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Friday, August 23, 2013

Bullet Journal

Huge thanks to my friend Rori @rorirants for showing me the Bullet Journal! Apparently I live under a rock (and am obviously behind on my Life Hacker reading) because I hadn't heard of it yet. I love it! Thanks Rori!

If, like me, you hadn't heard of this before, go watch the short video here and check out the website bulletjournal.com. There's nothing for sale, it just shows you how you can turn any notebook into a planner/ journal/ listkeeper all in one. I'm a big fan of all-in-ones! Anyway, go check them out then come back so we can discuss.

The Bullet Journal system is elegantly simple yet allows you to capture, and access, an enormous amount of information.

Things I love about it:
  • How it grows organically. You use it as you need it, you can start it any time and there are no wasted pages. Whenever you need to write a list, you plop your list right down on the page. And there's unlimited space for lists!
  • When you need to sketch out your week, you make whatever weekly format works best for you (horizontal, week + notes, vertical columns, family grid etc.). In fact, you can use a different format each week if you want to, whatever works best for you that week.
  • As I mentioned before, I love that everything is in one book. Monthly planners, weekly breakdowns, daily records, journaling, lists, forward plans. There's only one book to grab when you need to look something up or write something down.
  • Because the pages are numbered and indexed, you can find information easily. Because you index events into the monthly calendar, those are easily referenced too. And because it's in a bound book, archiving is a breeze.
  • You can use an A5/ 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch notebook, which is slimmer than a day per page or ring binder version, write as much as you want every day, and still avoid that huge planner craziness I talked about yesterday.

Tweaks I would make, your mileage may vary:
  • This works well as a catch-all capture device, but not so well for planning beyond the current month. To do that you'd have to have a master calendar either electronically or on paper to transfer things into your notebook each month for monthly planning. Something you could do though is just write your whole year's worth of monthly pages (or more, if you like further planning) into the front of your notebook and use that as your master calendar rather than just going month by month.
  • Transferring undone tasks month by month wouldn't work for me, I have to do that week by week. Small tweak though.
  • Personally I would start the Index page in the very back of the notebook, that way if the Index takes up more than one page you don't have to worry about it. When the content meets the Index back pages,  the notebook is full and it's time to start a new one!
***Edited because I meant to add: in the video he uses a squared Moleskine, but Leuchtturm notebooks have better paper and the pages are already numbered with Index pages already at the front of the book so that eliminates those steps for you. 
What about you? Have you tried the Bullet Journal or similar system? How did/ does it work for you?


35 comments:

  1. Hi! I have actually wrote in your comments that I use a small notebook for everything. It didn't wirk out because rewriting lists is a huge work. And not being sble to transfer those lists to another notebook drove me nuts. And all those gazillions tabs thst I used fir all those lists -several for the same lists because I was not able to pull out those pages abd bring them together in one section-it didn't work outtoo!

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  2. I love it. Need to try it. Had already been doing something similar

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  3. I find I use a similar method within the plannerisms planner. The monthly goals pages become my tasks pages, and I assign them to my weeks as I go or migrate them to the next month. If there is a series of to-do goals that are related they get put in a list in my filofax. For example: I have a million blog upgrades to do, whenever I think of one I add it to my blog upgrade list in my filo. Then when I make my month task list I go through my filo lists and choose a few tasks to focus on and write them down. Works for me!

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  4. I found this on Wednesday, after clicking a link somewhere online, and I could not find that link again!
    I love this 'layout' and I'm thinking about adapting the bullets to my diary. Using the check boxes, circles etc to keep my notes 'coded'.

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  5. I found this on Wednesday, after clicking a link somewhere online, and I could not find that link again!
    I love this 'layout' and I'm thinking about adapting the bullets to my diary. Using the check boxes, circles etc to keep my notes 'coded'.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this - I think with your tweaks added (and yes, the index needs to go at the back, it would just crazy for me to try to do anything else) it is a great, but simple, system. Not sur eif I´m brave enough to try it though...

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  7. I really enjoyed this post as this sort of thing does work for me and I have been using it for decades although I did not trademark it anyway - always casually considered it just my way of doing things. I first came upon this sort of method on my own after using Memogenda for a while after Memogenda first came on the scene. I also stumbled across the idea of beginning the index on the last page sometime ago. And, one other thing, I also included mind-maps in my version. Mind maps and Memogenda, I'm really dating myself now. Thanks for the post and the connection to the video and Web site - most enjoyable.

    Tangentially speaking, I wonder which pen and notebook the gentleman in the video was using? Anyone have any idea?

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    1. Yes! He answered that somewhere, and I would link you but I don't remember where I saw it :/ It's a Moleskine and a Uni Signo.

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    1. Just read the Web site, the notebook is a large squared Moleskine w/hardcover.

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  9. You're not the only one living under a rock - I've never heard of this system either, and am itching to try it!
    I have ringbound planners, but am forever second-guessing the layout, the size, the colour coding possibilities, the sections...
    This system would make life MUCH easier, if I could stick with it. I'm already looking online for a notebook to start with, so thank you for sharing!

