The Bullet Journal’s Hidden Productivity Hack

I am not exaggerating when I say that I could not cope without my Bullet Journal. This little green book has glued my life together more times than I can say, for personal, academic or work-related reasons. I’d think of it as a Life Organiser, but I’m not sure that has the same ring to it, does it?

For the uninitiated, a Bullet Journal is a blank book whose canvas gives its users unlimited control to customise everything to their heart’s content. It was envisaged by Ryder Carroll, a New York-based digital designer. He created a whole system that users can integrate into their own BuJos to maximise their productivity but, the more you use one, the more likely you are to develop a productivity system that works for you, and you alone.

I’ve been using BuJos every day for six years, so have fine-tuned a system that I’m happy with. It might not work for you, but it’ll be a great start as you leap into a world geared around maximising productivity.

Long-term planning

As a teacher, I’m constantly planning ahead. I need to know exactly what my students know – and what they need to learn before their summer exams. Likewise, I need to know what it is that I’ll be doing to get them past any gaps in their knowledge, so they’re ready to get the grades that they deserve.

The same can be said for my own life. How can I be sure that I’ll achieve a goal by a certain date without planning smaller goals for now and for the future? I’ve set up my BuJo to emphasise long-term goals.

How I design my monthly pages.

Every six months, I devise a calendar that allows room for personal, academic and work-related events (written in pre-selected colours), which lets me plan half a year in advance if I need to. Next to my ‘events’ section is room for my daily habits. In the month of June 2020, I wanted to get up by 7 and go to sleep by 11, exercise and stick to a well-planned eating regime, read, write, undertake Spanish lessons, blog and not consume any alcohol.

On the most part, I did pretty well.

Each week, I also assess the monthly tasks that I have written on my whiteboard and add them to my ‘weekly tasks’ list in my BuJo if I think I’ll be able to get them done by Sunday. This prevents me from getting overloaded with too much in one week, but at the same time, gives me space to record things that do eventually need doing. There’s then a ‘daily tasks’ section, where I record what needs doing on a specific day. An example might include paying a utility bill.

You’ve no idea how satisfying it is to tick that off from so many to-do lists.

Let’s go digital

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the benefits of using OneNote, as opposed to physical paper. It’s a really great piece of software, and there are digital alternatives to Bullet Journaling, but the truth is that I feel so much more connected to my tasks when I have to open a physical book to get to them. Knowing that my Bullet Journal is sitting on my desk, staring at me, rather than hidden away on an app on my iPad, is enough to force me to complete my daily tasks.

Likewise, as a creative person who doesn’t get a lot of time to be creative, I love taking the time every six months to be creative. You may be able to do that in an app, but I personally wouldn’t get quite as much satisfaction as I do from drawing my creations with pen and paper.

Here’s the front cover to the section of my BuJo that signals the start of the 2020s.

Your decision about tracking tasks in a digital or physical format will be a purely personal one, and I’d recommend trying out both but, at the end of the day, you need to go with whichever kit will maximise your productivity.

How do you use your BuJo? I’ll go first: I’m a minimalist and, other than my fancy front cover for each year, keep my BuJos pretty simple and to the point. Now, it’s your turn!

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