Your Secret Productivity Weapon

By Amy Dryden, MPH, School of Communication Lecturer and Faculty Advisor of the Advertising Club

Bullet journaling has rapidly gained popularity in recent years, offering a more flexible, creative alternative to a pre-printed planner/organizer.

The idea is simple — create a system of task management and scheduling that fits your specific lifestyle and needs by hand-drawing the pages you would most like to see in a planner.

The term “bullet journal” however, has come to encompass much more than Mr. Carroll originally outlined. Much like “Kleenex” or “Popsicle” the term is becoming a generic catch-all for describing hand-written journals used for organizational purposes.

I know a bit about planners, as I own a company that creates custom planners and notebooks. Practical Paper Co. grew out of a desire shared by my business partner and I to use our design skills to create something that would help people live better, more fulfilling lives.

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We’re passionate about helping people find the best way possible to keep track of all the details in their lives. Bullet journals are one very effective, and addictive, way to do just that, and something that many of our customers dedicate time to each day.

Getting Started 👉🏼 Jot it Down

The best way to understand how to use journaling for organizational purposes is to make a list of the types of tasks and habits you would most like to keep track of.

Are you trying to juggle homework assignments and workouts? Healthy eating habits and a busy work schedule? Perhaps you’d like to meditate for a few minutes each day, or you have recurring symptoms you’d like to keep track of.

The list of potential items is truly endless, and that’s where organizational journaling comes in. Instead of fitting your specific needs into a pre-set planner layout, design your own!

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Keep it simple

If you’re just getting started, it’s best not to get overwhelmed. What are the top three items you’d like to feel more organized about in your life?

Once you have your list, you need a place to start your journal. There is no right answer to choosing the “right” journal, notebook, or planner. If you feel very creative, a blank or grid notebook will give you the most flexibility. If you would like a bit more structure, a pre-printed planner with some additional notes pages will feel more comfortable. The magic of organizational journals is less in the particular notebook or planner, and more in developing a daily habit.

Take a look at your “top three” list of items you’d like to manage. Sketch out a way to track each one in your journal. It’s very useful to look at examples to see what others have done, but be kind to yourself here as well.

The beauty of this type of organizing is that it is a fluid, dynamic process. Try one style for a week! If it doesn’t work, simply turn the page and try a different method. You’re never trapped in a rigid design, because you’re in charge of the design.

Some wonderful resources for viewing sample layouts and getting started are:

I strongly believe in the power of personal organization to improve the quality of your life.

It can feel intimidating, particularly if you don’t consider yourself to be organized or creative. You may feel that your own journal will never measure up, or that you are too stressed and overwhelmed with tasks to take the time to draw and color your organizational journal pages.

That’s okay! I promised to give you my secret strategy for achieving goals, feeling less stressed, and organizing your life…

Dedicate 10 minutes per day to your journal.

Yep, that’s the “big secret.” In case you wondered how those highly-organized people manage, this is it! Don’t worry about making your journal perfect, or finding the best layout, or checking off every single task every single day.

The number one habit you need to develop is setting aside 10 minutes each and every day to plan in your journal.

What should you do in those ten minutes? Here’s my list, but don’t let this limit you:

  1. Review any ongoing tasks that need to get done. Prioritize a few that you need to achieve today, and highlight them.

2. Record any habits or activities you are keeping track of. For me, this is workouts and staying hydrated, so I have a place to record each.

3. Look ahead to the following day, week, and month. Record any upcoming tasks.

4. Review your goals. Where do you want to be in six months? One year? Five years?

If you have more time, you can dive even deeper, but ten minutes is plenty of time, on a daily basis, to align your schedule with your tasks, to move your worries from the back of your mind to the top of a written page, and to start taking steps toward a more organized life!

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