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  10. Well, thank you Rori and Laurie for cluing me in to this. I'd never heard of it either. Grabbed my notebook and started filling in pages which led me to quickly realize that this is not the planner I need (as I need a LOT of forward planning) but a GENIUS way for me to organize the spiral notebook that I use as an adjunct to my planner. My notebook was looking pretty sloppy but now I have a method to whip it into shape! I'm pretty excited about adapting this method. Thank you again!

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  11. This is brilliant! Love the website design too. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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  12. Hi, Laurie I have read your post and watched the video and can't wait to start the planner. I use my planner also as a sketchbook. I am going over the the bullet site now.

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  13. I love the bullet journal plan and will fit into my moleskin.

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  14. Laurie,
    Thank you for posting this! I haven't seen it before and I've been searching for a simple system to use.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Papermeister

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  15. This is about the same as Bill Westerman's "Get Sh*t Done" system I have been using for several years. The nomenclature is a bit different, but tracking is the same. If you Google "Bill Westerman's" you can compare the two. I find it to be easier and quicker than GTD.

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    1. crofter you are right, the Getting Sh-t Done system is very similar, I posted about it a few years ago:

      http://www.plannerisms.com/2010/03/lists-lists-everywhere.html

      But GSD is mainly a task list. Bullet Journal adds in reference information and indexing, which makes it more useful as a reference in my opinion.

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    2. I agree, I am going to use a Rhodia grid pad in an A-5 Filofax. The master list of the GSD system is how I judge my progress.

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  16. I love this, I already use a similar kind of bullet system in my FC Planner but i've gained some added icons to use. Not sure i'm ready to use it as my whole system though and i've just started using my version of GTD but may see how I can use this my way this instead.

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  17. I've been using it for a few days. I started the month on the left page of a spread and do my forward planning on the right. On the next spread I just added the date and began writing my tasks, events and notes. I absolutely love it in my Midori and I'm a little sad to say it failed. I wrote two things; a special recipe I had tried once, lost and found again after months(yay!) and a list of inspiring books. It got me thinking; the Midori booklets only have 64 pages, so my Bulletjournal would be filled in a heartbeat. I imagined a box full of booklets and me going through all the indexes looking for that recipe. I would need to make an index in alphabetical order to keep track of it. Hmm.. I moved into the A5 Malden and put the recipe safely behind the 'r' in my a-z divided info section. I will put it (and similar notes) in a Domino for easy accessibility.

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    1. Ling I agree, putting everything into one notebook with so few pages would mean it would get filled up really quick. I think in a usual bound notebook with 174 or more pages it should last a few months though, depending on how many notes you put in.

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  18. MS Onenote as a bullet journal with an active digitizer on a tablet pc--I may have finally found what works for me

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  19. MS Onenote as a bullet journal with an active digitizer on a tablet pc--I may have finally found what works for me

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  20. Does anyone use this method and incorporate meetign notes? I love this concept but I don't want to carry around 2 notebooks. Any thoughts on how to include both into one notebook?

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    1. I'd think that meeting notes would work well with this method of journaling. Start your notes on a new page; you'll probably end up with index terms such as "Meeting notes - x committee"

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    2. Hi Terry! Great question. I interviewed Ryder on my GTD Virtual Study Group podcast this past weekend and asked him that exact question because it was bothering me too! :) Basically, he said that the "Collections" part of the journal is where you would add notes. I said, well, wouldn't you want it all together as opposed to all over the place? He agreed and I asked him about dividing the journal up halfway through. Then adding a bookmark or at least designating in the Index that that is where your Collections would start. So, for instance on Page 15 would by 11/15 but yet on page 115 would be Meeting notes - x committee". Does that help?

      The recording will be up on Thursday, 11/14 at http://www.gtdvsg.com.

      PS: Laurie - I *love* your blog! I'm usually very passive in reading, but you have caused me to spend lots of money ... Okay, so I willingly did it! LOL! :) Keep up the awesome work!

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    3. Hi Daniel, thanks for this info and for your kind words! I look forward to hearing your interview with Ryder!

      Another option could be to start your Bullet Journal from the front of the book and your meeting notes from the back. That way you don't have to worry about needing more pages in one section or the other. You use up all the pages in your notebook, and when they meet in the middle it's time for a new notebook! I do a similar thing in my notebook: daily entries start from the front, and lists (like blog post ideas, household repairs, gift ideas, etc.) start from the back so it's easier to find everything and things aren't mixed together. Not strictly bullet journaling, but it works for me.

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. "This system sucks, so buy mine instead?"
      Thanks, but I'd prefer to be sold a system on it's own merits, not because a popular alternative is different.

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    2. Thinly-veiled spam removed!

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  22. I've been using this since this past Friday. :) So far, it's working well for me.

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  23. As a field biologist, for utterly bomb-proof notebooks, can I recommend Rite-in-the-Rain (http://www.riteintherain.com/) to which I have recently switched after having used Moleskine for years. (I am unaffiliated with either company). The paper is waterproof! And the design is extremely sturdy and pliable enough to sit comfortably in a pocket.

    Very excited by this bullet technique, will be trialling it in weeks to come as my notebooks are currently an unordered mess.

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    1. Thanks James! I haven't used Rite In The Rain myself, but in grad school I noticed most of the field geologists used them. They are the gold standard for field notebooks from what I have seen.

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