From chaos to kinda-sometimes-almost-calm
Last year when I was feeling completely overwhelmed by my to-do lists for work, house, kids, me and so on, I started investigating various productivity tools and systems. I started with some of the popular online systems, like Asana, Basecamp and Capsule.
And while all these systems have their pros and cons, for me they just added to my stress levels. Every time I got a reminder at a time when I didn’t have the capacity to deal with it straight away, I could feel my shoulders inching closer towards my head. With each little ‘bing’ I could feel the money I’ve spent on corrective Pilates, physio and massages gurgling away!
I needed something that could adapt to my needs both professionally and personally. Something that could be with me all the time, and help me to remember important tasks, but without triggering anxiety with endless digital reminders.
And that’s when I discovered bullet journaling. It’s described by its creator as “the analog system for the digital age” and seemed like a great solution to my feelings of being out of control.
How to start bullet journaling?
Seriously, it couldn’t be easier. Grab a notebook and a pen, and you’re ready to go. The Bullet Journal website has some helpful guides with instructions and tips to get you started. Some people (like me) use Bullet Journaling just to keep track of to-do lists, appointments and so forth. But you can also use it for more traditional journaling, like recording events after the fact – i.e. not just “Meet Tanya for coffee” but also “Had fight with Mum about polka dots.” The point is that Bullet Journaling adapts to whatever you need and whatever is important to YOU to keep track of.
How I adapt the system for me
It’s easy to get sidetracked by BUJO porn. Elaborate spreads with gorgeous hand-lettering, cute drawings, endless aspirational lists and so forth.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. My handwriting is worse than my 9 year old’s. My drawing skills are non-existent. Keep it simple. It’s not about how your bullet journal looks; it’s about how it helps you to keep on top of your life and work.
I use a small, A5 notebook (my current one is from Typo, but I’m lusting after a Moleskin in yellow). It’s a great size for fitting in my handbag, so it’s perfect for keeping on top of tasks during those little moments like waiting at school pick up. But also not too small that it would get lost on my desk, or not have enough space for writing down all those important ideas.
My journal has an elastic strap to keep it closed, and I use this to slip a pen in so I’ve always got a pen handy. My preferred pen is a refillable Parker pen I’ve had since I was a teenager. There’s something nice about a great pen, and there’s also the eco-buzz of knowing that you’re in a small way reducing your plastic usage.
What I keep track of
Day to day
- Work to do lists
- Meetings and appointments
- Kid activities
- House tasks and reminders including finances, groceries etc
The bigger picture
- Blog ideas
- Holiday destination ideas
- Books to read
Over to you
What productivity systems work for you? Are you a digital devotee or an old-school pen and paper fan? I’d love to know your tips and tricks.