Like many of you, I’ve got a bit of a continuing quest to be more productive. Also like many of you, I’ve got a bunch of balls in the air. I’ve yet to find an ideal calendar/to do list system that works really well for me. I’ve got online scheduling for client stuff, and Wunderlist for recurring tasks and random projects. But I also need to work stuff out on paper sometimes, so I carry a legal pad in my backpack, along with my computer.
But inevitably, whenever I sat down to get stuff done I would feel scattered.
So when I heard that a few of our premium members were using Bullet Journals I checked it out. I went right to the original Bullet Journal website, then to Pinterest. Oh, my. Sucked me right in.
There are already fantastic introductions and tutorials out there (I’ll list at the bottom), so here’s my super brief synopsis of bullet journaling, and how I use it.
What it is
A bullet journal is a combination to do list-catcher, journal, appointment book, and prioritizer. It’s a system for catching all the information you think about and process on any given day, and for keeping you productive and on-task.
It can also be a habit-tracker, a meal-planner, a place for inspirational thoughts and lists of books you want to read one day. Or not.
Sidenote: If you use a paper appointment book for scheduling client appointments, it may not be a replacement for that. I use online scheduling, so that’s not an issue for me.
What it doesn’t have to be
Your bullet journal doesn’t need to be pretty or fancy (but it can be). It does not need to make sense to anyone but you.
Here are the main components
First there are the bullets. Tasks (I call them ‘to do’), Events, Notes and more. They look like this.
Really, I just use the dots. I forget to use circles for events and dashes for notes. So I just use dots for everything. You may or may not.
A dot will turn into an X when I finish that task, a > if I migrate it to another page. I totally don’t use the other indicators. You may or may not.
Next is the index. One of the scarier parts of the bullet journal is the seemingly haphazard order of things. There’s no specific order of contents, you just add as you go, chronological for your life. The index page is how you keep it all easy to find. (Fun fact. I don’t use my index very well. And I can still find stuff.)
The Future Log, Monthly Log, Weekly Log, Daily Log are exactly what they sound like, and the original Bullet Journal site explains them best. And no, you don’t HAVE to use all of them.
I just use a weekly log. (More on that in a minute.)
These are idea lists, projects that require bigger planning books you want to read and so on.
I’ve got a few lists happening.
How I use it
I have a Future Log where I put big picture stuff and long term deadlines, and I use Weekly Logs/spreads.
I do best when I create blocks of time for each segment of my life, that’s how I manage having a massage office, this here online thing, and a personal life. This forces to to plan my week and prioritize the tasks I want to accomplish.
A bullet journal is so easy to customize. Like I mentioned, I have no use for monthly or daily pages. So I don’t use either, and I stick with a weekly format.
I have to think about what I want to accomplish in a week. I have to prioritize. If I’m migrating a task from week to week, it’s probably never going to get done. I need to stop trying and delegate it. Or just eliminate it.
I usually set up the next week on Friday or Saturday evenings (which gives you a clue about the excitement level of my weekends). It’s just a tiny bit creative, I use colored pencils, but that’s totally not necessary. I think I’ll get more creative as I move forward. Some weeks. When I feel like it. Or not.
Don’t have to remember anything. I just have to get it into my journal.
You can just start where you are. You don’t have to wait for the beginning of a certain month or week. Just start.
It took me about 2 months to really find my groove and figure out what works for me. I wasted some time trying too hard to make daily and monthly pages work for me. Then my friend showed me her weekly spread and it all clicked.
Occasionally I’ll forget to consult my bullet journal at the beginning of each day. Keeping it with my laptop helps me on work days. Keeping it in my purse helps me on non-work days. I haven’t figured out a perfect solution yet. But I remember it more than I forget it now.
There are so many ways to use it, it can be overwhelming at first. Resist the urge to be fancy or complicated until you get the hang of it. Once you find your rhythm, expand on that. I’m excited to add some weekly checklists for my small business tasks and some habit trackers for better sleep hygiene and exercise next month.
You can use just about any notebook, and you don’t need fancy tools. I started with a $15 dotted journal, and use a little piece of cardboard that was part of the packaging to make straight lines.
My officemate and I just got the official bullet journal (Merry Christmas to us!) and are a little giddy about using them beginning in January. I like that the pages are already numbered and it includes some tips pre-printed in the journal. But again, you can do this with notebook and it’s worth it to practice with a cheap notebook for awhile.
Give yourself some time to get used to using it, figure out where to keep it so it’s handy when you need it.
Do you #bujo? If so, I wanna know how you use it!