Okay, it’s confession time: This is going to be a very long post… But one worth reading to the very end, if you have trouble staying organized.
Way back in June 2014, and again in July 2014, I posted about an organizational system called Bullet Journal, created by Ryder Carroll And I gave it a very glowing review, after having used it for only a few weeks.
And then, just like with all organizational systems, I let it slide, and stopped using it.
There were a number of reasons for this, but mostly it came down to the fact that my adaptation of the master and travel journals was just taking up too much time to be efficient. The system was in it’s infancy, and I just wasn’t diligent enough to be using it daily. Things slipped my attention, because I hadn’t written them down. Or I hadn’t properly indexed an important piece of information, and missed out on doing some important stuff.
Then 2016 was coming to an end, and I had huge plans for 2017
I am a regular reader of Popular Science, and get a lot of posts through their RSS feed. But just before the start of 2017 a particular post came to my attention: “HOW ONE NOTEBOOK COULD REPLACE ALL THE PRODUCTIVITY APPS THAT HAVE FAILED YOU : A Nerd’s Guide To Bullet Journaling” [by Amy Schullenbaum]
This article showed me just how much the Bullet Journal system had evolved from 2014, and why 2016 had been the year it’s number of users exploded.
I was intrigued, and I went hunting for more information, and found a wealth of resources, layouts for various sections, and video tutorials, FAQs, walk through and images galore. I’m not going to try to explain the system, because there are people out there who have done it much better, and more creatively, than I ever could.
Instead I’m going to let you read the resources I’ve already linked to, and explain what I did to personalize the system.
What did I do differently to most?
- Instead of using a regular notebook or journal, I decided to stick with something I had a lot of sitting around my apartment – 3-ring binders.
- A mixture of lined and grid-lined paper gives me a huge amount of flexibility in how my pages are formatted.
- Lined pages are really just for note taking, lists, and things that don’t require a special page layout.
- The grid pages make up the bulk of my organizational structure, the calendex, future log, weekly log, and my trackers.
- Using three-hole-punched pages makes it easy to assemble my bullet journal on the fly. As I find I need a new page, I add it to the binder under the relevant section, write a header at the top and a page number at the bottom. (Each page number has a letter preceding it to indicate which section it’s in). Then that page number and header (where needed) are added to the indexes/calendars, and cross-referenced from an existing page (where needed).
- I have multiple dividers in place to separate particular sections:
- Index & Future Log – The index is still my primary source for finding things quickly, and my future log really isn’t used very much, because of the next section.
- Calendex & Weekly Logs – The index has no concept of date/time. So I added a Calendex to list upcoming events, and then a weekly calendar to organize each week in more detail. The Calendex lists page references for events, reminders, etc but my weekly calendar doesn’t, since it’s basically a way to setup the tasks on my daily log.
- Daily Logs – This is the core of my journal. Each day is setup the night before, unless have to add a task at short notice. This section is complicated, and simple at the same time. The front pages are a list of ongoing tasks for the year, and then the month. This is followed by pages dedicated to just the daily log of tasks, work hours appointments , etc. I’m finding I often reschedule things until later dates, because I booked too much on a given day, something unexpected happened, or I find myself waiting on important information. However, it allows me to copy relevant tasks from other areas of the journal to the daily list with ease, and my weekly planner and calendex allow me to track the tasks I rescheduled.
- Events & Appointments – This is where I keep my list of upcoming guest blog slots, important dates, and planning for vacations and big events . This has become an important section for me, because it’s allowing me to track multiple related projects through cross-referencing page numbers.
- Habit Trackers – this section is where I’ll hold myself accountable for the various things I know I should be doing every day/week/month, without fail. Right now, it’s just a mini-calendar where I can write in how many words I wrote/edited, cross off days I didn’t do either, and then tally up the total at the end of the week.
My thoughts so far…
- This system has been extremely fast to pickup and use.
- In it’s basic form, it’s great for day-to-day stuff, but I needed a lot more than that.
- There are some great people out there, creating some very innovative page layouts, and additions to the basic system.
- I would be lost without the various indexes, and my tracker.
- I’m thinking I need a section dedicated to lists of things I’m gathering, like quotes for my “Someone Else’s Words” posts, and the various posts I’m working on for other authors.
So, that’s my experience of the system at the end of the first month, and I have to say it’s been working much better than my first outing with it. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this system, and trying to find the best resources to get you started.
Keep one thing in mind – once you leave the Bullet Journal website, all bets are off as to what you’ll discover. You might end up like I did, watching hours of YouTube videos trying to learn more, and then only adopting what I really needed. However, if I hadn’t I might never have adopted the calendex, weekly planner, or tracker that I find so integral to my use of the system.
So, where can I find out more?
Even a quick search online will show you that there are quite a few people not only using Bullet Journal, but making it work for them in very unique ways.
- There’s the official Bullet Journal Website @ BulletJournal.Com, and even a glance there will show you just how flexible the system can be. This site will teach you the bare bones of the system, and give you some ideas of what others have done to adapt it to their needs.
- Eddy Hope, over at Discover Analog, has created something he calls the Calendex, which is a very interesting way to merge a calendar with an index. The Calendex is broken down into months and days, just like a regular calendar. But instead of logging actual actions, appointments, etc you log the page reference of items that are relevant to that date.
- Kim Alvarez, at Tiny Ray of Sunshine, regularly posts experimental page formats, and updates to how she uses the Bullet Journal system. Kim is also a regular contributor to the official Bullet Journal Blog.
- Kim (not the same one), at BulletJournalJoy provides some free printable pages for who, like me, assemble their journals as they go.
- Then there’s Kara Benz, over at BohoBerry, who has a very prolific YouTube channel, which often features her thoughts, experiments and experiences with various page layouts. Kara produces what I consider some of the most beautiful page layouts for her Bullet Journal, and is always trying something new. Check out her “Bullet Journal 101” videos for a great introduction to her process.