Last month, I attended a now-annual business retreat with my mastermind group (affectionately known as The Quad). It’s a great way to review our businesses and create goals for the coming year.
One item we all struggle with is time management, particularly for large projects or tasks we’ve been avoiding. So one of our first discussions was on managing time better.
We looked to Lori Paximadis in particular for this. Lori is a former project manager, and she excels at figuring out systems to Get Stuff Done. When Lori has a recommendation for staying organized, we listen. And her recommendation for us this time was the bullet journal.
WHAT IS A BULLET JOURNAL?
A bullet journal is an approach rather than a product (though you can purchase specialized journals). The idea is to write down all of your calendar events, tasks, and goals in one place—and I mean write. By taking the time to write things down, you’ll give yourself time to plan and you’ll remember them better.
A bullet journal generally includes:
- An index: A list of all logs and collections in the journal; add to your index as you create your journal
- A future log: A layout of several months; list tasks that aren’t due for months here
- A monthly log: A monthly calendar and list of tasks you need to do in a month
- A daily log: Tasks, events, and notes for each day
- A collection: Notes and tasks related to one project taken from elsewhere in the journal
You’ll use a two-page spread for each log or collection and symbols (such as bullets) to categorize journal entries. For example, all tasks could be preceded by a filled bullet (•), while an event could be preceded by an open bullet (○). The symbols allow you to scan a page quickly to understand what’s going on in your day.
THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR …
A bullet journal isn’t so different from the pre-designed planners we were all buying (and not using) in the 1990s, except that you’re creating your own layouts. You can follow Bullet Journal’s recommended layout or create your own. A quick internet search returns pages of results! The ability to choose a layout that works specifically for you helps make the journal useful.
I’ve been tracking weekly and daily tasks with a steno notebook and colored pens for years. Each Friday, I write up the following week’s tasks in the left column and events in the right. Using that as my guide, each evening I write up the next day’s tasks and events. I number the tasks in the order I think will work best in a different color (usually red), but I allow myself to re-arrange tasks as necessary. And I check items off as I go. At the end of the week, I review the list to determine what needs to migrate to the next week’s list.
WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO WITH A BULLET JOURNAL?
Sarah Grey also does bullet journaling. In addition to her schedule and tasks, she tracks habits she wants to build and health data to help her reach her health goals. She says that the advantage of tracking these things in her journal is that correlations between these items and the rest of her life become easier to see.
For example, let’s say your goal is to eat more vegetables. You track your daily veggie intake in your bullet journal. During your monthly review, you notice that every Wednesday in the previous month, you didn’t make your quota. You flip back a couple of pages and look at last month’s Wednesdays to see that those were your busiest days. Knowing this, in the coming month you can plan for more suitable vegetable options for and fewer tasks on Wednesdays.
WHY SHOULD I DO THIS?
No matter how you design your pages or what type of notebook you use, the bullet journal system encourages you to plan and review—and that’s really the answer to better time management and task completion. You’ll need to collect your ideas for your time in advance, and you’ll be encouraged to review the previous month to see which tasks need to be carried over. The journal also puts related information (events, tasks, notes, and goals) in one place, which makes Getting Stuff Done easier.
Obviously, this can be said of most time and task organizing tools. The key is to use tools you like, take the time to plan, and take the time to review.
How do you keep your time and tasks organized? Share your favorite tools in the comments section below!