A few days with the Bullet Journal

Index page of my Bullet Journal

Last week, while scouring the web for ideas of better ways to manage my work appointments, notes and tasks, I discovered the Bullet Journal. It’s a fairly simple paper-based system for managing and planning your time and tasks on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I decided to give it a shot, here’s what I learned.

The system

The Bullet Journal system is probably best explained by its creator, here’s his introduction video.

It seems like a lot of faffing about, but I followed along and set up the basic pages in my notebook in about 10 minutes.

The problem

As soon as I’d finished setting it up I realised that all I’d achieved was to copy my digital work calendar in my notebook, with all the analogue limitations that that entails. In my job I have a lot of meetings in a lot of different locations and they get tend to get moved around a lot. This makes a non-digital, non-updating daily planner a bit of a non-starter for me.

It also made me appreciate that my digital-based systems for task management etc were actually pretty solid. My office uses IBM Notes as its email client of choice and it also handles my work calendar and to-do list. Notes is mostly horrific to use, but one thing I do like about it is I’m able to convert my emails into scheduled tasks which then pop-up on my calendar at the right time and have all the relevant information appended to them automatically. This is way better for me than what the Bullet Journal provides.

The take-away

It might sound like this has been a total failure for me, but I have taken away a couple of really good ideas from the Bullet Journal – collections and an index.

A collection is, in a nutshell, just a bunch of stuff all related to a single overarching thing, all captured in one place. To give you a real-life example, in a couple of weeks I have to deliver a short presentation about a product my development team has been working on. I’ve created a collection for this in my notebook where I can jot down any associated notes, tasks, ideas and thoughts as they occur to me. While this sounds obvious it was a real light bulb moment for me.

And the collection is recorded in the index of my notebook so I can quickly find it and add to it as I go. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that my notebook is a Leuchtturm1917¬†and all the pages come numbered, so that makes indexing a doddle. Doing that manually would be a total pain!

Wrapping up

So that was my brief journey in Bullet Journalling. It helped me (re)discover that my existing electronic systems of scheduling and task management work well for me, but the idea of adding collections and indexing to my notebook has still made it a worthwhile exercise.

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