Posts Tagged organization

How to Start a Bullet Journal and Master Your Productivity

How to Start a Bullet Journal and Master Your Productivity

How to Start a Bullet Journal and Master Your Productivity

How to start a Bullet JournalAs someone who is obsessed with mastering my time and productivity, I can’t emphasize the benefits of starting a bullet journal enough. A bullet journal is a paper journal, but it’s also a planning tool. Thanks to the system of migrating tasks, it’s a powerful goal-setting method as well.

printable bullet journals for saleWhen you start a bullet journal, you’re essentially wrangling all the bits and pieces floating around in your head (and on post-it notes around your desk). You’re setting priorities and creating a deliberate, practical action plan. You’re able to track your status and know your next step each day. Bullet journals offer clarity and focus.

The concept that really sealed the deal for me on bullet journals was the system of migration. With bullet journals, you roll over, or “migrate” unfinished tasks each period (weekly or monthly). This methodology quickly helps you keep track of what’s on your plate at any given time.

The other feature I love is an index as page one of the journal. It’s searchable and convenient. Again, it’s such a simple solution, but that’s the appeal of bullet journals—they seem stupidly simple, but they’re incredibly useful.

Simple, but genius! That sums up bullet journaling.

productivity quote from Benjamin Franklin

Finally, there’s no understating the convenience of paper. Now, I know the trend these days is toward cutting back on paper and going digital whenever possible. I agree with this idea for the most part, as well. I’ve digitized much of my “paper life,” and it’s been beneficial for organizing. BUT a few weeks ago, Google Calendar went down. I logged off my computer and stopped working for the day. There was no way to know what I was doing, and that’s where paper wins—paper can’t “go down” like the internet.

There are many additional reasons to start a bullet journal as well. This is a great productivity system. Here are all the details you need to know to start a bullet journal and take control over your to-do list.

Why Bullet Journals Work So Well

why do bullet journals work so well to organize your life

I got turned onto bullet journals by my friend, Zach. I was visiting the school where he worked and during our conversation a question came up. He reached for an innocuous looking journal. He checked the index and then flipped right to his plan. Instantly, he had the answer.

I had to know more about this super-efficient notebook system. I asked a lot of questions: What was a bullet journal, and how did it work? How should I start a bullet journal? Most importantly, would a bullet journal actually increase my productivity and help with organization, or was it a pretty way to doodle (and waste time)?

As many of my readers know, I’m a big fan of any tool to organize the chaos of everyday life and bring a minimalist mindset to work. Bullet journals are no exception.

Keeping a simple office and minimalist working habits

I’ve explored a lot of productivity concepts, time management, and planning activities. Anyone who’s hoping to follow a minimalist approach to their schedule (cutting out the chaos, clutter, and stress) has probably looked into many of the products and ideas like the Pomodoro method, daily planners (like the Franklin-Covey system or the Happy Planner system), and digital tools like Trello, Basecamp, and Asana. There is no shortage of ways people try to tame the chaos in their lives.

While most of these productivity tools have pros and cons, I’ve found there are positive takeaways and lessons in each one. The main idea of any efficiency tool is organizing your time and taking control of your schedule.

being stressed out over time managmentChaos, stress, clutter, and confusion all stem from a lack of priorities. Minimalism is the counterfoil to chaos because it’s all about aligning your life to your priorities.

Do you know your priorities? Do you know where you’re going? Do you know how you want your future to look? Clarifying these questions and distilling down the solutions help you move in a productive direction toward the life you want. Bullet journals offer you a simple, clear road map to your destination.

The most appealing aspect of the bullet journaling process for me was the process called migration. One of the biggest problems with other productivity methods is the lack of a way to carry tasks forward. With digital calendars and apps, you check off a task and forget it, or you keep mindlessly rolling it forward and changing the date. With a paper list or planner, you turn the page, and it’s gone.

