What I learned About the Bullet Journal in the First Week
I've made no bones about it, the Bullet Journal (BuJo for short) method is transforming my daily life and after a week of use, I am still amazed what I'm learning about myself resulting in an increase in productivity at work and home by using a simple pen and a 8.25in. by 5.75in. journal. Before diving in, let me give you the elevator pitch for the BuJo method. I'll look no further than the opening chapter titled "The Promise" in The Bullet Journal Method - Track the Past Order the Present Design the Future written by Ryder Carroll, the creator of BuJo.
The Bullet Journal method will help you accomplish more by working on less. It helps you identify and focus on what is meaningful by stripping away what is meaningless
How is this possible? Well, I was skeptical at first also, but after reading the book and 8 days later, it's surprisingly easy. You can become more productive by implementing 7 key concepts for organizing a personal journal that doubles as a day planner, goal tracker, to-do list, sketch book, and anything else you want it to be.
I don't intend for this to be a how-to article, but I think it's important to understand what the BuJo method is in order to appreciate the impact it's having on my life. With that said, the 7 key concepts are:
Index - keep track of what's in your journal
Future Log - things to take care of in the future
Monthly Log - things to take care in the current month
Daily Log - things to take care of today
Rapid Logging - actionable notation for logging ideas, tasks, and more
Collections - things you want to group together
Migration - feedback loop to evaluate what's still important and eliminate that which is not important
Want to know more, jump over to the BuJo website and watch the introductory video.
Ok, now that we got the basic concepts taken care of, let me explain the life changing experience I'm having with them. Maybe it seems like an overstatement, but this method has come at the perfect time for where I'm at in my life right now and it's adding significant value to me.
To begin with, I think linearly. That is, I approach things in a very systematic order going from point A to point B to point C and so on. I also do well in ambiguity assuming there is data for me to mine answers from. I also don't care for technology. Yes, that's right, I make a living in technology but I don't like it. But let me clarify, I don't like technology that doesn't serve me. Computers and laptops are no bueno for me b/c the input mechanisms required to make them operate are grossly inefficient (trackpads and a computer mouse give me carpel tunnel because I'm on them so much and therefore, they don't serve me), but I absolutely love the convenience of purchasing things through the Amazon app on my phone (the app serves me by letting me buy the things saving trips to the local Walmart or Costco). I also maintain better energy levels through the day by staying off of my computer. And writing calms my mind bringing about peace that stimulates creativity. Finally, by having a simple pen and notebook to capture my ideas, it makes it essential to listen when sitting in meetings throughout the day in order to capture what's important and actionable.
Let's look at these individually to understand the transformative nature of the BuJo method.
Linear Thinking - the BuJo method is flexible enough where you start writing on page 1 and just continue from page to page creating your content. It requires no thought on how to setup the journal, rather you can set it up as you go and it's flexible enough to accommodate what ever you throw at it
Thrive in Ambiguity When There is Data to Mine - The BuJo method allows me to capture all the key things I have to remember on a daily basis; it provides a mean to track what is important to me; I use to plan my day; I use it to track my tasks as I accomplish them; I use it to plan my month. When it's all said and done, the BuJo represents a dump of my mind all wrapped up in a pretty blue journal
I don't Like Technology - I have sat in front of a computer more than most who are reading this post and as such, having a way to track my life outside of EverNote and OneNote has knocked it out of the park for me. Since I've started my BuJo journal, I've cut my big and small screen time in half (I don't think that is an exaggeration). I'm finding a better balance of the technology that serves me with that which doesn't serve me well. And going analog with pen and paper results in a certain romanticism with the days of the past (sorry millennials, this may have no meaning for you)
Better Energy Levels - since I've reduced my time in front of the screen radically, I have more energy throughout the day and when I come home. I'm able to spend more thoughtful time on the important tasks because I've eliminated the meaningless ones.
Calming My Mind - Having phones and laptops within arms reach of me for several hours a day results in a highly stimulated mind. Breaking away from the screen and focusing on what I write in my BuJo deescalates the racing thoughts and brings about a focus on what I'm writing and capturing in my journal resulting in more thoughtfulness given to what I'm working on for the day.
Better listening habits equals better retention of critical data - Since I no longer bring my laptop into a meeting, I find myself listening more and I'm able to capture the key concepts and actions more readily than before when I was trying to transcribe the meeting conversations in my notes into OneNote. Come on, admit it, how annoying is it when you attend a meeting and everyone has their laptop open and people attending the meeting are pounding on the keyboard, even as you speak. It's killer and drives me nuts.
Now that you have an idea of how I view the BuJo, how have I structured my BuJo? In addition to starting with the essential collections of the index, future log, monthly log, and daily log, I've created the following additional collections.
Project Work - at any moment in time, my team has dozens of projects going on concurrently. For me personally, I'm currently focusing on 5 key initiatives and I have a collection for each one
1:1 Meetings - I have 4 managers on my team that I meet with regularly and conduct several skip level 1:1's each week with their employees. As such, having a collection dedicated to each one of those meetings makes it easy for me to capture topics I want to discuss in each of them. As I go through the day, if something pops in my mind that I need to share, I jump to the collection and jot it down.
Team Meetings - Similar to the 1:1 meetings, I have a collection that I use to collect info to share during my next staff meeting and my managers staff meeting.
Ideas for BuJo - I'm learning how large the community of BuJo journalists is and I'm learning new ways to make it more effective. I use this collection for capturing those ideas that I'd like to try or research further.
Habit Tracking - I'm focusing on developing 2 habits right now. BuJo offers a plethora of ways to visualize your progress to developing habits and I'm currently experimenting with the way that resonates with me the most.
Pen Test - I started with a single blue colored fountain pen. I quickly learned, the pen was less than ideal because it bleeds through the pages and smears easily. Therefore, I'm trying different pens and colors to be more elegant in my journaling. This collection is my scratch pad for trying them out. As it turns out, you can't underestimate the importance of a good pen and while it's a very personal choice, it has to also serve a purpose and my advice, experiment and find what you like and don't underestimate the simply fine tipped felt tip pen.
And that's that. To bring this blog post to a close, I'll state that I'm having a very positive experience with my BuJo journey. I was commenting to my wife this evening, that this morning I was looking at my daily log and got a bit overwhelmed with how many tasks I had created over the last week. While I've managed to complete about 90% of them each day, the remainder 10% carried over and the list was quite long today. But, alas, my mad BuJo planning skills kicked in and I had several meetings scheduled today that allowed me to cross off all but 2 of my tasks. I stared in amazement at my journal just before writing this post thinking of how much I'm getting done and the details of my actions that I'm capturing in my journal which will be used for future reference.