Productivity in 2015: Save Your Sanity

We’re barely two weeks into 2015, and if you’re anything like me, you’re exhausted already. I just realized that I spent the entire working day being hugely productive. But I didn’t do my most important task. Productivity isn’t easy. You can be immensely productive, doing things that while important, aren’t essential.

My solution: My 1-3-5 List

I LOVE my bullet journal, but its tasks exist as lists, and it’s all too easy to migrate tasks. You jot tasks down as you think of them. You can prioritize, but you get used to glancing at the day’s list, and are lulled into complacency. You’re aware that you should be doing your Priority One task, but you get caught up in less important tasks, and before you know it, the day’s over. I’ll be implementing the 1-3-5 rule from now on.

If you haven’t heard of the 1-3-5 rule, basically, it’s this:

Complete One Significant Task Before Lunch (Your Least Favorite One, if Possible)

Here’s a website where you can list your tasks.

I’ll keep using my bullet journal, but I’m making sure that my main BIG task for the day gets done. Before lunch. I’m listing it right beside the day’s date, and am drawing a frame around it in red ink. If that doesn’t help me to remember, I’ll write the task on my hand.

If your task has many tasks, it’s a project

I made a fatal error with the big task I didn’t get done; I wrote it down as a task, without thinking about it. Since it’s comprised of many tasks, it’s a project. I should have created a plan for it, and then itemized the tasks. Obviously. Now I can see that. :-)

So that’s my next task: turn the “task” into a project. Then… create a plan for the project. And put a big red frame around it for tomorrow.

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Freeform Bullet Journal Tips

Freeform Bullet Journal Tips

Several readers have asked me for bullet journal tips. I said: “Do it the way that makes the most sense for you.” That’s the beauty of bullet journaling, you can do what you like. You’re not constrained to dinky little boxes, or even to a day per page. And you can use as many pages as you like per day, and can be as messy, or as structured, as you please.

If you’re new to bullet journaling, check out the website; it will get you started.

Here’s why I love bullet journaling: it’s totally freeform. Some people paste monthly calendars into their journals, others develop their own signifiers, and others have a home journal, and a work journal.

You’ll decide whether you like the system within a day or two. You should be more productive, and less stressed, and you’ll soon develop little strategies that work for you.

So here are some tips which work for me, after a few months of bullet journaling.

1. Be Messy, if It Works for You

This morning, I glued a page of notes into my bullet journal, and for just a moment, I thought: “Oh no — I shouldn’t be doing this…” I got over it very quickly. You can do anything you choose. It’s your journal. Paste on sticky notes, paste in pages, use tabs prolifically, as I do, or not.

Your bullet journal can be all business, or you may doodle across the pages… it’s up to you.

2. Keep Your Index Up to Date, if You Journal a Lot

Although I don’t journal in my bullet journal, I do make lots of notes. This means that often I’ll use three or four pages for a single day. That’s OK.

I also have lots of collections. (A collection is a two-page spread devoted to a single topic.)

Currently my BuJo is a Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines A5 notebook. Originally, my intention was to snap BuJo pages into Evernote, for a digital record. As it turned out, I’ve only snapped two pages into Evernote, and those didn’t turn out well, because I used coffee-colored ink on the pages. (If you use Whitelines Link, the pages reproduce more effectively if you use dark blue or black ink.)

Leuchtturm1917 notebooks usually have numbered pages; this A5 hasn’t, so I’ve had to write them in. It’s not a big thing, but if the pages weren’t numbered, I wouldn’t be able to find things easily. Each week, I add relevant material to the index, and review my collections.

Which brings us to the most important tip…

3. Review Your Bullet Journal Regularly

I review at the end of each week. I draw a diagonal pencil line across collection pages if the notes have been copied elsewhere, and if the tasks have all been done. I also cross out a completed collection’s entry in the index.

Each Sunday, I created a new “This Week” collection, with appointments, tasks and notes for the coming week.

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Goal Setting Simplicity: Bullet Journal Wins

Goal Setting Simplicity: Bullet Journal Wins

It’s that time of the year again. The holidays are looming, and it’s time to wrap up 2014, and set some clear and simple goals for 2015. I love goal setting, but the process can get out of hand, so I decided to look for an app. With luck, the right app would help me to both clarify my goals, and to track them.

So, I searched, and searched some more. I found apps which were either too complicated, or had social integration, or were unappealing to me in other ways. Apps may work for you. If you’re looking for apps, check out Michael Hyatt’s list of seven goal achievement apps.