The idea of migrating tasks is shockingly simple at face value, but from a practicality standpoint, it makes a HUGE impact and is a big deal for me. Writing down each task reinforces your dedication when you migrate them forward. You are thinking about what you’re doing, and you’re solidifying the importance.

how to migrate a bullet journal

The other aspect of bullet journals, that I liked was the index. As I said, when Zach showed me his index, it was one of those “ah-ha” moments. I’d avoided the idea of a paper planner or journal because it seemed there was a lack of searchability (unlike digital tools). You must flip through every page to find your notes. The index feature of a bullet journal provided an analogue, but still effective solution to my hang up with paper journals.

The paper aspect of a journal is nice too. Paper is convenient; you can take it anywhere. There’s something very intentional and deliberate about writing by hand. You think of what you’re jotting down. You write it with purpose. If the bullet journal system resonates with you, I think you’ll find the paper factor is a pro rather than a con.

Since bullet journaling seemed to work so well for Zach, I figured I’d give it a try, so I jumped in and learned how to plan and organize my life with the bullet journal method. I researched bullet journals further and was blown away by the amazing and artistic spreads and layouts, interesting collections, and the system itself.

What is a Bullet Journal (and How Does it Work)?

what is a bullet journal and how does it work

A man named Ryder Carrol invented the bullet journal (or bujo as he likes to call it). The system of “rapid logging” was designed to help people quickly jot down their thoughts and ideas. This method consists of bullets and signifiers (symbols) to indicate the status of each item.

There are central components to a bullet journal:

  • Index
  • Key
  • Spreads
  • Calendar/Future Log
  • Collections (projects)

We’ll go into the definition for each of these components, but it’s important to realize there is a lot of internal jargon and lingo when it comes to bullet journaling. These terms may seem intimidating or off-putting at first, but let me assure you, the components and actions are actually straightforward and practical.

introspection quote by Ryder Carroll

In addition to the basic components, there are many different collections/projects people like to include:

  • Habit trackers – Meals, workouts, moods, and more…
  • Brain dump or mind map sheets
  • Goal sheets
  • Lists – Books/movies/podcasts, travel, shopping
  • Schedule or agendas
  • Plans for meals or workouts
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Vision boards

enjoy the journey with beautiful printable bullet journal pagesAs you see, there are endless bullet journal ideas out there. The bullet journal layouts vary for each collection. After viewing so many bullet journal ideas on Pinterest and Instagram, I have to say there are very talented artists out there! The aesthetics of bullet journals was one of the aspects that really appealed to me personally. They’re small works of art for some avid bullet journalers.

But again, it’s easy to get caught up or intimidated by beautiful layouts and designs. You don’t need art skills to create a bullet journal. Many of the signifiers (symbols used to indicate the status of items on your log) are simple: a star, a checkmark, a box, or a greater than/less than symbol. You don’t need to be a calligrapher or designer to create an aesthetically pleasing bullet journal.

Better still, there are many bullet journal printables and pre-designed layouts to help you get precisely the look at features you need—no artistic talent required!

masculin printable bullet journal pages of moutains

Bullet Journal Printables


Get a head start on your bullet journal and do it in style with these printable designs.

