As a kid, I loved my diaries. I wrote in them often, writing my childlike secrets across the lined pages. I preferred the small, chunky diaries with the shiny locks and covers with pictures of puppies. These were my prized possessions when I was young. Locking away my hopes and dreams felt important.
As an adult, I still enjoy journaling, but I rarely make the time for it off social media. To remedy this, I tried bullet journaling at the beginning of 2018. As we prepare to enter 2019, I know that isn’t one goal I’ll carry over into the New Year because I didn’t even make it through January.
With all of my research on how to bullet journal, I did learn something very valuable: how to organize my work projects. This didn’t come about until I got a new job this summer, but it just goes to show that when we take the time to learn something, that knowledge rarely goes unused.
Bullet journaling has a simple concept with specific ideas on how to do it. If you haven’t tried it before, check this link out from the original Bullet Journal.
For my job, most of my projects repeat every month while some are only a one-time thing. This is how I organize myself for my work day:
By the month
I try to make a list for each month before it begins. Sometimes I start it early when a deadline comes up within a project so I don’t forget it. At the top of a page in my notebook, I write the month and the word “deadlines” because those are what schedules my month. On the left, from top to bottom, I write the first letter of the day and the corresponding date from 1 to 30 (or 28, 29, or 31, depending on the month). Since I primarily work Monday through Friday, I only mark Ms through Fs, and I use Rs for Thursday (my college did that and it stuck).
Then I add my project deadlines that are given to me. I try to place one deadline per day, so sometimes I move up a given deadline to make my work day focused on finishing one project per day, not many. From there, I fill in my personal deadlines. Some of my social media projects need to be started at the beginning of the month, so I set my own personal deadline for drafting social media content. Some of my email projects are due later in the month, so I mark those off. I know I have a monthly meeting with my boss, so I add that in. If I haven’t scheduled it yet, I do so while creating my list. This way, I don’t forget any important deadline when one-time projects come my way, distracting me from my monthly tasks. This list helps me prioritize my work for each day.
By the day
I love lists. I always have. They keep me focused and in line. I try to end each day with creating tomorrow’s list. Then, the next day, I see if any new projects have come my way since I last logged in. If they have, I add them to my list to ensure I address those projects that day, even if I don’t finish them.
I start by dating the day. I prefer long hand, even though it’s loopy and takes longer to write out. Then, on the left, I add a circle for each task, giving each task its own line. Usually, I don’t take up an entire page for all of my daily tasks, but some days are just crazy. I start by adding tasks from my deadlines list. I try to start them at least a few days before the deadlines. If I have a new, urgent project, I add that next. Then I add each task that comes up on my project screen in my online office.
I place stars by the ones I must complete today. I place dots next to the ones in which I need to respond, even if I don’t work on that project today. When I complete a task, I fill in the circle next to the task. When I work on it but don’t finish it, I put a “+” in the circle.
One amazing idea from the original Bullet Journal I actually use is “migration.” That’s where all of the circles filled with arrows come in. When I make tomorrow’s task list, I start by adding in the projects I didn’t finish today, which are marked with plus signs. Then I migrate the tasks with empty circles from today’s list to tomorrow’s list. As I do so, I put an arrow in today’s task to mark that it migrated.
The point behind the migration is that if it’s important enough to write again, it’s still important to do, and vice versa. This can feel tedious and annoying at times, but if the task still needs to be completed, keep on migrating and rewriting it. If it no longer matters, let it drop.
To the left of the circles in the image above, you’ll notice the margins are filled with numbers. Since I work at home, to keep myself accountable, I write my hours next to each task. This also helps me clock my hours in my online office. To the right of some of my tasks, you’ll see times when I started and sometimes ended that project. I count my hours and carry them over to the left margin. Then I clock my hours online, ensuring I don’t accidentally miss clocking my hours. Seeing my time alongside my work has helped me focus. If I’m running behind one day, I know I need to compensate the next. If I work late one night for an urgent project, I know I can finish early later on in the week. This helps me plan out my week accordingly.
Most bullet journals are ornate and beautifully decorated. I like the idea of a pretty journal, but it’s time-consuming and unrealistic for how I use mine. Seeing other bloggers share their designed bullet journals is exciting. They prioritize beauty in their journals, which can be calming and meditative. But I have prayer, yoga, and reading for that, so my bullet journals are just black and white because it’s practical for me.
The key to a successful bullet journal isn’t pretty pages and perfect penmanship. Instead, the key to a successful bullet journal is to personalize it for your specific needs.
Don’t get wrapped up in doing everything someone else suggests. It’s your journal. Make it work for you.
Challenge: Being organized is key when juggling many projects, whether you work in an office, are a freelancer, or are somewhere in between like me. How can these tips help you in your job or writing life? Personalize it.