Those of you who have been following me for a number of years will know that about 18 months ago I started going to a local cafe for a morning planning session. This time to plan and review my projects had a significant impact on my ability to get a lot of work done, especially last year when I had to write a book in a very tight time frame.
Finding a system that worked
The two essentials ingredients in these sessions (apart from the coffee!) were implementing some strategies from David Allen’s Getting Things Done(GTD) methodology and using Elise Blaha-Cripe’s wonderful Get to Work Book (GTWB) pictured above.
The idea of combining a diary with a to-do list started to work so well for me, and I truly loved the format of the GTWB. I became very attached to it, and whenever I started to feel overwhelmed, I would pull out my GTWB and simply just allocate the next actions to a specific time, and then get back to work. So I just want to publicly thank Elise and the GTWB for really helping me develop a system that worked! I highly recommend you check it out.
The need for more flexibility and some new ideas
However, at the end of last year, things started changing a bit.
2017 was going to be full with a number of big projects that involved lots of coordination and logistical planning and there wasn’t enough blank pages in the GTWB for me to map these out. I had a separate A5 loose-leaf folder I would use for holding various planning pages, but I didn’t like having two separate volumes.
I also read Cal Newport’s amazing book “Deep Work”. I have so many takeaways from his book, and need to read it again so that I can work out a way of implementing more of his ideas. But the most immediate takeaway was that I needed to be more intentional about allocating specific periods of time for deep work, and I need to keep a closer track on how I actually spend my time during the day. I really loved his idea of mapping out your day hour by hour and then recording exactly what you did work on.
This all resulted in the need for more flexibility and I knew that it was time to migrate to a bullet journal (BuJo). I did some research on how the system works and then took the plunge in mid-January.
In January the lovely people at Larrypost gave me a Ciak leatherbound journal full of plain paper to test.
I found the standard 5mm dotted paper is too small for my handwriting and so designed a grid sheet to use as a template.
I then just started bullet journally, working out how best to design my pages as I went. I wasn’t fussed about getting it perfect at first.
It has been the most fantastic experience – I don’t do anything too fancy in my BuJo, but do try to make it as neat and ordered as possible. I use a fine Pilot Prera as my normal pen, my Lamy Joy (EF nib) for medium heading and a Hero Fude pen for my headings.
I have been finding the bullet journal system of dots, crosses and arrows works great and I feel much more in control of all my action items. I love being able to use as much space as I need for each day, so some days I do map out my day hourly and other times it is a simple list.
I also love having my notes (from books or podcasts, or just project ideas) all in the same place. And basically I just love the Ciak book – it is gorgeous. I was very restrained by starting with black, but next one is going to be coloured!
I have been told that the paper can take some light watercolour washes, but right at the moment my BuJo is all just work focused! (here is a lesson plan and a photo of the table from the last Palladian Odyssey planning meeting)
I’ve very happy to share more about my bullet journalling, but I think this article is long enough already. I will write another one more specifically about how I use mine – so any questions are welcome!
Three great resources on Bullet Journals
- The explanation by the man who started it – essential viewing!
- A good guide by Kara from Boho Berry who does a lot of fancy stuff with her journals
- A great no-frills example of the bullet journal by Charli Marie
In the meantime… does anyone use a bullet journal too? What are your top 3 tips for people wanting to start keeping one?