A few years ago I adopted a DIY-style planning technique called bullet journaling. I’d been adrift in search of something that could replace my old Franklin Covey habit, which died when they discontinued my favorite line of planner pages. It needed to work with my email-based calendar that I was now carrying with me everywhere on my phone. I also needed to be able to easily carry it to meetings and fit it in my cluttered work/mom bag.
Like any good writer, I’d always been a copious note taker, using whatever was at my disposal—spiral notebooks, legal pads and eventually the agency-favorite Moleskine. But I was constantly juggling between notebook, paper planner and phone in meetings and at my desk.
Then, in 2013, I came upon an article in Fast Company that introduced an idea it claimed would revolutionize my note taking process: web designer Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal system. In a video I’ve since shared with at least a dozen people, Carroll outlines his system for tracking tasks and appointments in your notebook—whatever kind you prefer—as well as logging information so you can go back and find it months (or years) later. It’s all done using coded, bulleted to-do lists.
So, at the beginning of 2014, fresh notebook in hand, I adopted Carroll’s method. It’s been working hard for me ever since. I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. The internets are on fire with bloggers, instagrammers and news outlets singing the praises of the bullet journal. Here’s why I think that is:
1 They look cool
The world is your oyster when it comes to picking out a journal. You can use whatever size, color and type of notebook you like. Use ruled, grid or blank pages. Choose one that expresses your style. If it looks good, you’re going to love carrying it with you. And you’ll be more likely to use it and keep it current if it pleases your eye.
2 Everything is all in one place
My journal includes a 2-page weekly spread with an appointment calendar, spaces for daily task lists, a weekly task column and a meal tracker. The pages after the spread? They’re blank – I use them for note taking. Other than my phone, the bullet journal is all I need.
3 The journal is completely customizable
The contents of my journal have evolved over time. When blogger Whoorl published a bullet journal how-to this past fall, I found a ton of inspiration to further customize the original format. My journal is now a bit more visual because I lay out the whole week at once, rather than organize day-to-day. I encourage you to check out Whoorl’s post for links to all kinds of custom journal pages.
4 The method balances analog with digital
I’m still using my phone to track meetings and personal appointments. All of my work meetings are scheduled through email. And, when I’m at the doctor or hair salon, my phone is usually close at hand, so it’s easiest to record it there before I forget. Then, when I do my weekly bullet layout, my phone has all the info I need to create the spread.
5 I get some guilt-free “me” time
Whether I’m taking 15 minutes to set up my weekly journal pages on Sunday afternoon or first thing Monday, it’s a welcome break in the day. And since I know it is going to help my productivity throughout the week, I can take that time to be completely self-absorbed without feeling any guilt.
6 I can be creative and organized all at once
Some planning systems allow you to insert extra note pages. But, the number of note pages I need varies day-to-day and week-to-week. With my bullet journal, I can let my mind wander on the page with no worry that I’ll run out of space for notes during a meeting. And I never have to go back and try to match up a page of notes to a date. It’s very clear when the notes were taken.
Intrinzic’s 2017 Bullet Journal Challenge
A few of my designer colleagues are adopting the method for 2017, so we’re going to do a little bullet journal challenge to see how well it’s working for us and how different types of creatives—in this case, writers and designers—use it differently. And how we can inspire each other with our different approaches. The image above is Senior Designer Courtney Morgan’s, and the image below is my writer’s version. We’ll check back in and share pics and progress in three months.
Are you bullet journaling? We’d love to see how it’s working for you. Share in the comments below, or share on Instagram and tag us @intrinzicbrands.