After years of unsuccessfully keeping track of my to do list and notes, I think I’ve finally found what works. I invite you to try out this simple yet powerful way to track what you need to get done.
Benefits at a glance:
- Free to try, start in 10 minutes
- Unifies lists and notes
- Fast, Satisfying, and it WORKS
The bullet journal is a simple method of free-form journaling and item tracking that’s flexible enough for anyone to use.
The rules are simple.
Title 2-4 blank pages as your index, divide the next two pages into threes, and label these with the next 6 months, then go to the next blank page and title it with today’s date.
That’s it! You’re started!
Fill in today’s page with what to do items marked with a bullet (dot), notes for the day marked with a dash, and events of the day marked with a circle.
Throughout the day, cross out the bullets for the items you complete, and jot notes on that page of things that happened today, or reference material you need to remember.
If you need to take longer notes on a specific topic, you just turn to the next blank page, title it, number the page, and start writing or drawing. When you’re done, update the index with the title of that page and its page number.
At the end of the day, title the next available area with tomorrow’s date, and review any to do items that were not completed. Either move incomplete items to tomorrow’s page by turning the bullet dot into a right arrow (>), move it to next month by adding it to the month page and turning the bullet dot into a left arrow (<), or if you decide it’s really not necessary simply cross it out with a single line.
The results are a list that moves with you, notes that are relevant and easily referenced, and a structure perfectly tailored to you, because you’re designing it as you go!
Is your day more new ideas and project tracking than to do items? Maybe you fit three days on one page, and make 6 page index for all the independent pages you plan on filling in.
Are your days so packed with to do items and notes that you need two pages for a single day? Plant your day on the next blank spread (two blank sheets opposite each other) and fill in everything!
Want to make pages of reference material you can come back to later? Just number and title 4 pages dedicated to your topic, turn to the next blank page, and move on. Come back to those later as needed to fill them in.
There’s no box for monday that you have to fit everything in!
There aren’t the same number of blank lines on a lazy Sunday as a jam-packed Tuesday.
If your day is slow, your bullet journal will reflect that. If your day is crazy, your bullet journal will reflect that too.
Flexibility is key.
I chuckle when I see my wife making graphs and charts in her bullet journal, “You can’t do that!” I say, and laugh because the bullet journal contains whatever you want to put in it.
“Why isn’t this an app for my phone?”
Because we don’t think of electronic things the same way we do physical things.
Research indicates we retain more of a book when it’s made of paper. The eReader revolution has taught us that in order for things to be memorable they have to impact multiple senses. Simply clicking one button to flip pages is not a memorable experience, but holding a book in your hand, feeling how many pages are left, and seeing what portion of the page something is on sticks with us much longer than anything we read on an eReader.
You’ve already formed your habits around your phone use, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve got stacks of disused productivity and list tracking apps already on there.
Throwing yourself the curveball of carrying around a small journal, and building the habit of flipping it open frequently is different enough that you actually pay attention to it.
One place I struggled was remembering to bring things with me when I went places. So on today’s page, I just picked a blank area on the page and drew a box titled “Bring to work” and “Bring home” and started writing things in that box.
Even in the middle of my rush to leave I only needed two seconds to pull the ribbon book marker open to today, and glance at what I needed to bring before I drove away. I was surprised by how many times I caught myself leaving with something I needed right outside my car, or right where I stopped before I made it to the car. It worked.
Get up in the morning? Check the journal. Ready to leave to work? Check the journal. Coming home? Check the journal. Going to bed? Check the journal. By keeping this journal at hand you’re always seconds away from tracking your progress.
If you’re about to go to bed, and your journal says you need to do something that doesn’t take very long, you’re more likely to do it because you know you’re just going to have to write it again for tomorrow.
There’s something satisfying about scrawling a jagged X through an item that has been hounding you for days, making you rewrite it over and over and over until it was just easier to get it done than write it one more time.
Having just one item left in a floating box really makes you want to get it done so you can X out the whole box. I even like to use a felt tip marker to scribble circles or squares over my crossed out bullets to make it even more visually obvious how much I got done today.
The more big black dots the better I feel!
This is not something you get from tapping a square on your phone to change it to a checkmark.
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