The simple tool that’s sent my productivity skyrocketing

by Rachel Smith
13 October 2017

Like many freelancers and parents who work from home, I juggle a million and one things.

Ideas to pitch. Stories to write. Interviews to do. People to call. Invoices to chase. Research to complete. Client copy to audit. Functionality to tweak on one of my websites. Quotes to get to a potential new client. Facebook ads to set up. Social media teasers to write, and schedule. Comments to moderate on my sites. The list goes on, and on and on.

On a personal level, there are things to deal with, too. My toddler might need an immunisation. Three of his friends need birthday presents. We’ve run out of oil, the bedroom door needs a new handle, and there’s a tile that needs fixing in the kitchen. I need to ring HCF to see if I can claim my new reading glasses. I’m currently on a health kick and keeping track of what I eat and the activity I do – usually on a print-out stuck to the fridge. And that’s just scratching the surface.

It gets exhausting trying to keep track of it all.

I’m a massive list-writer and many of you will know I use Teux Deux as a weekly tally of what needs to be done work-wise. I love it and I like to keep it streamlined with just priority work stuff. But for the little bits and pieces I needed to remember and action – let’s just say I was drowning in post-it notes and scraps of paper stuck to the walls of my office. I had lists for groceries. A phone number for an X-ray clinic I had to call. A reference number from Telstra about the NBN installation. A form hastily stuck to the fridge to track my food and exercise habits. It was messy and unproductive and invariably, things would get missed or forgotten at times. I couldn’t find a system that really worked for keeping track of all the detritus that was clogging up my brain and snatching away my precious time.

I knew there had to be another way. And funnily enough, in the age of endless productivity apps and online tools, this one requires going old school.

It’s a bullet journal.

There’s heaps about this practice on Ryder Carroll’s site – the New York-based digital product designer launched the ‘BuJo’ trend, calling it a ‘customisable and forgiving organisation system’. He also showcases other people’s bullet journals (and I have to say, it’s a fascinating peek into how people organise their time).

I may be late to the trend, but I’m finally on board and for me, it is seriously the secret to getting shit done.

In my bullet journal there are no sections. No separate lists for specific tasks. Just everything jotted down in a simple hardcover spiral notebook that I carry with me everywhere. You can make it as simple or as beautiful and colourful as you like. It’s whatever works for you.

Just taking a look at my journal, I’ve written down ideas for blog posts, notes on things I am waiting on (like a call-back from an interviewee or expert) and pitch ideas for new editors. I’ve stuck an all-important post-it note on a page here and there (never to be lost again). I’ve jotted down things like ‘request quote from developer for new site functionality’,  ‘find birth certificate for passport’ and ‘ring ISelect to get car insurance quote’. I’ve taken my food and exercise sheet off the fridge and stapled it into my bullet journal for even easier access to it.

I know for a fact some of this stuff would fall by the wayside if it wasn’t in my bullet journal. And now that everything I have to do is all in the one place, scribbled down when I think of it, it means I can forget about it. It’s there, I go through it nightly to see what’s been actioned that day and I mark finished items off with a highlighter. A quick read of what still needs to be done means it’s at the forefront of my mind and I can action it in a block when I have time.

I can see my bullet journal evolving, especially when there are a lot more entries in it to handle. But I’m excited at finding something that just WORKS to keep me organised. I’m so much more productive because I don’t have to try and remember everything or keep it all together. I don’t have to break my flow to do something, worried I might forget to do it later. I don’t have to scramble around looking for a post-it note with an all-important number at the bottom of my bag. Because it’s all there. It one notebook. If I need to note something, I jot it down and get back to whatever I’m working on. I stay focussed. I’m more creative. And I have oodles upon oodles of time back. If you need a system that gives you back mental clarity and organises you in a way you can only dream about, I urge you to try this.

Do you use a bullet journal? Or another system you swear by to keep track of everything? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

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