starting a bullet journal

3 Tips for Starting a Bullet Journal

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A lot of marketing technology, from SEO tools to project management software, is available to help you work more efficiently. But when it comes to taking control of your time, few things hold more potential than starting a bullet journal.

PreCheck's marketing director Bryan Barajas shared the magic of bullet journaling for reflecting on and organizing your life in his session at Managing Editor Live 2020.

"It's about putting [self-leadership] into practice, really being intentional with what we want to do with our lives, having that internal dialog with yourself, and making sure that our beliefs match with our actions," Bryan says. "We can write a story that we're proud of that is true to ourselves."

Here are some of Bryan's tips for starting a bullet journal of your own.

Connect With Yourself

A bullet journal starts as a blank notebook, so the possibilities for its use are endless. But it's real magic lies in the act of writing by hand: "Writing by hand really has an effect that cannot compare to the keyboard," Bryan says. In fact, one study shows that students who reframe content through a handwritten medium experience deeper learning than students who type notes verbatim from a lecture.

The act of handwriting increases the likelihood that you will connect with the content you're adding to the page, helping you cement your daily and weekly goals. Jot down a clear purpose for each day, and work towards larger goals each week and month.

A bullet journal uses short-form notation to represent your day and the weeks ahead visually. By starting a bullet journal, you'll devote pages to each day as well as monthly and future logs. Bullet journals use three types of rapid logs: tasks, events or experiences, and notes or thoughts you don't want to forget. Representing your goals in a visual medium helps you track your progress.

Reflect on Your Habits

Reflection is more than a retrospective play-by-play of your day. Reflecting on your actions each day helps you see trends in your processes, helping you become more efficient and effective with your time. It’s a practice used in Agile methodology to assess and improve development processes.

As you are starting a bullet journal, Bryan recommends spending time reflecting twice a day: once in the morning to clear your mind for the day ahead, and again in the evening to mark completed tasks, move pending ones and unburden your mind.

Your bullet journal index helps you experiment with your daily routines and processes or keep track of insights. Signifiers allow you to code your thoughts quickly and visually. If you tried something new that worked really well, for example, capture it in a note with the inspiration (!) signifier. Make an entry for that note in your index as a reminder to revisit the idea in the future.

Forge Your Path Forward

Writing down your tasks and thoughts will help you to remember, process and file them more effectively. Starting a bullet journal also leverages a psychological quirk in the Zeigarnik effect, which states that we remember incomplete tasks better than completed ones. "Even if you don't have your bullet journal with you, but if you took the time to write that task down, you'll have a better chance of remembering it," Bryan says.

As you journal every morning and evening, try to be clear and straightforward. Don't lose sight of the benefits and purpose of your journal. Be creative, but always put function before design. If you've ever gone down the bullet journal rabbit hole on Pinterest, you may have been intimidated by the beautiful artistic journals pictured there. But try not to be: your journal doesn't need to be Instagram worthy. It just needs to work for you.

Think about how starting a bullet journal could benefit you. Are you trying to visualize your daily tasks and schedule? Or do you want to keep track of thoughts and reflections? Maybe you want to keep a daily gratitude log to support your mental health. Your purpose for journaling might evolve over time, and that's okay. Just find the process that works for you.

Watch Bryan’s full session here.

Clare Chiappetta serves as editorial coordinator and staff writer, with a specialization in HR and the future of work. She earned a master’s in English from Southeastern Louisiana University, and continues to explore the world through books, films and music. Test your most esoteric pop culture references on her.

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