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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity

How to Bullet Journal to Skyrocket Your Productivity

With our busy lives, it feels harder and harder to plan our life effectively—to keep track of everything we currently have to do, and to plan the things we want to do in the future. This is where learning how to bullet journal can come in handy.

You may have invested in a paper or digital planner to keep track of everything, or a journal to note down your thoughts and ideas. You may have Post-It notes on your desk or used an online project management tool such as Asana or Trello.

The thing is, we know what we want to do and resolve to do it, but then life gets in the way and our initial excitement and commitment falls down.

In this article, I will help you focus on what matters despite the constant changes in life by knowing how to bullet journal.

Setting up Your Bullet Journal

Here’s a simple guide for setting up your bullet journal:

Lay out Your Index

This should ideally be on Page 2 of your bullet journal. This is where all of your plans and collections get organized and refer back to the specific page number. Start at the top of the page and list down.

Include an index when learning how to bullet journal

    For example, September may be on Page 6. Only index the things that are important to you and that you want to refer back to.

    I will have an Index that Includes plans per month, long-term goals, weekly schedules, gratitude log, inspiring quotes, etc.

    The Key

    It’s suggested that you keep a key at the front or back of your bullet journal to track what all the symbols mean.

    The Future Log

    This is essentially how you lay out priorities, events, and appointments for the months ahead using bullet points.

    This can be 12 months ahead or 6 months ahead. Then, choose how many items per month to list. Try to keep it around 10 in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

    Monthly Log

    The monthly log[1] keeps track of all your current priorities, events, and appointments across the month.

    The aim here is simplicity. Some people will write the date and day down the left hand side of the page for every day in the month.

    Others will create boxes for each day to fill in and complete. Once you decide on which works for you, add in the actual event, task, or project.

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    The idea is to start the next month at the end of the existing month, rather than at the start of the month. As the month unfolds, you can update and add to it.

    Daily Log

    You can fill your day with all of the tasks and events, listed under the day’s date.

    For many, this is where the bullet journal is exciting as you can use the method of rapid logging and use the symbols (from the key).

    Once a task is complete, it gets crossed off with a simple X.

    How to Bullet Journal Effectively

    Now we’ve touched on a brief overview of how the bullet journal works, let’s get into 15 tips that you can use to get up and running with your own bullet journal today.

    1. Define Your Purpose

    Be crystal clear on your objective for using the bullet journal. The core aim of the journal is to increase productivity, but is that your main reason for using it?

    Is it to bring together all of your notes, ideas, and to-dos in one place? Do you want to bring together your personal and business goals to track your progress? Do you want to be more mindful about your day? Do better at remembering things?

    If you know what is motivating you, you have a better chance of really making it work in the long run.

    2. Start at the Source

    The video below is from bullet journal founder Ryder Carroll[2], who runs through the conventions of how the bullet journal works.

    3. Keep It Simple

    Many people start with a simple pen or pencil to get going, while others invest a little bit upfront and buy things like artist pens, midliners and fineliner pens and washi tape.

    Now that you have your notebook, the next step is to number each of the individual pages in your bullet journal.

    Whatever feels comfortable at the beginning, go with it.

    4. Customize to Your Needs

    Be clear why you are using the bullet journal, and customize it to suit the outcomes you’re looking for.

    If you have specific things you want to keep in one place, e.g. a vision board or bucket list, you can carve out space by leaving blank pages for that.

    If you want to track specific habits, such as how many hours you’re sleeping per night or when you’re exercising, you can track that as well.

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    You can spend as much or as little as you want on the planner. You can keep it simple or be a bit more creative and use colored gel pens, highlighters, or washi tape to suit your style.

    5. Review Quarterly

    When I coach private clients, we always set 90-day goals and then review performance on an ongoing basis.

    One of the keys here is that the goal stays, but the path to achieving the goal can be fluid.

    The same is true of your bullet journal. Sit down every quarter and review what’s working—which parts do you love to do and which things aren’t going so well?

