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My First Year of Bullet Journaling

On New Year’s Day, I and an anonymous community whom I’ll never meet all shared in a common activity. I sat at my desk (others on beds, floors, sofas or maybe even toilets) to close out my 2016 Bullet Journal and to begin my 2017 Journal.

What is a Bullet Journal?

Before I describe bullet journaling, let me first say that I’m usually impervious to hype. For example, I’m presently wearing a pair of slacks that I bought in 2000 when I left graduate school. I don’t have a 4K television and until last year I had never purchased a tv (our present one cost $50). When a friend told me about Bullet Journals I was a little skeptical but told him I’d give it a try.

A Bullet Journal isn’t a thing but rather a method or maybe a concept or practice. There are many variations but the term was “branded” or popularized by a guy named Ryder Carroll. He’s now developed a cottage industry merchandising his preprinted journal.

The basic idea is that you maintain a journal in which you log what you did each day and your thoughts, ideas, and lists all in one place. The reason it’s called a Bullet Journal is that the items entered for the day are done so as a list of bullets with different bullets meaning different things (i.e., event, to do action, etc). As each month arrives, you create a new “section” and look over the previous month (or section) to see if there are any actions or “to do” items that need to be brought forward. Those brought-forward ideas are annotated as such in the previous month. All of this is organized by a running table of contents that notes the page number where each month and significant entry (e.g., your million dollar idea) were logged.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Like I said before, bullet journaling isn’t itself a revolutionary concept but it has changed my mindset and made me a little more organized and productive.

The biggest benefit, as Ryder Carroll suggests on his website, is that it helps me reduce my many Post-It notes and slips of paper. When I’m properly bullet journaling (I do regress at times), if there’s something I need to remember–a to-do or a phone number–I just jot it down in my journal. So when I’m figuring out what I need to do, I can scan through for unchecked checkboxes or when I need that phone number, I just open my journal and it’s there. I even made notes on the books that I had read and added them to the table of contents. So when I want to go back to see what I thought about a book or how to install some software or my notes from a conference, they’re all there.

My biggest adjustment was accepting empty pages where, for example, I thought I would need more space but didn’t or that last right-hand page at the end of a month.  I still kind of cringe when I think about the less-than-full notebook at the end of last year. That’s a small price to pay for increased efficiency.

What’s Next?

By the way, on June 22, I finished a book titled Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy about creating a life plan to keep you focused and balanced on what you claim to be the important areas of your life.    I know this because my table of contents directed me to page 99 of my 2016 Journal. 🙂

I’m still not an avid journaler (is that a word?) but over the last year I can see the improvement to my workflow.  So, this year, I intend to do more goal planning with my Bullet Journal.  If I come up with an efficient way to do that, I’ll let you know.