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Work & Productivity

How I’m Using my Bullet Journal in 2020

2020 begins year three of an experiment in analog productivity. While researching productivity systems like Getting Things Done, reading The Myth of Multitasking I discovered that no single app was good enough to replace a Bullet Journal.

Over last 38 months I’ve refined my method into a reflex. David Allen describes this as Mind Like Water where everything is stored in your trusted system and nothing relies on memory. A trusted system is different for everyone. Mine is the core modules of the Bullet Journal system because I prefer all my actionable items to be in a single place whether its a project, to-do item, or key points from an email, Basecamp, Slack or a conversation.

Ninety percent

Rapid Logging represents at about 90% of how I work in my journal. Where a bullet represents a task, a dash represents a note, and a circle an appointment. Within a typical day my “Daily Log” is often just linear thoughts, many may not to be revisited. Even if they’re completely ignored they still have value months or years later… Its nearly impossible to judge in the moment.

Evaluation

Recently Daily Logs have been useful as a tool in my annual performance evaluation. Using my 2019 Bullet Journal and flipping through the pages I created a Custom Collection containing all the accomplishments over the past year. Many of which were referenced in daily logs as passing non-actionable notes taken during a meeting or noted from an email. Without this log its unlikely I would have remembered to mention some of the smaller yet impactful projects of that year.

What’s My Typical Day?

Mostly email, Basecamp, phone calls and in person interactions. The problem is none of these solutions are compatible with each other. Sending an email to Basecamp doesn’t make sense. Often more effort than its worth. Additionally, typing notes in an app can be disruptive or inefficient. Humans have been writing for over 4,700 years. Meanwhile we’ve been using smartphones for just over a decade. Clearly writing has had more time to develop, its nearly as automatic as breathing.

How do I choose when to write it down?

First, a pencil or pen is almost always at my side with my Daily Log open. If anything remotely important or interesting enters my consciousness I jot down a reference during or following its passage.

Second, To-do items that take longer than two minutes are writen down either before or after they’re completed. Here’s an example my typical notation method.

  • Correct typo, press release, JD
  • Reply, Gravity Forms, AC
  • Delegate, Image color correction, LB

The pattern is simple

  • Action, Topic, Initials of person(s) involved.

Context in my Daily Log often if not always fills in the details. Few tasks appear alone and are usually related to previous or future references in the log.

How this helps me as a web developer

As you could guess, my daily Log is full of dashes followed by hexadecimal color codes, class tags, WordPress classes, pixel, rem, em and other measurements. While inspecting web developer tools in the browser I’ll quickly take down the details allowing me to inspect once and build a brief library of CSS adjustments or some other mundane task.

When it comes to networking, server maintenance and debugging a WordPress website my log will often be full of simple notations found in some log somewhere

The Benefit

Using a Bullet Journal to manage appointments, draft blog posts, or manage to-dos gets me away from screens, and personal assistants. Even if its only for as little as 20-45 minutes those small chunks through the day it add up. Frequently means I’m spending that same time outside email or some other distracting service.

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Work & Productivityvideo

Getting Things Done with the Bullet Journal

Video: How I use David Allen’s Getting things done system with the Bullet Journal Method as a web developer

In 2013 I found myself stressed out, I had to many commitments and not enough time; or so I thought. Up until this point I kept track of all my everything in email or my head. When I missed an important deadline I often complained that I was overworked. I started researching productivity methods online and came across multiple posts referencing David Allen’s Getting Things Done in the comments.

How Getting Things Done cleared my mind

GTD frequently references finding a trusted format to store your thoughts, commitments, projects, and responsibilities. The hardest part was actually discovering my trusted system. GTD doesn’t do that for you.

Limiting collection points

Dave Crenshaw in many of his Lynda.com time management videos references limiting your collection points to the fewest possible. I found this helpful in funneling what grabs my attention. However, no matter how hard I tried to limit communication points almost every project or client had a list dedicated platform. Sadly this is just how communications in 2019 works.

I’m a member of five Slack Workspaces, Two email address, three messaging platforms, two Calendars, two voicemail accounts, and a Basecamp. This isn’t a complete list and it’s always changing.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible tell our supervisor or client you won’t use their favorite service because you’ve purged to only a few accounts That’s where the Bullet Journal helped me navigate the chaos.

The Bullet Journal is my single point of captured information

Independent of the source everything I need to do is added to my Bullet Journal. This way I capture everything at regular intervals and quickly note the task in an abbreviated style. It always begins with Rapid Logging in my Daily Log collection spread.

A Daily Log spread in my Bullet Journal
A Daily Log spread in my Bullet Journal.,Nothing fancy.

I take no time to worry about penmanship, grammar or presentation. My Daily log serves as an almost real time dump of what’s in my mind. If I need to clean things up and expand on anything I create a custom collection to drill down a subject, or plan a long term project. Even if it’s something like recurring due dates added to my Monthly Log.

The benefit is that I still capture everything that’s competing for my attention and time. However, once in my journal I rarely have to return to the source unless an update has been posted or I need to grab very specific information such as an error message, very long url, contact information for a vendor or simply a file attachment.

Have any questions? Feel free to comment below.

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Work & Productivity

The Bullet Journal Method

Ryder Carroll’s first book on the Bullet Journal technique was released today and my copy arrived along with the Stealth Bullet Journal as part of a box set.

I’m already enjoying the perspective provided within its pages. There’s a lot of value in having a curated publication straight from the system’s creator.