Over the years, I have tried all sorts of methods for managing my day to day, both analog and digital. I’d go so far as to call it a never ending process of trial and error, ever trying to find something that works for me, helps me prioritize things the right way, and helps me not forget something important. Unfortunately, I tend to find a system, use it for some period of time, then decay from using that system back to using my email inbox as my task management system. I then realize that that doesn’t work and I am not prioritizing work the right way, I then try a new system, then begin to decay again after a couple of weeks. Rarely has any system stuck for very long.
Over the summer, while on a business trip to Manhattan, I read this blog post over at Simplicity Bliss about a newish productivity method called Bullet Journal. It struck a chord with me, and so I decided to give it a try for a couple of months and see if it worked for me. I ran out and picked up a Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook, thinking that I would combine this with Evernote for a longer term searchable archive of my daily productivity notes. This method of managing my todo list, and my notes from the various meetings and calls from each day has proved to work really well for me. I won’t spend any time trying to explain how the system works here, watch the video and head over to the well designed Bullet Journal site for more information. What I will say is that I have made some changes in the way that I use the system, and that I still also use Trello for managing my longer term to do list, while I use Bullet Journal to manage my day to day to do list and notes from meetings/calls. I’ve filled one of the Evernote notebooks above, and have moved on to my second. That size of notebook works really well for this. (I am going to experiment with a combination of Bullet Journal and a Hobonichi Techo in the new year.)
I think the reason that this journaling productivity technique works well for me is that it forces a routine each morning, where I am move the undone items from previous days to today’s page. This routine makes me think my day through with a more metered approach in mind. This coupled with the task of physically writing the items down each day engrains the list in my mind as I move through my day. There’s a huge difference for me mentally between typing something and writing it down, and my retention of things I write down seems to be much higher. What I found, after using it for a month or two is that the results in productivity were definitely tangible, and the results in a more peaceful work mind were even more useful. There will always be change to adapt to in the work day, but it’s a lot easier to adapt to change when you have a plan.
The achilles heel of this system, for me anyway, is that my handwriting is not neat, or aesthetically pleasing to me. I have tried to find a better pen, and that helped some. I am now, however, starting the process of trying to teach myself neater handwriting. It will end up being one of my New Year’s resolutions at the very top of my list. If there’s something you don’t like about yourself, you more than likely can change it, it just takes hard work and mental flexibility.
Basically, I will be using some variant of the Bullet Journal system for the foreseeable future. It hits the sweet spot for me between the efficiency of my digital toolset and the flexibility and retention of a completely analog system. Were I using it purely, I don’t think it would be as effective for me, it’s the hybrid of using it with Trello and Evernote that makes it a success for me. Huge thanks to Ryder Carrol for coming up with this concept and the video/site.
Some additional recommended Bullet Journal related links:
- Pen Addict Podcast Episode 70 (Features Ryder Carrol, who came up with Bullet Journal.)
- How I Deal with Dates in my Bullet Journal (Zoot)
- My Week with Bullet Journal (Better Humans on Medium)
- This Note-Taking System Turns You Into An Efficiency Expert (Fast Company)