tropical leaves printable bullet journal pages PDF

Basic Terms of Bullet Journaling

Basic bullet journaling terms

In bullet journaling, there are many specific terms used to describe the various pieces. Here’s a quick breakdown of bullet journal terminology and their definitions:
  • Index: This is the first page of your bullet journal. Each subsequent page gets a number and is logged in the index. With a quick check, you’ll find each piece of information at a glance.
  • Key: Like the key on a map, your bullet journal key breaks down the symbols (signifiers) and colors you will use to indicate the status of your projects. Most people like to put the key in the front (or in the very back), so it’s easy to reference.
  • Signifier: Signifiers are the symbols indicating the status of each task. Usual signifiers include a square (for a checkmark when complete), a > (meaning a migrated task), a < (meaning a scheduled task), a – for a note, and a * for priority. Customize signifiers to whatever makes sense to you.
  • Spread: A two-page overview of the month. The left side contains the dates, usually written as a numbered list. The right page contains your tasks/to-dos for the month. Some people prefer a weekly spread.
  • Daily Log: The heart of your bullet journal, your daily log is used to write down bullets (rapid logging) each day. You enter multiple days on a page. The topic is the date (or dates) on the page.
  • Collection: Each page in the bullet journal has a topic, and those topics are referred to as collections. Every entry in your bullet journal, whether it’s a project, list, or tracker, is called a collection. You may have several collections aligned with the tasks on your monthly spread.
  • Future log: The future log is essentially a calendar where you will add your future tasks. You consult your future log when you set up your spread each month (or week).
  • Migration: When you set up your spread, you’ll migrate the incomplete tasks/to-dos from the right page of your last spread. The migration system ensures you never lose track of what you’re doing. Migration also really sets your intention for the next period.
  • Dot Grid: Many bullet journal users journals with dot grid pages. These dot grids are useful for tracking habits and to-do items. For example, each day you work out, you may fill in a square on the grid (or a line segment) to show your progress.
  • Doodles: While this isn’t necessarily a specific term for bullet journaling, many journals feature themes, doodles, or drawings. They’re often very beautiful with different motifs used throughout the journal. Many people find a beautiful journal is more motivating.

How to Start a Bullet Journal

how to start a bullet journal in a few easy steps

When you set up your bullet journal, you’ll create the index on the first page. Then you’ll number all the pages in your journal, if it isn’t already numbered. Decide if you want your key on the front page or the back page.

You’ll want to set up your future log next. This is a year-long calendar (usually set up with space between each month, covering 2-4 pages). In this log, you’ll add significant dates like vacations, holidays, birthdays, conferences, etc. Think of your journal as working from the broad to the specific, starting with your bigger goals and planning, then as you get deeper into the journal, you get down to the nitty gritty of weeks or even daily spreads.

You may want to leave a few pages to set up various collections as you go. You don’t need to set up your collections anywhere in particular, but some people like to put them in the front of the journal. These include lists like your bucket list, books, movies, podcasts, and more. You could add your goals, meal plans, and other collections here as well.

From there, you’ll set up your first spread. The left page should show the monthly overview, including the primary goals you’d like to accomplish, as well as other important or meaningful tasks. The right page is your focus for the next week, with a daily list of goals, tasks and other important items.
example spread pages
Your next pages contain your daily log. Each day, you’ll write down notes, to-do items, scheduled items, and goals. Next to each item, write a symbol to indicate the status. A sample log may look like this:
example daily spreads
Each day, you spend a few moments noting and then migrating tasks. The migration process really makes bullet journaling a great way to stay organized. Despite being an analog method for project management, I find bullet journaling simple and effective.

bullet journal migration steps

At the end of the week or month, you’ll re-write your tasks and information on the next spread. You’ll migrate the to-do list forward, adding any incomplete items to a new list (along with any new tasks). Each time you add a new spread or a new collection, you’ll add it to your index.

Thanks to the rapid logging and signifiers, the process is quick and efficient. Scan through a bullet journal very fast and know precisely the status of every item.

There’s no dogma to bullet journaling either. Similar to minimalism or living the tiny life, there are guidelines, but the process is entirely up to your interpretation. Find the ways bullet journaling works for you. Start simple, adjust as you go, and incorporate new ideas and new collections as you become more comfortable with the process.

how to know what to focus on, goal settings quote henry thoreau

Keep in mind, you WILL make mistakes (we all do). This bullet journal is for your personal use. There’s no way to really “mess it up” or ruin your journal. If you’re worried about aesthetics, you may want to invest in whiteout or use erasable pens before you go out and buy calligraphy markers (which are in no way a requirement for bullet journaling).

You’ll also want to remember this is your journal! Use it to make notes, jot down reminders, and make notations. The power of a bullet journal is that you can refer back to it for years and years.

Using a Bullet Journal to Manage Projects

using a bullet journal to manage projects at work

Where bullet journals really shine is as a project management tool. While bujos are also a useful tool for goal setting and getting organized, I find the method is also very useful for projects requiring step-by-step action.

