Over the last 6 (!) months of bullet journaling, I’ve heard the whole “you just need a notebook and a pen” story a thousand times. It still seemed like everybody was using the same notebook, the Leuchtturm 1917 in A5. Even the Official Bullet Journal notebook is made by Leuchtturm, so I figured there must be some reason for it. After using it for a whole month, here is how it changed my Bullet Journaling experience.
Before the Leuchtturm 1917
I started bullet journaling using a lined Class Act Stationary notebook my friend Becca got for me. I used it through my fall quarter, and it served me well. However, it didn’t have enough pages for me to continue using it into the winter.
Subject to the treacherous world of my backpack, the cover started to fray and the sides got stained blue in a fight with a broken pen. Each of the 80 pages had 25 lines, and a title section.
Using my .07 Pilot G2 Gel Rollerball Pen in black, the pages exhibited ghosting (when you can see the pen through the other side of the page), but no bleed-through. I didn’t find the ghosting to be an issue when reading the writing on the page I turned to, but for some people this may bother them.
This was the epitome of “just a notebook.” I still carry it around with me to put information about my extracurricular projects, and it worked for my schoolwork needs last quarter. The bullet journal system is so flexible that it really shouldn’t matter which notebook is being used.
So then, why are popular bloggers like Kara at Boho Berry and Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine using them? The only way to find out was to try it for myself.
The A5 size of the Leuchtturm 1917 notebook is $19.50 before shipping. It has 249 numbered pages, a pocket at the back, a table of contents, and two page markers.
The official bullet journal notebook is also available from Leuchtturm for $24.95. It is the same as the A5 size, but include a Bullet Journal Guide and says “Bullet Journal” at the front.
I asked for the A5 for my birthday this year, because I couldn’t reason paying more than $20 for a notebook. I got the dot grid in emerald.
The pages are a little thicker than my previous notebook, so there was less ghosting when using my Pilot G2 Rollerball.
Using a Dot Grid
The dot grid is the largest change I’ve experienced in switching. Leuchtturm’s dot grid is smaller than the lines in my previous notebook, and it doesn’t have a title section. This was difficult to adapt to, and I’m still not thrilled with my lettering.
The grid has made it really easy to do my Gratitude Log, Habit Tracker, Time Log, and Monthly Spread. However, there is so much space on every page that I feel like I’m not using it to its full potential.
The beauty of the dot grid is that it makes the pages usable horizontally, which for the habit tracker made all the difference. There are 26 blocks across and 38 vertically, which conveniently fit the 24 hours in a day for my Time Log and 30(ish) days of each month for my Monthly Spread.
Leuchtturm vs. my Backpack
Only a month into the quarter, my Leuchtturm is fighting a losing battle against my backpack. Between the textbooks, snacks, and miscellaneous pen collection at the bottom, anything that enters my backpack is at risk. Luckily pen and pencil are easy to wipe off the covers, since there is almost always some kind of mark on it at the end of the day.
The band around the notebook has done the most to preserve the pages. Since it keeps the notebook closed, there is almost no damage to the pages. This has resulted in the cover taking on the brunt of the abuse. There is a nick at the top of the back cover, as well as some scratches and bumps around the notebook. One of the two page markers is beginning to fray as well.
As this is only the wear of one month, this does raise some concerns for me about the practicality of the notebook in the long run. The beautiful emerald color shows the scratches and stains easily. With two months left in this quarter and plenty of pages to go, I may need a more durable notebook in the future.
What Changed for my Bullet Journal When I Switched
I moved into my Leuchtturm at the beginning of this quarter, so a number of these changes were due to the adjustments I made for the new quarter, but were enabled by the Leuchtturm when I switched.
Before, I was squeezing tasks and a reading tracker into one page and skipping the monthly log. Now, my monthly spreads are more closely aligned to the ones that Ryder Carroll uses from the official bullet journal system. I didn’t end up using all the available space. This was mostly because the number of dots made it easy to list every day out rather than trying to squeeze it into the 25 lines I was using before.
The addition of the habit tracker was an adaptation I made from my tracker in my weekly spreads. I found it much easier to use because I filled it out at the same time as my gratitude log. I kept one of the page markers at this break because it was the page I flipped back to the most.
My weekly spreads have much more room than they did before, which has been great for weeks when I have lots of events. The spreads are less crowded, which makes it simpler to use.
Although fairly minor changes to the system I was using last quarter, I believe the format of the pages has made me more mindful of my choices and made me interact with my monthly spreads more. This comes from the Gratitude Log and Habit Tracker Spread, both of which require daily attention. Since there is a space for each day, and the habit tracker is easy to use, I am interacting with both spreads more often than last quarter.
So is it worth it?
There is a difference between the general notebook I was using before and the Leuchtturm. The dot grid pages, page numbers, closing band, and page markers have improved my Bullet Journaling experience.
However, for such an expensive notebook, I would’ve expected more from the Leuchtturm. The biggest issue for me is the ghosting. I’d figured the better quality paper would’ve resulted in a marked improvement. Additionally, I am disappointed by the nick in the back cover, although not surprised.
As I move into February, I will continue to use my Leuchtturm. Perhaps the most telling marker of worth is the amount of time I will be able to use it. With 250 viable pages, if it survives my backpack, this Leuchtturm could last me through the Spring and the Summer (and maybe even until my next birthday).
If you use a Leuchtturm notebook, or have any recommendations for a different notebook for me to try, please let me know in the comments!