My Bullet Journal Method

  • When using a computer, tablet, or phone to manage my tasks I find myself getting distracted by the ever-present email, Slack, news, etc options available. I wanted to be able to spend 20 minutes planning my day — and not get dragged into other things before I’m finished.
  • I find being forced to move un-completed task from day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month forces me to be more honest about whether or not I’m going to get something done. It’s far too easy to just add tasks to an endless list that never gets finished and just let them roll over and over and over and over. Having to re-write them each time forces me to think about whether or not I will really complete an action — and perhaps questions whether or not I should.
  • It feels much more flexible to me than digital systems in terms of iterating my approach to find what works for me. This feels counter-intuitive to me as in many ways digital is less permanent — after all once it’s ink on paper it’s pretty hard to change. However, I find that setting up a digital tool forces me to make structural choices (eg “How do we manage tasks vs projects?”) in a more formal way. With pen and paper — no choice is really permanent since I start a fresh page every day!
  • I love looking back on each day, week, and month when planning out the next one. Having all my notes and tasks in a single place helps me do that more easily.
  • I find that analog tools are more helpful for certain kinds of thinking. They just help me enter a mode of thinking that is more conducive to making broader connections, thinking about priorities, and staying focused.
  • Frankly, I just enjoy the sensation of putting pen to paper. That’s really the only reason I sometimes use a fountain pen to write in my journal — it’s just a more enjoyable experience. I still keep some ballpoint pens around for travel (fountain pens don’t like airplanes), but I mostly use the fountain pen now.
  • Index. My notebook has this built in and I generally reference each of the section below in it.
  • OKRs. My journals are almost perfectly sized to fit one quarter — so I start by writing my personal and work OKRs there.
  • Someday / Maybe List. In traditional Bullet Journal speak this is basically the Future Log. I use it as a place to capture things that I want to do, but can’t commit to in the current Month or Week. A simple place to capture things I don’t want to forget.
  • Blog Post Ideas.This is just a list of possible post topics — somewhere I can write things down when they come to me. I haven’t been using this as much as I’d like…
  • Monthly Spreads. Each Month I use three pages for my monthly tracking spread.
  • On the first page, I write down key dates/activities for the month, one day per line. I use this mostly for travel, all-day events,or special occasions since my calendar is a bit too busy topic everything there.
  • On the second page, I put down my key objectives and tasks for the month, separated into sections for work and personal. On the month level I allow myself both clearly defined tasks and multi-task objectives.
  • On the third page, I create a habit tracker. One line per day and columns to track habits I want to keep up on. Right now they are Stretching, Meditating, Chinese Practice, and Exercise. I may change these month to month, but I like how this view helps me hold myself accountable.
  • Weekly Page. Each week, I dedicate a page to listing out my tasks and objectives for the week, again split between work and personal. This is not standard for bullet journaling, but I find a weekly task page critical for me given the number of actions I am tracking at any given time. Like the month view, this page has both simple tasks, and slightly larger objectives.
  • Daily Pages. I can start a new day in the middle of a page, but I typically end up with one pager per day. I start in the morning by listing out my key tasks for the day. Then I just start adding notes, new tasks the come out, thoughts that occur to me, etc.
  • Daily Review. I start each day by looking back over my tasks, notes, and calendar for yesterday, my weekly objectives, and my calendar for today. Then I add tasks for each key action I need to complete today.
  • Weekly Review. This is similar to the Daily Review, but here I will also look over my Monthly Objectives, my Someday/Maybe List, and my OKRs. I like to do this review each Monday morning to kick off my week on a productive note.
  • Monthly Review. This is similar to my Weekly Review, but I take a bit more time. I will set up my three page monthly spread.

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