For example, when setting up land for a tiny house build, a bullet journal is a highly effective way to manage all the lists, to-dos, and planning.

As you see, the bullet journaling process helps you organize and keep track of moving pieces. You’ll know the status of every part of the project. Easily adjust timelines and plans accordingly, add to the lists and refer back as needed.

Some people prefer to set up a separate journal for a big project like a build. Others prefer to keep all their to-dos in one place and manage the project in their single journal. I’ve found it’s nice to create a bullet journal for each project because it gives me plenty of information to refer to later. The journals are helpful for blogging and future tiny house projects. If I run into a question, I look back in the appropriate journal and know precisely what I did, how long a task took, and any complications I encountered on the job.

Bullet journals are practical because they give a home to all the moving pieces you’re tracking. You no longer need to hold everything in your mind, jot it down on sticky notes, or access an app to remind you of the status. It’s all right there in your organized bullet journal.

An example of a bullet journal page I created for setting up land for a tiny house:example page to set goals in a bullet journal

If you’re looking for a way to organize information clearly, keep track of your day-to-day activities, or get serious about your goals, I highly recommend bullet journaling. It’s a beautiful way to keep track of your life!

Bullet Journal Printables

tropical leaves PDF printable

Start your bullet journal today with these tropical plant inspired printable journal pages.

Rugged moutain masculin printable PDF bullet journal downloadable

Get organized with these mountain inspired printable bullet journal pages.


Your Turn!

  • What’s your favorite method for goal setting and tracking?
  • What do you like about the idea of using a bullet journal?

How To Organize Your Life With Trello

Trying to keep on top of things in life is sometimes daunting.  If you’re like me, I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, but finally I have found something that works for me.  It’s called Trello and it’s a free web app and also has a really good iphone app for free too.

how to organize life and keep organized

Before I get into Trello, I wanted to share a little bit about my philosophy of use and then also a break down of other things I’ve tried over the years.

Applying a philosophy of use to productivity tools

A tool is only as good as the skill of the user.  The truth is that most tools work really well, it’s when you bring a human in the mix that things go awry.  We have a plethora of tools at our disposal, what we need to do is bring in a way of thinking on how we use them and form habits around them.

Start with your goals

know where you want to go

The biggest thing I see people failing on is not having goes.  If we don’t know where we are going, how can we figure out which direction to even go?  How can we validate that the things we do are even the right things?  What if we are doing things that are actually working against us!?

Take big goals and break them down to bite sized pieces

When you are setting out on a ambitious journey it’s very helpful to think about the first step you need to take.  If you focus too much on the entire goal it can be overwhelming, it can seem impossible, but when we break it down into smaller parts, we then realize all we have to do is this one thing today.

Understand you can only work on a few things at any given time

focus on one thing at a time

In many cases it’s better to focus on one thing at a time, tackle that head-on.  I will often work on a few things at once because there is often time when I’m waiting on someone else (email response, contractor to finish work, etc).  Have a select few things means I can work until I have to stop, then transition to work on that other thing.

Understand you’ll get to the other things later

This is something many people struggle with a lot.  I see it time and time again.  When you set your goal, you must understand that trying to do all of them at once will get you nowhere.  Like I said above, focus on 2 or 3 things at once and put the rest to the side.  This is where people falter; putting things aside for now, isn’t the same as putting them aside forever.  We need to get over the emotions that

The Tiny Life guide to using Trello to manage your life

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you use to organize your life?
  • What tricks work for you?

2 Second Lean: Eliminating Waste And Making Life Easier

I recently came across this book (which is free) and was blown away.  Lean is a philosophy of eliminating waste in our daily lives, at work or at home, to improve how we get things done.  There was a lot of overlap with a lot of what we hold dear as tiny housers.  It’s primarily oriented to manufacturing, but has a lot of practical applications in any workplace and even in our homes.

get rid of waste in life

What struck me was that 2 second lean was approachable. I’ve read a lot on Six Sigma, Agile, Scrum, and other systems, but this just clicked better.  The method had a lot of very simple lessons and application was super easy.  A lot of the techniques employed are things that we already do as tiny housers, but some new ones as well.  There some practices that really stuck out for me.