At the end of it all, I decided that…

I’m Sticking With My Bullet Journal

Why? Because for me, setting goals, and working toward their achievement, requires lots of thought. You can set and track a simple goal, such as improving your health by exercising each day, using an app. However, larger goals are more complex. I’ve made a short list of two primary goals for 2015, but they’re complex. They require setting mini goals, and creating projects to achieve those mini goals.

As I said in this article on bullet journaling resources, I’m a big fan of paper; working something out on paper is powerful.

In my bullet journal, I can create collections for each goal, and collections for mini goals too. Major tasks go into the monthly spread. Things can handle daily tasks which repeat each day, or several times a week; it’s fun to tick them off — entering all my “must do daily” tasks into the bullet journal isn’t efficient. The day entries become too cluttered.

Planning: in Evernote, and Two Journals

I keep Evernote open all day; I write drafts of everything in a Drafts notebook. Whenever I get an idea for a blog post, I create a note in Drafts, with a short outline. However, for planning, paper’s essential. Recently I bought two notebooks from NanamiPaper.com, because I’ve become obsessed with thin Japanese paper.

One’s for ideas — oddly, enough, it came with a Idea Diary tag. The other notebook’s for goal planning.

I’d started using this system before I started looking at apps. Three notebooks for goal setting seemed like overkill. As it turns out, it’s what I need, for now.

How do you manage goal setting? I’d love to know if you’ve developed a system, and what you use.

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Time Management, Self-Management: Bullet Journaling

 Time Management, Self-Management: Bullet Journaling
Time Management, Self-Management: Bullet Journaling Resources

Time management is self-management. We all have the same amount of time; it’s what we do to manage ourselves that counts. I became interested in time management again a few months back when I discovered bullet journaling.

I’m a big fan of paper; working something out on paper is powerful. For a couple of decades I fell in love with tech, because I was writing for several computer magazines. That made me feel slightly guilty that I still used so much paper. I got over that very smartly, when I realized that using both paper and digital tools helped not only my productivity, but also my creativity. It just makes sense to keep doing what works.

Unfortunately, my diaries, journals, binders, and planners were a long way from being a real system. Not only did I have more paper notebooks than I could keep track of, I also had a blizzard of sticky notes on my bulletin board, my library shelves, and on just about any flat surface.

Although I’d been hearing about the bullet journal, I scoffed at it. Then in desperation, I decided to give the system a trial. Not only did I find it powerful and effective, I discovered something else. There’s a huge paper planner community. Who knew? My battered old Filofax is 25 years old, so I ordered a Hobonichi Techo, which is superb. Just right for bullet journaling in 2015.

Combining bullet journaling with digital tools like Evernote works for me, and I’ll write more about that in the coming months.

Bullet Journaling Resources

If you’re interested in trying bullet journaling, here are the resources I found valuable.

The Bullet Journal Website: Here’s What You Need to Know

Start by visiting the bullet journal website. Watch the video, grab a notebook, and get started. You’ll learn a lot about yourself. Here’s what I discovered immediately: I was more productive.

You can hide and ignore tasks you haven’t done with a digital task management tool. With a bullet journal, you can see that you’re migrating tasks over and over, and that fact alone irritates you enough that you DO that pain-in-the-rear task, or tasks. I hate administration, and while that won’t change, my bullet journal ensures that I DO those tasks.

The Bullet Journal Communities

I’m a member of two groups, the Bullet Journal Community on Google+, and the Bullet Journal Junkies Group on Facebook.

Lovely people on both those communities. If you have questions about notebooks, signifiers, methods, or anything else, ask.

Blog Post and Videos: Tips From Bullet Journalers

Here are some blog posts and videos which helped me to get started with bullet journaling.

33 Days Later: an Update on My Use of the Bullet Journal Method Task Tracking System: Jewel Ward offers this insight:

“What I like about the Bullet Journal method is that the act of manually transferring my tasks from day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month forces me to be more aware of that I need to do, what I have done, and, what is feasible to do within the time frame I have available. It does take more time, but overall, it saves me time.”

How the Bullet Journal Cured Idea Overload Syndrome — Renee Shupe’s insight:

“I discovered that using pen & paper over a digital process actually has me reviewing the ideas and taking action by either crossing them out as they are no longer valid or hashing it out and building a plan for implementation.”

Video: How I set up my Bullet Journal – from Hailey Cairo, an excellent primer.

Video: My Bullet Journal from Miss VickyBee, another excellent primer on how to get started.

Will bullet journaling work for you? I’ve no idea. However, if you’re as desperate to develop a sane time management system as I was, you’ll love the system. Watch Ryder Carroll’s video, and start. You’ll know whether it helps within a day or two.

, on Twitter: @angee, and find Angela on Pinterest, too.

Get coaching, and build your skills at Angela’s online store.