    Think about how you can expand the great and remove the bad to keep momentum and fascination with your bullet journal growing.

    6. Plan in Advance

    As with everything, planning in advance will save you time in the long run and will reduce the chance of overwhelm, especially when you are starting out.

    Plan your weekly or daily spreads in advance (I personally do my weekly journal on Sunday night). You will then have a clear picture of your upcoming week but still have time to add things in later.

    7. Set up Your Layouts

    There are two main layouts that almost everyone will use.

    These are the monthly spreads, which give you a clear overview of the month ahead. This is often a calendar style with each day in big blocks next to each other. You may, as you progress, choose to doodle and color-theme these months.

    The next one is the weekly spread, where you lay out your week, typically on two pages, and complete as you would a diary.

    You may be more comfortable with horizontal layouts, but it can be fun to experiment with a vertical listing of each day of the month.

    The key thing is what you are recording. Focus on substance over style[3].

    8. Try New Things (and Stop What Doesn’t Work)

    You may start out using the traditional Ryder Carroll method or follow a method being used by one of your friends at the beginning.

    The key here is to find your own style, one that works for you. If things aren’t clicking, then stop and find something that does.

    This may become a mix of traditional planning mixed with more creative collections and trackers.

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    9. Start with One Collection

    The bullet journal, at its core, is a productivity system, so it’s essential to begin future planning and life management with monthly spreads, weekly spreads, habit trackers, and dailies.

    It is also a place to house your big ideas, a place for self-discovery and self-awareness, and a home for your dreams and goals.

    A collection is simply a gathering together of things that are important to you under a simple heading.

    This could be a bucket list of places to visit, a gratitude log, a list of books to read or podcasts to listen to, inspirational quotes, an exercise regime, or goals and dreams.

    Start with one. Have fun with it and go from there.

    10. Create a Habit Tracker

    Having a habit tracker forces you to be honest with yourself and can inspire you to reach specific goals you may have.

    Many of those who use a bullet journal credit tracking with helping to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.

    How to bullet journal to improve habits

      You can track whatever is important to you right now. On a spread, list out all the habits you want to track on the left hand side.

      This could be related to sleep, exercise, running, blogging, meditation, journaling, etc.

      At the top, list all of the days in the month 1-31. Then, for each individual day, against each habit, color in whether you “completed” that habit.

      At the end of the month, you can see how you are tracking against the habits you wanted to improve. If you have missed a few, look at ways that can improve next month.

      11. Create a Habit

      To ensure that the excitement of starting your bullet journal doesn’t wear off after a week or so, commit to working on your journal for a specific amount of time every day.

      If tasks that you’ve entered haven’t been marked as complete or your collections aren’t updated regularly, you’ll get bored quickly.

      It’s also important to set your weekly pages up in advance so you are ahead of the curve.

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      If you develop a daily habit and enjoy the experience of updating your bullet journal, you will develop your own personal rhythm that will help you organize your time more effectively.

      12. Don’t Compare

      Instagram and Pinterest are full of amazing images of other people’s journals, so it’s important to remember that your journal is unique to you.

      You will develop your own style along the way, so don’t compare yourself to others. Motivation may drop and you may begin to try to copy the style of others.

      The important thing to refer back to is why you wanted a bullet journal in the first place. If the aim is to be able to plan more effectively, then that’s all that matters if it works for you.

      Seeing other planners and procrastinating will stop you from simply just getting started.

      If you’re in the habit of comparing yourself to others, this article can help you break that habit.

      13. Don’t Overdo It

      Start small and build from there. Ease into using your bullet journal and get to know what works for you.

      Overloading yourself at the beginning with lots of collections, daily trackers, and fully illustrated vision boards may lead you to abandon the bullet journal completely.

      14. Give It Time (and Don’t Be a Perfectionist)

      If you’re not used to using a planner or a journal, give yourself a good month to really get into it.

      Don’t stress about your artistic abilities. It should be functional over beautiful every time.

