your exact needs. Do you want to write a shopping list? Go ahead and put it in there. Looking for a place to doodle – Bullet journal. Want somewhere for memories – bujo it up.
It’s also a really lovely way to develop handwriting, doodling and design elements. I am a huge fan of using my bullet journal as a creative outlet. I like using my point of view to think of interesting color stories and to use street art as in inspiration for my spreads and design elements. I think it’s amazing how supportive other members of the community are and I love to applaud other bujo-fanatics on their work as well.
On that note, it can also be extremely socially satisfying to communicate with other creators in the community. I love to browse instagram to see how some people keep it simple and others are incredibly intricate with their work. It’s satisfying and inspiring.
Cons of Bullet Journaling
I think generally speaking, it is hard to deal with imperfections in the Bullet Journal community. Instagram and Pinterest are saturated with incredible designs, layouts, spreads, doodles and handwriting. For me and many other people who have tried and failed to start bullet journaling in the past, I think a lot of the reason is because of this internal pressure to be perfect. It took me a long time to just let go and realize – there are going to be tons of mistakes in my bullet journal and that’s totally ok. I’m going to insert some of my cringiest early works so we can all have a nice laugh.
Another con for me of bullet journaling is that it can be more time consuming. I don’t mean that it always is. You can keep an incredibly simple and effective bullet journal which barely requires time or forethought. However, as I want this to be a creative outlet for me, I take much more time on my bullet journal than my ECLP. It depends on the style you want to achieve. I have a friend who is a new mom who has the most simple, elegant bullet journal style. She just started and I was seriously blown away when she showed me some of her spreads. Personally, I have nothing but time in my life right now so I don’t really struggle to fit in time to bullet journal.
Who is this for?
I think the Bullet Journal system is for that person who wants a portable creative outlet. Bullet journals are generally speaking relatively small. They aren’t terribly expensive – ranging from maybe 10-20 dollars for a c. 300 page book. It’s just a way to have everything in one place. You can keep your Christmas lists, you monthly goals, your moodboards, doodles and weekly spreads all in one place. It’s satisfying. I like to just sort of keep up with it whenever I have a few minutes to spare.
One word to the wise – when you are getting started, inspiration is obviously so helpful and lovely. That being said, I think some Bullet Journal dedicated YouTube pages and Instagrams can be extremely intimidating and downright unrealistic. Start a little more simple and work your way into a style that works for you. Also – embrace the mistakes. You are going to make tons. Don’t bother beating yourself up or ripping out pages. It’s not worth it. One quote I really liked that someone used as their mantra for 2018 was “Production not Perfection” which I think is a great way to look as a bujo beginner.