Bullet journal: the simple tool that’s sent my productivity skyrocketing

by Rachel Smith
13 October 2017

Like many freelancers, I juggle a million and one things. Ideas to pitch. Stories to write. Interviews to do. Invoices to chase. Then there are all the things I need to do for my family just to keep things ticking over. The mental load is exhausting and calls for a system that can take all those little to-dos and keep them in the one place. Enter: the bullet journal.

Many of you will know I use Teux Deux and Trello for organising work stuff. But I was still drowning in scraps of paper and post-it notes, so I knew I didn’t need another productivity app or online tool. I need to write some stuff down – it was the only way. And going old school with a bullet journal meant I could use it as a brain dump, a way to get stuff out of my head – and most importantly, a way to bring all the bits and pieces of my life together.

How did bullet journals start?bullet journal

Of course, the bullet journal is nothing new – but the resurgence in using them is down to Ryder Carroll. The New York-based digital product designer launched the ‘BuJo’ trend, calling it a ‘customisable and forgiving organisation system’ and a way to ‘track the past, . 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. I don’t have time to draw unicorns or rainbows or even organise it into specific sections like this guy does, although you’ll find plenty of that on #BuJo devotee feeds on Instagram. But make it whatever works for you.

What do I put in my bullet journal?

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. It includes all-important post-it notes stuck in (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’. And I’ve even taken my food and exercise sheet off the fridge and stapled it into my bullet journal for even easier access to it.

bullet journal

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. In 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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