I am always refining ways to be economical with my time, depending on my life circumstances. I’ve written about this before, here (in 2014) and here (in 2015). While I still use a lot of the organisational concepts (mainly around breaking up my day and doing the hardest/important tasks during the time in the day when I do my best work), I needed to develop the system further to accomodate my study load.
My friend Daisy introduced me to the Bullet Journal organisational system a few years ago and it’s been an extremely valuable tool for managing my multiple schedules/life roles. Essentially, the system is about using the one book for all your organisational needs — to-do lists, calendars, brain storming, journalling, sketching, meal planning or whatever else you want to use it for. I still use my phone to put in all my personal appointments (with an alarm reminder), however the majority goes in my journal. It’s actually a really simple system and the best way to get started is to watch the 5 minute tutorial.
The Bullet Journal is a system rather than a product, which means you can use whatever book you want, however most people prefer a dot-page rather than lined because it allows for more flexibility (for example, sketching). As the movement has grown, products have appeared for this specific type of organisation. Over the years, I look for a journal with these qualities:
- Hard cover
- Incorporated bookmark
- Page numbers
- Dot pages
I purchased this Otto Dot Journal from Officeworks. It’s affordable and has everything I want in my journal. You can also buy the official Bullet Journal Notebook, TYPO has a version and different types are available at various places online.
For the to-do lists, I use the code below. So regular items, are just a • dot point and I write the task next to it. At the end of the day, I either put a cross through the dot (if it is completed) or put an > (when I didn’t get time to finish the task) and transfer the task to the next day. For important tasks, I put an * and goals and appointments are indicated with o. The video tutorial goes through this also, so take a look if you’re interested.
When you have everything in one book, it becomes important to be able to find what you’re looking for. At the front of my book, I have a table where I put in page numbers and a brief description (this is done as I go, so the index just grows as the journal does).
The other way I help find important info (for example, my uni timetable or assessment plan) is to use a strip of washi tape along the outer page edge.
Over the years, I have adapted the system to meet my own needs — that’s the beauty of it. I love having one book for everything! Especially for brainstorming and planning, because I’m a visual person and I need to nut things out on paper sometimes. I mainly use it for four different types of content: daily/weekly do-to lists, assessment and freelance deadlines, interesting information and brainstorming. The beauty of this system is you can use it however works best for your life. Below are some beautiful examples from Instagram.
Beautiful Examples on Instagram
Different types of content
1. Weekly do to lists
Every Monday, I sit down with a coffee and draw up a weekly diary (which is simply 6 lines on a page). As you can see, my journal is really messy because that works for me. Just search for #bulletjournal in Instagram and you will see the most beautiful styles (some examples above)! That’s not within my scope! If you’re intimidated by all the gorgeousness, don’t be! Even for us messy people, this system can work so well!
I like consistency, so I do all my dates like this Day D-M-YY
2. Assessment and freelance work deadlines
This is one of the most important elements for me. To manage all my freelance and assessment deadlines, I need to see what I have on ahead of time so I can plan around it. I print off free calendars (this is the Queensland version from Michel Zbinden) and glue it in my bullet journal. I use colour coding for different subjects/jobs and mark in the deadlines. I have a lot of essays due in May. So I’ll need to make sure I structure the month with this in mind, and also start planning early enough.
3. Interesting relevant information
When relevant, I also include interesting information for what I might be studying at the time. In this case, I am looking at the history of western culture, and this timeline of ancient civilisations is useful.
I love brainstorming. I take a create approach to research, and this means it is all quite messy on the outset as I flesh out ideas. I find brainstorming really helps me solidify my ideas. I also use it for birthday party planning and general notes. However, I don’t use it for lecture notes (I have a seperate book for that).
I have found developing micro organisational systems a useful way to make the most of my time, especially when I have multiple schedules to manage.