I wonder if you are a technology person, or if you prefer paper and pen? Do you use a diary, or is your life recorded on an online calendar? In most circumstances, I am a technology person – even as a teenager I had a Palm (blast from the past?) and I have far more apps on my devices than I could ever use.
I never could get my head around electronic diaries and to-do lists, though. It seems like I’ve tried most versions available, and some of them are really very clever, but you can’t stick a post-it note on a Google calendar entry to remind you that it’s your turn to take the biscuits and you can’t tuck a term’s programme inside it until you’ve got chance to write it up. You can’t even, generally, repeat tasks at the frequency that you actually need them in real life – life doesn’t tend to happen on a neat weekly or monthly routine but I always feel like apps expect it to. And there’s nothing as satisfying as crossing a task off a long to do list, with pen and paper. I tried and tried to get used to doing these things electronically (after all, my iPhone is far smaller and lighter to carry than an A5 planner) but somehow I always ended up back with pen and paper.
I can see the benefits of the team calendar we use at Phase so, for the time being, I’ve had to give up on my lovely planner. If I ever stop needing to use an online calendar, I’ll be back to it like a shot - I can’t put stickers and washi tape on an online calendar either! I still need pen and paper by my side though, so that’s why I started a Bullet Journal. I’ve been using it for more than a year now, maybe two, and it really has been the best system I’ve tried so far.
In its simplest form, a Bullet Journal is a notebook in which you write daily task lists. There are different symbols to indicate tasks and events, notes and ideas. You mark them off differently depending on whether you have done them, put them off (again!) or decided that they are no longer necessary. There’s an index, and you’re supposed to number your pages so that it’s really quick and easy to look up information. Other than the time needed for initial set-up (much quicker if you buy a notebook with pre-numbered pages), in its purest form it is really very simple. You create a future log to track events, goals and tasks for the coming months and then you create a new list each day. If you want to learn more, check out the original website here.
People have really got hold of Bullet Journalling though, and made it so much more creative. There are so many Bujo (Bullet Journalling) bloggers and YouTubers, just do a quick search and you’ll see. Bullet Journals are now used to track so many things beyond just to-do lists – bucket lists, books to read, places visited – people are even tracking mental health and wellbeing using their Bullet Journals.
I love Bullet Journalling for its flexibility. There are days when I feel really creative and I want to doodle all over it – so I do. There are other days when I am pretty busy, so I just get a messy scrawl of a list. There are even days where I forget to open it all together. On those days I am significantly less organised and there’s far more chance that I’ll forget to do something, but it’s okay to have days missing. Once you get the hang of the fact that your Bullet Journal is there to serve you (and you alone), it becomes perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, mess up a page or miss a few days out entirely. It really is entirely flexible and can be whatever you need it to be – after all, it’s just a blank notebook until you figure out what works for you.
I also find Bullet Journals really helpful for keeping information to hand. Yes, I know that a computer or tablet would do that too – but remembering where you’ve saved a file, searching for it and trying to download it when the wifi is inevitably playing up really is a hassle compared to opening a book. I have poor working memory because I’m dyslexic and busy, and it really doesn’t work trying to keep things in my head. Instead, I have my journal open on my desk, and all my old journals in my drawer at work – so, provided that I can remember roughly when a meeting or event took place, I can find the information in moments. I use it for meeting notes, I write termly programmes in it, packing lists for holidays, notes from conferences and training – anything and everything goes in.
It’s also good for accountability. To begin with, it can be really irritating to have to migrate (copy to the next day) all the tasks that haven’t been done – until you realise that you’ve migrated that same task three, five, ten times! It gives you a nudge to evaluate the things that aren’t getting done. Is there something stopping you from doing that task, do you need help or research to get it done? Or is it just something that you really don’t want to do, and the only solution is to grit your teeth and get on with it?
I’d really encourage you to take a look at Bullet Journalling if you feel like your current system just isn’t quite working for you. Yes, it is just another system and no, it isn’t the only one available. You might even be fine with the calendar and task list that came with your phone, we’re all different. But, like me, you might find that there’s something really valuable in it for you. Just be warned – washi tape, stationery and hand lettering, although unnecessary, can get seriously addictive!