Have you tried using a Bullet Journal? You know I love my digital task manager, but I’ve been trying something new–and I like it!
Bullet Journal – an alternative (or supplement) to my digital task manager
One of the keys to building a meaningfully productive life is consistent, thoughtful management of the projects and tasks we commit ourselves to. We’ve talking in previous episodes about different types of task managers (Task Management Options — TPW030, How to Choose Best Task-Manager — TPW065, 5 Reasons to Change your Productivity System — TPW086). If you’ve listened to this podcast for very long at all, you know I’m a bit of a tech geek, and I love my digital task manager.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself distracted and even sometimes overwhelmed by all the stuff in my digital task manager. Inspired by messages from listeners and from the conversation with Elsie Escobar in episode 91, I decided to give Bullet Journaling a try.
What is Bullet Journaling?
This is a system for time and task management developed by Ryder Carroll. (Note: Bullet Journal and BuJo are registered trademarks owned by Lightcage, LLC.) More information can be found at the official Bullet Journal website. This video, from that site, describes Ryder’s original conception of the Bullet Journal:
Basically, a Bullet Journal is a notebook to capture any information that’s important for you — to-do lists, goals, appointments, or anything you want it to keep track of. The original concept is very minimal, but some people get very elaborate with calligraphy and decorating their pages. When you search social media for the hashtags #BulletJournal or #BuJo, you’ll see many beautiful, artistic examples, but a Bullet Journal can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.
The basic components of a Bullet Journal are:
- An index to keep track of the contents of your journal
- Blank pages you can customize to suit your needs and your tastes
- Spreads — two facing pages used for a particular purpose (such as your week-at-a-glance).
- Collections of information relating to a common theme or purpose.
- Symbols, a sort of shorthand to indicate the types of information you put into your journal.
How I’m using it
The great thing about a Bullet Journal is it becomes whatever you want it to be. It’s infinitely customizable, and adaptable to your changing interests.
The tools I use
The primary tools for Bullet Journaling are simple: a notebook and something to write in it with. Beyond that, there are lots of other tools available for making your journal prettier or more customized.
- The notebook I’m using is the Leuchtturm Medium Hardcover Dots Royal Blue, which comes with dotted pages, built-in index, two-page markers and a pocket at the back.
- The pens I use:
- Other tools:
- Westcott Shatter-Resistant Plastic Ruler, 6 Inches, Transparent
- Mechanical pencils to test whether something will fit in a space before using ink
- Washi tape, which is pretty much purely decorative. I don’t use it a lot, but there are TONS of varieties out there.
Note: You don’t have to use any particular notebook or pens — as we’ve said before, the tools that will work best for you are the tools you will use.
Where I get ideas
A Bullet Journal can be simply a notebook with simple task lists in it, but the many people using Bullet Journals have come up with lots of ideas for how to make it even more useful. There are whole blogs and groups built around the use and design of Bullet Journals, and an amazing variety of ways you can lay out your pages and spreads. For inspiration, check out:
- Pinterest – People share how they set up their journals, how they lay out the pages, the types of spreads and collections they use, and how they decorate their journals. It can be intimidating to see how people can get so creative and artistic with their Bullet Journals, but don’t let that overwhelm you. You may find some ideas you can easily incorporate into your Bullet Journal. I just had to get okay with the fact that my drawing and handwriting won’t be as “professional” looking as those I see in the photos, but it’s still fun to try different approaches.
- Instagram – You can find how other people are using their Bullet Journals by searching the hashtags #BulletJournal or #BuJo.
- Websites and blogs, include the official Bullet Journal site and Boho Berry’s website.
- YouTube – Many people have done YouTube videos about Bullet Journaling, demonstrating how they set theirs up and what pages and spreads they use. One of the most well known is Kara Benz, also known as Boho Berry. Her self-described “rant” about the fact that there’s no one right way to Bullet Journal is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or intimidated:
If you have a Pinterest board about Bullet Journaling or a favorite Bullet Journaling site or blog, please share in the comments below or on The Productive Woman Facebook Page or private Facebook Group.
The pages and spreads I’m currently using
- After the index, my first spread is my Three Words for the Year on the left, then small monthly calendars for the second half of the year on the right.
- 2016 Goals and Future Log
- Goal Weight Tracker and Inspiration Page to help motivate me
- Want/Need list and notes about a project I’m working on for the TPW community
- Daily pages
- Some days have a whole page, other have half.
- I use these for key appointments and my top two or three tasks for the day (no more than five)
- A tracker for water, exercise, and vitamins
- A gratitude box, where I jot a note each day about something I’m grateful for that day.
- Space for notes relevant to the day
I’m planning to include more collections and try other things goings forward.
How it integrate with my electronic tools
I still use Nozbe for my law practice, and don’t put my professional tasks in my Bullet Journal. For personal and TPW stuff, I still maintain my master project and task list in OmniFocus, which I check each day to make sure nothing gets dropped. I look at OmniFocus in the evening to help set up my daily page for the next day and choose my key tasks from the master list. If I finish my key tasks, I can check the digital master list for the next task to turn to.
Here’s what I’ve found so far in my experiment with Bullet Journaling:
- It has slowed down my thinking, keeping me more calm and relaxed.
- It helps narrow my focus. Instead of getting distracted by the long list of projects and tasks in my digital task manager, I think about what’s most important for the day and focus on just those one or two most important tasks.
- I find it relaxing to take the 15 minutes or so every evening preparing my page for the next day.
- It’s fun to play with. Even though I’m not particularly artistic, spending a little time perhaps adding some color to my pages or trying a different kind of lettering uses a different part of my brain than my work as a lawyer, and I’m really enjoying it.
- It can serve as a journal as well as a planner. I leave space on the daily pages to jot down a few sentences about something that happened or what I’m feeling.
Digital vs. Bullet Journaling
Consider using a digital task manager if:
- You need to share your projects and tasks with others
- You need to access your information from a variety of locations and machines
- You prefer typing over hand-writing
A Bullet Journal might be right for you if:
- You prefer paper over digital
- Your life is such that you can manage it in a single notebook
- You find yourself overwhelmed and distracted by the lists in your digital task manager
- You’re a tactile learner
- You have artistic ability (or just enjoy playing with artistic flourishes)
- You want an ongoing record of what you’ve worked on and how you felt, rather than just a to-do list/project manager
Keep in mind
- Start simple — any notebook or pens will work.
- Check out the hashtags on Instagram or Pinterest boards to get ideas, but don’t let them intimidate you.
- Think about the information you want or need to keep track of and set up your pages and spreads accordingly.
- A tip for any task management system: Don’t spend so much time designing and decorating pages that you end up not getting anything done! Like all task managers, whether digital or paper, these are tools to help you get the right stuff done, not an end unto themselves.
As we’ve talked about many times, there’s no one right way to manage your time and tasks. The best tool or system is the one you use. If what you have now works for you, there’s no reason to make a change.
But if you’re looking for a new method for task management or even if you’re interested in beginning to journal, have fun trying it out and don’t let what others are doing intimidate you.
What do you think?
Have you tried Bullet Journaling? How are you using it? What works or doesn’t work for you? I’ve love to hear your thoughts, tips, tricks and ideas. Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts with me by emailing me, commenting on our Facebook page, or leaving a comment below.
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