Thursday, October 4, 2018

Revisiting the Bullet Journal: Lessons Learned

I wrote some time back about beginning to use a bullet journal--you'll find that article here.  I know I've heard from a few people who have begun using a bullet journal to organize their own lives, too--that includes one of the Midnight Freemasons, Greg Knott.  I've been asked if I'm still using that bullet journal, and how I was doing with it.  The answer is yes, and it has worked very well for me.  I thought I'd touch on that subject again two months down the road-- I've learned a few things I thought I'd share.

I've continued to use the bullet journal every day as I described in the first post on the subject.  I keep a monthly, a weekly, and a daily log.  My monthly log is basically appointments and events in the current month.  The weekly log is an overview of the current week that begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday.  I move things over from the monthly to the weekly log, and then flesh the week out by adding a "to do" list for the events for that week.   My daily log breaks down basically into a daily "to do" list, and as I go along throughout the day, I add notes, observations, an idea here and there, etc.  In the evening when I'm planning my next day's tasked, I'll move some of my notes for the day over to other lists I maintain in the bullet journal, like "writing ideas" or "books to read."  It sounds complicated, but it's actually very simple.  And as you do it, you'll find a process that works best for you.  All of this has evolved for me over the last two months--it's much leaner than it was when I began.  I've been more organized and more productive in the last two months than I have been in a long time. 

But I've certainly learned a few things about my own productivity.  Like the amount of time I waste with distractions.  I'll start with three things to get done in a day, and at the end of the day, I'll find I've only finished one--the reason I didn't get done with the other two?  Distractions.  Almost without fail, I get distracted.  I'll start another project at work without finishing the one I began and was supposed to be finishing--for no apparent reason other than boredom with that unfinished project perhaps.  Or I spend unnecessary time on a single task that isn't really that pressing.  I've also discovered how unproductive my evenings can be even when I spend a good deal of time in my study. 

The one thing the bullet journal has done for me, is it has shown me what's working and what's not working.  When I'm most productive, and when I'm least productive.  I've also learned a great deal about my habits by the number of tasks I've written down over and over again--carried forward from day to day or week to week--and never finished.  It's made me look at that task and wonder why I keep writing it down when I obviously have no intention of doing it.  I've got an article I've been working on for months--I keep bringing forward that task to finish it.  I finally took it off my list when I realized I had lost interest in the topic and really had no intention of finishing it even though I've spent a considerable amount of time writing and researching it.  Instead I replaced it with a piece I was interested in--I finished it in two nights and it ran on the Midnight Freemasons last week. 

I've also learned that productivity isn't just about tasks--it's about setting time aside for recreation as well.  Attending events.  Reading.  Recreational writing.  Research.  While these items are recreational, most of my writing ideas come from participating in these activities. 

As my bullet journal process has evolved, what I've found is that I'm "working" fewer hours because I'm working smarter, and I have more time for recreational pursuits which in turn inspire my creative projects.  It's helped me tremendously in striking a much better balance between the work and play.

I still highly recommend giving it a try.

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

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