The “Bullet Journal” Time Organizer Method: I’ll Give It a Go

Sticky NotesI’m going to try the “Bullet Journal” time organizer method. Yes, in a previous post I criticized it and called it a “recycled version” of the Franklin Covey Planner.

However…I thought over my current task organization methods, and they aren’t working. I haven’t used Franklin Covey in years, because it just didn’t work for me once I became a doctoral student. I tried Getting Things Done (GTD), including buying OmniFocus, which is based on GTD. I input multiple tasks per the GTD method, but that has become a fancy grocery list app on my smart phone. OmniFocus is great software to use, but I find once I enter a task, the task turns into “out of sight, out of mind“. My tasks just pile up, because I don’t clean them out. Don’t get me wrong, GTD is a great task and time management system, and OmniFocus is great GTD software, but they don’t seem to work for me.

After reading this brief comment from one reader, I thought about how sometimes “inefficiency” can make us more efficient. As RoyM noted:

I also thought that the transcription of the todo list from month to month was a bit silly, but several months in I realise now that it is such a good productivity tool. The very act of sitting down and going through the previous months todo items and transcribing them is almost therapeutic – any important tasks you’ve previously forgotten about bubble back up to the surface, and I find that a lot of things I thought were important at the time may, a month later, be a task I can safely forget about. I never had that sense of closure with an electronic todo list, it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

I replied:

After I wrote this post I began to wonder if a monthly review of tasks via transcription might do just that — help me sort out what needs to be done, and let go of tasks that aren’t so important. I’m glad to hear the transcription has worked for you. I have to admit, my tasks do get lost in my electronic task list. My task list just grows bigger and bigger. I miss my Franklin Covey Planner for that reason.

The virtual world is more convenient. It is certainly less bulky to have my calendar and tasks on my smart phone and laptop. But I miss having it laid out on paper in front of me.

I thought about this exchange and I decided that my current method was not better than the method outlined by Ryder Carroll.

This is Part 1 my current method, a.k.a., the “sticky notes attached to your desktop” method:

the sticky note method

As you can see, it’s a bit low on efficiency. Yes, the table top is my desk at home.

This is Part 2 of my other task management method, a.k.a., the “out of sight/out of mind” method via OmniFocus:

OmniFocus Tasks

As you can see, I have 15 tasks overdue, and that is after I cleaned out the task lists prior to beginning this post!

I seem to have developed 2 types of task planning. (1) If I need to do it now or in the next week or two, it goes on a sticky note. (2) If it is a long-term or “whenever” task, I enter it into OmniFocus.

And yet, I am judging Ryder Carroll for his Bullet Journal Method? Who am I to judge?!?

I would like to state this again. The fact that I have not used OmniFocus, which is based on GTD, is not the fault of the software nor of the GTD method. It’s great software and GTD is a great method, they just aren’t the right task management software and method for me. I could use GTD as a paper-based system, as it was developed to be a paper system, but I admit, I don’t like GTD. It’s just not the right system for me, although many, many people have found it to be incredibly useful for them.

I miss using a paper-based system, with the ability to write notes, draw arrows, and generally “see” and “feel” what I am doing and what I have accomplished. I do miss the simple satisfaction of drawing a line through something when I have completed a task.

I have concluded that the lack of the long-term calendar planning that I mention in my previous blog post is a non-issue for any time-management system or method I adopt, because I can still use my electronic calendar that syncs between my laptop and my smart phone. As well, my address book is electronic, and I plan to keep it that way. Thus, a full Franklin Covey Planner is not what I need. I decided I do want to return to a paper task list, for the reasons RoyM mentioned. I reviewed a few other diary and journal type notebooks, but I concluded that maybe, just maybe…the Bullet Journal method might be worth trying.

Today, I bought a Moleskine. They didn’t have the squared, graph paper version, so I purchased a medium-sized, ruled one.


I watched the Bullet Journal example video, and then I stepped through the Rapid Logging. As you can see, I added the symbols next to the Index page, so that I can remember what each one of them are. This is not recommended by Ryder Carroll, but I saw no reason not to give myself a “key”.

Here is the Index page:


Here is the January calendar and a list of (some of) the tasks I must complete for the month of January 2014. I added the “right-handed arrow” to signify “sub-tasks”, but going forward, I’ll use “/”, per Ryder Carroll. He did not mention sub-tasks initially in the video, but he does discuss them later, and in the Rapid Logging post; so, yes, he recommends using the “/” for sub-tasks. Thus, when I first wrote out these sub-tasks, I did not know what symbol to use, so I made up one. :)


Here is my starting task list by weekday, for the upcoming week:

starting task list

It was surprisingly painless to do the transcription. After I took these photos, I added a few more personal tasks that I don’t want to put out on a public site. Also, I added a few notes, events, meetings, etc., that should be on this list. Then, I added dates for the upcoming week, with blank spaces to add in tasks, events, and notes.

I plan to give this method 90 days. I’ll post updates as I can regarding my progress and how well it works for me.

So far, so good. I’m pleased with it. Now, let’s see if I can stick with this time management and task tracking method!

Addendum, 3 January 2013: John Cooper (in the comments, below) has used the Bullet Journal method successfully since August 2013. He has some neat tips and tricks that work for him. I’m going to use his notation “>>” and make notes/personal journal entries. I don’t think I’ll write my blog posts out by hand, as he suggests, but I like the additional notation technique.

Addendum, 2 February 2014: I have an update on my use of the Bullet Journal method, 33 days later. In short, success.

6 Replies to “The “Bullet Journal” Time Organizer Method: I’ll Give It a Go”

    1. I didn’t use it from mid-September until late October, when I was setting up my company ( I have been using it for November. I have not changed anything significantly in how I use it. It would have been a useful method while I was setting up my company. I would have saved myself some time. Don’t ask me why I stopped using it. It was not a logical decision.

    2. When I’ll write my update, I’ll let you know. I like to write real articles, and not just post infographics. I’ll see how my time works out over the next few weeks. Thank you for asking.

  1. A great write up and good to see you are not afraid to revisit and even criticize your initial reaction t the Bullet Journal method.

    I have opted for a weekly spread rather than a monthly one. This fits in better with the pace of my job and the Weekly Review process.

    Just a note – you refer above to OmniPlan several times, I think you mean OmniFocus?

    1. John, thank you for your compliment and for your suggestion to others. This system would adapt well to a weekly spread over a monthly one. If the monthly spread doesn’t work for me — and I did have a huge list of tasks for January — I may try your suggestion and go to a weekly.

      As for OmniPlan, gah! You are correct. I did mean OmniFocus. Good catch! I’ll go back and edit the post. :) I have previously used OmniPlan for project management.

    2. John, I added a link to your follow up blog post on your Bullet Journal use from November 2013 to the end of my blog post, above. I’m going to adopt your notation “>>”.

Please let me know what you think....