How to Use a Bullet Journal for Time Management
I'm so excited to welcome Suzi for startamomblog.com today. She uses a bullet journal for time management, and, wow, it really works for her! It's helped her manage two small children and a blog that's grown from scratch to over $10k a month in under a year!
I'll let her take it away:
I love making lists. I'm constantly looking for a little scrap of paper so I can jot down my to do's for the day. Sometimes my day would be so busy I'd have to turn the post it note I'm using for my to do's around and start writing on the back. And as soon as I do that, I feel lost. Now I can't see all my activities. How will I manage it all?
I needed a new system. I struggled for months finding exactly what works for me. I am a busy work at home mom with two little girls under three and another one on the way. My life is not going to get any easier any time soon, so I had to create a system that kept my mommy brain sane through all the adventures that life throws at me.
For a few months I loved using my super simple weekly schedule that consisted of post it notes on a big white poster. The concept comes from Lean Manufacturing (I used to be an engineer before becoming a mom) and applies a lot of visual management. It works really well but it has its limitations. It can't be carried with you, and it does not have room for visualizing the big picture or future goals.
So I needed something that allowed me to plan my day to day activities while also being flexible enough to use to plan monthly and yearly goals. I also wanted ‘open space' so I can jot down project ideas or brainstorm future products.
My husband introduced me to bullet journaling a few years ago. But it looked boring and uncreative to me. How will this magical journal with dots instead of lines fix my life? Well, little did I know that it's not the dots, but the system behind it that works like magic!
The bullet journal system allows me to stay organized while still remaining flexible. This system has allowed me to manage my time so that I can raise two little ones, keep the house decently clean and build my online business from $0 to over $10K per month in less than a year.
How the Bullet Journal System Works
There are three main layouts that I use in my bullet journal to keep me organized. The first one is the 6 month view, of the future log. This allows me to see any major events coming up in the next few months. I only recreate this spread twice a year.
The second layout is the monthly view. Here I jot down all the big tasks and events that I need to complete that month. I glance at it weekly to ‘pull in' any tasks to my daily list and cross out ones I've completed.
Lastly, my most used layout is my daily view. I use a two page spread and break it up into four days. I jot down my to dos at the top of the page, any events or appointments in the middle of the page, and use the bottom of the page as a mini gratitude journal.
The bullet journal symbols all have meaning and allow you to quickly organize your list without rewriting it. The little bullet or dot signifies a task. An open dot signifies an event or appointment. And an X signifies a completed task.
At the end of the day you migrate the tasks that you still want to do the next day. Those that are migrated to the next day, get a forward arrow (>). Those tasks that are migrated back to the monthly to do list to be done later, get a backward arrow (<). Any tasks that you no longer feel important enough to do, get completely crossed out.
If a task is not important enough to rewrite, it's not important enough to do.
Migration forces you to think about all of your tasks one by one. Either you complete it, move it to another date, or cross it off completely. Things don't just stay on your to do list forever and overwhelm you. All of these quick little decisions train your mind to filter your tasks quickly and effortlessly. The more you do this, the better you'll become at managing your time and seeing what is truly important.
It takes practice at first to implement the bullet journal method, but it works really well!
Bullet Journaling Allows for Flexibility and Creativity
Other than the main three layouts I've talked about above, you are free to use your bullet journal as you wish. I have multiple different spreads that I use consistently to help me run an online business from home while staying sane as a pregnant mom of two.
I have an editorial calendar to plan out my future blog posts. I use post it notes so I can easily move them around if I need to rearrange my posting schedule.
I've also adapted my super simple weekly schedule to a smaller version within my bullet journal. I wanted to do this to show my readers who love the weekly schedule that it is possible to make it portable. Each different color represents a different amount of time dedicated to that task. So at one glance you can see how busy your day is and how many time intensive tasks you have lined up.
Sometimes I have entire pages dedicated to one or two bullet points, for example my 2017 goals below. This is what I am working towards this year.
Time Management with Bullet Journaling
I've tested countless techniques to help me manage my time over the past few years. It's been a challenge finding time to grow a successful blog while raising little ones. But it can be done. It's not always how much free time you have, it's how you focus during that time.
It's so easy to browse social media, watch Netflix or procrastinate. Those minutes add up quickly. And before you know it your day is over and it is bed time. My bullet journal forces me to rewrite my daily tasks and truly analyze what will help me improve.
Being a mom is not easy. You need a system and a plan to keep your sanity. Because mommy brain is a very real thing. And now that I'm pregnant with my third, my mind is all over the place.
I often times think of my bullet journal as my second brain. It's my external memory drive for all of the things I can't keep in my mind at once.
Growing a Home-Based Business as a Stay at Home Mom
Bullet journaling has allowed me to clearly see my priorities and manage my time better.
When I started blogging I was quickly overwhelmed by all of the new information that I needed to learn. Through lots of trial and error I found a step by step system that helps moms create successful blogs. I created a course called Blog by Number that helps moms start a professional blog from scratch, write their first blog posts, get visitors and make money. Over 600 happy students are enrolled and loving it.
I applied the time-saving techniques of bullet journaling with the step by step structure from my engineering background to help moms start successful blogs. It has been a golden combination which has allowed my blog to grow to over $10K per month in a year – and I teach my students to do the same thing!
If you're interested in starting your own blog, check out the Blog by Number course. It contains 18 step by step videos, worksheets, printables and an ebook to help you succeed.
Having a time management technique like the bullet journal has helped me tremendously. And I know it will help you too!
Why I Love Bullet Journaling
What I love about the bullet journal is that it keeps all of my thoughts and ideas and to dos in one place. Traditional planners are great too because they help you plan out your life and give you a template.
The bullet journal is a bit more ‘freehand' and creative. It can be intimidating at first to conquer this blank notebook with dots instead of lines. But once you try out the bullet journal system for yourself, you'll discover the magic of those little bullets.
So if you love to write everything down but need one place to keep it all organized, bullet journaling could be perfect for you. It will help you manage your time so you can start that successful business from home you've always dreamed about!
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Brigitte - Clutter TOSS Says
I love bullet journaling. I’ve been doing my version of it for about 2 years now. Before that I was a Franklin planner girl.
Emily McGill Says
Very cool post, thanks for reblogging it so I could read! I like hearing how Suzi has reapplied “engineering thinking”, and look forward to trying this out. First I’ll have to aggregate my many task journals!
Melissa Mendez Says
I love love love my bullet journal. I’ve been using it since September last year. I haven’t figured out how to include my business in it yet, so I’m only using it for personal stuff, while I’m using a Visionary Journal for my business’s everyday stuff and goals. I’m liking what I’ve got going on right now, though I’ll probably end up figuring out how to put everything in one place. 😀 I like what you’ve got going on for yours.
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Loved this post! One question though: why is the daily divided into four days instead of seven? It’s not clear whether the other three days are on the next page or if you don’t bulletproof journal on those days.
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