Productivity is crucial for home business success. Especially for beginning entrepreneurs that wear many hats in their home business, the ability to stay on top of tasks and not get side tracked by busy work is essential to working smarter not harder.
The best way to stay organized is through systems. The challenge is in finding the systems, and tools to support those systems, that work best for you. There are a variety of recommended productivity systems such as GTD (Getting Things Done, by David Allen) and the Pomodoro Technique. And there are many tools for keeping organized from digital calendars and to-dos, to paper planners, and a combination of both.
Recently, the bullet journal (or bujo as it’s often called) has emerged as an alternative productivity system and tool.
What Is a Bullet Journal?
The official Bullet Journal® website describes the method as an “analog system in the digital world.” It was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, who developed the system to be adaptable to what works best for each individual person who uses it. The Bullet Journal offers an all-in-one system for tracking everything specific to your life and business. The key elements include:
A Page Numbered Journal
Some companies, such as Leuchtturm, offer this, or you can number the pages as you go. The numbers are important because the system uses an index to keep track of what’s in the book. Other features of the notebook can include dot matrix (most common), grid or lined journal as well. Finally, there are different size choices, and you’ll need to choose the one that fits best for you. Carroll recommends a size that can be carried with you wherever you go. The most common is A5 (5.8 x 8.3 in).
A Key for Symbols Used in the Notebook
The official Bullet Journal uses:
. Task (dot)
X Completed Task
< Task scheduled
> Task migrated
* Give task priority
! Highlight great ideas or notes you want to remember
Eye doodle to indicate something you want to explore or research further.
An Index of What Is on Each Page of Your Journal
For many people, this is the genius of the bullet journal, and for others it’s the challenge. The index means you can have pages that are not organized into sections, as often found other planners. But you can easily find them because your index tells you what page the information is on. For people who like to organize by categories and sections, it can be difficult let go of that.
Collections include typical planner features such as a future log (i.e. a year in advance), monthly log which includes a calendar and task list, and the daily log, which includes all the daily activities.
Beyond that, the bullet journal can also store your ideas, notes, and diary, as well as track habits and other information you want to keep. If you're the type of person that has a million ideas and thoughts you want to remember, and/or have a ton of Post-Its and slips of paper with stuff jotted down, a bullet journal might be ideal for you.
Making the Bullet Journal Work for You
One of the great aspects of the bullet journal is that you can adapt it to fit your organization style. For example, while the traditional bullet journal is quite minimalist, many people create colorful artistic pages (called spreads), filled with doodles and fancy fonts. Further, many create their own symbols, such as a square for a task with a check or X in it when the task is completed.
Beyond the basic planner, many bullet journal owners create collections to keep track of the books the read, the steps they walk each day, their meal plans, and more. The habit tracker is usually a grid where users keep track of habits they want to focus on such as water consumption, gratitude, exercise, reading and more.
The real advantage of the bullet journal for an entrepreneur is in having a single place to store everything. Here are some things you can organize and track in your bullet journal:
- Goals: Every business should have goals. You can include yearly goals as part of your future log, but many bullet journal users have a page of goals (or vision board), and include goals on monthly, weekly, and/or daily calendars.
- Marketing Planner: The traditional bullet journal simply lists the dates of the month along the side of the page, and then you can input any important items next to the date. However, if you go with a monthly grid (i.e. like a calendar), you can also use it to plot out your editorial or content for the month, as well as social media posts, and other marketing tasks.
- Projects: You can have a single page that lists all your projects and then specific pages for the project itself where you list the tasks for that project. You can refer to your project task list as you plan your week or daily goals and to-dos.
- Ideas: This can cover a multitude things. For example, many people have a page or two they call Brain Dump, were they simply jot down ideas that come to them that they don’t want to forget. However you can idea pages for specific parts of your business. For example, you can have a project ideas page. Other idea pages you can have include:log article ideas
- Video ideas
- Social media ideas (many people have specific platforms such as Instagram post ideas)
- Marketing ideas
- Data Collection: Reviewing and recording your business data is important in making sure your efforts are paying off. A great place to track this data is in your bullet journal. You can create a page that has each month of the year and place to record important information about your website or business such as number of sales, website traffic stats, size of email list, number of people following on social media, and whatever else you feel is important data to moni
- or. If you’re an affiliate marketer or have multiple sources of income, you can create a page that tracks data from each of your income streams.
- Notes: If you listen to podcasts, watch videos, read books or take courses to help you in your business, your bullet journal can be a place to keep your notes. If you’re involved in several educational resources at one time, you can create a page to help you keep track of each training. For example, if you’re taking two online courses, you can have a page that lists the courses with trackers for each module or lesson.
- Whatever you need: The best part of the bullet journal is that it’s a blank slate and you can create the organizational and planning system that fits your business needs and the way you work. For example, if you prefer week-at-glance, don’t use the daily spread. You can have a page to keep track of things you want to look into or research such as a new social media tool. Use a page to keep track of your office supply needs.Whatever thoughts, ideas, or other things you want to keep track of or be reminded of can be stored in your bullet journal.
- Integrating personal and business: While generally you want to keep your personal and business life separate, the reality is, home-based entrepreneurs often have overlap. Further, one of the challenges in staying organized while working at home is in having two separate systems. The bullet journal allows for integration of your life into one source. So along with your business to-dos, ideas, notes, etc, you can have personal ones such as your meal planning, exercise trackers, house chores, gift lists, birthday reminders, travel planning lists, bucket list and whatever other items you need to run your life as well as your business.
Adapting Your Bullet Journal
Another key advantage to the bullet journal is the ability to change it if it doesn’t work quite right. As you start, you’ll find you don’t use some collections or that they don’t work for you. If that’s the case, you can stop using it or tweak it on another page in your notebook.
If you struggle with having your items all mixed together without categories, you can create sections using paperclips or tags. Some people use the bullet journal system in other planner types, such as The Happy Planner, Filofax, or other binder systems that allow you to create specific sections.
Finally, let go of mistakes. If you don’t have great penmanship or you make a mistake, let it go. You can use White Out or a sticker to cover mistakes, and you’re the only one who’ll see your journal (unless you blog or vlog about it), so as long as you can read it, the quality of writing doesn’t matter.
There are more ways to use a bullet journal than can be listed in a single article. Fortunately, many bullet journal users share their ideas and tips through YouTube and Pinterest. Just make sure you don’t let the creative and artistic element of some BuJo users scare you away. Remember, the bullet journal is supposed to be for you and only you.
For Digital Planners
If you like the idea of a personalized planner, but prefer digital over paper, where are a few options. There is a companion app for the Bullet Journal, although it's not really designed to replace the paper journal. It does have a reminder to "reflect" on what you've added to your journal, as well as a guide and the Bullet Journal blog.
Evernote is another option that can be somewhat adaptable to creating a personal planning system. Most people know it's ideal for storing notes, research, webpages and more. But also, you can create checklists and other items you need to stay organized.
Paper to digital notebooks such as the Moleskin Smart Writing Notebook with Smart Pen or Rocketbook Everlast Smart Notebook offer the best of both worlds. In each you can write in a notebook, and have the information sent to your smartphone, Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive or a handful of other places including your email. These tend to be a bit more expensive and do have a few limitations, but are still viable options for developing your own planning system.