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I started using a paper planner in college to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and class schedules. I probably would not have kept a 4.0 GPA through all four years of college if I hadn’t invested in that cheap paper planner from Walmart every year. In my senior year, I especially depended on that planner because I started freelancing, working with a number of clients on editing projects while still balancing a full-time classload. But soon after college, something happened.
I met Google Calendar.
My schedule forever changed.
Inside Google Calendar, I learned how to set recurring events (no more having to write down regular appointments or weekly work times!), schedule reminders for myself, and even share my Google calendar with others.
Now I live with Google Calendar always up on my browser.
But earlier this year, I discovered I missed having a little more analog in my life. I wanted to write things down more.
What resulted was a plethora of post-it notes.
I almost drowned, ya’ll. No joke.
At about the same time, a blogging friend introduced me to bullet journals. I immediately fell in love, but discovered I had fallen into a quandary: didn’t bullet journaling cost me more time than it saved?
Want to know my secrets? Good, because they’re about to be secrets no more!
I still use Google Calendar to keep track of my schedule
While I adore my Bullet Journal, I still use Google Calendar for my schedule. Some reasons why:
- I love the color-coded freedom of dragging and dropping events on my weekly and monthly schedule. Quick. Easy.
- I share my calendar with my husband and input events that we both need to be aware of: such as the Wednesday night small group that we lead.
- I check my Reminders once a day to check off regularly scheduled things like changing the air filter in our apartment.
- I enjoy having instant access to my Google Calendar through a user-friendly app on my phone.
That last one is especially helpful when a directionally challenged girl like me needs to GPS an address; clicking on an address inside a Google calendar event gives me the option of immediately opening my GPS app. Sweet!
With the exception of Reminders, though, Google Calendar doesn’t function for me in something I desperately need and thrive with: a to-do list. I’ve tried the Tasks function but that always seemed too clunky.
Enter the Bullet Journal.
I use a Bullet Journal to keep track of my tasks and projects
Confession: I’m a productivity junkie. I enjoy writing and rewriting my to-do lists, crossing things off, and accomplishing my goals. I listen to entire podcasts about productivity.
I don’t enjoy having my computer screen plastered with post-it notes of things I need to do today, this week, this month. I don’t enjoy the clutter of how that looks or feels. So instead I use my bullet journal to capture my task lists.
I categorize my to-dos and tasks into two distinct categories: This Week and Future Projects
How does this work? Here’s the tour:
How I Organize My Week
My Google Calendar easily lets me switch between two spreads: monthly and weekly. (I never use the Daily option.) At a glance, I can see these two separate renderings of time: 30 days and 7 days.
I use the monthly and weekly spreads to capture big-picture things. What are big-picture things?
- Monthly Goals
- Upcoming Birthdays
- Important Dates
- This Month’s Projects
But inside my bullet journal, I keep track of a running to-do list of 5-7 things I hope to accomplish this week. I identify my 5-7 things on Monday by assessing the big-picture items on my monthly spread and breaking down my goals, deadlines, and this month’s projects into action items.
So my weekly goals list looks a little like this:
- the three action steps I need to complete to reach my monthly goal or complete this month’s projects
- scheduling time to work on that novel I’m editing so I don’t miss the deadline
- a reminder to purchase a birthday card or gift
How I Organize My Future Projects
I love that I have complete license to use my Bullet Journal as I wish. The personalization is key! Especially when it comes to how I organize my Future Projects list.
My Future Projects list contains everything from home improvement actions I want to take to beautify or better organize our home, my 30-before-30 bucket list, a list of ideas for books I want to write, etc.
My Future Projects are ideas for things I want to conquer in the future but can’t get to right now.
For example, if I decide one day that I really, really want to redecorate a room, I’m not going to just suddenly add that my to-do list for the week because my weekly spread is not a project list, it’s a task list and “redecorate X room” would overwhelm me because no way could I accomplish that in one week!
I’m also not going to add “redecorate X room” to my monthly spread because I need to properly plan for a project in order to see it succeed. I’ve already thoughtfully chosen the projects I’m working on this month. Maybe I’ll get to redecorating next month; maybe that will need to wait six months.
But now that project is safely listed in my Bullet Journal where I won’t lose it or forget about it so I can come back to it later when I have the time and choose to use it in that way.
The system that keeps me on task and on time—all the time!
So there you have it! Using these two tools enables me to consistently stay on task and on time. Of course I have bumpy weeks when nothing goes to plan, a plug-in goes wonky on my website because I put a curly quote somewhere I shouldn’t (guilty. twice) and I have to trouble-shoot (and call a friend!), and/or I get sick and get nothing done.
But using this productivity system saves me so much time and energy because I’m never wondering what I should do next or if I’m letting something slide.
Want to learn more about how to bullet journal? Check out my friend Kalyn’s Brainbook, the complete guide to bullet journaling.
With gentle instruction, encouragement, and down-to-earth advice, Brainbook serves as your comprehensive bullet journaling roadmap so you can turn any blank notebook into a powerful planning tool that corrals your calendar, to-do lists, notes, ideas, and long-term goals in one organized place.
In this guide, you’ll discover:
- How to eliminate “blank page fear” and set up your journal for success from the very beginning (also includes a setup checklist!)
- Which notebooks and other supplies are best for your needs
- The key to maintain your journal without it sucking all of your time
- Advanced tips and tricks to take your journal to the next level
- Five pivotal success secrets to keep your journal top of mind so it can support everything you do
- What to do when your journal isn’t quite working for you
But most of all, you’ll learn how to set up a personalized planning system that simplifies your life, helps you manage all your day-to-day responsibilities in addition to long-term goals, and supports your own personal growth journey, so you can be the wife, mom, friend, daughter, and person you’ve always wanted to be.
In other words, you’ll finally achieve balance!
Bonus Tip: Organizing my inbox the same way I organize my planner and bullet journal has transformed me into an email ninja.
It’s true: Using the same mentality I’ve adopted with my schedule has revolutionized my approach to email, too. I now consistently hit Inbox Zero every single day I’m online (I usually ignore email on the weekends). I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of my every workday because I know I’ve conquered my inbox with the same mindset I’ve conquered my tasks and projects.
Read the complete post on my inbox management system.