Productivity tips for the busy freelancer/parent/creative mind/volunteer (delete as appropriate… or not)
I’ve heard about Bullet Journaling some time ago. I have to admit that at first, I thought that it was not for me. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a very quick overview of what you can find on Instagram.
All this display of the « ever-so-perfect » writing, drawing, colouring, customization just discouraged me (a hint of jealousy here, I confess). How could I ever achieve such a pretty result, knowing that my drawing skills hardly match those of my 6-year-old daughter…?
Moreover, I’ve never been a big « to-do-lists » fan. I understand that for some people, it is highly satisfactory to cross out each and every item of a list. Well, to me these items were more like « weights » that I had to carry over and over again, since I rarely ever finished a whole to-do-list. Actually, I used to make these lists when I had a heavy workload, but did not check them until all the items were really done, just until things quieted down and I could forget all about it (without crossing them out).
More recently, I even decided to try and go « no list at all », trusting the fact that the most important stuff would finish by emerging by itself, so why worry about it beforehand? This is how I ended up forgetting appointments, being late on administrative papers and so on.
So, in September, that was it, I needed to do something. I tried to dig a bit further behind the beautification of the objects themselves, to understand what was really behind these « instagrammable » journals, and I discovered the origin of the whole phenomenon. Bullet journal is what Ryder Caroll, its creator, calls a rapid logging system. As he puts it in his website: all you need is a notebook and a pen.
This approach seemed much more accessible to me. Therefore, I tried it, and now, almost three months after, I can confirm that it works quite well, and in so many ways.
The system in a nutshell: take a notebook, a pen, and start writing stuff. First the yearly planning, then the monthly one, and then, just use it for the daily tasks. Simple as that. Indicate all your pages in the index and you’re good to go.
You can choose to add weekly plannings, and any page about anything you want to work on. For instance, I have several pages of Books I want to read/translate, Films I want to see, Exhibitions I want to visit… I also frequently use one page or more to insert the notes I’m taking at conferences, or events of any kind.
Basically, everything that needs being written down is now written in my BuJo. Back in the days (ah ah), I used to take notes in at least four or five different notebooks, not knowing where to find anything, and I’ve never really managed to use seriously my smartphone for these either.
Now, my BuJo is actually an annex of my brain. In this way, I find it goes in the same sense as the David Allen’s Getting Things Done method: centralize everything into one single reliable place.
Another thing I like about BuJo, is that it simplifies my habit of writing Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, which has been such an inspiration for years), I mix them with my to-do-lists so easily.
The good thing about it all being analog, is that it means that you have to write again, again and again the tasks that you did not manage to do as planned. This means that you can choose to cancel them, because they’re not worth it in the end, or you keep writing them, and this action is a great motivation to getting them done, I can assure you. It works quite fine with my administrative laziness.
Also, it’s a learning process: the more you use it, the more you will feel at ease with it, right until it becomes vital to you. At the beginning, I made some mistakes, we all do, but it was not a big deal. What, a page is wasted? So what? I can turn it and make a whole new one just as perfect as I wish it to be. The BuJo is yours and yours only.
It looks like the BuJo is such a success because with it, anything is possible: you can keep it ugly, like me, or decide to make it an aesthetic object, you can choose to focus on mundane tasks, making sure they get done, or decide to develop large and ambitious projects. The time spent writing in your BuJo is a time alone between you and your mind, and that is quite priceless in our era of eternal distraction. We spend so many hours in front of screens already; it feels so good to face just a blank page where you can be whomever you want. Life gets better when you BuJo, maybe you should just give it a try 😉