      If you’re worried about making mistakes at the beginning, you can simply use a pencil or an erasable pen.

      15. Include Fun Stuff as Well

      To keep motivated and inspired, use the bullet journal holistically to cover both work and home life.

      Including things like memories, motivations, goals, exercise, gratitude, and dreams will balance out the daily, weekly and monthly work plans.

      One of the great things about the bullet journal is that it should encompass your whole life and give you important events and achievements to look back on.

      More About Journaling

      Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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      Reference

      [1] Bullet Journal: Monthly Log
      [2] Bullet Journal: The Analog Method for the Digital Age
      [3] Develop Good Habits: 132 Bullet Journal Layout Ideas & Images to Inspire You

      More by this author

      Mark Pettit

      Mark Pettit is a Business Coach for ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners who want to achieve more by working less.

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      Published on July 12, 2021

      Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity

      Why Making Yourself a Priority Boosts Your Productivity

      Conventional wisdom centers around giving more of yourself to others in your life than you would to what you want to accomplish. You’re taught to make sacrifices and put your needs secondary because that’s how you’ll become a better person. However, not making yourself a priority is keeping you from accomplishing your goals and getting more done.

      Let me know if this sounds familiar. You work hard all day to accomplish your goals. During your moments of focus, there are requests from others and demands from outside distractions on your time. You start each day with a to-do list of items that you want to accomplish. By the time you come to the end of your day, you haven’t completed what you wanted. If you were to analyze your time, you would see that the reason is you’re constantly being distracted.

      There’s a significant difference between being selfish and being self-centered. I won’t give you the analogy that you hear every time you get on an airplane, but if you’re going to accomplish your goals, you have to stop drowning—in a figurative sense.

      The reality is that you’re giving more of yourself to others than you are giving to your goals and vision of the future. By not making yourself a priority, your goals have become secondary.

      Here are six important reasons why everyone should understand the importance of self-prioritization. The key to getting more done starts with taking care of yourself first and foremost.

      1. You Create the Bandwidth You’ll Need to Focus on Your Goals When You Make Yourself a Priority

      It takes a lot of yourself to consistently put in the work that helps you get more done and accomplish your goals. You need energy, bandwidth, and mental clarity to wake up every day and work hard.

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      By making yourself a priority, it allows you to see the path to accomplishment. Too many people aren’t accomplishing their goals because their goals get lost in the busyness of taking care of others. It becomes a negative habit and a complacent way to live life.

      Life rarely works out as expected, and as you’re working on your goals, you’re going to experience unexpected setbacks. You need bandwidth and mental strength to withstand those frustrating moments and still maintain the motivation to accomplish your goals.

      The vital part of accomplishment is that you are working on your goals.

      When you are working on what you want to accomplish to make yourself better, you can stay focused on what it will take to get there. You learn to say no to anything that will derail your path, and this creates more space and time to work on what you need to. Create the proper bandwidth through self-prioritizing.

      2. Focused Energy Leads to More Production

      Disorganization affects productivity. When it feels like you’re being pulled in many different directions, you can’t focus and create the energy needed for consistent production. A scattered mind leads to half-accomplished goals.

      We know that in goal-setting, we need a plan. This plan has to be centered around what you want to accomplish. Self-prioritization allows you to create a plan that’s focused on the specific actions and steps it will take to achieve your goals.

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      As you take action in an organized way, this leads to more production because your focus and energy are around the goals you know will help you be better and accomplish more. You simply get more done when you have the energy to do so.

      3. Prioritizing Yourself Builds Clarity on What Boundaries You Should Set and Keep

      Deep inside, you know when you should be saying no instead of saying yes. When you agree to anything that could derail your focus, it eats away at you inside. Prioritizing yourself and your goals helps you set boundaries and keep them because of the intense focus.

      There will always be attempts and requests for your time and attention. As you start to build up yourself and accomplish more, others will notice. This will bring demand for your energy and your focus. If you give in to these requests, you won’t have the necessary bandwidth needed to work on your goals consistently.