Here are a few key terms before we get into it all, most are from the Japanese who developed a lot of this stuff:

Kaizen: is a Japanese term continuous improvement.  Though slow and steady improvements we attain a better way of life.  Example: when we notice something bothers us constantly, we fix it.

Poka Yoke: this term is designing things so we can’t make mistakes or minimize them drastically.  It also is design that when a mistake is made, it jumps out at us so we can identify it.  Example: a front load washer will not start until the door is fully closed, preventing spills.

Kanban: is a technique we provide cues to remind us to refill something, buy another of an item etc so we don’t run out.  Example: I take a bright colored piece of paper, cut it to the size of a toilet paper roll and place it on top of my last one.  When I use the TP, I suddenly see the bright paper, I know I need to order more.

Visual Controls: This is employing marking and other visual cues to help people understand what’s going on at a glance.  The ideal situation is to be so clear a person could walk in and find anything or understand the flow without external direction.  Example: label bins so people know what is in them without having to look inside.

Lean is all about seeing and eliminating waste.  In our own lives we want to remove waste to make our lives easier, to give us more time to do things we’d rather do, to improve the work we do, and enjoy things more when we are relaxing.

There are 7 types of waste

At Work
At Home

  • Defects: we make a mistakes
  • Overproduction: we do extra work to fix know problems over and over again
  • Waiting: When we sit around waiting for someone to do something
  • Missed Potential: We don’t use the best person for the job
  • Excess Inventory: We have to much stuff, which leads to clutter and stress
  • Wasted Motion: we don’t have what we need close by or at hand
  • Defects: Time consuming mistakes
  • Overproduction: We don’t fix something that bothers us
  • Waiting: Wasting time on things
  • Missed potential: We don’t empower others to help
  • Excess inventory: We have clutter
  • Wasted Motion: We are constantly walking to get something

 

 

Kaizen at home:

how to declutter

When you are decluttering an areas have three boxes handy: one for trash, one box for things you want to keep, and a third box for things to donate.  When you declutter an area pull everything out.  While you’re in your downsizing process, consider having a set of general boxes so when you find something that needs to be dealt with it has a place to go right away.

Poka Yoke at home:


Think about how you can make sure things get back to where they’re supposed to be, to make sure people have the tools at hand to do the job and error proof things as much as you can.

Kanban at home:

kanban boxes in life and at home

These are bins that are mostly blue, but one end is red, an adjustable divider lets you set your threshold.  Let’s say you have 6 cans of soup, you’d put four in the blue half and then two in the red half.  Start with the blue side out, but when you run out of soup in the blue half, you’ll be forced to flip the bin to the red side.  You’ll have two more soups to go, but your bin now signals that you need to get more soup because you look for the red.

Visual controls at home:

Organizing things with visual controls will let you know exactly what goes where and identify quickly what is missing or out of place.

Taping spots for things will show people where things go.

Kanban Board in real life:

kanban board to do list

So for those of you who want to check the book out, it’s called 2 Second Lean and it’s free in a pdf and audio.  You can check it out here:  read 2 second lean here

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you eliminate waste in your life?
  • How do you make small improvements in your life?

90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More!)

If you’ve been a follower of the tiny house movement for the past few years, chances are you’ve seen this video tour of Felice Cohen’s 90-square-foot micro apartment in Manhattan:

Felice moved to Manhattan to pursue writing, and the 12’x7′ apartment gave her the freedom to write her first book full time without having to worry about astronomical rent payments. The video tour of her tiny home in the concrete jungle has been viewed almost 12 million times on YouTube, and people from all over the world wondered how she managed to thrive for five years in such a small space. Luckily, Felice recently released her latest book, 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More), to share her experiences and tricks of the trade.Bookcover

Felice was kind enough to send us a copy of the book, which I devoured (figuratively). The book is part organization manual and part lifestyle guide. She draws from her experience as a professional organizer to dish her tips for organizing any size space. Felice bookends these lessons with a memoir of her journey to tiny living, as well as the aftermath of YouTube fame and settling into a positively palatial 490-square-foot pad.

