[Productivity 101] Bullet Journalling

Whether you are software developer, quality engineer, user experience designer, product owner or an agile coach, you probably take notes and a lot of them.

If for some reason you do not make any notes, you should start immediately. Taking notes removes the burden of remembering things, dates, facts, tasks and lists. Make your life a bit easier and unleash at the same time the power of your brain where it matters the most: thinking.

I have tested a few ways through the last couple of years.

At first, there was a calendar. This is a natural choice since you will be given one branded with your company's logo. I started scheduling out every single minute of my time and making sure every task is on my calendar. This might have looked like this:


However life got more complicated and projects&products with which I was working more complex. I had to deal with a growing number of meetings, stakeholders, teams, peers and colleagues. The mix exhausted the potential of my calendar with a weekly view. This might have looked like this after a rough week:

Note: I am reallly good at striking things out, am I not?

In order extend the shrinking capacity of my calendar, I started using Kanban boards as its extensions to prioritize task and track execution. I have registered an account with kanbantool.com and created one swimlane like this:


Soon, one swimlane was not enough and I made more than 10 of them, in each following themes like: books&articles to read, podcasts to listen, trainings, personal, ideas to execute for team A, ideas to execute for team B, travelling, certification, personal Project X and Project Y... you name it. Finally I was able to follow the complexity of life, dumping everything I have got on my mind into my calendar and Kanban board. I might overheard it somewhere or catch the phrase from someone: I called the process Brain Dump.

The combinaton of calendar and Kanban board worked well for a while, until I found it hard to navigate and follow, with all things scattered around in physical calendar notebook, abyss of virtual Kanban board and actually no way of saving the minutae of my days as they go.

I needed one systematic way of taking notes, following projects, lists and tasks in an analogue form factor that would have been easy to implent and stick to. Something easy, yet adjustable to the ever changing needs. Why analogue if there are so many digital tools available? Analogue form factor is less intrusive. It will be perfectly all right to start jotting down some notes with pen and paper during any meeting (even expected), while using a tablet, notebook or smart phone will be seen as not polite to say the least.

Enter the Bullet Journal

The format was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital designer from Brooklyn, NY. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), he quitely designed a method for himself that would allow to make choices easier, decide faster given his condition. After many years he outgrew ADD. However the tools remained relevant. He surprisingly found out that the tools are very useful to not only him but many of his friends. With their support, he put the videos and articles on how to start bullet journalling on a website.

Below you will find a quick guide how to start with BuJo (short for Bullet Journalling):

3 Advantages of Bullet Journal

  1. It is quick to setup and customized for your business and private life,
  2. You can use any type of notebook to start, no reason to spend big buck for fancy stuff,
  3. Enables you to take notes, create lists, track tasks and complex projects.

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