      Setting boundaries is an integral part of goal setting and living a healthy life. You have to be firm about what you allow and what you will not tolerate in your life. Human nature tends to lean towards people-pleasing—when you focus on pleasing others, you don’t please yourself.

      Prioritize your goals and the things that you want to accomplish in your life. That’s the operative thing to understand—this is your life, and the focus has to be on what you want to achieve in that life. Use self-prioritization to clarify what boundaries need to be set and make sure you hold these boundaries firmly.

      4. Sustainable Productivity happens With excitement for What You’re Working On

      There are many reasons why people don’t accomplish their goals, but one that is not often thought about is a lack of excitement. When you spend the whole time working on things that drain you, your productivity diminishes with every second.

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      Letting outside circumstances dictate your goals leads to a lack of excitement. By not focusing on making yourself a priority, you’re not creating an environment in which you are thrilled to be working on your goals. It will take a lot of hard work over a sustained period of time to accomplish your significant goals and be productive. It’s going to require energy and bandwidth to overcome the setbacks and stay focused.

      Prioritizing yourself allows you to set challenging goals, but the outcome is exciting. If you look at what you’re working on and it’s not exciting, you won’t have sustainability. A lack of motivation will drain your productivity.

      You’re a human being, not a machine. There will be things in your life that are not an exciting part of this process, but there has to be a balance between work and play. Work-life balance happens when the life part has an equal priority. Prioritizing what you want creates that balance and amplifies productivity.

      5. It’s Mentally and Emotionally Freeing to Let Go of Outside Expectations

      We are programmed to take on the baggage of outside circumstances. We’re taught that to be a good human being, we should take on what others are going through. By prioritizing yourself, you’ll come to understand that you are responsible for your life, and that involves your mental well-being.

      Prioritizing yourself helps you see that you have to let go of the expectations of others. This is your life, and you have to live in the best way that you see fit. It’s important for you to spend the precious moments you have on this earth working on your goals and the things that help you live a better life.

      When you let go of outside expectations of what you should be doing and how you should be doing it, it frees up bandwidth and creates mental clarity to be productive. No longer are you walking around with the burden of what others expect from you, it’s time to spend your time the way you’d like to.

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      Other people’s expectations of your life don’t have to be part of your plan. It’s your responsibility to set the goals that help you live a free life and spend your time exactly how you’d like to spend it. Make yourself a priority by letting go and focusing on yourself first and foremost.

      6. Optimizing Yourself Builds Every Area of Your Life

      You’re probably working on your goals because you want to become the best version of yourself and create a life that brings more time freedom. The path to higher income, better relationships, more travel, and all the other things you want to accomplish happen through self-optimization and productive life.

      When you can optimize yourself, it helps you be better in every other area of your life. The key to optimizing yourself starts by prioritizing yourself in more than just words. When you take action from a place of “you-first,” you’ll have the energy and capacity needed to push harder for longer.

      Make yourself a priority by focusing on optimizing yourself and all the things you want to accomplish. Everything inside you might be screaming to help others first, but you can’t give what you don’t have. The best place to share is from a place of abundance, and that comes from optimizing yourself.

      Final Thoughts

      It’s time to take better care of yourself. It’s time to treat yourself as the most significant goal because that should always be the case. What you’d like to accomplish and your path to get there have to be a priority before you think about others.

      The demands and energy of others can derail you if you let it. Self-prioritization means that you decide where your boundaries will be set and not allow others to violate them. You’ve probably spent a lot of your time up to this point focused on other people and outside circumstances. It’s time to take a dedicated period of time to put yourself first. You deserve a productive life.

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      Debunk the programming that there’s something wrong with putting yourself first and making your goals the primary priority. You can always help others and be there for those who need you while making yourself a priority. It’s not an either-or situation—it’s a situation in which you can help strategically.

      More Tips on How to Make Yourself a Priority

      Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

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