90 Lessons is a nice quick read, but packed with immediately actionable tips to improve your space and your life. The core of the book mirrors the ethos of the tiny house movement itself – that lessening your attachment to objects and keeping them in order frees up our most precious resource – time. Felice is also a fantastic storyteller, and it was great to learn the story behind the person in the YouTube video.

Think of this book as a more approachable version of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The central message is similar – downsize first, then organize – but this book is better for beginner downsizers just getting their toes wet. And because Felice successfully lived the tiny life abiding by these lessons, you know they’ll work for you in your tiny house!

Felice and her apartment were a big inspiration to me as I was just discovering small house living. No matter your lifestyle, her book will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More) on Amazon

 

A New Take On Time Management

I was reading this article and it spoke to me while it described following your passions, but in a productive way.  It is an interesting take on how to organize your day and boost productivity, check it out.

Reprinted from ecosalon.com, written by Danielle Laporte

 

I’m done putting my life into categories. Quadrants. Day types. Feck.
Here’s how it happened: Last year I turned my life upside down. Took a break from marriage. Moved. Shelved numerous obligations to meet a writing deadline. Avoided said writing deadline for a long time. Slammed that writing deadline. Put my health significantly further up on the priority list. Chose yoga over blog posts. Hung with friends instead of wooing clients. Launched stuff at light speed. Killed projects. Stopped cooking dinner mid-boil to capture an idea. Talked on the phone with friends…in the middle of the day…for hours.

I lived more, because it was time for some things to die.  I had to arrive at thrive or I would get stuck in survival mode. In this dimension, nothing is predictable, and unbridled is the only way to go. It was not the time to “manage” my time.

Time management systems are tricky beasts. They may help us be more productive, but not necessarily less stressed, or more fulfilled, or more in touch with our true nature. We may look freer with our priorities all tidy, but too often, time remains the master and we get “given” time for obeying the system.

I’d rather be fulfilled than obedient. And it turns out that when I’m fulfilled, I’m…fulfilled – whether I’m productive or not. And that gives me plenty of energy to be more focused on what matters most, which makes me truly productive. It’s a beautiful thing. Here’s how I got there:

HOW TO PUT TIME MANAGEMENT IN ITS PLACE. 
(BUT ONLY IF YOU WANT TO.)
1. Stop keeping a detailed to-do list. If it’s truly important, you’ll remember to do it. A few post it notes and texts to yourself should be all you need.

2. Say no, thank you to four things a day. My coach gave me this assignment. It changed my life.

3. Relentlessly focus on the one or two vocational desires that turn you on so much that envisioning doing JUST those things seems so fantastical that it borders on erotic pleasure (yep, I think it’s your birthright to feel that hot about your work in the world). Everything else that is not about fulfilling your most intense vocational desires is getting in the way of making your fantasy life a reality.

4. Work with talented and excellent human beings. Amateurs, posers and mediocrity-makers are time squatters. Move ’em out.

5. Delegate the stuff that doesn’t light you up.


6. Have (only) 3 important things to accomplish every week. Make those three things happen and you’re closer to making your fantasy life a reality. Accomplish more than that and you’ll feel like a super hero (good esteem fuels fulfillment AND productivity.)

7. Batch n’ chunk. Pay all of your bills at the same time. Create a day just for errands. Make all of your calls before noon. This “while you’re at it” kind of momentum is incredibly efficient.

8. Ask yourself every morning what you really feel like doing. Not what’s most important. Not what’s expected of you. But what you’re most excited to do. Enthusiasm is the DNA of making things happen. Start there.

Flying without a to-do list made me worry. It was scary to let go of revenue streams and planned projects. Going to yoga when I had obligations actually took some moxie. Doing what I was truly stoked to do each day was unnerving, guilt-inducing and exhilarating all at once. And it didn’t take long for this free forming time style to reveal my most lucrative, artistically satisfying, relationship-enhancing year ever.

Easy does it.