Tuesday, 16 June 2015

How to | Get Stuff Done with a Bullet Journal

What on earth is a 'Bullet Journal' and why do I need one? I thought something similar when I came across bullet journaling for the first time a few weeks ago. It's a way of staying organised, getting things done and achieving goals with the help of a pen and a notebook. The bullet journal system is not ground-breaking, in fact you may have already been using it, or a version of it, for years without realising. It's all about keeping things simple. Forget online calendars, bullet journaling is about going analogue.

There is a method called 'rapid logging' which the bullet journal uses. Rapid logging means you throw all your thoughts down on to a piece of paper. Some people call it the 'brain dump'. The technique helps you identify what’s important and get rid of the things that aren’t. You can then focus your time and energy more effectively.

The bullet journal was put forward by Ryder Carroll, an art director from the US, as an easy way to stay organised. I'd read this here and watch the video which explains things perfectly - and then come back to me and I'll tell you how I'm using the bullet journal within my own planner.

How it Works for Me.

I've always been a list maker. But since putting all my lists into one 6x8 planner (read more on that here) I've become much more goal orientated. I write daily and a weekly to-do lists. I have check boxes for each task, little circles for appointments and bullet points for notes. I tick off each task as I accomplish it. If I haven't had time during the day to do that task, then an arrow goes through the check box and it gets moved over to the following day. If the task becomes irrelevant and is no longer needed, I put a line through the whole thing.

There's a feeling of accomplishment every time I can tick a box!

You can use the bullet journal for work, for your personal life. Or a mixture of both.

How to Get Stuff Done | Today.

The trick is to not overwhelm yourself. It's pointless starting a day with 30 or more tasks on your list. You'll never get through them all! Think realistically about what you can achieve that day. It depends on previous engagements (meeting friends, a doctor's appointment) so you have to fit your tasks around your schedule. On average for me each day has about 6-8 tasks to complete. Little things such as 'reply to that email' to bigger things like 're-organise entire bookshelf'. Even with a small number of tasks it's still very likely I won't complete everything in one day. But I can just move it over to the next day, and the next, until it gets done. That way there's no forgetting about it or ignoring it. Unless it becomes irrelevant of course, then you just remove it.

Sometimes if I have a very long to-do list I can feel a bit overwhelmed. Having a page full of tasks, with words and check boxes here, there and everywhere - it makes me not want to start at all! What I've found helpful is to use a different colour pen to write next to each task, an estimate of how long I think it will take me to complete that task. Or the amount of time I want to spend on that task. Then I can see my day split up by time. It somehow feels less daunting than I originally imagined. I can take each task in my stride e.g. 'it will only take 10 minutes to update my CV' or 'I'll spend one hour taking blog photos'. Breaking up your day in this way means you'll get a lot more done. Being able to see that some things only take a few minutes is encouraging; you'll actually want to do them.

You may have things to accomplish that week, but no set day for them to be completed by. Split these up, do one or two each day. You may have things to accomplish within a whole month. I try to stick to short term goals such as, 'post something on This Fashion is Mine twice a week' and then put the tasks in place to achieve that goal.

How to Get Stuff Done | Long-Term Goals.

If you have ambitions, or resolutions for the entire year, you can use the bullet journal system to help with these too. Write out all your long-term goals. Brain-dump! Then write out the steps you'll need to take to achieve them. If you want to learn Spanish, maybe you'll need to take paid lessons once a week, and practice with a language CD twice a week. You can factor this in to your planner.
Perhaps you want to get a 2.1 final grade at the end of your degree. Or a big promotion at work. What steps can you take to make sure you're going in the right direction? What can you be doing every week that adds towards your ultimate ambition?

Break down your goals into baby steps. Things you can do every week or even every day. You're far more likely to get closer to achieving your big goals if you break them down into small tasks.

Personally, I don't set too many long-term goals. I have things I want to achieve but I find it's a lot of pressure on myself to set deadlines and I'd be really stressed if I didn't achieve them. I might seem super organised but sometimes you just have to relax and let life take its course! I find the bullet system far more useful for day-to-day tasks. Which ultimately, do lead to the long-term ambitions. But for those of you who can't work without a deadline, this could be helpful.

Will it Work for Me?

There's no reason to stick rigidly to the bullet journal method that Ryder Carroll lays out. You can alter it to work for you. You only need to search for 'bullet journal' in YouTube to see hundreds of videos from people using the method to suit their own needs. Some people even decorate their journals/planners and colour code their tasks. I tend to keep things basic and boring, I'd be spending more time making my lists look pretty than actually getting on with anything.

“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” ― Amy PoehlerYes Please

If you like writing lists, setting yourself goals and ticking off accomplishments then yes, this will work for you! The best thing about the bullet journal is that you don't have to stick to it every single day. If you have a day where all you want to do is stay in your pjs and watch films, there's no need to make a plan for that! I don't use the bullet journal for holidays or time off.

If you write a blog, then the bullet journal could come in very handy with staying on top of your blog posts. If you're freelance you'll know better than anyone how important it is to manage your own time effectively. Another plus is that you can start a bullet journal at any point in the year, any day of the week, using any old notebook you have lying around. 'My Planner Set-Up' blog post goes into lots more detail about the planner I'm using and where everything is from. I'm currently working on a post about blog planning so come back soon to see how I get stuff done for This Fashion is Mine.



  1. I love this idea! It does really help me to be able to see what I need to do, how important it is and when I've done it and I really like that it's more goal oriented :) X

    A Blonde Moment

  2. This is a really great system! I'm constantly making to-do lists but this seems like a better way of setting them out & implementing them xx

  3. I'm absolutely loving this, I'm such a list maker and it feels so much better when you can physically tick off something rather than just deleting off a list on your notes on your phone. Love your little key as well, so helpful! I start my first year of teaching in September and will definitely be using this idea!
    cottonandcandie xx

  4. I'll try out this first thing when I wake up! Such a great idea!


  5. Looks really interesting :) and your handwriting is gorgeous <3!


  6. I love this! I don't have an actual journal but I do make lists like these every day haha. Now to just move them into journal form.
    Tegan xx - Permanent Procrastination

  7. I actually already do this without knowing that it was a thing!


  8. I absolutely love this! I basically do the same thing in the "notes" section of my phone, but I really want to do it in a planner now. I'm such a fan of the key; it makes things even more organized! xo


  9. I love this idea! I love the fact that you have a key too. I definitely need to do something like this as I am painfully unorganised at the moment!

    Sweet Serendipity Blog

  10. I totally swear by my bullet journal. I like that it makes it easy to break down tasks (like sort, wash and dry laundry instead of just "do laundry"). Lovely photos as well!
    xx, Pia

  11. I love the sound of this, I read about a bullet journal a couple of days ago and wasn't really sure what it was. I love writing a list or two so may start my own bullet journal. Will help me feel more productive! lol

    Alison At Home!

  12. I like the idea of doing what will work for you. I use a form of bullet journaling, but it's my own (with a cheat sheet written in my planner), so I remember it.

    Giftie Etcetera

  13. Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!
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  14. I admire the work you put into your organization! I find when I set things up cutely and I feel that everything is nice and neat it motivates me more to be more organized and get things done!
    Mondays & Mimosas


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