I am a huge sucker for lists: groceries, to dos for the week, what to bring on holiday… you name it. I used to make these on scraps of paper (or do still when there is nothing better around) but as I’m also very much into notebooks and organization, I have had many different books of lists, including the popular bullet journal. However, I have recently started to wonder: is it really good for me to keep my to do lists in notebooks?

Why do we do it?

There is something very appealing to a fresh notebook: its crisp white pages, the smell of its ink, an unbroken spine… I think that especially in our “digital age” we are drawn to writing that we can touch. Objects that give a certain “reallness” to our thoughts.

Bullet journals have become an amazing creative outlet for people. Tumblr and Instagram are full of beautiful spreads. It helps people organize their lives by combining something boring (to do lists) with something fun (designing a layout for them).

What are the risks?

It is exactly this aestheticism that has made me a bit hesitant towards the bullet journal hype. I can spend ages on a nice header when all I really needed to do was jot down a few tasks for the weekend. Isn’t this tool that is supposed to save me time remembering actually costing me more time?

Moreover, whenever I make a pretty to do list I feel much more obliged to tick all of its boxes. On one hand, this is definitely a good thing, as it makes me do more of what I need to do, but on the other it can also make me feel more stressed. I can be overly ambitious with my lists, and often realise halfway through a day that I bit off more than I can chew.

I then almost see the to do list as a thing in itself, rather than just a piece of paper with my handwriting on it. Something I NEED to complete in order to validate my self-image as a person who “has her shit together”. And this is where I think the greatest risk may lie: that we start to measure our self worth by the boxes ticked on our to do lists. Sure, you can feel good about yourself when you get a lot done in one day, good for you! But now that we have started to collect our lists in pretty notebooks, our good feeling becomes based on what we did the day before as well and the day before that etc. Even if you work very hard, there will still be days on which you don’t get everything done. That can make you feel a bad for a moment, but at the end of the day you should be able to throw your list away and that’s that. The next day will be a fresh start.

So should we stop using bullet journals altogether?

No, of course not! For one, just because these issues are true for me, it doesn’t mean it works like that for everyone else. (Comment below! ;)) And I still love scrolling through Tumblr and seeing lots of pretty notebooks. However, I would like to urge you to have a little ponder about whether your to do list book it is still making you happy and to forgive yourself when you can’t tick all of the boxes. It is always good to be kind to ourselves :).

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