Bullet Journal: What, why and do I need to shoot myself?

Can I improve my productivity with this American concept?

As someone who is unashamedly a fan of a list, I was intrigued to read about a productivity methodology called the Bullet Journal or BuJo as it’s also known.

The founder, Ryder Carroll, was forced to find alternative ways to be focused and productive after being diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life.

He developed the Bullet Journal; a methodology that, in his words, “is truly about, the art of intentional living.”

Essentially, the concept is a hand-written notebook that helps you to track the past, organise the present and plan for the future, all in one place.

It allows you to weed out the tasks that you no longer need to do and improve your mindfulness.

I’m the kind of person who has a notepad for meetings, a work to-do list, a shopping list, a meal planning pad, a list of people I need to phone, a list of presents and kids party invites I need to reply to, etc. So, the idea of combining these into one seemed too good to be true.

Here’s what I’ve found out so far and why I’ve got my Bullet Journal on order.

Isn’t there an app for that?

In our digital age, there are countless apps which claim to keep us organised and track our productivity. Trello is one that I’ve used on and off for a few years now. I’ve had limited success with it though and I think the main reason is that it’s just too easy to ignore. Plus, they like to send you constant reminders of the tasks you haven’t achieved.

Research tells us that the act of writing something down means you are far more likely to remember it and actually complete it.

If you don’t believe me, search #BulletJournal on Instagram.

You’ll find more than 4 million posts of peoples Bullet Journals, which they’ve turned into a work of art. And we all know how calming it can be to channel our creative side. You can’t create the same level of artistic flair on your laptop or phone!

Despite the fact that some people’s Bullet Journals are highly decorative, the concepts founder is clear that it’s not about style over substance. It doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it works for you.

If a task is written down, you get to cross it out when it’s complete. That gives me more satisfaction than ticking a box on a computer programme or dragging it into a seemingly imaginary completed tasks folder.

So yes, there are apps which aim to manage tasks for you and help improve your productivity. But it seems, for millions of people at least, that the Bullet Journal is just a better alternative.

How does it work?

There is a five-minute introductory video on the Bullet Journal website, which outlines how the notebook should be structured. Essentially, you take your notebook, number the pages and create an index so you can find everything.

Everything is broken down into a monthly log, a weekly log and a daily log.

Tasks are indicated with a dot ?, events by a circle ° and notes with a dash —. Additional symbols are used to indicate if a task is more important and if it’s been completed or not.

Because it’s your Bullet Journal, you can choose what you want to record. Some people record the books they want to read, museums they want to visit or cake recipes they want to try but it’s up to you.

It can also be a place to write down how you’ve felt on a particular day or to make a note of something you achieved for the first time. You might use it to record how far you ran or jot down the name of that potential client that you bumped into the other day.

Can it help improve my finances?

Some users have even said that having a Bullet Journal has helped them to improve their finances.

Writing down what they’ve spent in a day makes them stop and think. And yes, I’m sure there are apps for that too but it’s quicker to take your journal out of your bag, grab a pen and make a note than it is to find the app on your phone and type an entry.

One individual was interviewed for the BBC and claimed it has helped her to buy her first house.

What am I hoping to get from starting a Bullet Journal?

I often feel that my life is far too hectic and if I’m not careful it’s going to sweep me off my feet like a treadmill. So, I’d love to feel more in control of the activities and tasks that I have on the go.

I’d like to reduce the amount of last-minute meeting prep I do or the gifts I buy at the last minute for someone because I forgot it was their birthday.

By using a Bullet Journal I hope I’ll feel more organised in both my work and home life. I’ll give myself a pat on the back for the things I’ve achieved each week, and I’ll allow myself time to focus on the things I want to look forward to in the future.

Maybe I’m asking too much of the methodology but let’s see.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

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