I have to be honest: I wasn’t born with strong organizational skills. Structure doesn’t always come naturally to me. To make my time management even more difficult, I have trouble monotasking and saying ‘no’ to things I don’t have time for. I’ve learned these skills the hard way. The experience of a burnout taught me to make better choices in life, and to optimise my task management.
Over the years, I’ve downloaded many to do-apps. I tried relying on my cloud-based calendar. But nothing really stuck. The flow of creating, following up and editing of tasks just didn’t work for me. Tasks would remain abstract and nebulous. I would start using a new app with much enthusiasm and then, after a few weeks, simply forget about it. The app would just not find its way into my routine.
Digital technologies play a big role in my life, but I also love the feeling of scribbling on paper. There’s something soothing about it: the tactility of the paper, the gentle friction of a pencil or the smooth, sliding of a gel pen on its surface.
Oh, and I LOVE the act of checking off a task (yes, I am the kind of person who would add an already fulfilled task to a list, just so I can cross it off).
So, even when I was trying out the umptieth task management-app, there would always be scraps of paper lying around with to do lists on them. Sometimes I would start using a notebook, but its inflexibility wouldn’t give me enough freedom to make it evolve into a workable system.
Until one day I came across the concept of bullet journaling: a system that combines calendars, task management, and journaling.
A bullet journal consists of a year plan, month plan, space for reflection and notes, and an index. You use a set of symbols with your entries, to make sure you can easily track what you need to do and what you have done, want to remember or look into. It’s been praised for its simplicity and flexibility, but also for the effect it has on your lifestyle. Most of all, it helps you to be more mindful.
Now, I don’t follow the bullet journal-rules to the dot, I have my own interpretation. For example, I like to use a notebook that allows me to take out, replace and insert new pages (an Atoma notebook). This way I can keep using the same notebook. When pages lose their relevance, I archive them and replace them with new ones. I also keep the notes of workshops and presentations I attended, my current projects and presales in there. The flexibility of my notebook allows me to keep pages in the book as long as they are relevant (a few weeks for some, years for others). The part for reflection, thoughts, and ideas can be as big or small as it needs to be at any given time.
It’s been a year and a half since I started using this system and I love it. My journal goes almost everywhere with me. Jotting down my thoughts helps me to calm down when I’m stressed, inspiration is right where I need it and the system keeps me on track. As a bonus, it gives me the opportunity to write, scribble, draw, and enjoy the tactility of pen and paper, anytime, anywhere. As it turns out, the best app can be a simple notebook.