Tech is my job, life, and passion. That being said, it is not always the best answer for productivity. Heck, everyone knows of the time wasting power of the Internet and cell phones. After trying out a vast range of task and scheduling apps looking for that one perfect solution, I came across the bullet journal concept. I’ve tried them all (Todoist, Asana, Anydo, Wunderlist, Onenote, and many more). My trusty bullet journal has won out for many of the reasons listed below and I encourage everyone with a large list of evolving tasks to give it a shot.
Before getting too far into it, if you have not heard of the bullet journal yet you will want to get acquainted with the what and how of it. The system is credited to Ryder Carroll, a New York based designer who shared the concept through a website dedicated to the topic. He came up with an analog system for keeping track of evolving lists of tasks, meetings, thoughts, and ideas. It is all done in a clever and organized system that prioritizes efficiency over clutter. Sounds nice, right?
No Batteries Required
If everything is in your phone or computer, you are bound to those devices and their battery life span or cable length. Unless you’re Jubilee from the Xmen universe, this could be an issue. The bullet journal just requires “it” (and ideally a pen). Also, as a standalone item you don’t have the complication of switching your cell phone to speakerphone and tapping through it while you are trying to speak intelligently with someone.
Front of Mind
By making a point to review and organize your daily items at the beginning and end of each day you get a clear picture of what is going on in your life. The journal allows you to re-focus as you are working. When you are carrying tasks over to the next day and this happens more than once you start asking yourself, “is this task really that important? If I’ve not completed it yet, should I make it a priority today?”
Every page is numbered and listed in the index as you progress. As you move onto the next page, the headers get noted and added to the index. Whenever you are looking for an item or date just thumb through the index fast and you will find it. It’s not as cluttered or long as it may sound as you will use spanning in the index (2-4, 5-6, etc) for larger blocks of pages.
The bullet method uses special bullets to denote item type, priority, and status. The status of the bullets is one of the foundations of the method. With how fast it can be done, it really leaves no reason to avoid logging items and marking them off. Instead of thinking about the time to scroll to the task app, open it, find the right list, type in and error correct typos in the task, and then save and sync; you simply jot a bullet and task. Mark tasks off that are done and future plan tasks that don’t get done.
Easier Note Taking
In the past I’ve lost so many notes from meetings in various tech voids never to be found until months or years later. In my journal I simply make a new page or section of a page for every meeting and add it to the index. When I need to remember those items I can quickly find them and flip back instead of diving into various apps, tickets, emails, etc. It’s all in one place.
There’s no clicky clacky of a keyboard or cell phone tapping to be heard with ye old pen and paper. When taking notes during a conference call you don’t need to be the person causing all the extra, unappreciated noise.
More Than Current Tasks
There’s no bad page to start a running list of anything with a bullet journal. Each list ends up being noted in the Index for quick reference. So don’t keep all those ideas in your head only to be forgotten about. Here are a few examples of lists I keep; like, want to use, or am jealous of:
- Future articles and blog posts
- Marketing ideas
- Movies seen this year
- Books to read
- Coffee roasts tried and rated (one of my current favs)
- Pinball machines to own
- Destinations to visit (including planets)
- Gift ideas for Dawn
My handwriting is outright terrible. No lie, my wife gets to complete important forms for me because apparently I write so fast it ends up worse than a toddler’s crayon scratches. The daily exercise of writing items down and making sure I can even read them has been a great help. I know many will say “who needs to write things anymore?” but if I ever need to write HELP in the sand of a beach I’d rather it not be mistaken for HI!!
Customized for You
The bullet journal is the Reese’s of task management. There’s no wrong way to tackle the setup so long as you adhere to the basic concept for workflow. Shape everything else to match what you prefer and you will remember. Use symbols and shorthand that makes sense to you. Configure the calendar and lists that are relevant. If you are not sure where to start, put your Google Fu to work and look at what everyone else has been doing. Some of my favorite “bullys” (coined term?) are, first and foremost, Kara over at Boho Berry, Kendar at The Lazy Genius Collective, and Tsh at The Art of Simple.
If you have made it this far and have the slightest interest in bullet journaling, go give it a shot. There are several Moleskine notebooks that work great. Many prefer the Leuchtturn 1917 Notebook as well. Both are available fairly cheap on Amazon and I recommended the dotted pages instead of lined. Let me know your thoughts and experiences on bullet journaling and/or your favorite task management methods!