Career

The Bullet Journal: Does It Actually Work?

Picture of page of bullet journal that has two points: "make bullet journal" and "write blog"

My productivity is directly related to me keeping an agenda or calendar. For example, I still haven’t bought a 2017 agenda, and I’ve been tremendously less productive than I have been with an agenda.

So, in my current predicament of lacking an agenda and suffering the consequences, I decided to try out a bullet journal for the first time. I’ve read stories online about professionals changing their professional and personal lives through the bullet journal, and about the benefits of using bullet journals for career planning. However, I never got around to trying it out. I guess you could say I needed a bullet journal to remember to get a bullet journal. The first thing I wrote down in my bullet journal was:

  • “Make bullet journal”

In case you don’t know what a bullet journal is, it’s—in my opinion—basically a “DIY” agenda that is a lot more work than a traditional agenda.

The bullet journal involves a seemingly complex system of codes:

• = task

X = completed task

> = migrated task

< = scheduled task

◦  events

Strike out = irrelevant

— notes

* = priority

! = inspiration

☉ = explore

You’re also responsible for writing in “The Index”, “Future Log”, “Monthly Log”, and “Daily Log” with dates and descriptions yourself. To me, this seemed like too much work, especially when it would be much easier to just buy a cheap agenda with a calendar system already in place. I’ve learned that repetitive tasks (like keeping a monthly log) bore me and make me feel less productive. A productivity system based on repetitiveness—even if it’s supposedly to encourage mindfulness—just doesn’t work for me.

However, I did find the coding system useful—especially the distinction between a completed task (X), an irrelevant task (strike out), and a postponed task (>). I think a good compromise for me would be to buy an agenda, but use the bullet journal’s coding system.

I had hoped that the bullet journal would transform my unproductive reading week into one of the most productive week of my life. But after testing out the bullet journal during reading week, I don’t think simply keeping a bullet journal mandates success. Something that supposedly works productivity miracles for others might not necessarily work for me. Finding techniques for professional success seems to be about compromise, and finding what works for you. The complete bullet journal process didn’t work for me, although it obviously works for others.

However, the bullet journal did get me thinking about my actual professional future. I started thinking about the potentially invisible downsides of the workplace, such as repetitiveness and busywork. While, just as with the bullet journal, these inevitable elements of a long-term job might bore me, I can cope with them through compromise and finding out what works for me.

Weirdly enough, as I reflected on my bullet journal experience for this blog, I started thinking about career pathways. Sometimes, I beat myself up when where I am right now isn’t where other successful professionals were when they were my age. But, just as with the bullet journal experiment, what works for others might not work for me. Oddly enough, realizing this has made me feel more comfortable about my own unique career pathway and rethink comparing myself to others.

The bullet journal did work for me—just not in the conventional way I thought it would.