“To successfully navigate the world around us, we must first look inward”
The Bullet Journal provides a space to process, think, and focus without digital clutter or distractions we surround ourselves with every day. Ryder Carroll sought out to marry productivity with intentionality. This method gives us the chance to regroup, refocus on the projects that matter, and plan out the life we desire. When you use a Bullet Journal, you are reframing your mind to think analogically. If you are one of those people that have various lists scattered about for books to read, places to visit, and all the daily planning lists, then you need a Bullet Journal.
The Bullet Journal allows you to unplug and become more aware of what you need in your life. It is very common to have lists for a plethora of things-- groceries, wish lists, to-do lists, books and movies to read and watch, and so forth. This planning method gives you the push you need to put all of those lists in one place. This gives you the organization you craved while granting you awareness.
Going analog helps trigger your mind. The more you write something down, the more your brain is going to remember what it needs to. This analog first method gives your brain the boost it needs to stay organized. I’m not just saying this because I think it’s the best method ever. I’m saying this as someone who used to be a list hoarder, multitasker, and frazzled woman.
WHY THIS WORKS
Raise your hand if you were once in love with an Erin Condren, Happy Planner, or any other preprinted planner. Did you raise your hand? I did. I was a Happy Planner fan before I found out how and why the Bullet Journal method works. I’ll be the first to admit, it was peer pressure that drew me in. I know, I know. It drew you in, too. I mean, c’mon! All those pretty spreads on Pinterest and Instagram. The promises to get your life more organized. So, I ditched my Happy Planner and became a Bullet Journal fan.
I’ll admit it, I had no clue what I was doing. For almost a year I avoided the “how” and “why” this method could work for me. I decorated, but barely made goals, plan projects, or do anything that was mildly productive in it. I was getting fed up with the method; and, unfortunately, really disheartened because I wasn’t experiencing what others were. Was I doing “it” wrong? Did I not understand it? When I look back two years later, I’m not sad that for a year I didn’t get “it”. I didn’t know why it worked. I’m going to let you in on a secret; there is no one magic way this method works.
The method only works if you work it. Meaning, if you use it the way you want to; not the way people want you to. In fact, I have seen throughout my Bujo journey, not at a lot of people spend hours in their journals. In fact, Ryder only recommends a mere ten or so minutes a day. So, how can the method work if you aren’t spending so much time? It’s because you are becoming more intentional with the “how”. So, the “why it works” comes into play when you think about what you put in your journal. If you have become more organized, you got there because you realized you needed to organize your thoughts better. So, you use a Bullet Journal for all your random lists. Now, if you are a goal setter by nature, I don’t need to tell you your “why”. You reached more goals because you mapped out the steps, made a plan of action, and accomplished more. Doesn’t that feel good?
KNOW YOUR “WHY”
For any good planning system to work, you need to know why you want to start. This creates more self-awareness that allows you to be more innovative, creative, and present. The “why” helps you stay consistent with your planner. You know what you need, can develop a plan to get to it, and can track your progress. The only way to make any planning system work for you is to put in the time. The day to day struggle is real. We all feel it. The messiness of our lives, the unorganized pieces of paper thrown about, and the never ending feeling of forgetting a special occasion. However, we need to always push through. Listen, I get it.
When I first started in 2016, I didn’t know what I wanted to use the Bullet Journal for. I didn’t think I had to. About a year in, after feeling like a BuJo failure, I thought long and hard about if I was using it the way I not just wanted to, but needed to. I was out of work, trying to start a new side hustle, and in my first serious relationship. Just using stickers and markers weren’t cutting it. It was masking the function I needed. Honestly, the more I have used my journal, and I mean really use it to its fullest potential, I have been able to get a new job, plan a wedding in less than four months, and get better with my money. It is about getting the right stuff done, reaching goals, and being more aware of our surroundings.
HOW TO USE THE METHOD: MENTAL INVENTORY
One of the big takeaways from reading Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method is taking a mental inventory of what I am working on, what I need to get done, and what I want to get done. He breaks this exercise into those three sections. Weekly, in order to narrow down my tasks, I do this exercise as a more concise brain dump. I usually skip the what I am working on and go to the need to and want to be working on parts. This exercise gives much needed clarity to stay focused throughout the week. I can balance my schedule more; and, get the more important tasks completed without feeling overwhelmed.
Think of what you need to be working on to accomplish what is important now, not five years into the future. What do you need to be working on; creating another source of income; or, maybe a goal you have let slip. You may have an important project, either for work or personal that you have ignored. You need to be working on that. It is possible what you are working on is not what you need to be focusing on. If you take the time to write it all out, you are going to realize what you priorities are and what they should be.
What you want to work on is more for your loftier goals: learning a new language, improving your cooking skills, planning a vacation, so on and so forth. This is where future planning starts to take shape. What you want to be working on is the place to categorize certain goals that aren’t necessarily time sensitive or urgent, but what you want to accomplish sometime in the near future. For me, it’s finishing my novel, plan my upcoming trips, and doodling more. When you analyze and cross unnecessary tasks off your list, you can start to arrange your priorities better. By making a weekly task list based on this exercise, I have been able to crave a tiny bit of time for more that I want to be working on.
RAPID LOGGING THROUGH THE DAY
While taking a mental inventory is effective, it is not something you need to do everyday. With rapid logging, this method helps you keep track of everything that happens during the day, not just your to-do list. The way Carroll describes this technique, you use daily rapid logging as a way to jot down tasks, appointments made for the day, phone calls you made, and so forth. At the end of the day, he suggests doing a nightly reflection where you can migrate tasks, appointments, and write reflection notes for specific tasks or events that took place that day.
Now, I must admit, I am a little late to the rapid logging game. Initially, I focused on weekly schedules opposed to daily schedules. I noticed I didn’t have enough space to keep track of all that happened that day. The busier I have become, with more responsibilities I balance, daily rapid logging has become some sort of savior for me. I feel more organized. I can focus more on what I need to get done specifically for that day. I enjoy writing some observations at night, using the migration signifer, and seeing exactly what I accomplished that day.
You don’t have to be a busy person to do daily rapid logging. In fact, this technique is so flexible that you don’t need to fill so much space if you don’t need to. Stay true to you; if you don’t like empty spaces, then combine days. If you are like me, and need to have each day on one page regardless of how full it is, then go at it. Remember, you customize this planning method. Whatever works for me may not work for you.
MAKING TIME FOR REFLECTION
Carroll talks a lot about reflection. Because this method focuses on being intentional both with your time and life, Carroll believes you need to reflect in order to grow. Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. When you take the time to reflect, whether it’s at night or a quick morning review, you can get a feel of what your day has been or can be like, if you do it in the morning. Although Carroll recommends reflection at night and a morning review, the time you spend is entirely up to you.
For me, I can only spare ten to fifteen minutes for a basic morning review and nightly reflection. These days, I often can’t find enough time to do a nightly reflection; I have been more focused in the morning during my commute to work. You do you, as I often say.
Learning more about the Bullet Journal method has made me get to such a comfortable and productive place. Find your why, take a mental inventory, rapid log your day, and take some time for reflection. It’s amazing what a planning system can do for you if you put in the time, energy, and know what you want to accomplish by using it.
Remember, it’s all about planning one night at a time.
~ Hannah ~