How to bullet journal (video transcript)

Bullet journaling was invented by Ryder Carroll, and there are many different versions of it, but I thought I’d share my version.

Layout

A bullet journal has tiny dots in a grid pattern which allows you to make lines any way you want. This allows you to use a template to plan your week.

There’s a spot for each day of the week, although I put Saturday and Sunday together because I try not to have too many tasks or appointments at the weekend. I leave a spot for what I’m going to do next week, so that I have a heads-up of what’s upcoming.

I also have a spot for ideas. That’s really important for me as a writer, because I’m constantly getting ideas on a call with somebody that I need to write down before I lose them. Finally I have a habit tracker section which helps keep my resilience high.

Step 1: Document your appointments

At the start of the week, I go through my calendar and I put in all of the appointments. This would include meetings with clients or colleagues, as well as things like going to the gym.

Step 2: Add next week’s heads up

Then I flip through to my calendar for next week. Anything upcoming that I might need to prepare for beforehand, such as a two-day client meeting, I add in here to give myself a heads up for any preparation I might need.

So that’s what I do at the start of the week.

Step 3: Add tasks on the right day

Then I check through my page for the previous week, and check to see if there are any tasks that I didn’t get done. If there are, then I find a place to fit them in for this week to make sure that they get done.

Step 4: As new things come up, fit them in

The reason I love this so much is that it’s really a great way of managing thought load. What I mean by that is often when I’m trying to write, I’ll remember something that I have forgotten to do. For example, as I’m writing an email will come in that I don’t want to process right away, so I put it on the list to make sure that I don’t lose it.

Step 5: Document ideas

The other thing that happens while I’m doing that is I’m writing one article and I get a bit wordy and I go off on a tangent, and I realize that, “Oh, that’s actually a totally different article.” So that’s not a task per se, but rather something to put in the ideas section.

When I process my journal on Monday mornings, I pick up last week’s random thoughts and actually put them somewhere. So I have a page at the back of the journal for my content planning. So that’s the key reason that a bullet journal keeps you kind of sane.

If I have an intrusive thought about something I haven’t done or need to do that is going to happen between now and Sunday, I usually put it on a Saturday and Sunday. If it’s for next week, I put it straight into next week to remember, because when I update it for next week, I’ll check this list and I can map it forward.

Step 6: Make a future log

The other good thing about bullet journals is that you can also set up an annual section, to get an idea of the upcoming weeks and months and how they will play out.

Step 7: Fill in finished appointments

So as you go through and you complete a task, you can color it in. If for example a meeting is postponed, I just put a little arrow to say that it’s been postponed to another time. And if it’s a task, then I actually cross it out with an X. That’s the bullet journal technique when you finish a task.

Step 8: Cross out completed tasks

My favorite thing about bullet journaling is having finished everything on a day, and being able to cross out all the tasks; I also draw a star below each day that, once my tasks are completed, I can color in to indicate that day’s work is finished.

As such, when I scan the bullet journal, it naturally skips everything completed and shows me what I have left to finish.

Step 9: Use a habit tracker

The habit tracker is a helpful way of managing my anxiety by ensuring I take care of myself and invest in my resilience.

The habit tracker has my five resilience habits which are intermittent fasting, getting hydrated, drinking enough water, doing an hour of exercise at least five times a week, reading fiction each day (I count 10 pages of fiction as good enough for me) and then 10 minutes of meditating.

As I tend to meditate in the morning, I get the satisfaction right afterwards of coloring in the meditation box. I can also color in the fasting box from the previous evening (if I’ve stuck to my plan!).

The other thing I do is meal planning, which in a family is always another source of stress. Before we do the grocery shopping each day or each week, I put in the full week’s worth of menus. That way I know what’s coming.

Step 10: Add check boxes (if you want)

The final thing I do is add a couple of check mark boxes for each day in my bullet journal. You can use these for daily targets you have. For example, I am currently working on an inbox zero strategy to get my inbox down to zero each morning, and I also try to use my standup desk for at least an hour a day. If I’ve accomplished these two daily goals, I can check them off in the boxes.

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