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7 Benefits of Bullet Journaling

7 Benefits of Bullet Journaling

I love a good planner. There’s just something about the physical act of writing that helps me remember things more clearly, whether it’s something I have to do, someone’s birthday, or just the name of that book that I wanted to buy. I’ve owned dozens of planners throughout my life, always started with good intentions, only to find myself abandoning them a few weeks later in favor of to-do lists on post-it notes instead.

That’s a problem, though, because I tend to lose my to-do lists. A lot. I started searching for a good planner system that really fit my needs. I wanted one that wouldn’t be expensive in case I ended up abandoning it yet again but was versatile enough to work for both my work tasks and my class schedule.

Eventually, I found an article about the bullet journal. It’s extremely customizable, because you just buy a notebook (or, like I did at first, just use some loose-leaf paper for a while) and fill it in the way you want it to look. After testing it out, I bought a hardback Moleskine notebook with graph paper and quickly found myself benefitting from my new system.

1. It’s customizable to your needs and budget

I needed a unique planner since I planned to use it for a full-time job and full-time graduate school. All of the other planners I had used were good for one or the other, but not both. Using the bullet journal meant that I could divide up the weeks, days, or hours exactly how I needed to, even if that changed week to week.

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It also helped me stick to my budget. I didn’t have to spend $100 on a planner with custom-designed pages. I just added a $1 ruler to my shopping cart and now I can draw in my own pages. Some people use washi tape to decorate their bullet journals or to help them color code things, but it’s just as easy to use inexpensive highlighters or colorful gel pens instead. For a first-timer, you didn’t even need to buy anything. You can use the system with paper and pencils that you already have around your house.

2. It’s easy to learn and set up

It can seem intimidating to look at a blank notebook and realize that it’s up to you to fill in the design and the content, but the bullet journal is actually very easy. You don’t have to make it pretty, even though a lot of the online inspiration is overwhelmingly gorgeous. The official website has a very simple design, with just a few different icons to keep tasks, personal, and notes visually separated.

The first page of my journal is dedicated to the key. It has each symbol drawn with the definition beside it, plus I have what my different ink colors mean (I have one for each class, so I can quickly see what homework is due). You can include whatever you want in your key – if you don’t like the official icons, make up your own!

3. It keeps everything organized

I love how simple the planner is visually because it makes the important part – my to-do list – stand out very clearly. It’s easy to see at a glance what you need to do that day, and you can create monthly pages so you can see more long-term what you need to be doing.

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It also keeps everything in the same place, so you won’t lose your to-do list between days. At the end of each work day, I make a short list for the following day about what I need to do. That way I don’t have to spend time first thing in the morning trying to remember what I need to be doing, or trying to remember where I left the list – it’s right there in my notebook, exactly where it’s supposed to be.

4. It lays everything out where you can see it

This is especially good for people who are visual learners. Everything is always within sight – something that you can’t get with a digital planning method.

I also like being able to track my productivity across time. Since everything is kept inside one notebook, I can see what I struggle with and what patterns I’ve fallen into. This was a great insight for me, and one that I would never have been able to get if I’d stuck with my haphazard post-it note method.

5. It inspires productivity

I hate seeing undone tasks in my planner. If I can see that I still have to email a professor because that box isn’t filled in, then I’m going to get it done that day so I can mark the task as complete.

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It’s also nice to get to the end of the day or the end of the week and see that everything has been completed. It’s a nice sense of accomplishment that can help me relax over a weekend.

6. It’s great for keeping lists

I find myself constantly adding lists to my journal. I just turn to an empty page and start making a list: a packing list, a list of books that I’ve bought but haven’t had time to read yet, a list of movies that I want to see, a list of article ideas that I want to write…anything that comes into my head has a place in the planner, so it won’t be forgotten or lost.

7. It’s great for tracking long-term goals

The third page in my planner is a calendar for 2016 with “write every day” written across the top. Each day that I get some writing done, I mark off on this page, and try to keep the chain going each day. This was one of my new year’s resolutions, and once December 31 rolls around this year I’ll know for sure how well I kept that resolution. I won’t have to guess, it’s plainly written out in my planner.

I also have a page of all of the birthdays and anniversaries in my large family so that I can try to get cards sent out in time. Each time I do, I can put a little check mark next to the date, so I know whether or not I’ve succeeded.

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I’ve used this planner every day for four months now, and I already don’t know how I lived without it. It’s such a versatile little book that I can’t help but reach for it whenever I have an idea or can’t remember something important – and without fail, whatever I need is right there on the pages.

Featured photo credit: taz + belly via flic.kr

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Kathryn Harper

Media Relations Manager

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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