In 2010 I attended a workshop offered by my employer about organization and time management.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Really, Liza? Slacking off on the job?”
I’m lucky to have a day job with a large company that’s big on proactive self-betterment. Learning about leadership and working smart (or S.M.A.R.T.) are encouraged, and there are courses and workshops offered internally to help.
Life long learning, you guys. It’s pretty awesome; I’m lucky to love my job and my co-workers.
The Beauty Of Task Lists
Anyway, a few years ago there was a workshop focused on how to prioritize your work week by using a paper task list. These tasks included to-dos from home AND work, and they weren’t beholden to a certain day or time on each week’s entry page.
You started the process of building the task list by doing a brain dump. Like, everything that’s swirling around in your head that needs to be done anytime from today through a point in the distant future, gets pulled out of your head and placed onto this task list. No particular order; no specific method — just out of your head, and onto the paper. Work stuff and non-work stuff, all out of your head and into the same list. Mind. Blown.
That process in itself is a relief once you do it.
But, wait. There’s more.
Each morning you take a look at your weekly list, pick one or two items that are annoying or difficult to accomplish, and get those done and out of the way.
Then move on about your day, taking care of and completing tasks as they become a priority — either by day and/or time, or because you want to, or for some other reason — and then check them off the list.
Side note: You guys. Checking things off a list is so satisfying.
Okay, onward. As new items pop up, you add them to the bottom of the list.
When a task involves something like a meeting or a doctor appointment, your notes for it go on the same page, in a sidebar section. It’s all in one place instead of in different notebooks, on scraps of paper or stickies, or in your phone, or whatever.
Calendaring Be Damned!
Not being beholden to a specific date and/or time is quite freeing. I was never very good at following a strict calendaring system, because LIFE. Things happen; times don’t always work. It’s stressful when you see 10 AM come and go without having accomplished the three items listed as to-dos for 8, 8:30 and 9 AM. So then you just forget about trying to calendar and toss living an organized life out the window completely. Calendaring be damned!
(Or, at least this is how I operate.)
With a task list method, you accomplish things at a pace that makes sense for each day and week. At the end of the week you start a new page with a new list, moving all the unfinished items from the prior week over to the new week, and then adding any new to-dos to the bottom. The process starts over again.
This simple method of tasking worked for several years. The pages were cobbled together in a flimsy notebook that could roll up and fit in my purse or laptop bag, with printed copies of Excel sheets I made to hold my weekly lists and a blank sidebar for corresponding notes.
Life Gets Busy Though…
Then I stopped. I’m not really sure why, except my role within the company changed, we moved, the kids started doing lots of activities, and…
No good reason, really.
It was the exact worst time to stop this sort of organization, in fact.
All the things started swirling in my head again. I began forgetting stuff, losing appointment information, scattering notes all over for things I wanted to use later — like lists of binge-worthy TV shows, writing prompts for blog posts, savings goals, bills to pay.
Then I stumbled upon a thing called a Bullet Journal.
What’s A Bullet Journal?
The basic principal of a Bullet Journal (BuJo) involves tasking items in a very similar manner as my old method of list making, except it introduces an element of creativity and — dare I say — artfulness, as well as a measure of organization my previous one lacked.
It’s like an amazing convergence of the best parts of my brain’s right and left sides!
I scoured the Internet for resources, from the original Bullet Journal guru, to those who’ve made BuJo-ing an art.
Like Kara over at Boho Berry.
This is just one of many brilliant videos she does that helps to showcase the versatility and usefulness of Bullet Journaling.
Warning: start watching videos and you risk going down a rabbit hole of BuJo lists, tasks, spreads, font, lettering and doodles.
All In With The BuJo
It didn’t take long for me to realize awesomeness needed to start immediately. Or, in two days, after I visited Amazon and loaded up with supplies via Prime.
I bought the Leuchtturm 1917 Hardcover Dots notebook.
I bought the Faber-Castel PITT Artist Manga Drawing Pens.
I bought the Staedtler STD334SB20A6 Triplus Fineliner Pens in assorted colors.
I didn’t, however, buy all the other fancy accessories that obsessive BuJo-ers adore. That said, I’ve found these flags to be helpful for marking pages — I happened to already have them.
And then…I began.
I gave it a go with the understanding that for the first couple of months, I’d be figuring out which spreads (the types of pages and sections) worked for me, and which didn’t. I’d make mistakes, both organizationally and artistically. And, that’s okay.
It’s now two months since I first started, and I haven’t looked back. My little orange BuJo goes with me everywhere, keeping tabs on daily tasks, weekly spreads, months at a glance, and longer term scheduling.
I also track things like blog ideas, food bucket lists for when I’m in NYC, TV shows I want to watch, repetitive daily to-dos (making the bed, doing one load of laundry a day, reading daily, etc.), and so much more.
At the very beginning of a BuJo, there’s the Table of Contents, which helps track which pages are designated for what — something my old method lacked. This is super helpful as things aren’t necessarily going to be in order in your BuJo, and the daily spreads could be interrupted by pages designated to other types of notes. Or if you need to look back for something that happened a couple months earlier, simply consult the Table of Contents.
The ritual of preparing the next day’s list each night has become something I look forward to. It allows me to frame up what the next day’s going to look like, and also prepare for busy mornings by doing things like checking the next day’s forecast, and reminding myself whether the kids will ride the bus or need to be dropped off in the morning!
It’s an unplugged activity, which I need more of since I spend SO much time on the computer and on my phone. This is probably why adult coloring books have become all the rage these days, too!
Take A Peek
One of the things that helped me get started was looking at how others did their BuJos. I never intended to copy, but rather used them as inspiration for my own. The beauty of a Bullet Journal is that each one is unique since they all start with a blank canvas. Literally.
Here are some sample pages from my Bullet Journal:
I joined a Facebook Group for Bullet Journal Junkies. Mostly I just watch and learn — there are so many great tips to learn from all the creative minds in the group!
Some are simple traditionalists, and others go to creative lengths that my brain can’t even fathom. There are folks (like Boho Berry) who manage a converged method of the traditional BuJo and a phone calendar, so that the family remains connected with appointments and stuff. There’s no wrong way to do it!
The point is, you can take the original simple concept of Bullet Journaling and turning it into your own. Whatever that means to you.
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