How Bullet Journaling Can Help Your Career
By: Karin Eldor
Isn’t it ironic? The more digitally advanced the world becomes with productivity apps and digital to-do lists, the more we crave “analog” or paper solutions when it comes to getting organized. I’ve already focused on the importance of gratitude journaling and The Five Minute Journal; now have you heard of “bullet journaling?”
Bullet journaling is described as an analog productivity system created by Ryder Carroll (a digital product designer and TEDx Talk speaker). A mash-up of a to-do list, monthly planner, brainstorming journal, and life log, bullet journaling has become such a phenomenon that fans have created Pinterest boards and full-on Instagram accounts dedicated to the art. There’s even a hashtag in its honour: #bujo.
So what is this movement about and how will it help you in your career?
The bullet journal’s tagline is: “Track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future. It's journaling at the speed of life.” And it’s become recognized as a system that can help you stay focused on your short-term and long-term goals, as well as identify priorities and time wasters.
Intrigued? So was I. Read all about it here.
How it works
7 Steps to Bullet Journaling
1- To get started, you’ll need a blank paper notebook (FYI: bullet journaling can be accomplished using any paper notebook).
2- Write “Index” on the first two-page spread -- this is where you’ll list your table of contents, split up by topics and their corresponding page numbers within the journal. The key is keeping it flexible and easy to continuously add new topics to the journal whenever you like.
3- Set up a section called “Future Log”: here is where you list your longer-term goals and split it up by month.
4- Next: write the actual month to the left of a 2-page spread and list each date (with the first letter of each weekday) per line. Then, write down your monthly to-do list on the right side. This is a way to create a bird’s eye view of everything you need to get done in a month.
5- Now you’re ready to start your daily to-do list. Next to each item / to-do action, add a symbol.
The legend of symbols in your bullet journal should look like this:
O = An event.
— = Reserved for notes, whether it be an idea, thought or observation.
X = A completed task.
> = A task that’s been migrated to a different date. (This is done at the end of each month, when reviewing the items you didn’t get to. See Step 6 below.)
* = Used on a note or task to represent something that’s high priority.
The point is to “rapid list” any tasks or goals you have for the day, and update your log as the day goes on. This is a running list, after all!
6- At the end of each month, start creating the daily log for the upcoming month. During this step, review your daily task list from the previous month and review what’s still an “open task” (a task that hasn’t been completed yet) versus a “closed task” (a completed task). Place an “x” next to the completed tasks.
Now when it comes to the incomplete tasks, ask yourself: “Is this task still worth my time?” If it’s not, then cross it out. If it is, then add a “right arrow” to the task and copy it into the next month’s log for shorter-term tasks (add a “left arrow” for longer-term tasks and add those to the corresponding month in the “Future Log”).
7- Create a section at the back of the notebook that’s reserved for ideas, general notes and even shopping lists.
How bullet journaling leads to success
Keeps all your to-dos in one place
It gets more and more challenging to find a task management system that successfully keeps all your priorities, tasks and thoughts centralized. I don’t know about you, but my desk is cluttered with Post-It Notes (where I jot down “notes to self” all day), a notebook for other random / fleeting thoughts, and is topped off with a calendar and an agenda. In the spirit of keeping things simple, streamlined and structured, bullet journaling is a great way to make sure you’re not literally all over the place.
Helps you determine actual priorities
Keeping your eye on the prize and staying focused is an important element of success. Part of “spring cleaning” when it comes to your career is eliminating the time wasters and distractions: non-essential tasks that you’re simply doing out of habit, or tasks that can actually be outsourced to someone else. Non-essential tasks become clutter, which is detrimental to your productivity.
Not everything on your list is a priority and a key to success is recognizing that you can’t do it all. Determine what you can get rid of instead of always “migrating” it to your next month’s list.
Editing your list and being militant about crossing out the non-essentials frees up space in your brain for big thoughts and creativity. It also makes you feel productive, which is a great motivator to actually be productive and slay your day.
Allows you to keep all related notes and ideas together, as “Collections”
This way when you’re in business meetings or have ideas related to an upcoming project, you could keep all your notes together at the back of the journal.
My favourite benefit: Ensures you’re productive, and not “swamped”!
There’s an actual “busy” epidemic taking over our work lives: we’re all “swamped.” We say it so often that we don’t even realize it anymore! But being super busy all the time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in demand: it means you’re highly inefficient. Bullet journaling allows you to manage your tasks with more focus and clarity. It also encourages you to get rid of the time wasters weighing you down. Maybe the way you’re going about a task is simply inefficient? This allows you to rethink why and how you’re doing something.
Make journaling your jam
If you’ve read my article about gratitude journaling, you’ll also know that I’m a huge fan of journaling as a way to start your day with mindfulness. It encourages you to set your intention for the day, outline your big priorities, and most importantly, sets you up for being proactive rather than reactive. Add bullet journaling to your morning and daily routine, and make some magic.
PS: Looking for a visual tutorial of how the bullet journal works? Watch creator Ryder Carroll explain it here: