I am more or less always trying to hack my productivity. I have great big plans for my future and all of them involve doing a great many things. Sometimes at once. This often means that I end up forgetting stuff that’s coming up until it’s too late. For a short while, before and after, Viable Paradise I tried out Getting Things Done by Paul Allen. I couldn’t make it work for me beyond a few revelations that I got in terms of how to handle my todo-lists and my projects. It’s definitely worth taking a look at but, for me, it kept devolving into chaos. My last attempt was with Trello fell down in a uniquely digital way. So I went in search of an analog option and in March I came across the Bullet Journal.
I am by no means done hacking my process. Like Tobias Buckell says in his Bullet Journal post, it is essentially a personal UI. And for my part, I’m still searching. The thing that almost stopped me is that I can’t draw to any level that would make me want to keep looking at it in any sort of planner. I like colors, so that part was easy but a lot of the people that you see sharing photos or blog posts about their bujos have decorated their notebooks with cute little doodles and hand-lettered quotes. The absolute fanciest thing that I’m capable of is tracing fonts from the computer and adding colored blocks on a page.
The way I use my bullet journal is as a brain dump. Essentially speaking. I do this in four layers; yearly, monthly, weekly and daily. This is most in evidence in the weird mix of Finnish and English I use to write in it. I essentially use the language that the thing I’m writing is easiest for me to grasp in at the moment I’m writing it.
Unsurprisingly, this is the highest level and least used. Here is where I list the big picture stuff, things I know are coming months in advance. So far this year I’ve been updating it as the year goes on but last year I barely did. I’m not entirely sure how to make this more useful or if it’s just a matter of getting into the habit.
This is the one that has gone through most changes since I started. I started out with a calendar, habit tracker, affirmations, goals and a gratitude log. I’ve tried other things between then and now, finally ending up with this:
A simple monthly log, the big stuff I need to get done during the month and the very latest, notes for the next month. Latest as in I added it while I was putting together this post. The UI to my brain is clearly a living document.
This month is the first that I’ve tried out the weekly log. I got the idea from Natalie Luhrs’ Bullet Journal Update. Next week is only the second I’ll be using it since I spent most of this week sick enough to not give a fuck about planning it. It’s not like any of the days would have said more than “sleep”, “eat” and “walk the dog”. So, while I do like the structure and the ability to see at a glance what I’m going to be doing during the week, this feature is still new enough that I don’t know whether or not it’s staying. But so far I’m liking it. Here, you can also see a key feature of my bullet journal that many bujoers shun: I don’t erase, remove or doodle over mistakes. A lot of people on Youtube talk about tearing off a page or they use pencils to sketch out the stuff they’re doing before committing to ink and I just don’t have the patience for that. I will do the fancy fonts once a month but that’s it. And this is why those people will always, always have prettier bujos than I. But that’s okay. I’m essentially an engineer anyway. My shit is practically ornate.
This is the thing that has me keeping up my bujo almost a year into it. This is also the part that has seen the least amount of development. Inspired by Tobias Buckell’s post, I added the “Today is going to rock because..” and I moved the gratitude log from the monthly pages to the dailies months ago. I’m keeping the gratitude mostly because I’ve seen reports of studies that daily gratitude is all kinds of good fo you, and frankly, it just gives me a little jolt of pleasure at the end of the day to come up with a thing. My key is super simple: I have a box for the task. I cross the box when the task is done. I cross one bar if I get to the end of the day and the task is only half done. If I didn’t even start, I draw an arrow inside the box. So far, this has been completely sufficient for all my needs but maybe it’ll end up changing by next year, especially since I’m planning to start incorporating more of my fiction world into my bujo. It’s not like I’ve managed to figure out my brain, or even most of it.
And so, dear reader, we come to you. What is it you use to plan? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants?